Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart

I find myself annoyed at the groundswell of good wishes for John McCain after his diagnosis of glioblastoma…McCain is a war criminal and, more to the point. someone who as a politician has championed horrifying actions and been lousy on state commitment to public health…But ultimately what troubles me is the urge to send such well wishes to an utter stranger as it reinforces the notion that some lives are more important than others. There are lots of people with glioblastoma and who have died from it (including my mother twenty years ago)….

San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart on Facebook, prompting some calls for him to be fired, and others on campus to second his opinion.

Is this an Ethics Quote or an Unethical Quote? I could call it  an Ethics Quote because it raises many ethical issues, and mere statements of opinions, even stupid and vicious ones, are not usually unethical in themselves. This quote strongly suggests that the speaker is unethical in  than one respect; it is also, at very least, irresponsible in its context, which is that he is a teacher, and represents the institution.

Jonathan Turley flagged this episode, as he reliably does any time a professor comes under fire for controversial speech. As always, he supports his fellow academic:

“Graubart’s comments are hurtful and hateful. It is a reflection of the incivility that has taken hold of our social and political dialogue. It is always sad to see a fellow academic rush to the bottom of our national discourse. However, we have free speech and academic freedom to protect unpopular, not popular, speech. Popular speech does not need protection. Graubart is expressing his deep political and social viewpoint on social media. He should be able to do that just as his critics have a right to denounce his views.”

San Diego State University is a government institution, and thus subject to the First Amendment, in addition to the principles of academic freedom. However, even a state institution  has a right to protect itself from harm. This isn’t just political speech; it is bona fide asshole speech, signaling that the speaker is not a trustworthy teacher, and that any school that would have someone this intolerant, doctrinaire, vile and contemptuous of kindness and compassion educating, aka indoctrinating students isn’t trustworthy either. Universities, public or not, should be able to insist on a minimal level of professionalism from faculty in their public behavior and pronouncements so the institution isn’t permanently discredited, embarrassed, and harmed.

Here is Graubart’s whole Facebook rant:

I find myself annoyed at the groundswell of good wishes for John McCain after his diagnosis of glioblastoma and have been thinking through why. A great line from Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem comes to mind regarding the valuing of elite lives over ordinary lives:

“There are more than a few people, especially among the cultural elite, who still publicly regret the fact that Germany sent Einstein packing, without realizing that it was a much greater crime to kill little Hans Cohn from around the corner, even though he was no genius.”

This analogy should not be interpreted too strictly. McCain is certainly no Einstein and I don’t mean just on brains. Einstein had very appealing humanist instincts, as a socialist, antiwar, anti-imperialist, and anti-statist Zionist. McCain is a war criminal and, more to the point. someone who as a politician has championed horrifying actions and been lousy on state commitment to public health. So dying or not, he’s a risible public figure (I have no idea what he is like on the personal level and don’t care).

But ultimately what troubles me is the urge to send such well wishes to an utter stranger as it reinforces the notion that some lives are more important than others. There are lots of people with glioblastoma and who have died from it (including my mother twenty years ago). I would much rather read random good wishes to contemporary little Hans Cohns than to politicians.

Let’s see now…

  • The comment is, to be blunt about it,  stupid. Wishing a public figure well isn’t valuing his life over others. It’s valuing any life that one learns is in peril. I read notices every other day on Facebook from friends with parents, relatives, old friends and beloved pets facing health issues. I wish them all well, and most of them are strangers. That doesn’t mean that I value their lives more than others. It means I am capable of compassion. This guy teaches young men and women with powers of analysis like that?


  • John McCain was not a “war criminal” for fighting in the Vietnam war. He was a citizen who risked his life because his country determined that military engagement needed to be fought. He risked his life, spent years in a Vietnam prison, and was tortured. Calling a soldier a war criminal is signature significance for a biased, arrogant jerk. As my father, a critic of the Nuremberg war crimes trial, pointed out, if the U.S. had lost, our generals would have been convicted of war crimes. Pacifists like Graubart feel superior to military heroes like McCain because they never have to face real international dilemmas, just abstract ones. Then sneer at those who don’t have that luxury, from the safety of the faculty lounge.


  • Here we have the kind of progressive who should make decent progressives with a soul want to hide their head under a sack. If you don’t support government funded health care, then we should be thrilled when you die. This is the Left’s mindset in its darker places: any position other than its approved one is evidence of evil. If you don’t agree with them, they want you dead, and are amazingly candid in saying so. I don’t want them dead, but anyone who thinks that way is a rotten human being by definition. They also are sporting the mindset of totalitarians, who actually feel that those who disagree with their policies should be killed, imprisoned or “re-educated.” The Graubarts are just one step away from the Eichmanns.

How ironic.

  • Graubert’s utter incivility and lack of the basic instincts of sympathy and caring make him an ethics pollutant in a university setting. He is supposed to model ethical conduct, and instead he is condemning it.

In sum: what an asshole.

My reactions to the discovery that San Diego State has a professor who proudly and openly expresses such unethical crud are 1) I wonder how many other professors like that are at the school? and 2) “Son, here is one college you are not going to apply to.” Any other responsible parent would have to react similarly, unless that parent wants to make sure Jr. comes back from college as an arrogant, mean-spirited leftist.

Should a college, even a state school, be able to fire a professor who announced on social media that white students should be purged from the face of the Earth?


Should a college, even a state school, be able to fire a professor who advocates taking away the black vote,  relegating women to subservience to men, or allowing child rape?


Should a college, even a state school, be able to fire a professor who advocated rounding up illegal immigrants and shooting them?

Of course.

Universities exist to civilize students and pass along the values of American culture and society, including basic human decency. Firing a Graubert is nothing more than removing a teacher who has proven himself irresponsible and untrustworthy, to the detriment of the students, university and its reputation.


Pointer: Jonathan Turley

33 thoughts on “Unethical Quote Of The Week: San Diego State University Political Science Professor Jonathan Graubart

  1. the urge to send such well wishes to an utter stranger is a common complaint made by the president of one celebrity’s fan club about the profligacy of another.

    Because of the connection to his mother, and the “war criminal” agenda — I get the feeling that this was a visceral response to having two Big Buttons pushed at once. Being in the job he is, however, I am certain he hasn’t got the balls or the humanity to back down.

  2. Professor Jonathan Graubart is showing how much of a pompous intellectual Progressive asshole he is. It comes as absolutely no surprise that a modern day Progressive science professor would have no idea what the word respect means. In the area where I live, I’ve heard this kind of utter disrespect towards anyone that does not conform to Progressive thinking. Although there are a few Progressives out there (some right here on EA) that don’t pander to the likes of this disrespectful Progressive asshole, this is not an isolated opinion, it’s a core flaw in character of a huge chunk of Progressives that only respect that which agrees with them.

  3. Side Note: It’s not too surprising that Professor Jonathan Graubart studied at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, it’s a University that’s been infected by the tentacles of the Progressive bastion, that’s ideologically assembled outside the realms of reality, that surrounds it.

    • P.S. I never forget a face; I’m pretty darn sure I met Jonathan while he was in the Madison Wisconsin area attending the UW. I don’t remember how or why our paths crossed but him being a pompous ass does ring true.

  4. https://jonathanturley.org/2017/07/24/san-diego-professor-criticizes-those-wishing-war-criminal-john-mccain-sympathy-over-his-cancel/

    The good professor replied to Professor Turley’s op-ed. Essentially his reply boils down to it was on his personal page, someone else forwarded it, it wasn’t intended for public consumption so he didn’t treat it like an op-ed or an essay. He DOES teach international law so he is qualified to talk about war crimes, or so he says. Two words missing “I’m sorry.”

    The guy’s a self-important idiot. McCain is a hero, and the son and grandson of even bigger heroes. He’s someone who is both powerful and influential and whose name regularly shows up on the lists of heroic and influential living people. I missed Graubart’s name on those lists.

    I’ve disserted about pacifism at length on this site, but I’ll say a few words again: I have respect for principled peaceful people who are always against violence, although that position isn’t workable. I have respect for those who walk unarmed and unescorted into dangerous areas of the world to attempt to bring some measure of peace of comfort to the suffering, although I wonder if some of them aren’t a bit gullible and let themselves become chess pieces for those less peaceably inclined. I have none for those who use peace as a moral gloss for cowardice and arrogance.

    Graubart is basically Noam Chomsky 2.0, a lifelong academic who thinks his studies make him an expert on how the world works. He did work for some period of time as an attorney in the Treasury department between 1981-1989 and had some other unusual jobs, including an attempt to develop a circus juggling act (that may be tongue-in-cheek). He does not have even the limited credibility of a Berrigan or a Zinn, both of whom fought in WWII and arguably could be said to have seen war and what it does (even that credibility only goes so far, though), nor the credibility of a lifelong peace worker like Dorothy Day or Dag Hammasrkjold. His credibility is precisely the same credibility of someone like the now-dead Lynn Stewart, who spent her life raising her profile defending the repulsive, spreading the message that violence and repression were ok to keep a people’s revolution from coming undone, and ultimately joining that violence and repression herself by becoming handmaiden to one who wanted to see this nation destroyed, before cancer ended her life.

    Graubart’s hatred of John McCain has precisely as much value as that tiresome liberal friend I reference in an earlier post spouting off about how Harry Truman was one of the greatest villains of history because he finally gave the OK to use the atomic bomb or (this actually happened to me) looking at pictures of the Blue Angels or of current MOH winners and saying she’s not too impressed with pictures of murderers, legal or not. In the end he’s a twisted, ugly gnome striking at the feet of a titan, and should be given as much acknowledgement.

  5. I am not surprised, as I have come to accept that these people exist. This one goes into the memory tank, for the next time it is asserted that progressives don’t act this way ™

    Agree with the ‘progressives wish those who do not fall in line dead’ because they tell us so, plainly.

  6. How depressing this guy has spent nearly an entire career evidently flourishing among other professors and teaching students. The American academy. Bummer.

    Ironic that the vast majority of professors at my college in the early seventies were WWII vets. And war criminals. Who knew?

    • My dad was taught by Joseph T. O’Callahan, S.J., a Jesuit priest who joined the Navy as a chaplain at the outbreak of WWII and reached the rank of Captain. More importantly, he played a huge part in saving the carrier USS Franklin from a kamikaze attack, for which he won the Medal of Honor. Hopefully one of the Flight III Burke-class destroyers will be named for him.

      Lt. General Bernard Trainor, tied with Vice Admiral Barry Costello (who commanded the Third Fleet during the War on Terror) for highest-ranking officer ever to graduate from where I went undergrad, who fought in both Korea and Vietnam, returned to speak there during a series of lectures which I attended.

      Who knew my dad and I were both taught by war criminals of the worst kind? Dad actually went on to serve in Vietnam on the USS Boxer, which ferried the 7th Cavalry to the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley (no idea if he actually ran into Hal Moore, as a relatively junior officer he would have given the then-colonel a wide berth) and the SEALs and UDTs to their missions “in country.” Guess that makes dad a war criminal too, serving on a ship of war criminals, who brought probably a whole brigade’s worth of war criminals to the scene of the crime.

      That said, at least Graubart is just an academic, and no one is required to take his classes. He can do only as much harm as people let him do. The real problem is those people who take this thinking to the next step and commit vandalism or worse in the name of making the world a more peaceful place. I’ve read their letters from jail and reports from the inevitable trials in Federal courts. They seem to fall into two classes: the naïve idealists and the self-righteous haters.

      To see the world through the naïve idealists’ eyes, cops and members of the military are just nice guys who don’t want to do what they have to do, prisoners are all just nice but misunderstood guys and gals who are missing family life events (like a four-year-old daughter JUST learning to write her name, sniffle) and suffering toothaches and other discomfort because the prison medical staff move too slowly, and judges just need to read the law less and the Bible more. Needless to say, in a world like that, there’s no need for powerful weapons, right? They’re just doing the nation a favor by disarming something that isn’t needed in the first place.

      To see the world through the self-righteous haters’ eyes, police and members of the military are all soulless robots fueled by testosterone and hate, who kill young black men at home and brown people abroad to fill an empty hole in their souls, prisoners are all people who said a justifiable “screw you” to a system that was screwing them, but lost when they fought it, and judges are all utterly corrupt political figures who long ago traded their souls for power. In a world like that such a corrupt and evil system CAN’T be trusted with power, right? They’re just moving this world toward an overthrow of this corruption, one small step at a time, right?

      When we were young children we had our own view of the world too. In that world television never showed anything more than bright colors and funny puppets, animals existed only to lick and cuddle, and cars were magical spaceships that zoomed to grandma’s house and back. That view of the world wasn’t true, but at least we had the excuse of ignorance, and all too soon we learned the television sometimes brought less than wonderful news, that there were some animals that were out and out dangerous, and there were places we had to go that were a lot less fun.

      There is no excuse for the deliberately naïve or openly hateful views of adults who choose not to see the facts.

      • Steve, I think the Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dorns are very serious problems as well, but I think they’re (fortunately) outliers. I think the cadres of lefties like this guy on the faculties of the U.S.’s colleges and universities are a huge, bigger problem. Their presence is more pernicious.They may not be grooming violent felons but they’re mushing up entire generations of brains in a very nasty way. I’ve said it here before, I think the degradation of the American academy is the biggest, catastrophic tragedy of my (Baby Boom era) lifetime.

  7. Unfortunately this bastard has tenure so it is almost impossible to get rid of him. Considering what John McCain did to put his own life at risk to inspire and console the other prisoners at the Hanoi Hilton, it sickens me how this callous turd will be allowed to remain teaching as a professor at my former alma mater.

  8. I stopped reading at “war criminal.” As far as I know there is no basis for this, unless the guy just thinks any soldier in Vietnam was a war criminal, which is an insane thing to believe.

    • Well, I’m old enough to remember when the vets came home from Vietnam. Thanks in great part to John Kerry, they were all treated like war criminals, and called so, by anyone under 30, and many more as well.

    • I believe you have hit the bullseye, not once but twice. This belief is probably what’s going to keep me and the nearest thing to a gf I have from getting closer. I respect principled peaceful people, but she says dumb things like all soldiers in any war are murderers.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ wrote, “…she says dumb things like all soldiers in any war are murderers.”

        You’re a much more tolerant man than I am in that respect; I would have asked for clarification the first time she said something like that, and if she repeated the statement or tried to justify the statement I would have stood up and walked away forever, the end.

        She is free to think and say whatever she wants and I’m free to permanently walk away due to that kind of opinion.

        • Yup, and but for the substantial investment I have already put into the relationship I would have done just that. I can buy believing that all conflicts should be settled peacefully, although history points to that not always being possible. I can’t buy that everyone who picks up a weapon to fight for something deemed worth fighting for should be branded as the worst kind of criminal.

          • Steve-O-in-NJ wrote, “Yup, and but for the substantial investment I have already put into the relationship I would have done just that.”

            There are only a few things that I put at a level that identifies that a relationship is irretrievably broken, direct physical violence is at the top of the list, infidelity and branding all “soldiers” that sign their life away to protect the United States Constitution and go to war as murders are numbers two and three.

            Serious question: 1. How does she selectively identify which of those evil “soldiers” have and which have not killed others in combat? In my opinion, this kind of tendency to apply blanket demonizations is a character flaw and that kind of character flaw will rear its ugly head in more than one way.

            Of course your life choices are yours and yours alone and it’s really easy to apply the Julie Principle to a relationship – I did it for a long time with an alcoholic wife; however, consider the fact that at this point she is still a girl friend and not a wife.

            I’m not judging you on your relationship choice, I’m just sharing my opinion on the situation.

          • My experience is that everyone in the world holds at least one outrageously dumb belief. If this person makes you happy, stick with her even if you disagree politically. Maybe some day you’ll be able to persuade her out of thinking all soldiers are murderers, and maybe you’ll find she’s subtly influenced you to change your mind on some things too. The things we don’t like about our significant others at first can end up paying off in surprising ways, and you never know how people will change over time.

            • Well said, Chris. It depends if the belief does not carry over into other things, though.

              Sloppy over-generalizations are habit forming, and can bite you in other ways.

              My wife is not a germaphobe, but has a hang up about chemicals. Acting like Windex over spray will eat your skin like acid sort of hang up. I have an older relative who used Windex as a cure all, cuts, rashes, bruises, you name it: he sprayed Windex on them.

              I do not know why she feels this way, but we live with the phobia.

              • I can’t, because if I knew it was outrageously dumb, I wouldn’t believe it. That doesn’t mean I don’t hold any outrageously dumb beliefs, it just means I’m not aware which of my beliefs is outrageously dumb. I imagine most people are the same way. I’m sure you’d be willing to tell me, though. 😉

                • So I get to label some of your beliefs are outrageously dumb? Would it be ethical of me to label one or more of your beliefs as outrageously dumb; I think not, but I’ll certainly keep that in mind when addressing your comments.

                  The point is that the phrase “outrageously dumb belief” is unnecessary hyperbole.

                  • I disagree. I think it’s fair to call the belief that all soldiers are murderers “outrageously dumb.” And I’ll likely disagree with you if you call some of my beliefs outrageously dumb, but it won’t be unethical for you to do so.

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