February 17, 2004
Case in point

There are days when I wake up and wonder if I've blogged it all. I ask myself whether I can bring the snark one more time. Is that all there is? Is this the day that my muse abandons me?

Upon seeing this story in today's paper, I gratefully realized that today was not one of those days.

ALPINE -- The first indication that Dr. Larry J. Sechrest's neighbors and students had read his article titled "A Strange Little Town in Texas" came when he began receiving death threats and obscene phone calls and his house was vandalized.

The article by Sechrest, 57, an economics professor at Sul Ross State University, was published in the January issue of Liberty, a small libertarian magazine with a circulation of about 10,000 and only two local subscribers. But it was weeks before people heard about it in remote Alpine, which is three hours from the closest Barnes & Noble, in Midland.

The article lauded the beauty of West Texas, the pleasant climate, the friendliness and tolerance of the locals. But Sechrest, who has a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of Texas, also contended that "the students at Sul Ross, and more generally, the long-term residents of the entire area, are appallingly ignorant, irrational, anti-intellectual, and well ... just plain stupid."


Sechrest wrote that he was "prepared to defend to the death the proposition that Sul Ross, and this area of Texas more generally, is the proud home of some of the dumbest clods on the planet."

The article, copied and passed around by the hundreds, led to two anonymous death threats on Sechrest's office phone, scores of obscene phone calls in the middle of the night, eggs tossed at his home and windows smashed on a car parked outside his house.

Sechrest said he never expected the people in Alpine to read the article, nor did he expect such violent reaction.

He thought of his piece as "a Mark Twain sort of thing, meant to be light-hearted," he said. "I can't believe there's such anger -- not in Alpine!"

Well, whatever else one might say about the good professor, he's obviously prepared to serve as a personal example of why his thesis is correct. How many other academics are willing to make that kind of sacrifice?

UPDATE: El Gato is an alum of Sul Ross, and is unsurprisingly unimpressed with Prof. Sechrest's remarks. Just so we're all clear on this, neither am I. CrispyShot's interpretation in the comments here is spot on.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 17, 2004 to The great state of Texas | TrackBack

While I certainly don't condone death threats or personal threats of any kind, I also don't have much need for condescending intellectual elitists who live off of the generosity of plenty of "ignorant" taxpayers and students in a community, and then see fit to belittle those same folks. Maybe the Prof is the dumb one? And maybe he's not doing enough to raise the level of discourse in his backwards community?

Just a thought.

Posted by: kevin whited on February 17, 2004 9:39 AM

Kevin, I believe that's why Kuff titled this one "Case in point."

<tangent> You know, for a few years now, I've been looking for a literary term for something that is an example of itself. At a 10-year college reunion (I'm a Kuff classmate at Trinity), my old roommate went around screeching, "The more things change, the more they stay the same," in his best (?) Geddy Lee voice... which was exactly the kind of thing he would have done back in college. Once you start seeing these examples, you see them everywhere (e.g., the topic of this discussion), but to my knowledge, there's not a term for it. Anyone know of one?</tangent>

Posted by: CrispyShot on February 17, 2004 9:58 AM

Man, oh man, why couldn't the professor's quote have been, "I can't believe these dumb clods are so angry!"?

Posted by: kodi on February 17, 2004 10:32 AM

This entire episode begs the question - if you say these things about your West Texas community, what did you think would happen? If you are going to essentially call people Neaderthals, don't be surprised if you turn out to be right and they egg your cave.

Just a thought, had "appallingly" been replaced with "appealingly", perhaps it would have conveyed the Mark Twainish whimsy he professes to be aiming for, but the "just plain stupid" would be hard to overcome. Perhaps he should take some notes from Trinity Econ Prof/mystery writer William Breit.

Posted by: Patrick on February 17, 2004 12:08 PM

No the man is just a dumb clod himself. He does not know his ass from a hole in the ground. He would not know how to say some thing insulting without just out and out saying it. He does not know the meaning of discreet.

Posted by: Jennifer on May 1, 2004 1:01 PM