Cause he thinks he’s so-phisticated

This story (“Yale tells students to keep Kissinger talk secret . . . ‘Dr. Kissinger’s visit to campus will not be publicized, so we appreciate your confidentiality…'”) reminds me of two things:

– In the 1980s, I once went to a public lecture at Harvard by Kissinger protogé Ted Koppel, who indeed has that deep Ted Koppel voice even when he’s just chatting (as I overheard). Koppel insisted that the contents of his talk not be reported. It was no great loss; he didn’t really have anything newsworthy to say. The talk was fine, he told us some interesting things, just nothing that would’ve made the news or even the campus newspaper. Still, it seemed kinda tacky for a reporter whose shtick was access to the powerful, to not want his own speech to be reported.

– In the 1990s, a colleague of mine in a different dept told us that this professor from another university was coming by to give a lecture. I told my colleague that I’d like to meet with the guy, as I wanted to ask his opinion about a class demonstration I’d been doing related to some of his work. My colleague was like, No, he’s only visiting a select group of faculty in that dept. What a dick (my colleague, that is, not the visiting prof who I’m sure never heard about this bit of screening that was done on his behalf).

The Kissinger story is the best, though. I love that they sent around an email telling people not to tell anybody about it. If they really wanted to make sure that nobody would hear about it, they should’ve just published it in the Annals of Statistics!

13 thoughts on “Cause he thinks he’s so-phisticated

  1. Years ago (in grad school) I was invited to an “off the record” luncheon for Kissinger. He ate a crispy taco with a knife and fork. In Texas. Which is a serious moral failing. I don’t remember anything the man said. I remember the taco. Of course, my friends were outside protesting the school hosting a war criminal, which is probably related to Kissinger not wanting to publicize his campus visits 30 years later.

      • Speaking of people who haven’t apologized . . . I just read this article by Nicholas Lemann and now I’m mad at A. M. Rosenthal for not apologizing for mangling the Kitty Genovese story. What Rosenthal did seems to be much much worse than anything I’ve ever criticized David Brooks or Gregg Easterbrook for.

  2. I saw Roy Cohn at Yale. Exact opposite approach. It was in a regular classroom in the evening and a significant portion of the audience was not only openly hostile but were either direct victims of McCarthyism or their children. And Cohn gave no ground, but fought with them tooth and nail (while standing behind a standard lectern only feet away). No matter what I think of the guy, that was an impressive display.

    Interesting this special secret invitation to a former Sect’y of State gets public more notice than NYU’s secret, don’t tell anyone “how to boycott Israel” seminar put on by the American Studies department. Is it that the latter is expected?

  3. > he’s only visiting a select group of faculty in that dept.

    When some hospital statisticians complained about that back in Toronto when a famous statistician visited the Stats department – it spurred me into inviting a just a famous one to visit Toronto and talk to Stats Dept, Biostats department and hospital based group.

    I even gave preliminary seminars on their work before their visit to help ensure that they got interesting questions and purposely was absent from some of the activities to help ensure I was not being a screen to anyone.

    The visitor commented at the end that they enjoyed the visit and especially the unusually large number of interesting questions they got.

    Two years later, I invited the first one for something similar else where. If they are good, they will like meeting interesting people and getting interesting questions.

    • I remember this happening at Yale too (“no graduate students allowed”), but it was some famous theorist, but I can’t remember which one.

  4. I asked Kissinger a question out of an audience of 3,000 Rice students around 1978. He was extremely witty in reply and had the audience roaring with laughter. Perhaps in his 90s he’s not as much of a showman as he was in his prime?

    My favorite line always attributed (how accurately I don’t know) to Kissinger is: In the Battle of the Sexes there will never be a final victor because there’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.

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  6. It’s always nice to see a Public Enemy reference quietly dropped into a stats blog. Not that it happens that often… I wonder why it came to mind instead of “You’re Gonna Get Yours” or “My Uzi Weighs a Ton”?

      • Excellent work – and proof of how interesting material for study can be found serendipitously by a funny Google search. I have a long-running competition with a classics teacher friend to see who can slip the most REM song titles into academic publications. I think he’s winning but I’ve got a killer blow sitting in my “revise and resubmit” pile.

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