John Latschar Receives Preservation Award

Battlefield Interpretation

According to Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “John Latschar’s contributions to historic preservation cannot be overstated… His work has preserved and rehabilitated Gettysburg’s sacred ground and transformed the experience of visiting the battlefield for millions of annual visitors.” As far as I am concerned no one has worked harder to preserve the Gettysburg battlefield than John Latschar. One need only look at the new view sheds and tour the state-of-the-art visitors center, which includes one of the most sophisticated and entertaining Civil War exhibits in the country to appreciate his achievements.

The news concerning Latschar’s inappropriate use of government computers will no doubt distract from his accomplishments and give fuel to his detractors. I am not a federal employee so I can’t comment on how they’ve chosen to handle this particular violation. Can someone tell me what counts as a “sexually explicit” photograph for the federal government? Does it include a Sports Illustrated swim suit issue? I do agree that Latschar should be focusing on other issues during his working hours, but I honestly could care less what he looks at. This little piece of supposedly salacious news tells me next to nothing about Latschar’s character.

66 comments… add one

  • crystalmarshall Oct 20, 2009

    “This little piece of supposedly salacious news tells me next to nothing about Latschar’s character.”

    Kevin, if you had written “…tells me next to nothing about Latschar's historical preservation work” then I could agree with you. I'm not familiar with Latschar's work at Gettysburg other than what I've read on your blog, but it seems that he has done a fabulous job with preserving the battlefield, and he should be applauded for that. His personal mishaps, while detestable, should not be confused with his historical work, which is laudable.

    However, you wrote that “This little piece of supposedly salacious news tells me next to nothing about Latschar’s character.” And in using the word character, I think you are implying something beyond just “work”–you are implying something about the man's wider moral existence. Character encompasses more than just work; it encompasses how we act in each area of our lives; it defines who we are as people, as human beings. So, from this story (regarding the photos) I can tell a lot about Mr. Latschar's character. He is irresponsible (using government computers for personal pursuits, to put it nicely, and doing it while on the job when he has other responsibilities), he is weak-willed (he doesn't even have the self-control to wait until he gets home to view whatever he's viewing), and obviously he doesn't highly value women's dignity (I could go into a rant about how normal, sane women despise such trash as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and other similar magazines, but we can save that for later, although I must say one thing: In a recent post you discussed the “Civil War Wives” book and how Dr. Birkin saw her book as an opportunity to present the story of women who were, and have often been, pushed to the background not only in their own times but also in the ensuing historical discussion. Obviously we haven't come that far if women are still pushed into the background, but in different ways, e.g. seen only as objects of pleasure.)

    Mr. Latschar has been given the opportunity and responsibility to preserve for our nation the battleground of Gettysburg so that we could admire and learn from the great characters of the men who fought and died there. It is sad when one considers that given this responsibility, Mr. Latschar has little character of his own to show for it.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

      Thanks for the comment. Keep in mind that I stated that this tells us “next to nothing” rather than nothing at all. I actually agree with your assessment as stated in the comment, but an individual's moral/psychological profile includes a great deal more and I am certainly not in a position to judge. As someone who teaches courses on women's history and gender, I wholeheartedly agree w/ your comment re: women in our society.

  • msimons Oct 20, 2009

    Sad to hear that a lifetime of great work could be destroyed by a mans moral weakness.

  • CraigS Oct 20, 2009

    DOI's policy states that computer systems cannot be used to “Access, retrieve, or print text and graphics information which exceeds the bounds of generally accepted standards of good taste and ethics.” Now the local security manager is afforded some latitude with regard to “good taste and ethics,” but I seriously doubt we are talking about 3,400 images of swimsuit models.

    Mr Latschar, as all government employees do, had to sign a statement acknowledging the policy and agreeing to abide by it. Likely he, like other employees and contractors, had to take a mandatory class which explained the policy. Depends on the agency, but this is typically a annual requirement. Don't want to belabor the point, but it is certain given that cycle that he knew what was allowed and what was not.

    Articles don't say what the DOI supervisors are doing in this case. What I can say is typically the government officials will NOT cite the actual inappropriate use of the computer (hard to prove what is moral or immoral in a court as you know), but rather that the employee violated a signed agreement. As such, the individual may receive remarks on their efficiency reports to that effect. In short a note that he can't keep his promises. Some might argue that does tell us something about the man's character.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

      Thanks for the explanation. I've never denied that Latschar did not break the terms of his employment contract with the government. We still do not know anything about the content of the images and I am not interested in speculation. Finally, I agree that his inability to “keep his promises” reflects poorly on his character, but in the list of things that one could harp on this isn't anywhere near the top of my list. I've never met Latschar and I have absolutely no interest in what he does beyond preserving the Gettysburg battlefield. I also have no interest in whether Michael Jackson was drugged or whether the recent balloon incident is a hoax. Thanks again.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

      Thanks for the explanation. I've never denied that Latschar did not break the terms of his employment contract with the government. We still do not know anything about the content of the images and I am not interested in speculation. Finally, I agree that his inability to “keep his promises” reflects poorly on his character, but in the list of things that one could harp on this isn't anywhere near the top of my list. I've never met Latschar and I have absolutely no interest in what he does beyond preserving the Gettysburg battlefield. I also have no interest in whether Michael Jackson was drugged or whether the recent balloon incident is a hoax. Thanks again.

  • CraigS Oct 20, 2009

    DOI's policy states that computer systems cannot be used to “Access, retrieve, or print text and graphics information which exceeds the bounds of generally accepted standards of good taste and ethics.” Now the local security manager is afforded some latitude with regard to “good taste and ethics,” but I seriously doubt we are talking about 3,400 images of swimsuit models.

    Mr Latschar, as all government employees do, had to sign a statement acknowledging the policy and agreeing to abide by it. Likely he, like other employees and contractors, had to take a mandatory class which explained the policy. Depends on the agency, but this is typically a annual requirement. Don't want to belabor the point, but it is certain given that cycle that he knew what was allowed and what was not.

    Articles don't say what the DOI supervisors are doing in this case. What I can say is typically the government officials will NOT cite the actual inappropriate use of the computer (hard to prove what is moral or immoral in a court as you know), but rather that the employee violated a signed agreement. As such, the individual may receive remarks on their efficiency reports to that effect. In short a note that he can't keep his promises. Some might argue that does tell us something about the man's character.

  • Richard Oct 20, 2009

    Laughable, the Federal Government that has done nothing to curtail the growth of the porn industry wants to punish a man for some dirty pictures. This should have never seen the light of day unless there was something illegal involved. If you checked the hard drives of every Federal employee you would fire 95% of them.

    • crystalmarshall Oct 20, 2009

      Getting rid of 95% of federal employees might actually do wonders for government efficiency and the budget deficit :0)

      (I know, I know, corny remark, but I couldn't resist.)

      And just “some” dirty pictures? 3,400 seems like a big number to me. Again, I find the fact that some people in our culture consider 3,400 explicit photos to be just “some dirty pictures” to be a disturbing insight into the lack of respect for female dignity in our culture.

      • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

        I guess what I am saying is that when it comes to news about John Latschar I much more interested in the recent award he was given that what he looks at on his computer. If you and others find a need to focus on the latter that is your choice. I don't care.

        • crystalmarshall Oct 20, 2009

          Sorry, Kevin, this is just an issue that I feel very strongly about and one that comes up frequently–I am around a lot of freshmen college boys.

          But, I do agree that the award is well deserved as it relates to Mr. Latschar's work. I hope to visit Gettysburg someday and appreciate the effort he has put in to preserving the battlefield.

          • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

            Please don't apologize. I commend you for taking an interest in the objectification of women. It's a subject that I spend a great deal of time on in my gender courses. Please keep in mind that we don't really have much in terms of hard facts. I asked what counted as sexually explicit because I do believe there are differences to keep in mind not to mention that there are legitimate disagreements over what counts as inappropriate. Thanks again for your comments.

            • Peter Oct 21, 2009

              I'd like to point out that the article makes no mention of the content of the photos beyond their sexually explicit nature. Not to detract from some of Crystal's points, but there isn't any particular reason to assume that these photos include women.

              • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

                Once again you point to how little we know about this investigation and the content of what was found on Latschar's computer.

      • Richard Oct 21, 2009

        My post may have come across wrong to you. It was meant to be satrical and a sign of where we are in this country. Im surprised that he did not have 34,000 images on his computer considering how prevalent this stuff is. When my 13 year old son cant do a search on the Internet for information on the White House without porn coming up somethings wrong. (and yes I pay for filtering software) We have a whole generation of young men that have grown up with this. My opinion, a young man learns respect for women by watching how his father treats his mother.
        Why does the Federal Govenment allow access to the Internet anyway. My company only allows access to the internal network. It prevents this kind of thing as well damage to computers and the network from malicious code.
        Finally, why did they feel the need to look at his computer, there is something else going on here.

        • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

          “My post may have come across wrong to you.” Not at all.

  • The new Gettysburg Visitor Center is spectacular, in large part a testament to Latschar's vision and leadership in the face of often reactionary and small-minded opposition. Yes, he deserves the preservation award.

    He also deserves an award for being monumentally stupid. You wanna look at porn, you don't do it on the office computer.

    As far as your suggestion that he's being criticized for Sports Illustrated swimsuit photos? C'mon, Kevin, you're not that naive.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

      I didn't say that he was being criticized for looking at SI images. I said we don't know what he was looking at. At least take the time to read the post carefully.

      • Um, in connection to reading carefully: I said you “suggested” that. And you did.

        We could keep splitting that hair as fine as you want, I guess, but I don't like the tone of this exchange, so I'm checking out. My original point stands.

        • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

          I apologize for coming off a bit too strong, but I did not suggest that Latschar was looking at SI images. I simply asked what qualified since we don't know what he was looking at. Yes, there is a difference.

  • margaretdblough Oct 20, 2009

    I've read the Washington Post article. The actual quotes from the OIG referral and Dr. Latschar's response only use the term “inappropriate”. The DOI acceptable use policy, which can be found at http://www.doi.gov/training/flert/acceptable_us…, is extremely strict and not all that hard to violate. In addition, in judging how accurate the rest of the article is , please be aware that DOI OIG office doesn't shrink from hanging DOI, its component agencies, and its employees publicly out to dry, by name, on serious violations that it uncovers. Anyone who has any doubts of that should read the 2008 DOI OIG report on its investigation of the Mineral Management Service, an extremely high-profile investigation that was intensely embarrassing to DOI. The MMS report can be found at http://www.doioig.gov/upload/RIK%20REDACTED%20F….

    The DOI's treatment of the issue involving Dr. Latschar indicates a very low level rule infraction. In addition, it should be noted that we only have one small fragment of this issue, a fragment whose disclosure was in open violation of strict protections for the privacy and confidentiality of federal personnel records and presented mainly by an individual, Franklin Silbey, who has openly conducted a personal vendetta against Dr. Latschar for the last 15 years. I understand and agree with the NPS's position on the confidentiality of personnel records as a matter of general principle. It is standard practice on personnel records. However, using that as a justification for remaining silent at this point in this matter is like trying to lock the barn door after the rear part of the horse is already out. Confidentiality has already been breached. Allowing the massive gaps in information leaves people to fill in the blanks for themselves. While this has proven to be a source of fascinating (and in some cases disturbing) insight into various commenters' personal hangups and definitions of porn, it doesn't advance any rational discussion of the matter. I hope NPS takes that into account in deciding what additional material is appropriate to disclose.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

      Thanks so much for sharing this information as well as your own analysis. I suspect that most of us who are offering our reflections on this issue no next to nothing about the internal structure set up to deal with ethical violations in the workplace. You are absolutely right that much of the vitriol around the blogosphere is a function of long-standing grievances directed at Latschar.

  • ericwittenberg Oct 20, 2009

    Kevin,

    When the truth about what he was viewing on government time on a government computer using taxpayer-paid Internet access, your opinion will change. I know, but cannot repeat it in public to protect my source. However, I assure you that your opinion will most assuredly change once the truth comes out, because it's just about as bad as it gets.

    Eric

    • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

      Honestly Eric, and with all due respect to you, I think this is sleazy behavior. How many times do I have to say that I do not care what Latschar looks at on his computers. If he violated his employee contract then he will have to deal with the consequences, but I am not interested.

      By the way, John Latschar won an award for his work in the area of battlefield preservation. That is the news that matters to me as a Civil War enthusiast and historian.

  • ericwittenberg Oct 20, 2009

    That's your choice and privilege, Kevin. You may elect to to ignore it, which is your choice. I elect not to. That's my choice and my privilege. Clearly, we are not going to agree on this, and I really resent the sleazy insult a lot. Before I respond in kind and say something I will regret, I believe that the wise course of action is to suggest that we agree to disagree and let it go at that.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

      Ignore what, Eric? How can I ignore or accept information that I am not privy to? I hope you are going to reveal your source and explain exactly how you came across this information – whatever it is. If you have information about this than share, but don't tease us with vague accusations. I know you are having a lot of fun with this, but I think it is sleazy.

  • ericwittenberg Oct 20, 2009

    Think what you like, Kevin. I've said precisely what I intend to say.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 20, 2009

      Which is to say absolutely nothing. Congratulations Eric.

  • donshaffer Oct 20, 2009

    The furor over the images on Latschar's computer aside, I think many people have missed the import of the story over his relationship with the Gettysburg Foundation, which raised legitimate concerns. My guess is the pornography on Latschar's computer was ignored in the DOI report because as this discussion shows people tend to fixate on the salacious aspects of the case. The DOI was investigating Latschar's relationship with the Gettysburg Foundation. The discovery of the porn on his work computer does not relate to the original issue under investigation however disgusting it might be.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

      This did indeed arise as a result of Latschar's association with the Gettysburg Foundation. It has nothing to do with that aspect of the investigation, though it may in the end cause serious problems for Latschar.

      I know nothing about the details of the investigation or what they uncovered on his work computer. I do find it amusing to watch people with long-standing grievances against Latschar go for his jugular. Wittenberg's rantings and accusations based on evidence that he will not share is pretty disgusting as far as I am concerned. It's incredibly mean spirited.

      • margaretdblough Oct 21, 2009

        Kevin,

        Well said.

        • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

          It's one thing to spew that garbage on your own website, but another thing entirely to spread it elsewhere.

  • ericwittenberg Oct 21, 2009

    Your personal insults notwithstanding–nice job of making this personal to me, by the way–as soon as my source gives me permission to make public what I know, I will be sure to tell you, Kevin. The reason why I haven't recounted what I know is because I have not yet been given permission to disclose what I know from the person who told me. From what I understand, that will be within a week. You're certainly entitled to consider it disgusting if you like–far be it for me to tell you what to think–but in my world, where my job is to keep people's secrets, keeping my word is a lot more important to me than your opinion.

    In the meantime, you would be well served to stop calling me names. It really doesn't serve you well.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

      You completely missed my point. I am not calling you names; rather, I am characterizing your behavior/decisions. My point is not that you should divulge your sources or share your information; rather, you shouldn't be making any accusations until you are in a position to reveal your information and sources. Like I said before, sling whatever you want in Latschar's direction on your own blog, but don't take it elsewhere. What I should have done is deleted your initial comment. That is what I consider disgusting and inappropriate.

  • ericwittenberg Oct 21, 2009

    Kevin,

    It's your blog. Do with it as you wish. If you want to delete the comments, feel free.

    Eric

  • jfe Oct 21, 2009

    I don't think Kevin wanted this to be about Latscher's problems, but I will comment on both the job he has done and the controversy.

    I think he has done a wonderful job running the park. I like the new VC, I like the way he has worked to restore treelines to what they were in 1863. Moving the VC is going to impact the downtown businesses, and that has led to some opposition. There is also complaint over the amount of artifacts displayed in the new VC compared to the old one. I like how the new VC integrates the battle into the war as a whole (which is a reason many folks don't like it, I know).

    The present brouhaha is most unfortunate. I have no inside information. Even if he was doing something as minor as cruising the Playboy site this whole thing raises a boatload of issues for the NPS and the DoI; he may well have to be fired.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

      I agree that this is indeed unfortunate. I don't have much of any information beyond what the media has reported so I have refrained from speculation. He may end up losing his job for any number of reasons

      I also can't say whether this impacted his job performance in any way at all. What I do know is that Latschar has been instrumental in some of the most significant changes to have taken place at Gettysburg in recent years. And for that we should all be grateful.

  • robertwelch Oct 21, 2009

    I hope I'm not opening a can of worms, but there's something going on that I'm not privy to. Why is Latschar so wildly unpopular among some who study/visit/love Gettysburg? I've noticed that there's a fairly wide divide between those who silently approve of his actions and those who vocally hate this man. Granted, I've never been to Gettysburg, nor do I feel the slightest yearning to go (I think I'm a pretty rare soul in that way). Restoring the field to its 1863 appearance seems a laudable achievement to me, as well as removing that eyesore tower that they ceremoniously took down a couple of years ago. But why do some vilify Latschar? I just don't get it. Is it tied to the sentiment that he's changing the park that they've always adored, the park of their youth, and all change is bad change?

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

      It's a great question and one that I even have trouble answering. Part of it has to do with broad interpretive changes that have taken place over the past two decades in terms of how the battle is understood. The new visitor center troubles many as well as the recent dismantling of the Electric Map that was located in the old visitor center. Many take issue with Latschar's association with the Gettysburg Foundation. You may want to click on the tag “John Latschar” which is below the post. That will take you to all of my posts and may help to fill in some of the holes.

    • jfe Oct 21, 2009

      First, allow me to suggest you visit Gettysburg–it is a nice place to visit.

      Latschar (I finally spelled it right) has become something of a lightning rod, in part because he has been a pro-active manager of the most visible Civil War park. My take on why he is disliked:

      1. He brought forward a more modern view of the battle, one that integrated larger issues (causes of the war) with the actual battle actions. This got him in trouble w/ the Southern Heritage crowd and many others who think the park should only be about events in the summer of 1863.

      2. He moved the VC from a location virtually in downtown Gettysburg to a new facility a couple of miles away. This takes tourist parking from being within walking distance of downtown shops to being far away, robbing downtown Gettysburg of commerce.

      3. The new VC does not display as many artifacts as the old one did, and this upsets some people.

      4. The restoration of treelines to 1863 conditions has resulted in a lot of trees being cut down; some don't like this.

      5. He has refused many requests for new monuments, but approved some others. This of course angers those who were turned down.

      • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

        Thanks for the additional detail. You are absolutely right, but don't forget his relationship with the Gettysburg Foundation as one of the more recent lightning rods.

        • jfe Oct 21, 2009

          That really only was an issue with a small (but vocal) set of people, but I probably should have included it. The ones who were upset over that had already decided he was a Bad Person.

          Just to elaborate for Mr. Welch, some months ago Latschar decided to retire and become head of the Gettysburg Foundation. This was perceived by some as a potential conflict of interest (it probably was), and the uproar over that is what led to this IG report.

  • ldietzen Oct 21, 2009

    Eric,

    This response will primarily be directed at you. I don't know you and certainly after reading your idiotic responses both here and on your blog, I am quite glad.

    That insult withstanding (my sincere apologies because I am usually quite pleasant), let me get to the heart of my response. I trust you enjoy visiting Civil War battlefields. According to your blog, you lived not far from Gettysburg at some point; so certainly you must appreciate battlefield preservation and enjoy the ability of being able to interpret the the resource (land) instead of a subdivision or a wal-mart. A prime example of pristine battlefield preservation is Gettysburg. You call yourself a 'historian', so that leads me to believe that you would appreciate the efforts of someone like Latschar who has worked so hard to rehabilitate the Gettysburg landscape so visitors are able visualize the terrain of 1863.

    In all honesty I am not sure why you and others have such a great dislike for Latschar. Perhaps he has actually done something with his career in making Gettysburg a phenomenal place to visit? Perhaps he is just an easy target for those unhappy with the direction of the Park Service at Gettysburg? Who knows and who really cares. However, I would like to thank him for a phenomenal battlefield, first-rate visitor's center, museum, his undying tenacity in preservation, and his quiet resolve to silently put up with the countless pessimists and instigators such as yourself.

    This does not and should not detract from what he has done. Viewing things of that nature on a work computer is inexcusable and should be left for personal time at home. However, my primary concern now is that the Latschar Hate Club (Which you should assume presidency of) will work to ensure that his name in GNMP history will forever be tarnished. This is quite unfortunate considering all that he has done for everyone; including you if you have had the pleasure of visiting the park.

    On a personal note, your 'insider' knowledge comment is sleazy and it is incredibly disgusting that you are so passionately involved with something that you or anyone else has little understanding of yet. I am amused and curious to see just what your perceived 'source' has to offer. My only hope is that something like this will keep you far away from the Gettysburg battlefield.

    PS- Should you have the time to respond, will you please expand upon why he is an 'unethical guy' that you mention in your blog- aside from this instance of his computer use of course. I am curious to see if it is anything of significance, though I am inclined to think that it is not.

    Kevin, I would like to apologize to you if this comment puts this blog in an awkward situation. You may delete it should you see fit. Mr. Wittenberg I do apologize for attacking you, but I have never seen such underhanded, sleazy, useless, uninformed comments in my entire life.

    Best,
    Lizzie

    • ericwittenberg Oct 21, 2009

      Since I don't respond to people who begin their attempts to address me with personal insults, I will disregard yours. This is 100% of the response you get from me, and be glad that it is, for otherwise you would get both barrels.

      Goodbye.

      • Lizzie Oct 21, 2009

        Taking the high road is indeed honorable, but I will interpret this as evidence that you cannot formulate a response to the points that I have presented.

        • ericwittenberg Oct 21, 2009

          Construe it however you like. Were I inclined to waste my time in responding to someone whose first ever communication with me is rife with multiple and very vicious attacks, I would. However, my personal policy is that I don't waste my time or effort with people who don't show me the common courtesy of not attacking me personally when they have never before communicated with me. You fall into that category. Therefore, you get no response other than this.

          If that disappoints you, get over it.

      • Lizzie Oct 21, 2009

        I hope your personal policy also extends to Latschar. You have not shown him the common courtesy you expect for yourself and your unwarranted attacks alone on him ignited my vicious response.

        Goodbye

  • jfe Oct 21, 2009

    Ma'am—I consider Eric a friend. We disagree about Latschar (and a few other things ;-) but we are both mature and secure enough to agree to disagree (usually). I do think Eric has overindulged his dislike of Latschar a little bit, but there are worse offenses in life. One of the most enjoyable and informative days I have spent at Gettysburg was 2-3 years ago when Eric essentially gave me and another friend a private tour of the July 1st cavalry actions. My point is that your diatribe, while no doubt sincere and heartfelt, was IMO a little over-the-top. And it would have been better to put it on his blog, not Kevin's.

    Kevin, my apologies if you think this is a poor post.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

      As you know I used the words “sleazy” and “disgusting” in my own response and I stand by that characterization. I can't speak for Lizzie, but I assume she is responding to Eric's comments here. Thanks for your voice on this issue.

      • ldietzen Oct 21, 2009

        My comment fits perfectly on this blog as it is a response to Mr Wittenberg's comments. My apologies as Mr Wittenberg is your friend, but that does not change the ridiculousness of his approach.

      • jfe Oct 21, 2009

        I thought his referral to the general nature of information, the specifics of which he wouldn't reveal, was poor. But I don't like to see folks unload like this on my friends—even when I, myself, disagree w/ those friends. She could have made her disagreement clear w/o being so ugly about it all.

        That's all.

        • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

          To say that it is “poor” is an understatement. It was sleazy. I actually don't think Lizzie was “ugly” at all. In fact, I think she is spot on. Eric allowed his emotions to get the better of him and he chose to unload all of this crap. Let him deal with it. If he wants to retract any of his statements than he is free to do so.

        • ldietzen Oct 21, 2009

          Fair enough. I should have toned down the approach a bit and I apologize for being so ugly.

  • Raffi Oct 21, 2009

    Eric,

    You need something better to do with your time other than constantly attack people on here. I sure hope you're not using work time or other work resources to do any of this, whether actually posting or spending time formulating a response which you later post. If you (hopefully) do indeed not use work time, then I see that you are not really that busy with work, which shows me that you're not nearly as busy as Dr. Latschar is with his major projects that have huge impacts and define the field — perhaps you should spend more time doing that within your own field?

    I have read your books, I know you try to have an impact that way, so before you say that to me, let me assure you that Dr. Latschar's influence on people's understanding of the war is far greater than books (without offense to your books), especially because his initiatives are more likely to gain NEW Civil War students (as opposed to books that cater to those already interested). As you say yourself on your website, Eric Wittenberg “made his first trip to the Gettysburg battlefield as a third-grader. By the end of that trip, he was fully hooked on the Civil War.” So your books and your exposure and profits are from a good visitor experience at Gettysburg that gained a new student of the war.

    In general, while Latschar is by no means perfect, people need to relax with the magnifying glasses and trying to knit-pick at everything as if he should be perfect — he's a human being, he makes mistakes like everyone else. In this case, he's an adult, so I really don't care what he did on his computer — not like he put the park or its mission at risk by looking at some pictures.

    I'd like to know how many of those who are loudly criticizing him for viewing pictures have behaved perfectly within the guidelines of their own work places; and at the same time, I'd like to know how many of those same critics have accomplished as much as Dr. Latschar within their own fields/careers.

    Within the government world, I am curious to see how many people have never violated the government computer policy; what Dr. Latschar did is no different. The fact that it was sexual pictures just makes the story juicier, otherwise it wouldn't be news if he, say, checked his personal email — but the way I see it, since he's an adult, it really doesn't matter what the violation is (sex or not), unless it's a violation that either breaks laws (e.g. dealing drugs online) or hinders the mission of Gettysburg National Military Park or the larger National Park Service (e.g. using the computer to do real estate with historic land).

    Again, I do not say that what he did is right. I just mean that his crime is being blown way out of proportion — by people who frankly have no right to talk trash at all.

    The scrutiny is my point: that it's unrealistic to expect someone to be perfect, and to get hung up on something that does not in any significant way affect the mission of GNMP or the NPS. Yet, it seems to draw more attention than is proportionate to how it affects the said mission.

    Moreover, the reason GNMP is put in the embarrassing situation is because of this ridiculous scrutiny trying to tear him down. This whole thing began with the anti-Foundation people complaining their heads off about Wilburn, then still complaining when Dr. Latschar was to follow him, so then this led to the investigation wasting the government's dollar and time — and this turns out incidentally. So in other words, again, while what he did isn't right, it's taking up way more resources and attention than is proportionate to the crime and to the mission of GNMP.

    The reason for this is because there are a lot of people in glass houses casting stones — but they just don't have the scrutiny or oversight to get embarrassed in return.

    I'll add that how is it different for him to look at these pictures than for others to check personal email on government computers (or wherever it is they work)? Both are legal for adults, and both violate government computer policy. The difference is the scrutiny; the difference is expecting someone to be divinely perfect. The similarity is that ultimately neither detracts significantly from the mission of the NPS at Gettysburg.

    The people in glass houses stand around and mud-sling and overemphasize an insignificant part of his job (as far as affecting the purpose, goal, and mission of the park) in order to tear down and take away from the infinitely more significant (as far as affecting the purpose, goal, and mission of the park) decisions he made and followed through. Let's not forget the 10 years of bonus funding he managed from Congress too, besides all his preservation work initiatives, the Foundation partnership and visitor center, and so on. These things are not only as important as they obviously seem for the history of the place, but they also help keep us around, which makes visitors have a better experience, which means they return and are more likely to be excited about the place, which means that they are more aware and willing to contribute to its preservation, which means they are more likely to be more aware of battlefields they bulldoze in their own backyard — which ultimately also helps keep historians (public, private, or academic) in jobs — which then helps the perpetuation of the history of the place.

    Yeah, it's that big. And to get caught up in the pictures (which again do nothing to affect this mission) is nothing other than narrow-minded (envious?) mud-slinging by those who likely have violated policies (not laws) at their own work places and who by the same token likely never have had as much of an impact within their own fields.

    Until these people do so, hope to see y'all on the battlefield, enjoying it with me thanks to the efforts of Dr. Latschar.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

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  • William Richardson Oct 21, 2009

    I honestly don't think Eric has any ” inside information ” I feel Eric just loves the drama and likes to be more important than he really is.

    • Raffi Oct 21, 2009

      Yeah, I have “inside information” that Eric Wittenberg is a liar. I can't reveal who told me that though, so I can protect my sources.

      Don't believe me? Well, consider this: my claim isn't any less credible than Eric's claim, because it has the same level of evidence.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

    LET'S TRY THIS AGAIN.

    THE COMMENTS ON THIS POST ARE NOW CLOSED

    NO ADDITIONAL COMMENTS WILL BE POSTED.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 21, 2009

    COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED ON THIS POST

  • William Richardson Oct 22, 2009

    I honestly don't think Eric has any ” inside information ” I feel Eric just loves the drama and likes to be more important than he really is.

  • ericwittenberg Oct 22, 2009

    Since I don't respond to people who begin their attempts to address me with personal insults, I will disregard yours. This is 100% of the response you get from me, and be glad that it is, for otherwise you would get both barrels.

    Goodbye.

  • Guest Oct 22, 2009

    Taking the high road is indeed honorable, but I will interpret this as evidence that you cannot formulate a response to the points that I have presented.

  • ericwittenberg Oct 22, 2009

    Construe it however you like. Were I inclined to waste my time in responding to someone whose first ever communication with me is rife with multiple and very vicious attacks, I would. However, my personal policy is that I don't waste my time or effort with people who don't show me the common courtesy of not attacking me personally when they have never before communicated with me. You fall into that category. Therefore, you get no response other than this.

    If that disappoints you, get over it.

  • Guest Oct 22, 2009

    I hope your personal policy also extends to Latschar. You have not shown him the common courtesy you expect for yourself and your unwarranted attacks on him alone ignited my vicious response.

    Goodbye

  • Raffi Oct 22, 2009

    Yeah, I have “inside information” that Eric Wittenberg is a liar. I can't reveal who told me that though, so I can protect my sources.

    Don't believe me? Well, consider this: my claim isn't any less credible than Eric's claim, because it has the same level of evidence.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 22, 2009

    LET'S TRY THIS AGAIN.

    THE COMMENTS ON THIS POST ARE NOW CLOSED

    NO ADDITIONAL COMMENTS WILL BE POSTED.

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