"Ms. Faulkner is not a student at Middlebury College and never has been"
December 14, 2017 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Last month Jame's O'Keefe, the conservative backed agent provocateur who had just failed in an attempt to discredit accusers of Roy Moore, spoke at Middlebury College to a crowd of around 50 people. His largely unwanted presence at the Vermont liberal arts college (or at least in its vicinity) would be a standard piece of Culture Wars agitation except for one thing: Nobody at the college seemed to know who had invited him. And the more they delved into it, the weirder it got.
posted by Artw (63 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 


It'd be funny if O'Keefe and his ilk started getting invited to speak at so many random places (most of which would be ... erm ... sparsely attended) that it was impossible to figure out which "fake news" was the real fake news, and which was really fake fake news.
posted by spacewrench at 9:38 AM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


A student group called the Preservation Society claimed credit for hosting Mr. O’Keefe.

🎶 We are the Village Idiot Preservation Society 🎶
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:39 AM on December 14, 2017 [56 favorites]


Let us know if you are interested in hosting a chthonic plague at your institution of higher learning. Our flails staff will reach out to assist with innoculation and ferment.
posted by Oyéah at 9:56 AM on December 14, 2017 [18 favorites]


Emily Faulkner appears to be a real person, for once. At first I assumed she was just another alias for O'Keefe or one of his associates. It wouldn't be the first time he'd stolen someone's identity as part of an operation.
posted by muddgirl at 9:56 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


Conservatives are obsessed with college campuses. Like, someone can have a book deal, TV show, regular newspaper column or whatever, but somehow their free speech hinges on whether they can reach a fraction of their normal audience speaking on a college campus.
posted by RobotHero at 9:56 AM on December 14, 2017 [38 favorites]


From the last link:

The confusion that surrounded Mr. O’Keefe’s Middlebury appearance offers a window into the unusual processes through which people who view higher education as a breeding ground for liberal bias may attempt to gain a foothold in campus politics.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:01 AM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


It makes sense once you stop thinking of "free speech" in terms of, well, free speech, and more in terms of the right of trolls to be disruptive.
posted by Artw at 10:02 AM on December 14, 2017 [21 favorites]


Spamming the campus email list is a good way to piss off the entire campus community. There's a really good reason that student groups are limited to sending out one all-campus email a year.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:04 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


Hmmmm . . . a school sanctioned group? One with only two or three students in it?

I think some Middlebury lovers of free speech need to join that group and change it's basic function to supporting actual free speech and not conservative trolling.
posted by Seamus at 10:05 AM on December 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


It's really not strange at all. O'Keefe didn't speak at the college, he spoke at a nearby hotel. He was invited by a right-wing group that's trying to organize Middlebury students. And they googled Middlebury's directory to find campus emails and send everybody a message about the event. Most conservative speakers on college campuses are financed in part by outside groups. There's nothing surprising about it (or really objectionable).
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 10:07 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


It's not objectionable to start a racist campus group without any students or faculty involved?
posted by elsietheeel at 10:08 AM on December 14, 2017 [23 favorites]


Conservatives are obsessed with college campuses

They have an obsession with colleges and universities in general, because they are immune to having their biases updated by education and experience and think the reason why august intistutions of higher learning don't validate their crackpot ideas is because the institutions are corrupt, not that the ideas are insane. They believe for example, that the reason why universities don't "teach the controversy" on climate change, or put forward racial theories of intelligence, is because of (((liberal))) bias in the professoriate, not because these ideas are rejected simply for being untrue. And so they have a very real, very well funded agenda to take control of colleges and universities wherever they can and force a "conservative" curriculum upon them (i know this because a billionaire industrialist who believed climate change was a liberal conspiracy tried to take over my college by stacking the board and installing a handpicked president).
posted by dis_integration at 10:08 AM on December 14, 2017 [79 favorites]


And they googled Middlebury's directory to find campus emails and send everybody a message about the event. Most conservative speakers on college campuses are financed in part by outside groups. There's nothing surprising about it (or really objectionable).

The portion I have emphasized is normally called spamming and is objectionable for the most worthy causes.
posted by PMdixon at 10:10 AM on December 14, 2017 [30 favorites]


There's nothing surprising about it (or really objectionable).

From my reading, I don't think it's clear she did actually find any Middlebury students. I mean, she says she did, but doesn't offer any names. She did all the legwork, and didn't manage to get a faculty sponsor.

It's not objectionable to start a racist campus group without any students or faculty involved?

Not sure what you mean by that, really. Many people consider Charles Murray racist, but the Presevation society didn't have anything to do with that event. It seems to have sprung up fully formed just for this James O'Keefe deal. If anything, it seems what they are Preserving is the Welfare of James O'Keefe.
posted by Diablevert at 10:15 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


yeah, outside white supremacists are also infiltrating and attempting to organize GA Tech/GSU/Emory students under the guise of them also being students and not recent graduates with cancerous agendas

our local Antifa group has been pretty good about tearing the posters down whenever they're alerted to them but none of those campuses have been good spaces for progressive students as of late. I am afraid of this blowing up into one of those issues people are going to ignore until it's a little too late (like the Tea Party/Koch Bros or even 4Chan)
posted by runt at 10:16 AM on December 14, 2017 [9 favorites]


It's really not strange at all. O'Keefe didn't speak at the college, he spoke at a nearby hotel. He was invited by a right-wing group that's trying to organize Middlebury students. And they googled Middlebury's directory to find campus emails and send everybody a message about the event. Most conservative speakers on college campuses are financed in part by outside groups. There's nothing surprising about it (or really objectionable).

Except the part about astroturfing by pretending to be Middlebury students, which they aren't. When the Middlebury branch of the American Enterprise Institute is calling you a huckster, you probably are.*

There was just one problem. Why did the sender of that message, presumably a student, refer to Middlebury, a private liberal-arts college, as a university? The difference might seem minor to outsiders, but to those attending the institution, it stuck out like a sore thumb.

I went to a small liberal arts college. Nobody who went to a small liberal arts college would ever refer to it as a university**. It's not even good astroturfing.

*That's one of the strangest parts, honestly. That there are enough Republican kids at Middlebury to have an AEI club.
**Colgate excepted, and maybe also Antioch. But Antioch is so weird at this point. I mean, there's Antioch College and Antioch University, and they're separate institutions? What?

posted by leotrotsky at 10:17 AM on December 14, 2017 [26 favorites]


It's not objectionable to start a racist campus group without any students or faculty involved?

Well, it is objectionable in the larger sense, like "objectionable to healthy people," but not "objectionable to the college administration" because it didn't happen on their turf.

Like, I went to a college that kicked one especially grotesque fraternity off-campus. The college had washed their hands of the group, Pilate-style -- but that didn't stop the problem, quelle surprise. Conversely, it did shift enforcement to the town police, who were suuuper glad for that little gift.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there are established rules about access to the all-campus email list, which are designed to prevent members of the campus community from being overwhelmed by spam. That's necessary because campus email is where students get really important official notifications about academic matters. If your English class for next semester is cancelled, and you need to find a new class, you will only find out about it through an email to your campus email account. If your final exam has been moved, you'll receive an email telling you. And you're probably not going to see those important emails if every random group on campus is sending an all-campus email about every event they're having. That's why the all-campus email list is only available to registered student groups, and that's why there are strict limits on how many emails they can send to the all-campus list.

I understand that people like O'Keefe don't think that rules apply to them, because they're assholes. And clearly, Middlebury needs to do a better job ensuring the security of their directory. But this was a dick move.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2017 [16 favorites]


The ultra conserative base is undereducated, so campus events push lunatikers into the penumbra of intellectual respectability, that is as far as they can make it, because there is no basis in intellect for their positions. It is just PR to add the appearance of veneer, for fundraising among those seeking social camoflage for their unchristian, inhuman, unreasoning, limbic spawned, hatred of whatever threatens their entire society of cards, and their ability to hit or hit on whomever they want, in the great mall of life. In fact the only thing missing in the film Oblivion, was Amazon. Otherwise it would be the perfect, insular, oblivion, where no one can see what you do with your afternoons, and no one can account for the fact that without an observer or service, you never say your prayers at night.
posted by Oyéah at 10:33 AM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


I understand that people like O'Keefe don't think that rules apply to them, because they're assholes.

I was going to call them narcissistic sociopaths, but "assholes" works too.
posted by muddgirl at 10:36 AM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


yeah, outside white supremacists are also infiltrating and attempting to organize GA Tech/GSU/Emory students under the guise of them also being students and not recent graduates with cancerous agendas

This has been happening at the University of Toronto where I'm at, too, so it's not like Canada is immune. It's really disconcerting how these attacks come from all angles. It's also disconcerting how they're escalating in how they recruit students - you can see that it follows a clear progression, and I feel helpless in stopping all of it.

First, we have the guerrilla tactics - they've been postering our campus with signs that say "White Student Union" and "It's okay to be white", and they've been putting razors behind them so anyone who tries to tear them down gets their hands cut up.

Second, the media has been propping up these attacks - like, the National Post claimed that the removal of these posters is "stifling debate." So instead of calling it white supremacy, people are now primed to call it a freedom of speech issue.

Third, students get recruited using this rhetoric. The Walrus did a good analysis of this trend, and in particular, how the infamous Jordan Peterson (who is embarrassingly a professor on our campus), is becoming a major personality in the rise of the alt-right on our campus.

And just a few months ago, I recently wrote an article about how these alt-right tactics are now infiltrating student unions. Our undergraduate student union is increasingly sympathetic to the alt-right - just this year, they fired their health insurance staff, have been withholding funding from and are trying to defund student groups that serve women and queer/racialized/otherwise marginalized students, and I kid you not - started getting uniformed campus police officers to card black students at their meetings. I was shocked by this. Student unions have traditionally been a major driving force in pushing for progressive policy on campus, and have set up safety nets for marginalized students where administration have not done enough, so it's very alarming to me that they're now becoming a vehicle for the alt-right.

Overall, I know what the end-goal of this work is - it's not just to instill a conversative agenda on campus, but also to make sure that women and marginalized people get pushed out of education. It puts us "back into our place" - if we don't get education, we don't get career prospects, we don't get to cycle knowledge back into our communities and social work, we don't get to validate our knowledge of social inequality with academic research. I know there's lots of us fighting against it, but they've already come so far to have significant sway over our institutions, so it's very grim to me right now.
posted by Conspire at 10:37 AM on December 14, 2017 [49 favorites]


Conservatives are obsessed with college campuses. Like, someone can have a book deal, TV show, regular newspaper column or whatever, but somehow their free speech hinges on whether they can reach a fraction of their normal audience speaking on a college campus.

For reasons beyond me I receive thrice-daily GOP mailers, which I glance at the subject headings of to keep half an eye on the pulse there in the most passive way I can think of, and this mornings was, "Of Snowflakes and Tyrants: College Students' Behavior Must be Stopped," which was just sublime in and of itself.

Oh, and it's because Conservatives are obsessed more than anything else with fabricating instances of their own victimhood. If there's a gatekeeper, there's a chance of being kept out, and that's worth more than anything, so campuses are where it's at.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:41 AM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


I know there's lots of us fighting against it, but they've already come so far to have significant sway over our institutions, so it's very grim to me right now.

well that's horrifying. I've been trying to support progressive student unions as an outsider (therapy networks, organizing workshops, etc) but you can only do so much when the white supremacists are racing to the bottom of an ethical approach. a number of great HBCU organizations exist here but they're all isolated from the non-black-centered public/private campuses and then there's even contention between the male, business-centric campuses and the more progressive ones

there's an obvious need for collaboration across campuses but even the coalitions between progressive groups led by real, actual adult-aged organizers ends up fracturing because of a difference in agendas - asking students to do the same with less organizing / facilitation experience seems like it would unfortunately lead to even more contentiousness so that's out. meanwhile, these white supremacists are all united in their role as outsiders and revolutionaries

so basically: stress stress stress stress :o
posted by runt at 10:45 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


they've been putting razors behind them so anyone who tries to tear them down gets their hands cut up

I'm sorry, what?

Leftists glitter bomb their signs to prevent theft. Of course conservatives turn theirs into weapons.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:49 AM on December 14, 2017 [17 favorites]


Of course it's objectionable JohnKarlWilson. Because people are objecting to it. Your assertion that there's totally nothing to see here is misinformed at best and willfully blind at worst. I don't mean to attack YOU, just your assertion. In fact it's the genre of your assertion I object to.
It seems binary in it's analysis, ignoring any others' understanding of the shades of meaning in these activists' actions (and in their stated goals).
The OP and many in this thread find the practices written about in this article weird and disturbing. Worth discussing. Asserting that they're simply NOT weird or disturbing isn't contributing, it's negating. I recognize you could have said that YOU didn't see it as strange, but you didn't.
posted by asavage at 10:53 AM on December 14, 2017 [19 favorites]


"they've been putting razors behind them so anyone who tries to tear them down gets their hands cut up"

Isn't this a serious crime?
posted by asavage at 10:55 AM on December 14, 2017 [17 favorites]


"It appeared free speech was in danger there," he said in an interview. "It seemed like a reasonable place for us to try to start a conservative group."

"because free speech is for all people, not just those who are liberal-minded."

"There’s really nothing evil or wrong with my intentions. I just see a place that is devoid of free speech and devoid of one of the basic liberties of our country, and I wanted to help people bring it back."
Maybe instead of worrying so much about whether you can say it, try thinking of something useful to say.
posted by klanawa at 10:56 AM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


there's an obvious need for collaboration across campuses but even the coalitions between progressive groups led by real, actual adult-aged organizers ends up fracturing because of a difference in agendas - asking students to do the same with less organizing / facilitation experience seems like it would unfortunately lead to even more contentiousness so that's out.

I partially agree with this, but I think the value of students being behind the organizing - which is what I'm seeing at my campus, there is a lot of work in coalition-building between different groups of marginalized students right now - is that it's very good training for these students in countering these strategies. We can borrow experience from older activists to some extent, but it's also important to recognize that especially in a digital age, resistance has changed a lot. We're still in the process of trying to adapt to activism over social media, digital organizing, etc, but also to increased emphasis on intersectional thinking and other frameworks. It takes time and trial and error to figure out what is the most effective tactic of activism in our current era, because the tactics used even a decade ago don't translate fully.

But unfortunately, that's not the way it's received especially by the wider media. Whenever a student makes a mis-step or goes beyond the perception of acceptability in their tactics, it's not considered in the context that they're still actively figuring out the boundaries of what is effective - both because they're not as experienced but also because no one knows what the best way forward is yet. Instead, it's considered as political correctness gone amok, students going crazy, etc.

What I think we need to see is more tolerance for this training process. Obviously, that's challenging to ask for from the right, because they're going to weaponize the mis-steps of students in any way that they can to seed discord, but at least we need left-leaning people to not be complicit in this. Like, even on Metafilter, this is very evident - whenever an article about students doing THIS ZANY THING gets posted, even when it's very obviously written from a traditionalist media right-of-center perspective, you see all of these people who would consider themselves to be progressive jumping on students and blaming them. It doesn't foster space for learning.
posted by Conspire at 10:56 AM on December 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


Isn't this a serious crime?

It is, but all of these signs are posted anonymously, so it's not like we can do anything about it. The graduate student union has been keeping incident reports of all of the graduate students who were hurt by this, but that honestly hasn't gone anywhere from what I have seen.
posted by Conspire at 10:57 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh golly, Conspire. I had no idea. Thank you for sharing that grim news. I'm gobsmacked anyone would put razor blades behind posters, that they would deliberately seek to injure others. Wow.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:57 AM on December 14, 2017


Like, even on Metafilter, this is very evident - whenever an article about students doing THIS ZANY THING gets posted, even when it's very obviously written from a traditionalist media right-of-center perspective, you see all of these people who would consider themselves to be progressive jumping on students and blaming them. It doesn't foster space for learning.

This is also the vast bulk of "millennials" articles.
posted by Artw at 11:00 AM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


First, we have the guerrilla tactics - they've been postering our campus with signs that say "White Student Union" and "It's okay to be white", and they've been putting razors behind them so anyone who tries to tear them down gets their hands cut up.

That sounds like the kind of thing that should have communities, politicians, and law enforcement up in arms. It sounds like assault if not outright terrorism. How is that not bigger news?
posted by ElKevbo at 11:05 AM on December 14, 2017 [9 favorites]


How is that not bigger news?

Indeed. If there are poisoned hot dogs in the dog park, that's local news coverage for a week. White supremacists setting booby-traps around town should be of some public concern.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:11 AM on December 14, 2017 [13 favorites]


It is, but all of these signs are posted anonymously, so it's not like we can do anything about it. The graduate student union has been keeping incident reports of all of the graduate students who were hurt by this, but that honestly hasn't gone anywhere from what I have seen.

You'd think, at the very least, someone could set up cameras and/or some kind of sting to catch these cretins.
posted by leotrotsky at 11:16 AM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


Of COURSE alt-right types would put razor blades behind posters to injure people who try to tear them down. They’re Nazis, no evil should surprise anyone coming from them.
posted by Anne Neville at 11:18 AM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


Of course it's objectionable JohnKarlWilson. Because people are objecting to it. ...Asserting that they're simply NOT weird or disturbing isn't contributing, it's negating.

No, something isn't objectionable just because someone objects to it. By that logic, we must say that feminism, gay marriage, etc. are objectionable because people object to them. Disagreeing with people about the significance of an issue is not negating them or attacking them.

I don't think two mass emails about a speaker near campus is a big deal (I've seen campuses use anti-spam rules to try to stop campus organizing and punish critics, so I'm wary of anti-spam regulations).

We should be worried that right-wing groups and legislators are trying to de-fund universities and fire leftist professors, not that they're trying to organize student groups and have speakers near a campus.
posted by JohnKarlWilson at 11:24 AM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


The razor blades concern me less, Conspire, than the stuff you outline in your article that they're getting away with by making it sound anodyne. Razor blades at least get people riled up. Quietly gutting services for marginal communities under the guise of cost-cutting is something that can be gotten away with for a long time.
posted by clawsoon at 11:24 AM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


We should be worried that right-wing groups and legislators are trying to de-fund universities and fire leftist professors, not that they're trying to organize student groups and have speakers near a campus.

Luckily the human mind is sufficiently advanced such that it can worry about multiple things at once.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:28 AM on December 14, 2017 [16 favorites]


Conspire: First, we have the guerrilla tactics - they've been postering our campus with signs that say "White Student Union" and "It's okay to be white", and they've been putting razors behind them so anyone who tries to tear them down gets their hands cut up.

Huh, razor blades? Sounds familiar: Someone in Texas lined a Trump sign with razor blades, then left it at a polling place (November 3, 2016)

And if your only defense for your speech is that "what about free speech," it seems you don't really have much worth listening to in the first place.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:28 AM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


> We should be worried that right-wing groups and legislators are trying to de-fund universities and fire leftist professors, not that they're trying to organize student groups and have speakers near a campus.

Hi, student activist from the 80s here. We were quite capable of worrying about multiple things at once, and I don't doubt Kids Today are as well. Thank you for your concern.
posted by rtha at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


Always have an exacto knife with you to cut the tape at the corners of bigoted posters, advocating reverse racism. Look behind the poster, if there are razorblades give the evidence to police for fingerprinting; partially to identify off campus actors.
posted by Oyéah at 11:50 AM on December 14, 2017 [7 favorites]


It would be sorely tempting to fight fakery with fakery by completely fabricating a college in the middle of nowhere and getting O'Keefe to travel there to speak.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2017 [18 favorites]


Beaver State College of the Domestic Arts.
posted by Oyéah at 12:01 PM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


i wonder what would be the reaction from right wingers if the aclu organized an event at Liberty U. or one of those other fucked up dominionist shithouses. somehow i feel like their concern for "free speech" would vanish real quick.
posted by wibari at 12:04 PM on December 14, 2017 [27 favorites]


wibari that is an excellent idea.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:09 PM on December 14, 2017 [6 favorites]


DevilsAdvocate: It would be sorely tempting to fight fakery with fakery by completely fabricating a college in the middle of nowhere and getting O'Keefe to travel there to speak.

Egress University? No, no: Egress State! Motto on the campus entry archway ( as shown on the web site): "This way to the Egress!"
posted by wenestvedt at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


I mean, Liberty's the same school that will potentially kick you out for admitting you've had consensual sex before marriage, no? I don't know why they think private schools like Middlebury should have to allow everything, but it's clear they're comfortable with that double standard.
posted by Sequence at 12:15 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


It would be sorely tempting to fight fakery with fakery by completely fabricating a college in the middle of nowhere and getting O'Keefe to travel there to speak.

Thiz wai to Lebrul State Untiedversity. Home of the Appeasing Squirrels!
posted by leotrotsky at 12:17 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


Egress State!


Go Drop Bears!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:17 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


Every time I hear conservatives whine about universities, it baffles me. My dad is a very fringey conservative professor at an R1 and has been extremely successful in his career. Chairman of his department several times. Head of an internationally-known research center. About to retire to great institutional fanfare in the spring. He has organized conferences of other academics of his same ideology that have taken place right here on campus, to the objections (or even notice) of no one. I think the key here is that he's not a trolling asshole looking for fights and operates above-board and in good faith. Which I know is a lot to ask for O'Keefe types, but maybe they could learn a thing or two. (Who am I kidding--they don't want to learn how to get along as a conservative at an institution of higher learning, they just want to own the libs in any way they can.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2017 [12 favorites]


> i wonder what would be the reaction from right wingers if the aclu organized an event at Liberty U. or one of those other fucked up dominionist shithouses. somehow i feel like their concern for "free speech" would vanish real quick.

Liberty University does not accept federal funding, which means it doesn't have to abide by silly "free speech" concerns in the way that state universities or private universities that do accept federal funding do. Its students receive a shitload of federal financial aid, though: "Federal aid to Liberty’s students has grown so high that it now exceeds the revenue collected by the university."
posted by rtha at 12:23 PM on December 14, 2017 [4 favorites]


i wonder what would be the reaction from right wingers if the aclu organized an event at Liberty U. or one of those other fucked up dominionist shithouses. somehow i feel like their concern for "free speech" would vanish real quick.

Good for the Gander Society's Speakers List 2018
Noam Chomsky
Angela Davis
Sean Penn
Peter Singer
Susan Sarandon
Catharine A. MacKinnon
Bill Ayers
Michael Moore
George Soros

Speaking at Hillsdale College, Liberty University, Bob Jones University, Wheaton College (IL), Brigham Young University, Oral Roberts University, and Dartmouth.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:25 PM on December 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


I mean, I think conservatives / white supremacists are aware that the whole free speech thing is a red herring - and they don't really care because society at large has decided that it's a fish that they are willing to chase
posted by runt at 12:27 PM on December 14, 2017 [2 favorites]


leotrotsky- totally with you on that plan, especially the sugarcoat of sending susan sarandon, since she thinks trump is a better president than hrc would've been. that'll get us in the door.
posted by wibari at 12:52 PM on December 14, 2017 [3 favorites]


For the razors: those knife proof gloves are pretty cheap and should protect the hands. Looks like about$10 on Amazon. Be careful, if someone is putting razors they are probably going to coat them in something nasty.
posted by BeeDo at 1:09 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


Liberty University does not accept federal funding, which means it doesn't have to abide by silly "free speech" concerns in the way that state universities or private universities that do accept federal funding do.

In the U.S., private colleges and universities don't have to comply with the First Amendment. Many of them choose to have policies that are similar or identical but that's voluntary and in line with their own history and ideology.

And please note that Liberty University does accept hundreds of millions of dollars in federal financial aid. A 2015 Washington Post article says that the university accepted over 351 million dollars in 2013-2014 alone.
posted by ElKevbo at 2:19 PM on December 14, 2017 [5 favorites]


However, Liberty University would not be able to prevent a "student organization" from holding a meeting or rally in a hotel just off campus...
posted by happyroach at 2:49 PM on December 14, 2017


No, Liberty University STUDENTS accept hundreds of millions of dollars of financial aid.

From your linked WaPo article:

As with any federal financial aid, the grants and loans are awarded to students, not the university. Liberty does not receive any other federal funds, but its growth has come by attracting Christian students who qualify for aid.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:04 PM on December 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


I see my comment above solicited a lot of questions about the razors behind the white supremacist posters, and specifically why it hasn't been reported on more. To address that: who do you think are taking down the posters? Most of the activists I know on campus doing this sort of invisible work are black or brown; they are women or non-binary; they are queer and trans; they are disabled or mentally ill.

Who are these people going to report it to?

To the university administration? The administration spent the spring tearing down posters about sexual assault from a feminist group, while they let the MRA groups on campus freely advertise their screenings of "The Red Pill", they're still letting Jordan Peterson run amok, and they still haven't come up with a proper rebuke of the white supremacist rally planned on campus two months ago, so there's not a lot of trust there.

On social media? I was actually just speaking with my labmate today, who is an Indian woman. She took a picture of one of the posters and put it on social media, and within minutes, she was inundated with death threats and claims that she was the "real racist", to the point she had to delete the post to stop getting harassed.

To the media? Well, the Toronto Sun forced their black reporter covering police brutality to resign, the National Post is openly supportive of white supremacists in their columns, and every other major newspaper out there regularly publishes articles going "Are college students sheltered millennial snowflakes for caring about cultural appropriation?"

To the police? Don't make me laugh.

Now, you could argue whether these people should really be reporting these things. I would probably be sympathetic to it, because I've been burned relatively fewer times by authority than many of the people I know. This does not change the reality that these reactions are still justified by people's experiences.

My wider point is that if you want to ask why nazis can operate in invisibility: it's because our culture permits it. Their targets are people who are made to be invisible, and the nazis know it. They know that when they put up a poster saying "It's okay to be white", the majority of white people who see it will shrug, while most PoC will have a visceral reaction and want to do something about it. And when they get hurt, they imagine going into a police station with a bandaged hand, and getting, "are you sure you didn't get that from a drug trade gone wrong, and now you're just trying to look like a hero? Isn't it your fault and what you deserve for picking a fight with other people's free speech to begin with?"

I've worked with many student activists at this stage, and I think the mentality of a lot of people is that if you're going to fight nazis, you're going to have to expect to get hurt - and you're lucky if it's just a few cuts.
posted by Conspire at 3:33 PM on December 14, 2017 [22 favorites]


We had the "It's Okay to be White" posters put up on the campus where I work the day after Halloween. I got there a little after 7 am, saw them, and fired off emails to campus police, Title IX office, dean of students, the provost, and the president. Our facilities director apparently took them all down himself because he was there early and everybody wanted them down ASAP. It seems like very few students even saw them and nobody was talking about them except people who heard about them from me. There have been no more that I have seen. A couple days later I saw a WaPo (I think) story that said it was some 4chan thing. Every morning, I check the bulletin boards to see if they're back. Now that I know they might have razor blades next time, I will make sure to warn facilities if it happens again.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:45 PM on December 14, 2017 [8 favorites]


When I was in college in the late 90s, it was Holocaust Denial ads that were the big cause célèbre of what is now the alt-right, mostly from the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. They would buy an ad, and if the student paper ran it, they'd get (rightly) attacked by basically all of America and the CODOH people would be like "Look at the hypocritical leftists afraid of open debate and free speech, and also look at these terrible students who question the Holocaust!" (the latter through surrogates who were "not affiliated" with CODOH). If the student paper didn't run it, CODOH would file a lawsuit against the college, the student newspaper, and often the individual student editors as named defendants, which is a super-shitty thing to do to 20-year-old kids who are just trying to put out a newspaper and graduate and not run your fucking hate speech.

All outcomes were pretty much equally unpleasant. I was at a private college, where the paper was separately incorporated from the university, so CODOH didn't have a great locus of suing (they couldn't sue the state, and they couldn't sue the college), but instead they managed to get some Fox News personalities interested in how $ImportantCollege was refusing free speech, and it suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucked. In retrospect it seems like proto-Fox-News of today where they sic their insane alt-right stormtroopers on people just trying to live their lives who happen to cross Fox's radar.

Anyway, in law school I interned for the Student Press Law Center, which helped student papers fight this kind of nonsense; one of my close friends and classmates went to intern at FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), and still works with them, and I'm sure FIRE is gearing up to defend that jackass.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:59 PM on December 14, 2017 [10 favorites]


Eyebrows, I worked at the student paper at Tufts in 1990-91, and we laughed at those ads: did they think we were born yesterday?

I can't find any of the articles right now, but I do see a quote from a Tufts dean saying, "Individuals have a right to their own ideas but not to be published on another individuals or groups printing press." Tufts Daily, Apr. 8, 1992 (as quoted in "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory" by Deborah E. Lipstadt).
posted by wenestvedt at 1:24 PM on December 20, 2017


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