Mizzou Media, Servant To The Cause

Regardless of the facts, the claims of racism (systemic or individual) and the secondary claims of “pain” of being subject to feeling unvalued, betrayed and vulnerable, the anger turned from the grown-ups who didn’t do as desired to the media who did as expected.

In an article that’s striking for having found its way into the Washington Post, an actual newspaper, Terrell Jermaine Starr tries to explain:

These student protesters were not a government entity stonewalling access to public information or a public official hiding from media questions. They were young people trying to create a safe space from not only the racism they encounter on campus, but the insensitivity they encounter in the news media. In the outsized conversation that erupted about First-Amendment rights, journalists drowned out the very message of the students Tai was covering.

Establishing a “safe space” was about much more than denying the media access; it was about securing a rare space where their blackness could not be violated. Yes, the hunger strike, the safe space and other student demonstrations were protests, and protests should be covered. But what was fueling those protests was black pain. In most circumstances, when covering people who are in pain, journalists offer extra space and empathy. But that didn’t happen in this case; these young people weren’t treated as hurting victims.

This is both factually false and intellectually dishonest. No doubt, it’s the best Starr could some up with, given the inherent irrationality of his position, and it’s certainly less inflammatory than his twits. But it’s sheer nonsense. Something newsworthy happened. It happened in public. The students decided that there was yet another entitlement, this time their right to a public venue as their own safe space to the preclusion of media. And they used “muscle” to forcibly prevent the media from coming in.

But Starr wasn’t done chastising the media for doing what we expect, demand, of it.

Further, as reporters, we have to drop our sense of entitlement and understand that not everyone wants to be subjects of our journalism. Our press passes don’t give us the license to bully ourselves into any and all spaces where our presence is not appreciated.

This is Starr’s strawman fantasy, as no one forced anyone to speak with them. They couldn’t even if they wanted to, as they couldn’t get “in” to the safe space. Even if they had, if someone refused to speak to a reporter, that’s their right. But does Starr seriously suggest that the First Amendment ends where the media’s “presence is not appreciated”?  That’s batshit crazy.

Is Starr either a moron or a liar? Maybe, but more likely caught in an irreconcilable conflict of emotion versus reason. There is no explaining the feelz in rational terms, and so he instead spills his “pain” as if it trumps everything. In the process, he abandoned principle and intellect, and firmly established himself on the side of the fragile teacups.

The issue raised was interesting enough to give rise to a New York Times Room For Debate, which framed the question as “why has trust in the news media declined?” The debaters ignored the question, and discussed instead why young blacks mistrust media. University of Minnesota prof Catherine R. Squires, also the director of the Race, Indigeneity (is this a word?), Gender and Sexuality Studies Initiative, offers a list:

It is hard to trust an institution that ignores you unless you are perceived as causing a problem for “the rest of us.”

It is hard to trust an institution that ignores your history save for one month out of the year.

It is hard to trust an institution that seems to give you two choices: thug or saint?

It is hard to trust an institution that rushes to find culprits when white children are kidnapped, killed, abused, but shrugs when scores more youth of color are kidnapped, killed, abused.

It is hard to trust an institution that ignores a hunger strike and the protests and voices of hundreds of students until a lucrative contract for a football game is in jeopardy.

It is hard to trust an institution that overlooks the strengths of your community and its culture, and instead reduces it to statistics.

It is hard to trust an institution that glorifies and makes money off the fashion, hairstyles and music produced by your culture, but joins in discrediting a person like you for wearing those same styles when she or he was shot or abused by authorities.

It is hard to trust an institution that makes front-page news of lowered life expectancy for one group, when your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents’ lives were cut short by racial disparities in health care, income, education and social mobility but never merited a whisper.

This generation grew up seeing double standards. They saw a young black boy’s photo captioned with “looting” in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when a white couple photographed in a similar circumstance wading in the water with bags of supplies described as searching for food. They see Amber Alerts go national with pictures and narratives about white children in peril, but rarely the same attention to deaths of black and Latina/o children. They see journalists asking, with a straight face, if #BlackLivesMatter is a hate group.

She makes a very good point, that the media has a sordid history of being unkind to blacks, and backs it up with undeniable examples. Yet, it fails to apply well to what happened in Missouri, where the contention was entitlement to “safe spaces” overrides all else.

In an op-ed in the New York Times, Suzanne Nossel, director of the PEN America Center, an NGO whose mission is to “to fight for freedom of expression,” takes a stab at justifying Mizzou.  After Gertruding her way through the value of free speech, she goes for broke:

Both sides are wrong. The dispute is too often framed as a binary match between an emphasis on individual rights — to speech, opinions and Halloween costumes — and the communitarian drive to create campuses bound by shared values and girded against outside intrusion. But these are hardly mutually exclusive.

Use of the word “hardly” isn’t an argument. When the “communitarian drive” clashes with free speech, then it becomes mutually exclusive. That’s why this is an issue.

Student protesters needn’t give up their drive to nurture and protect diverse communities in order to accommodate free speech. In fact, free speech is an essential dimension of vibrant campus communities.

This makes no sense at all, which is troubling coming from someone who directs an organization of writers, not to mention defenders of free speech. It’s not that non-sequiturs aren’t fun, but there has to be more than empty rhetoric.

Likewise, free speech defenders will not win by dismissing students as insolent whiners. These students are smart and enterprising. While some ringleaders may fall within the distinguished American tradition of overzealousness in campus protest, the Missouri football team can’t be written off as a bunch of cosseted wusses.

Why not? Free speech defenders aren’t contending that the students’ cause is unjust (though whether it’s as just as they feel remains a question), but that their very special feelz don’t trump everything else.

Instead of deriding trigger warnings, safe spaces and censored Halloween costumes, free speech proponents need to advance alternatives that resonate with the students they want to reach. Instead of insisting that individual rights not be subordinated to the ethic of the community, advocates need to explain how free speech can fortify that ethic. They need to tackle ways that racism and discrimination can themselves chill speech.

Boom. Nossell finally reveals her hand. Free speech is great, so long as it becomes the servant of the political cause. The media should “advance alternatives that resonate with the students.” The media shouldn’t report, shouldn’t tell the truth, shouldn’t be free, but “fortify that ethic.”

To his credit, Starr picked his team and tried, if in the lamest, most absurdly irrational way, to support it. Nossel, on the other hand, gets a paycheck to be the defender of free expression, and yet sold out her team in a similarly absurdly irrational way. When speech and feelz clashed, Nossel abandoned ship.

And in doing so Nossel foreshadows the real issue that’s playing out in Missouri, Yale, Ithaca College and elsewhere; Are reason, logic and principles to become the servants of emotion? Have the deeply sensitive feelz reached that exalted place where they mean more than anything else?

The problem is that if this is so, there is no argument that will matter. Emotions are antithetical to reason, so there is nothing to be said that dissuade the special snowflakes from believing that it’s all about their hurt, offended and outraged feelings. And even the director of PEN America says so.

28 thoughts on “Mizzou Media, Servant To The Cause

      1. Anne Krone

        Try pork rinds. Has a similar crunch and can be shoveled mindlessly into your gob in a similar fashion as popcorn without messing with your carb count. Lowery’s microwave bacon curls are probably the best tasting IMO.

          1. REvers

            Put a little hot sauce on them. Some folks prefer Tabasco, but I like Trappey’s Red Devil. Less heat and much more flavor.

            1. R. Peck

              A quick check reveals many hot sauces are Atkins friendly. My own favorite, Cholula, has no carbs, no calories, and no sugar. Frank’s seems to be another popular sauce with no Atkins-verboten particulars. The website “Hot Sauce Catalog”- of course this exists, why wouldn’t it?- has all the details you could want.

              (This is in response to SHG, of course, but I saw no “Reply” button on that comment. Maximum indent?)

  1. Nathan

    It’s nothing new. At my college back in the late 80s/early 90s, it was routine for the student groups claiming victimhood or fighting for social justice to forbid the press from their public stuff, swipe every issue of a paper containing an op-ed contrary to their views, try to get students expelled who spoke out against them, et nauseating cetera.

    At least nowadays, with social media everyone can see the shenanigans for what they are, and call them out on it.

    1. SHG Post author

      Cite? If you’re going to say that, you kinda have to give the info behind it. This isn’t the blog of passive/aggressive claims, you know.

      1. Nathan

        I was at U.Va. from ’87 to ’92, and various “progressive” groups did all these things. It was much commented on at the time at the school, though I doubt the wider world ever heard of it. My point wasn’t to name names and point fingers — we’re all much older now, no need to embarrass people for the sins of their youth — just to say these tactics have been in use for a while, and it’s nice that they’re finally getting attention and criticism.

        1. SHG Post author

          That’s interesting from a number of perspectives. It wasn’t about naming names, as much as connecting dots. When I went to school at Cornell, it was still a hotbed of radicalism, but it all caught by the media and very much out in the open. No one complained of safe spaces. To the contrary, they were bent on making spaces as unsafe as possible.


          But I was long past college by the late 80s and early 90s, and was unaware that UVA was a hotbed of “social justice” (was the phrase even in use back then?) that sought to censor media. So by saying this isn’t new, that introduces an entirely new facet to what’s happening now. Was it the same? Was it pervasive? Why doesn’t anyone know of this? All curious questions in light of what’s happening now, and without background info, it’s impossible to know what to make of it.

          1. Nathan

            UVA was hardly a hotbed of liberalism, much less warriors of social justice (no, we didn’t call it that). In fact, the most pervasive complaint at the time was that students were apathetic — students had grown up hearing about college as a place of protests and marches and revolution, and felt let down that nobody was doing any of that now.

            Still, there were groups that had agendas for social progress, some of whose tactics regrettably included silencing opposing views. The “thall shalt not dissent” PC orthodoxy wasn’t as strong as it later got, but it was also well underway.

  2. Piedmont

    Do none of these people rent a house or have access to any other sort of private place?

    I think it would just confuse things to yell out “Get a room!” when faced with this kind of situation.

  3. Corporate Tool

    The day you published your first story about Mizzou, the Washington Post’s website lit up with impassioned pieces defending the reporters. A post from Eric Wemple demanded that all 3 faculty members who hassled the reporters be disciplined. I didn’t see these in the printed edition the next day.

    1. SHG Post author

      Perhaps they published Starr’s article to create the appearance of balance? Or to show how embarrassingly bankrupt the argument against the media was? It could happen.

  4. dm

    I believe that your article hits the nail on the head regarding what appears to be the difference between the SJWs of the past and the SJWs and “adults” of the present. When I was in college in the early to mid ’90s we had the same types of arguments made by the SJWs (no, they weren’t called that at the time). The seeming difference to me is that the “adults” didn’t flock to justify “safe spaces” demanded by the activists.
    Here, and in other instances which you point out and provide examples, the “adults” representing the institutions that one expects to see taking an extreme freedom of speech stance instead seem to want to curry favor with the feelz crowd. Which raises the question, in my mind, how does the WaPo and other journalists like it when their reporters are excluded from covering a story in a public space via threat of violence (or actual violence)?
    Apparently, taking a principled stance regarding freedom is getting harder and harder – at least for some.

  5. Nigel Declan

    Feelz notwithstanding, did Starr just co-opt the argument that police use to seize cell phones and arrest people videotaping them?

  6. John Barleycorn

    Well, at least the students didn’t attempt to creditenial the press to those that they thought worthy and decided to go with a more universal approach of fuck all you all!

    Heck, they were probably just looking out for the press members safety and well beign. Don’t you know that you can get killed at a campus protest theses days? I shudder to think what could have happen if a riot erupted within one of the safe place hives and a bunch of scarry looking black kids that weren’t wearing their football helmets decided to lead a charge to take the administration buildings and then led a march through the quads with another black kid on a gurney atop their shoulders, that was all skin and bones from a hunger strike barley able to lift his head but with just enough strength to display the victory sign with his frail fingers, as the marchers chanted angry slogans.

    I must admit though, I am a little bit disapointed that the kids didn’t at least designate some “free press” zones for the reporters and offer to imbed at least a few reporters with some battlefield squadrons so the world could get a better idea of just what happens on the modern day battlefield of a campus protest through the eyes of a reporter who has had time to assimilate and empathize with the good guys. I just can’t imagine wtf is going on at those safe place hives but I bet it is some heavy shit.

    P.S. Why the fuck is it that most major universities nowadays have multiple administration buildings and not just one administration building?

    P.S.S. Don’t trust anyone over thirty kids and never forget the man owns the “press” and its narrative. Have fun, and in my humble opinion the hunger strike aint got nothing on a full on butt naked protest march. Your naked body Is the only noncomercialized place you got left anyway and it’s unlikely you will have any fingernails left after you pay off your student loans.

    Go get ‘um and especially fuck them reporters from the New York Times and why you are at it don’t forget to demand that some of that football cash gets used to furnish the headquarters of that new safe place hive you should build on campus.

    There should be enough left over for the furniture after you get done paying the scientists and lawyers to battle it over the environment impact statement and don’t forget to start a superpack political action committee to grease and soften the battlefield (those guys can teach you a thing or to about the press too).

    And don’t worry about staffing the place I am sure you can get a federal grant for that or demand a new seven percent for safe space payroll tax that will gaurentee your home away from home hive staff an excellent pension package.

    1. SHG Post author

      P.S. Why the fuck is it that most major universities nowadays have multiple administration buildings and not just one administration building?

      That way, when the students take over the administration building, you can sit in your “other” office, and point and laugh.

      1. Peter Orlowicz

        It’s not because the slackoisie can’t be forced to walk all the way across campus to complain, so the university thoughtfully provides conveniently located satellite offices?

  7. A HREF

    “Is Starr either a moron or a liar? Maybe, but more likely caught in an irreconcilable conflict of emotion versus reason.”

    Reject the tyranny of “or” .

  8. mb

    The confidence with which they denounce individual liberty and free speech is frightening, but not nearly as frightening as the timidity and demoralization displayed by those who know better. An effective campaign to reverse this situation will require moral courage and lulz.

    1. SHG Post author

      Bear in mind, when some dopey reporter starts spouting First Amendment, they need only respond that Nossel says they’re a poopyhead. Validation doesn’t get much better than that.

  9. R. Peck

    To answer the question of diction:

    “Indigeneity” seems to be constructed as a noun form of “indigenous.” However, the inclusion of an extra “e” in the suffix seems incorrect to my eye and ear, and a quick trip to the dictionary seems to back this up: “indigeneity” is not listed, but “indigenity” is.

    Consider words such as spontaneous, extemporaneous (and similarly constructed words, such as contemporaneous), homogeneous (and heterogeneous), simultaneous (and instantaneous), and idoneous. All such words may be reformed into nouns such as spontaneity, extemporaneity, homogeneity, etc., all ending with -“eity,” as aforementioned “indigeneity” does. However, we see that all of these words, due to their origins, end with “-eous,” unlike “indigenous,” which merely ends “-ous,” and due to the Latin origin and development of this list of words, it seems apparent in most of them the “e” serves as part of the word’s non-suffixal morphemes, rather than a component of the “-ous” suffix denoting an adjective.

    The English language being what it is, there may be examples to the contrary- words that end “-ous” but not “-eous” and have a noun form ending with “eity”- but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. And, linguisitics being imperfectly predictive rather than perfectly prescriptive as it is sometimes imagined, whether or not “indigeneity,” in opposition to evidence and precedent, is our could become a “real” word is a matter of fortune.

    But it isn’t the word I would have chosen, if I were in the position to do so.

    If this transgresses your remonstrations against opinions on technical matters from laymen (I have no concrete authority on English, nor on its progenitors) and against belaboring a point tangential to the actual subject of the post, then I apologize.

Comments are closed.