The False Accusation Excuse: Discuss Killing Yourself?

At the Washington Examiner, Ashe Schow writes about the “explanation” proffered for three students nabbed by video for lying about being the victims of racism.

In the recent race hoax at State University of New York at Albany, where three black women started a fight on a bus and accused a dozen white people of attacking them for being black, a professor at the school claimed they were justified because they started a conversation on race.

“My white students have said this has opened up conversations,” said Sami Schalk, an assistant professor in SUNY Albany’s English department. “Things that are inadvertent, small, but that these white students have no experience with, not being a person of color on this campus.”

Certainly, no one could argue that there is something wrong with a conversation on race, right?  But is it an excuse for engaging in false accusations?

Oddly, but not unexpectedly, that “conversation” was not about avoiding a rush to judgment when accusations check all the boxes in preferred narratives, but about accusers needing to be believed.

Falsely accusing a person of a crime, especially as the 10-year anniversary of the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax is upon us, is certainly worthy of a conversation. But that’s not the conversation being generated.

The most famous rape hoax of the past decade, the Duke Lacrosse case, involved campus administrators rushing to judgment to condemn the accused team. A “Group of 88” professors and administrators circulated an ad with quotes from students and others about how the accused were racists and how the culture at Duke promoted rape.

For the 10-year anniversary of the hoax, some of the administrators who promulgated the ad claimed they weren’t trying to condemn the students (yeah, right) but were merely trying to start a discussion on campus.

The “starting a discussion” has become a foundational rationalization in response to false allegations of criminal conduct.  The perpetrators of the false claims may have committed a crime, may have harmed innocent people through their false accusations, but the “social justice” reaction is that they are morally justified because their crime gives rise to a discussion of a more worthy issue.

The next time a hoax is revealed, watch. Those committed to driving the narrative will claim that even though this particular accusation was false, their narrative still stands and that it should “start a dialogue” regardless. And as I mentioned before, that “dialogue” is never about waiting for facts or evidence before condemning accused people, but about how we should accuse more people because they’re probably guilty.

Putting aside the perverse view of trading off one view of social wrongs for another, there is another aspect of the “starting a conversation” excuse that warrants attention.  This concern goes to what that conversation is about, and this video of a debate between Harvard students and students from the University of West Georgia shows “dialogue” at its worst.

The video is flawed, clearly cut and thus leaving out parts that might give rise to discussion that isn’t nearly as absurd as the video would make it appear. That said, there doesn’t appear to be any conceivable explanation for a student arguing that white people should kill themselves.

The obvious retort is that all hell would break loose if a white student suggested that a black student should kill himself, but that’s really not helpful.  This is a product of a discussion of white privilege, with absurdly overheated rhetoric. It is not to be taken seriously, and only makes the student who promoted the notion look ridiculously infantile.  That happens. A lot.

But what this does raise is the efficacy of the rationalization for false allegations.  Falsely alleging the commission of a crime is, in itself, a wrong.  Efforts to salvage some small piece of justification for the commission of this crime create the perverse incentive to falsely claim victimhood, as if the status didn’t have enough rewards already.  But even this rationalization fails when the “start a conversation” excuse encourages black students to feel empowered to engage in a discussion of why white students should commit suicide.

The depth of these problems has reached a new low. That Harvard students have successfully rid themselves of the law school’s racist Royall shield may be symbolic, but when they are confronted with arguments for the death of white students, they have crossed a line of “conversation” that is intolerable.  And this is what their professors use as an excuse for committing a crime in the first place?

At what point will grown-ups on campus take charge?  Are there any grown-ups left?  Is it not bad enough that students are engaged in the crime of falsely accusing others, with the comfort of pedagogical excuses?  Are conversations where one student asserts that others should commit suicide really what you contend justifies the crime of false accusations?

This is out of control. This is intolerable.  If the professoriate can’t find the maturity and discretion to use its position to condemn the commission of crimes by students in the name of social justice, then at least grow up enough to deal with students calling for other students to kill themselves.

We don’t need to have this conversation. This conversation should never happen. That it is even conceivably acceptable that this conversation is happening on your campus, happening with your students, is a reflection of your failure as teachers and adults. There is no excuse for any of this, and yet you have allowed children to believe that this is acceptable conduct. This must stop.

21 comments on “The False Accusation Excuse: Discuss Killing Yourself?

  1. Keith

    Maybe now you’ll rethink your history of abuse. This whole time you’ve been badgering us commentators for being “off-topic”, we’ve actually been victims trying to start a conversation.

  2. Ruben Plooster

    When the Social Justice crowd says stupid things, makes a mistake or supports a fraud, it’s good that it happened because it started a conversation.

    If their ideological opponents says stupid things, makes a mistake or supports a fraud, it is terrible and people must be fired, expelled or imprisoned.

      1. Ruben Plooster

        I try not to, thinking about such things as a white male seems to be problematic.
        So I just state the obvious, like how we can’t have that conversation we apparently all need because such debate would quickly be considered hate speech or censored to such a degree to make it useless.

  3. Erik H.

    This is almost certainly some sort of debate team practice.

    1) The black speaker starts with “our argument is.” This is a team.
    2) There’s a lectern. Normal people don’t use lecterns in conversation.
    3) Someone is recording it–presumably openly, since it is a small room, and is a criminal offense to secretly record in Massachusetts. Nobody acknowledges the recorder, which would be very strange if this was a real life argument..
    4) There are papers everywhere, and it seems to take place in a study room.
    5) It looks like it’s a private setting.
    6) Nobody is getting particularly upset, although serious stuff is being said.

    So… it’s a debate team. Or the equivalent.

    And in that context I don’t find this offensive. Debate teams at the high level can cover everything, from “should slavery be legal” to “should the government be entitled to forcibly take one of your kidneys” to “should all whites leave the US.”

    The context of a debate practice is to test arguments and see which ones work. Some of those arguments are going to be inherently offensive (“we should shoot all illegal immigrants on sight”) because the point is to WIN THE DEBATE, not to actually make those things happen. I don’t support any of those perspectives I listed–but I could put on a pretty good argument if I tried, and so could most competent debaters.

    Anyway, nothing in this video suggests that the student would maintain those personal views outside the debate context. This is merely a heavily-edited film designed to make the problem look bad.

    1. Keith

      Yea, that’s how I saw it. This looks like reductio ad absurdum (although that may be lost on the actual people in the room). College is a time for many people to be challenged to think better (at least it used to be; what I see now scares me to send my little girls off), and sometimes that means making bad arguments and getting pummeled by logic.

      Absent something more, I don’t think it’s worth condemnation from just this clip.

    2. SHG Post author

      1. Assume it’s a debate team exercise based upon vapid reasoning.
      2. Use the baseless assumption that it’s a debate to rationalize away outrageous assertion.
      3. ???
      4. Profit!

      Or you could have read that this was an actual debate, though not a debate club exercise, between Harvard and West Georgia and saved yourself the effort of looking foolish. Your impression that “having a conversation” means a private chat between a couple of friends over a beer is just a wee bit wrong.

      1. Joseph

        When I was a (short-lived) participant in competitive debate, there seemed to be a tacit understanding that you could argue whatever you want in the debate tournament because at the end of the day players are there to score points and go home. We were told that you could take any number of outlandish positions you wanted – that humanity should go extinct as fast as possible, that comparative value judgments are literally impossible to make, or that the concept of “individual rights” is meaningless because psychiatric research suggests you can be as many individuals as you want – and if the other team failed to address why your claim was either bullshit or irrelevant, you would win the debate, because it’s scored on technical criteria. Nothing stops you from winning with a logical fallacy if the other team fails to point it out.

        It wouldn’t necessarily be good strategy, but in general people understood that what people said in the debate didn’t actually necessarily reflect anything they thought “in real life”. This is premised in the idea that debate is a sport with rules, a game of sorts, and that as long as you don’t break the rules you can pull strategies as “abusive” as you want – it’s the responsibility of the tournament holder to decide what’s beyond the pale and everything else is fair game. Debate is by nature more serious than, say, competitive cup stacking, and one might expect that the participants have some duty other than simply winning at all costs… but as long as they are thinking about debate as a game, arguing that the counterparty should commit suicide post-haste is going to look to like just another tool in the bag.

        1. SHG Post author

          Do you have a serious issue with brevity? Does this look to you like a competitive debate with formal rules, or an informal “debate” where people are just talking at, over and through each other? Do you see the students wearing ties? Jackets? Taking turns at their podiums. Anything at all that resembles the formal competitive debate you’re talking about, which this obviously isn’t? Or will you murder another thousand words to try to come up with some asinine excuse again?

          1. Joseph

            The video appears to be at some sort of event that someone actually had to organize, and the participants in the debate all appear to have had competitive debate experience. In any case where people are participating in a debate as part of an event, competition, or exercise, you will see people arguing positions that they do not personally believe.

        2. davep

          It seems one purpose of debates is to train people to get away with making “outlandish” arguments. That leads to pointless farces in the real world like creationist versus evolution debates.

          The use of “outlandish” arguments in debates isn’t sacrosanct.

  4. kenm

    Having participated in more than a few debate tournaments, and seen some of my competitors pull out totally ridiculous arguments, I want to cry “troll!”.

    Regardless of the opinion that the debate pictured is ridiculous, the real conversation about “starting a discussion” using false statements is disturbing. You don’t start a meaningful discussion from a false premise, but using actual data…

  5. Simon Elliott

    All humans have confirmation bias: looking for facts to fit a theory. But when the facts clearly contradict you, just can’t just look for more facts.

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