On February 2013, the small, elite, ultra-liberal arts (both ultra liberal and ultra-arty) campus of Oberlin College was horrified by a series of racist and anti-Semitic posters, graffiti and anonymous emails. The classes were cancelled for intense self-examination and soul-searching; the news media reported on the shocking episode with dire reflections upon the increasing racial tensions in the U.S. Progressive pundits went further, flogging the story as proof of the assault on minority rights from the right, sparked by their rejection of a black President. From BET’s commentary on the Oberlin incidents:
“The sad truth is that the infection of intolerance is pervasive in American society in the age of Obama. We’re living in an era when Supreme Court justices consider the right to vote for African-Americans to be a form of “racial entitlement.” We’re in a period where Republican candidates for president cavalierly refer to the nation’s first Black commander-in-chief as the “food stamp president.” This is the period in American history that has seen the most highly orchestrated assault on minority voting since the end of Reconstruction. And in the midst of it are Republican elected officials boasting about it.in which two students made seemingly racist and other such for the purpose of getting a reaction on campus, not because they believed the hostile messages. At least one of the two was an Obama supporter with strong progressive, anti-racist politics.”
It has now been conclusively confirmed by investigative reporters and bloggers that the perpetrators of the wave of apparent racial hate were two students, inseparable friends, who were not conservatives, Republicans or racists, but “pranksters” and provocateurs, who engaged in the conduct to see how the campus would “over-react.” One of the students, Dylan Bleier, had organized a voter drive for President Obama in 2008. His Facebook page announced him as a supporter of the ACLU, a Democrat, a member of the Green Party, and someone who placed “civil rights” at the top if his interests and priorities. This means that there was not an outbreak of racism on one of the most liberal college campuses in America, but that two progressive students set out to make it seem that way—it was essentially a prank. Yet while the eager news media was using the manufactured incidents to manufacture fear and outrage over the escalation of white racial hate the culture, Oberlin police and administrators discovered who the merry pranksters were and kicked them off campus. Administrators did not bother to alert the media that the graffiti and posters were the work of good, liberal students, even as their school was being dissected as the latest infection point of the virulent racist virus.
That’s the short version: you can and should read the whole disturbing story on the two websites—yes, they are conservative websites, but it isn’t their fault that their Left-biased competition didn’t do their jobs—that helped discover the hoax and break the story: The Daily Caller, here, and Legal Insurrection, here.
This is essentially a full-blown Ethics Train Wreck that seemingly appeared out of nowhere rather than developing in visible stages, like most of them do. The stage that hasn’t developed yet, but I think it will, is the Tawana Brawley stage, where all of the eager America-bashers and anti-white racists react by say that this incident may have been a hoax, but the indictments of the culture, conservatives and Republicans it was used to bolster is still valid, while ignoring the less convenient implications of the incident.
I offer these observations about the incident and its participants. [Full disclosure: I really, really wanted to go to Oberlin. It was my first choice for college; I visited the campus, and thought it was gorgeous. It turned me down flat. A long time ago, my bitterness turned to gratitude.]
- The two students, Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden, have the ethical instincts of Nathan Leopold and Dickie Loeb, or the killers of the Australian jogger; they just didn’t happen to kill anybody. The astounding arrogance and cold-blooded callousness of these “progressive” students, who not only set out to cause others pain and humiliation, but to target the very people they supposedly care about most is hard for me to wrap my mind around. The character of such young men must be deeply scarred, and they deserve every bit of exposure and disgrace that the media and web can muster. Some “mistakes” need to haunt the perpetrators for a very long time, perhaps forever. To link to another debate here, I would not want to trust Alden and Bleier with employment; indeed, I would not want to live near either of them, for fear of what else they might think is amusing. Do I think people have a right to know what kind of sociopathic creeps they are starting a relationship with before they hire Alden and Bleier, or accept them as students in their school? Yes, I do.
- As Professor Jacobson demonstrates, Oberlin and its president, Marvin Krislov, knew who the culprits were before the end of February, yet still presented to the country the appearance and puzzled indignation of a campus under siege by unknown racists. The school even contacted the FBI after identifying Bleier and Alden. Why? What possible justification can they offer for this deception? Was the school trying to protect the students, or its reputation, while MSNBC talking heads were using the hoax to tar their partisan adversaries? Professor Jacobson asks the pertinent question of what the Board of Trustees knew about the facts and if they, like Krislov, allowed the hoax to be represented as something very different in the news media until six months later. He suggest that if they did know, they should be replaced, and he is right. That would just be a starting place, however. A school that handles an incident this way, remaining mum while a lie gallops around the world, has cultural problems that won’t be solved by a changing of the guard.
- While the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the news networks and all the usual major news media outlets covered the original incident when they thought it was a fresh and significant outbreak of racism in an unlikely place, none of these has covered that discovery that it was a hoax, at least not yet. No. it is only being covered by “conservative” news sources, which of course also means that if you tell the story, you must be conservative too. This is not responsible journalism, competent journalism, fair journalism or useful journalism. It is biased, divisive and unethical journalism.
- If you think I’m going to connect this episode to the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman fiasco, you are correct. The news media, Democrats and race-grievance activists dearly want to prove the nation is racially divided, and want to show that prejudice against blacks, and the social, economic and cultural handicaps that result from it, are as bad as possible. Thus they uncritically accept slanted, unreliable or outright false characterizations of incidents that can be used to further that objective. When the useful incident proves to be more complex and less damning than they had thought (and hoped), the activists do everything they can to blur the facts and continue the narrative. This is what happened with George Zimmerman, who did not set out to shoot a black kid, was not, based on the known facts, racially profiling him, wasn’t a racist and wasn’t even white. Never mind! He’s got to be the equivalent of the murderers of Emmett Till, so he is, that’s all. The story about racist graffiti at a privileged college in the middle of Ohio served its purpose: there will be no rush to correct the record, it it is corrected at all.
- William Jacobson, who is a Cornell law school professor, notes in his report that he “smelled a rat” with the Oberlin story, and investigated. Why was this story only investigated by a blogging law professor? Where were the journalists? Why weren’t they—the Times, the Post, CNN, CBS, FOX, NBC—checking the facts? That it took this long for the truth to come out is an indictment of how lazy, inept and biased our journalistic establishment has become.
- Prof. Jacobson is an Ethics Hero. This was important work, and he set out to find the truth while smug reporters slept, and gleeful pundits on the left used a false account to implicate Republicans and conservatives.
- Another blogging law professor, the iconic Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, writes in reaction to the Daily Caller and Legal Insurrection reports, “The good news about America in 2013 is that if you’re a lefty and you want a racial incident to fire up the troops, you pretty much have to make it up yourself.” That goes way too far, and has the perverse effect of prodding the liberal media to fall for hoaxes like this one. There are plenty of racists out there, scary ones, as my brief foray with the disgusting bigots on “Chimpmania” demonstrated. The point is to identify real ones, not to call everyone a racist who supports requiring voters to have as much identification as it requires to enter an office building or rent a car, or anyone who concludes that a depressingly inept and devious leader is, in fact, inept and devious.
- No, I do not expect the Oberlin affair to be discussed tonight at D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theater’s “town hall meeting” about racism in America.
- The most puzzling ethical question is this: is racist graffiti less offensive and wrongful conduct because the motive wasn’t really racist? The conduct is the same; what Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden did was exactly as hurtful and offensive and wrong as if they were Klansmen. A true hoax is when something is made to seem like something it was not: Tawana Brawley was not raped, and she smeared herself with feces. That’s a hoax. Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden really produced the racist words that everyone saw; they were real. The offense occurred. The fact that the teens who killed the innocent Australian jogger did it for a “thrill” rather than racial hate doesn’t make the killing better or worse; this is part of my objection to the concept of “hate crime.” I think that what Dylan Bleier and Matt Alden did, inspired, apparently, by arrogance and disregard for others, is just as cruel, vicious and wrong as if it was motivated by racial hatred.
And perhaps even more so.
Pointer:The Daily Caller, Legal Insurrection 1, 2, CBS News, Cleveland.com, BET, Instapundit
Graphic: Daily Caller
26 thoughts on “Ethics Indictments And Observations On “The Greatest Race Hoax Since Tawana Brawley.””
I am confused by the word hoax. If you commit a crime with the intention of convincing people that someone else did it, that is not a hoax. If I send anthrax powder to the President with a note written on your stationary, that is not a hoax. I am framing you for a crime. You would be upset if the police just let me go and called it a hoax. If the President, the police, the Secret Service, and the news media still pretended you did it, then they would be complicit in that action.
These students didn’t do this to ‘raise consciousness’. They did it to hurt their political enemies. The administration, police, Board of Trustees, and media kept quiet about it because they decided they would rather take part in this activity than admit the truth.
I share your objection to the general use of the term. That is the term being most often used in the Oberlin case.
I think these two “pranksters” were neglected as children… their mommies did not read them the “Boy who Cried Wolf”.
Funny, here I was thinking that they weren’t beaten enough…
I disagree. It is absolutely on point here.
Yes there are racists, but The Professor is talking about an actual incident – not some jackass saying stupid shit on a blog, but actual acts of racism, like people dressed like Klansmen walking around a campus, or a black teen being hunted down and executed, or a noose being hung around a professor’s office doorknob, but definitely not a white guy being shot from behind by a couple of black boys, or a white kid getting the shit beat out of him on a bus, or a WWII vet being beaten to death by a pair of black youths.
He is saying that these things over which the left becomes apoplectic and use as proof of the deep, deep racial hate in this country are things that must be invented, because they don’t happen naturally.
but definitely not a white guy being shot from behind by a couple of black boys, or a white kid getting the shit beat out of him on a bus, or a WWII vet being beaten to death by a pair of black youths.
I knew you would post on the matter.
“The sad truth is that the infection of intolerance is pervasive in American society in the age of Obama.
In the age of Obama we are also living in an era where in one week’s time, we have the following:
1. Testimony in court about how “a black youth” shot an 18 month old white baby in the face over his mother’s purse.
2. Two “black youths” and one “white youth” shot to death a white Australian college kid, because “they were bored”.
3. Two “black youths” beat to death a white 88 year old WWII veteran.
Now, something is VERY, very wrong with a society where such crimes take place and half of America is still whining about Trayvon Martin.
I am still waiting for Obama to come out and claim his newest four sons.
I am also waiting for the gun control crowd to come out and explain how banning guns would have prevented the death of Mr. Belton.
I have never felt as much disgust as I have this week.
You who are responsible for the culture we live in know who you are.
I hope you can live with yourselves and I really hope that your Karma, when it comes back, as it will, I will be around to delight in it.
That Wooly Mammoth troupe of DOLTS gets ZERO respect or admiration from me and I will pray every single day for the collapse of their stupid, useless, racist and moronic theater.
I think racist graffiti is less offensive and wrongful when there is no racist intent behind it. While the graffiti of the Oberlin students is neither funny nor interesting, I think it is important for society to give leeway to people who wish to shock us in order to be funny or to make a point. For example, advocating that people eat children would ordinarily be offensive and wrong. When Jonathan Swift did just that, however, it was not offensive or wrong because he made an interesting point and most everyone understood that he was being satirical (I hope). People who try to be Swiftian and fail because their point is too obscure or because people take them too seriously are less blameworthy than people who are actually hateful.
You are not seriously calling what those two jerks did “Swiftian” are you? That’s not satire or wit. Imitating exactly racist conduct isn’t humor or mockery. If the targets feel exactly the same harm, what difference does it make? If I “jokingly” call President Obama a nigger, would I be off the hook? Should I be?
I don’t think so.
Probably not, you creepy-ass cracker…
It’s not “Swiftian” because they failed. I’m sure they thought they were being clever and witty (“Let’s simultaneously make fun of racists and people who get uptight over racism”) but were neither. What I am saying is that trying to be satirical and failing is a lesser wrong than actually being hateful.
Not knowing the context of your hypothetical joke, I don’t know exactly what you would be on the hook for. One can tell a hateful, derogatory joke, and if that is what your joke was, you would be on the hook for being hateful. If no malice was meant by your joke, you would be on the hook for telling a bad joke and for not knowing any better. The former offence is worse than the latter as far as I am concerned.
I bolded the part that is wishful thinking on your part…
In this case, I do believe that Alden and Bleier actually were expressing hatred — just not toward the obvious target. No, their hatred was for white folks and conservatives. They targeted the right for punishment by framing them for a hate crime. That’s not being satirical, and it is an act of malice.
By not ‘fessing up promptly, Alden and Bleier and the complicit Oberlin administration exposed innocent parties to undeserved condemnation. They also forced blameless students to undergo sensitivity training at the cost of lost class time, to fear their friends and the campus environment (a temporary family in a home away from home, where one should feel reasonably safe), and to unfairly treat their fellow students with suspicion. Do you doubt that students were not judging their classmates to see if they could figure out who the miscreants were, all the time not knowing that their emotions were being cynically manipulated?
Alden and Bleier may claim that they were just trying to provoke a response, but they knew full well just what that response would be and that it would be blown out of proportion, as all race-based issues of even the smallest degree and the most benign character are in our inflamed society. If they really were taken by surprise at the response and if they were not acting out of malice toward the right, then they would have spoken up as soon as they saw the reaction. That they did not proves that they were not just merry pranksters, but were in fact agents provocateurs bent on maligning innocent parties. And the college administration’s behavior is even worse, as they cannot blame youth and inexperience for their failure to clear things up the moment they knew the truth.
It’s the fake-but-accurate scenario, deliberately employed to damage the reputation of an innocent group. If that were not the case, then the truth would have been told promptly; allowing the fiction to persist proves the malice.
Schools always overreact to stuff like this. No different than the “bomb scare” that was called in during finals week during law school. “Gosh! I wonder if there is a REAL bomb?” The schocking thing is that the story was considered news in the first place.
I disagree, mainly because a bomb threat is an immediate threat with the potential – if genuine – to cause actual harm, while some asshole – sincere or not – writing “nigger” is not, unless you are from the breed of lawyer that considers “Butthurt in the First Degree” (a.k.a. “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress”) something that cops should be called for.
“It’s not “Swiftian” because they failed. I’m sure they thought they were being clever and witty (“Let’s simultaneously make fun of racists and people who get uptight over racism”) but were neither. What I am saying is that trying to be satirical and failing is a lesser wrong than actually being hateful.”
They were “actually being hateful. They were being hateful toward the people they were trying to frame as hateful and to the people they were being racist about. It couldn’t be more hateful or racist to use a group in that way. They are not the framers personal property to jerk around.
I understand why people were saying that this wasn’t “really” racist, but I think they’re mistaken. What these two students did was racist (as well as anti-Semitic and probably some other things as well). That they made up some bullshit excuse that when they performed racist acts it’s just “irony,” doesn’t magically make the acts non-racist.
That in no way excuses the Oberlin college administration, of course.
Actually, it seems to be one paragraph of a single article on BET, written by a pretty obscure author, that did this, not “progressive pundits” in general. The other quotes included on Legal Insurrection had no mention of the GOP, and neither did the Melissa Harris-Perry clip LI embedded.
In fact, nothing about the other (admittedly overwrought) quotes (at least the bits quoted on LI), or the MHP clip (which was smart and – for TV – nuanced), would need to be walked back at all in light of these new revelations. It’s only if you consider liberal, left-wing white kids doing a series of racist and antisemitic pranks to somehow not be racism that it would be wrong to say that there were racist incidents at Oberlin.
I’m an Obie alum, by the way. And, oddly enough, this is the first time I’m hearing about this story. :-p
Yes, as I suggested, that “oh, this isn’t really racism, this is someone pretending to be racist” explanation is hard for me to accept as well. To make the most obvious point, no one with proper respect for blacks and Jews would do such a thing. It makes me wonder how deep the civil rights sensibilities of this supposedly uber progressive student goes. maybe Bob Filner isn’t really harassing women, but only pretending to. It’s a hoax!
Conservatives,like Prof. Jacobson, are not being paranoid to believe all such false flag racist incidents are aimed at them and carry the implications offered by BET. Given the general acceptance of unsubstantiated claims of racist epithets hurled at Democratic House members by tea party demonstrators during the health care battle and the daily drumbeat of race-baiting from MSNBC (Chris Matthews recently argued that calling the President “Obama” had racist motivations), I’d be surprise if the BET commentary was the only one in this vein—I was surprised that Melissa Harris-Perry stopped short of making that connection. But it is worth noting that others weren’t cited by Legal Insurrection and may not exist.
I still believe progressives are intentionally promoting racial division, with the Zimmerman-Martin misrepresentations being Exhibit A. When a student with the kind of progressive links this one has pulls a stunt like this, it is an Occam’s Razor natural to conclude it is more of the same.
I’m skeptical that this is true. Do you have a link to a credible source (i.e., one that quotes the entire statement, with the context intact)? Nonetheless, I agree that Chris Matthews is a jackass. How you can stand to watch cable news, I’ll never know.
The fact is, the overwhelming majority of progressive commentary on this I could find didn’t make it a partisan issue. If you’re “surprised” by that – as you were by the video discussion with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who may be the most popular progressive writer about race issues, and who is not at all mindlessly partisan – I think that shows that your view of how progressives discuss race has been biased by your own stereotypes of progressives.
It’s also a fact that the LI post, and your own post, were written in a way that gives the impression that lots of progressives had done what the BET commentary did, when as far as you know only one did. That’s not fair play.
Let me say, first of all, that I consider that story a nothingburger. If you gather hundreds of angry partisans (either party), and then members of the opposition walk through the crowd, it’s all but guaranteed that a few people will be bad actors. To which I say, so what? There is no way to completely eliminate jerks from either party, so it’s not a reasonable expectation that there will be no jerks in a big crowd.
This story – like many stories – is nothing but a partisan “gotcha.” (And your party does it too, by the way).
That said, you’re wrong. Four named witnesses – John Lewis, Andre Carson, Joe Crowley, and Emanuel Cleaver – reported racial and homophobic epithets, or spitting. Now, it’s possible that they’re lying (although I see no reason to assume they are), but four named witnesses – one of them an American hero – is not “unsubstantiated.” (Contrast that to your claim about Brooklyn College, which really IS unsubstantiated – not a single quote or witness.)
*shrug* Progressives are being sincere, by and large. That you choose to believe the worst of everyone who disagrees with you is on you, not on progressives.
(And it’s not as if some people on your side aren’t making misrepresentations – even after the judge’s instructions clearly drew from the Stand Your Ground legislation of 2005, including some word-for-word parallels and the phrase “stand your ground,” and after a juror explicitly stated that “stand your ground” was part of why she voted not guilty, many conservatives still claim that Stand Your Ground was not involved with this case in any way at all.)
The point is not to identify “real” racists. Surely everyone (including people of color) who isn’t an infant has some internalized racism to deal with. The point is to try and reduce the negative impact that racism has on people’s lives.
Entering an office building, and renting a car, are not constitutional rights.
Furthermore, you’re oversimplifying the issue. “Voter ID” laws vary a lot from state to state. Some are designed responsibly to minimize disenfranchisement. Some are very transparently intended to make it harder for likely Democratic voters (i.e., non-white voters, students, etc) to vote. Furthermore, they’ve often been passed bundled with other laws that have nothing to do with preventing fraud, but are statistically known to reduce Democratic voting (like reducing voting stations in urban areas).
It’s not unreasonable to consider laws designed to reduce Black voter turnout, to be racist laws. And objecting to racist laws is not race-baiting.
Now if you could only FIND ONE, since none of the Voter ID Laws are…
Don’t the states with the most stringent voter ID laws actually have more voter turnout amongst minorities, especially African Americans?
Well, first of all, I’d question the implied logic behind your question; correlation is not causation.
But to answer your question, “Black turnout was highest in Wisconsin, Mississippi, and North Carolina.” None of these states had voter ID laws in place in 2012.
I don’t know why turnout was so high in Mississippi, but I’d bet that Wisconsin and NC had high turnout because they were swing states, and therefore had especially strong get-out-the-vote efforts. Voter ID is one variable that effects turnout, but it’s not the only variable.
Except I haven’t implied any logic of the sort.
The leftists race baiters are the ones who have asserted that: Voter ID laws are designed to reduce minority voter turn out.
My question, if answered in the affirmative would provide the exact refutation to that leftist assertion. My question, if answered in the negative merely leaves the leftist assertion not disproven, but still not proven.
You’re second paragraph does not conclude anything definitively in regards to my question, since it doesn’t seek data from states with voter ID laws.
Now, since your response is the one lacking any real logic, you can reformulate your response. I’m all ears.
Voter ID is quite simply an easy, inexpensive, method of trying to secure elections from corruption just a little more. Why Leftists are so opposed to securing elections from corruption really baffles me. (Ablative insert smartass response here).
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This was a prank the same way the ACLU calling for the secret service to investigate a rodeo clown for hate speech is…
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