1. I am deeply conflicted about how to handle the results of James O’Keefe’s “undercover video” operations when they hit gold like this. His methods are dishonest, Project Veritas does not treat his targets fairly, and publicizing his work just ensures that he will do more of it, and that imitators will follow in his slimy footsteps.
2. On the other hand, it makes no sense to apply an ethics blog exclusionary rule, and pretend that the videos don’t show what they show, when what they show is enlightening.
3. I’m not entirely certain that this video shows what it shows. It may show Cornell’s assistant dean for students, Joseph Scaffido, slipping into automatic sales mode, and neither paying attention to what comes out of his mouth nor applying critical thought. Surely he knows–please, please, tell me he knows!— that a pro-ISIS group on any American campus, especially a high-profile and prestigious one like Cornell’s, would be a public relations nightmare.
4. What should we want to happen to Scaffido? If he’s fired, he has lost his job because of tricks and lies, and because he trusted a stranger. That seems unfair. Yet if Cornell just shrugged this off, it is guaranteed to upset parents and alumni. What kind of people are teaching today’s college students at Cornell? Are they really this stupid? How many people like Scaffido are in positions of authority, or worse, tenured professors? Isn’t this obviously a problem?
5. How is this different from a college administrator saying that the KKK is welcome on campus? I suspect that an administrator who said that would be sent packing within seconds of the video’s appearance, even if it had been taped by Satan.
6. How did Project Veritas find this guy? If he was approached because they had a tip that he was an ISIS fan, or deranged, we need to know that. If he was exposed because you can’t throw a rock on an Ivy League campus without hitting a fool like this, that’s important information too.
7. So far, this story has been reported by Fox, the New York Post, and Mediaite, as well as some lesser conservative sites and Cornell sources, which are, as you would assume, going nuts. I really get sick of pointing this out, I really do, but what does it say about the mainstream media that they reflexively avoid reporting stories that show the intellectual and ethical rot in liberal enclaves? What else are they hiding for ideological purposes? Don’t any of those Americans who hate Fox wonder what would be withheld from the public if there were no “conservative media”? Do they wish these stories were withheld? What does that say about them?
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, President David Skorton said the idea that Cornell would welcome terrorist groups such as ISIS and Hamas on campus is “ludicrous and absolutely offensive.”
Skorton described the video — which has been widely circulated online by various media outlets — as a “shameful” product of Project Veritas, which he said “has been repeatedly vilified for dishonest, deceitful activity.”
“It is shameful that any individual would pose as a student facing racial discrimination at another university, ask leading questions on hidden camera about Cornell’s tolerance for differing viewpoints and backgrounds, and then conveniently splice together the resulting footage to smear our assistant dean and our University,” Skorton said.
Skorton added that while many forms of free expression are welcome at the University, violence is not tolerated on Cornell’s campus.
“Cornell has an unwavering commitment to the free and responsible exchange of ideas,” he said. “However, we remain vigilant in maintaining an appropriate balance of freedom of expression within accepted boundaries. Of course, incitement to violence is not protected and would never be tolerated on our campus.”
This is evasive, and a troubling response. The questions I want answered are, “What the hell was your assistant dean thinking? Is he a product of Cornell’s culture, or is he not? If not, will Cornell continue to employ him? How can that be justified, if your words about violence are true? Are you at all concerned that a university official would talk like this?”
9. The accusation of manipulated video is inevitable, given Project Veritas’s history. There is no reason to trust O’Keefe or anyone who works for him. Still, this is a deflection tactic and attacking the messenger. If the video is a fair representation of what Scaffido said, what is Cornell going to do about it?