Ethics Musings On The Project Veritas Cornell Video

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?

8. Cornell obviously recognizes that this is not the image it wishes to convey:

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?


Pointer: Fark

Sources: Cornell Daily Sun, New York Post

34 thoughts on “Ethics Musings On The Project Veritas Cornell Video

  1. To me, it’s very simple: If we had a news media – including education correspondents – who did their jobs, Project Veritas would not need to exist.

  2. Fascinating. Watching the video I’m reminded of a version of Occam’s razor: faced with one explanation based on conspiracy theories and one based on incompetence, the incompe-tence explanation ends up nearer the truth far more often.
    The guy strikes me as ignorant, if not dumb as meat. Like you said, mouth on auto-pilot, not even listening to what he himself is saying, much less the interviewer.
    I think you’re right that if he’d said KKK, the reaction would be different, but I’m inclined to think that’s less about hard-wired leftist politics than it is about classic Ugly American ignorance. I doubt he could spell ISIS, nor find Iraq and Syria on a map.
    Not that there’s anything right with that…

  3. I think this nincompoop is just in full diversity mode. All the world is aggrieved by the United States and its foreign and domestic policies. Of course the aggrieved have a voice on the Cornell campus. A pro-ISIS lecture? Sure. You want fries with that? And by the way, you said you were from Morocco, right? Cool, we could use some more of your demographic in our reports to the Feds. You got any brothers or sisters who want to come to sunny Ithaca? We could get them Pell grants or have the alumni pay all your tuitions.

    A useful idiot.

    And don’t expect him to be fired. As far as the academy is concerned, he didn’t say anything remotely offensive.

  4. This is not newsworthy. So, a university has employed an idiot. Gosh, say it ain’t so! Note that he is Dean of Student ACTIVITIES, not Dean of the Political Science Department.

    Final note — this video is heavily edited and most of the questions were worded to be as ambiguous as possible. I support freedom fighters in those regions, but let’s define freedom fighters. I support humanitarian efforts in those regions. I support educating people on what ISIS and what it stands for, but that doesn’t mean that I support ISIS.

    Move along people….

    • Damn Beth you have to be kidding, not newsworthy? Nothing to see here just a top educational institution employing a complete fucking moron at the executive level. Don’t worry America we got this, your kids will be just fine with us.

      Project Veritas is unethical, they edit, lie and manipulate but despite that they to often expose the truth. Veracity and depth of progressive beliefs an individuals or organisation may be hold is often misrepresented but the cornerstone has almost always been there. How that translates into actual action by individual or organization may vary greatly.

      In a lot of ways I can see the project as investigative reporting, to get at the truth often requires lies and manipulation but creative editing or using answers to ambiguous questions destroys that argument.

      • Steve, there are idiots everywhere.

        I might be wrong, but the qualifications for “Dean of Student Activities” probably ranks somewhat lower than teacher or professor of any subject except underwater basket weaving.

        Did you watch this video? Do you really think this moron would let a terrorist cell set up on campus once he figured out what this guy was talking about?

        • He wasn’t the janitor and is a direct representative of the school. Additionally it sounds like he would be the guy giving the nod to any campus organization, you know those programs that seem to be constantly popping up in the news, sometimes in relation to sexual assault, sometimes racism or antisemitism. But you’re right he is such a minor player that we shouldn’t expect him to have a room temperature IQ or have any common sense.

    • My impression was, “yup, you can always get a lot of liberals to say things like this, but it doesn’t mean that they are pro-terrorism.”

      If this guy had heard the words “terrorist” or maybe even “ISIS” the cobwebs in his brain might have cleared. But the terrorists themselves do indeed call themselves “freedom fighters,” and oppressed, and it doesn’t occur to folks like Mr. Bureaucrat that they might be misrepresenting themselves. We do live in a world where Arafat was given a Nobel Peace Prize.

      I can get my liberal acquaintances to nod along with anything if I just use the right buzzwords. That is because political and social liberalism are especially associated with a burning desire to be trendy and ahead of the curve. If I were unscrupulous, sure, I could hide a GoPro in my hat and convince a bunch of Berkley students to rub poison ivy on their faces because it’s holistic and organic and because Big Pharma is trying to stop people from doing it. But you know, I’d be a terrible person and stuff.

  5. Based on videos I have edited, I am inclined to agree with Cornell that the video was highly spliced to make the piece far more damning.

    “Gotcha!” videos such as this simply do not portray how the targets would react in a genuine situation. For instance, I do not think it was necessarily clear that “Freedom Fighter” referenced ISIS terrorists. The student was speaking of humanitarian outreach, and the dean may have though he was speaking of resistance fighters against Syria.

    Because the student is NOT an ISIS sympathizer, his body language will not have the real tells that may alert the dean. Since the actor is in fact disgusted by ISIS, the dean may have picked up on this and simply have assumed “Freedom Fighter” (though clear code for “Terrorist” to a native speaker) may have been misinterpreted by the Moroccan exchange student.

    At the end, where the student asks about setting up a training camp, the dean is visibly startled, and seems to end the conversation pretty quickly. Following the conversation, the dean may have realized he “got punked”, and then done nothing to follow up. (Really, what was there to do?)

    As you say, the video is unethical on numerous grounds, especially because it represent this as how the dean would react to a real terrorist; it really only shows how a dean reacts to leading and poor faith questions in a contrived situation.

    • The actor said “Islamic State” enough times that only a man truly committed to the art of being a moron could have missed it.

      Either A) Cornell will rubber-stamp anything not perceived to be right-wing, or B) this guy actually thought that Islamic State were indeed “freedom fighters” and thought it would be cool to have them supported on campus.

      I considered adding a C option: that the guy just didn’t want to seem rude/ignorant by asking whether Islamic State was a terror organization…but I realized that would just be option A again.

  6. ‘Mr. Joe’ is not an educator, or even an administrator, he’s a salesman. He’s trying to make a sale, no more, no less. VERY poor choice of spokesman for Cornell, but Veritas probably knew that going in. That said, Veritas also probably did NOT need to use any judicious editing (like CBS did on Zimmerman’s 9-1-1 call) to get the responses they were looking for. My guess is that this “Assistant Dean” is almost as well-informed as one of Jesse Watters’ victims.

    • If he were an actual educator, he would be explaining exactly WHY ISIS are brave freedom fighters, and why the United States is responsible for the suffering they cause. (zing!)

      • Good point, Isaac. I’m still thanking my lucky stars that I finished my graduate degree in ’75, before most universities became indoctrination camps.

        • A while ago, in a microbiology class, the professor was talking about Listeria monocytogenes being a very prevalent contaminant in food processing plants. He said “well, what can be done about it? If you’re a Republican, you simply de-fund the EPA and the problem’s gone”. I said “seriously? This is science, not political science. Would it be too much to ask for you to refrain from pushing your politics in a class I paid for?”. That was the beginning of a small-scale war between me and some of the staff. These people are no better than child molesters.

  7. If he really means what he said he’s an idiot. If he’s on auto-pilot it’s even worse. And for the record, is that awful shirt standard attire for an assistant dean on an Ivy League campus? I teach in elementary schools and I’d call it questionable even there.
    Project Veritas, for all of it’s obvious problems is very good at getting knee-jerk liberals to spill their guts, and that’s enlightening and frightening. If I have to make an ethics judgement I’ll commit several ethics rationalizations. Hidden camera is a valid reporting tool, and it’s not like these people shouldn’t be aware that there is a possible trap when they are asked these questions.
    However, I judge the intelligence worth the cost in this case.

    • Granny, you have raised some interesting questions. Specifically, what are the ethics, if any, of gathering intelligence? In wartime? In peacetime? Are we at war, and if so, who’s the enemy (Ourselves? “We have met the enemy and he is us”-Pogo)? Finally, is this intelligence or grandstanding? Frankly, I have put just enough thought into this to ask the questions, not enough to answer them.

      • As to who the enemy is. I’m more and more convinced the enemy IS us. If advocating rolling over in the face of terrorism, constantly chipping away at Constitutional freedoms and the separation of powers, supporting and encouraging illegal aliens, and abandoning any pretext of having strong allies with democratic nations is part of your game then you are my enemy, even if you have been elected to public office.

  8. The project veritas guy never said “ISIS” he used the longer name which is not particularly well-known. The Cornell “dean” did not, in my view, equate ISIS with the longer name. Not very impressive for an ivy league “dean” but he is not an academic and generally does not need to be a genius or an expert on current events to do his job. Different interview if the project veritas guy said “ISIS”

    • I think dropping Hamas in the conversation should have caused the guy to think. Iraq, Syria, freedom fighter, there were more than enough keywords involved, if it was only your example I would grant the point.

      • I’m not defending the guy. But Hamas and ISIS are perceived as being different by the left (i.e., on campus). Pro-Palestinian groups are a big deal on college campuses and some of these groups are openly sympathetic to Hamas.

        • I feel as if “Islamic State” is used almost as often as “ISIS.” I prefer the former, since Isis is probably the name of numerous unfortunate girls and women who are not terrorists.

  9. Damn! Nothing here, unfortunately, other than maybe exposing another Hamas-sympathizing dipshit. There’s nothing I’d enjoy more than catching a pro-ISIS academic with his or her pants down, because I’m sure there’s plenty of them,but this just doesn’t do it. Too vague, and no continuity. In order for a conservative IJ organization to be taken seriously, they have to be beyond reproach. We have an unfair share of that burden, but that’s just the reality of it. Adapt, improvise,and overcome. I hope they get their act together, because we need viable conservative voices for as long as they’re still legal.

    • How many red flags need to be thrown? Every word out both their mouths was about radical Islam. The both had to know what was being discussed. I agree that there is a greater burden on conservatives to get it right, simply because getting it right IS conservative. The take away from this interview is either these liberals are completely stupid or they just don’t care if we know what they’re up to anymore.

      • Probably more of the latter. I should clarify; it’s not airtight enough to convince people who don’t want to face the truth about the infestation of our learning institutions. ” oh, they edited it…..out of context….clever wording…” etc.

  10. That there exists sympathy for radical Islam in ultra liberal campuses like Cornell doesn’t surprise me at all. Liberals were useful idiots for Stalin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh, too. The fact that they’d be among the first against the wall if any of the causes they fawningly support came to power in America doesn’t even register.

    Beyond that, my biggest outrage was learning that Cornell has eaten up half a billion dollars from taxpayers since the start of the century. And that’s just one loony college! How much money have we poured out of our wallets to support thousands of these institutions; many just as disreputable in the ethical sense as this one? And by what right, what constitutional requirement, are these funds sequestered and distributed?

    If these colleges cannot support themselves- even the “elite” private ones with their dated reputations for excellence and huge tuitions- then they either need to restructure their curricula, cut back on staffing and faculty or just close the hell down. Colleges run by idiots and radicals will only produce more idiots and radicals. This country hardly needs more of them! Nor can we afford the luxury of supporting their voyage on the Sea of Sophism in style.

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