REPORTING MISSOURI AND YALE: Inevitably, the Klan is seen!


Part 3—The corps' standard list of events:
During times which are fraught and increasingly tribal, competing tribes will often accept the task of dumbing their own members down.

Certain events will be broadcast to one tribe, often in inflammatory ways. Members of the other tribe will never hear about these events.

Consider one such event. It concerns Payton Head, 21, the impressive, energetic student body president at the University of Missouri.

Payton Head is black and gay; he grew up in Chicago. According to a news report in the September16 Washington Post, "There was record high turnout when he was elected president of the Missouri Students Association, he said, on a platform that called on 'Mizzou to embrace students who are different. I think it was because the student body recognized that change needs to happen.'"

Does change need to happen at Mizzou? In part because we live in Maryland, we have no particular way of knowing. In part, we also have no way of knowing because we read the mainstream press.

The Post ran that news report in September because of an event Head had reported. In a widely-forwarded Facebook post, he had said, in the words of the Post, that he'd been "walking with a friend to get cookies Friday night when a red pickup truck slowed and young people screamed the n-word at him."

There was no sign that anyone knew who accosted Head, or if they were students. According to the Post, "A spokesperson for the campus police said that the incident was reported to have happened near campus, not on it."

To state the obvious, people shouldn't ride around in trucks screaming racial insults at people. In our view, people ought to "pity the fools"—the people Dylan described as "poor immigrants"—who persist in such hopeless behavior.

Other people, perhaps especially the accosted, may have different feelings about behavior of this type.

The Post seemed to say that this was the second time Head had been accosted in this fashion in his three-plus years at Missouri. In his Facebook post, Head described an array of experiences he and other students have had in and around the Missouri campus.

Head, who is an impressive person, is highly ecumenical in his view of the way people deserve to be treated. In his Facebook post, he encouraged people to understand the types of experiences black and gay students may face. But he also described the experiences of people from other groups.

Payton Head is energetic, impressive. He's also a fairly young person in a time which is highly fraught.

Everyone can show imperfect judgment at times which are highly fraught. In theory and according to tradition, people who are fairly young may be more susceptible than their elders, who are traditionally presumed to be somewhat wiser.

Payton Head's Facebook post has been widely discussed and reported. When major news orgs list the events which precipitated the recent unrest on the Missouri campus, the September incident typically starts the list, as we'll note below.

Major news orgs have written, again and again, about the name-calling incident. But if you read the Washington Post or the New York Times, you haven't heard about a second, more recent incident, where Head, as everyone on the planet has done, showed imperfect judgment and a lack of perfect wisdom.

Uh-oh! The incident occurred last week, a highly fraught time at Mizzou. CNN reported the incident in an on-line report which, as a matter of course, was perhaps a bit jumbled:
YAN AND STAPLETON (11/11/15): A day after protests brought down two University of Missouri officials, reports of racially charged threats permeated social media—as well as a rumor the Ku Klux Klan had arrived on campus.

University police said they investigated and determined the reports Tuesday night were false. But the rumors had already spread far and wide.


[A police spokesperson] said officers went to where the KKK was reported to be—and found nothing. "We have found no evidence of anything related to the KKK on campus," he said.
Student Body President Payton Head had already posted about it on Facebook.

"Students please take precaution. Stay away from the windows in residence halls. The KKK has been confirmed to be sighted on campus," Head wrote in a post that has since been deleted. "I'm working with the MUPD, the state trooper and the National Guard."

The police spokesman said the National Guard was not on campus, "nor have they been called to assist."

Head quickly apologized for spreading the rumor. "I'm sorry about the misinformation that I have shared through social media," he posted on Facebook.

"I received and shared information from multiple incorrect sources, which I deeply regret. The last thing needed is to incite more fear in the hearts of our community."
Especially at highly fraught times, everyone is prone to making mistakes. In this case, the inevitable KKK sighting began to be bruited on campus. Head spread the rumor, including an apparent embellishment of his own role in the pursuit of the Klan. He apologized for spreading the rumor in a later post.

Everybody makes mistakes! In this instance, Head's bruiting of the mistaken Klan sighting has been almost wholly ignored by the mainstream press.

Elsewhere, things have been different. Within the conservative world, his error has been widely pimped by the usual suspects, who have used it as a way to claim that Head surely must have "lied" about the racial epithet itself.

Should major newspapers have reported Head's error? The answer isn't obvious. That said, the racial epithet event has been widely reported, in a way which has possibly been a bit odd on a journalistic basis.

Here's the start of why we say that:

The Missouri events hit the New York Times on Monday morning, November 9. On that day and on November 10, the Times published front-page reports about the "racial tensions" at Missouri.

On November 9, Marc Tracy began his report with this synopsis, which is basically accurate, perhaps completely so. Four other reporters contributed to the front-page report:
TRACY (11/9/15): Students at the University of Missouri have been demonstrating for weeks for the ouster of the university president, protesting the school's handling of racial tensions. But their movement received a boost over the weekend when dozens of black football players issued a blunt ultimatum: Resign or they won't play.

Fueling the anger were a series of on-campus incidents: racial slurs hurled at black students and feces smeared into the shape of a swastika on a wall in a residence hall. What many students viewed as a sluggish response from the administration gave rise to calls for the removal of the president, Timothy M. Wolfe.

The Legion of Black Collegians, which administers campus groups that primarily serve black students, posted a photograph to Twitter on Saturday night of more than 30 football players linked in arms with a graduate student who is staging a hunger strike.
As it turned out, Tracy only described three in the "series of on-campus incidents" to which he referred. According to Tracy's report, these events had spawned demands that Wolfe resign. They'd even spawned "a decision by a black graduate student, Jonathan Butler, to go on a hunger strike over what he said in a letter to the Board of Curators were 'a slew of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., incidents that have dynamically disrupted the learning experience' of minority groups at Missouri."

What were the slew of events in question? Near the end of his lengthy report, Tracy offered this account:
TRACY (11/9/15): Frustrations have mounted since September when Payton Head, the president of the Missouri Students Association, who is black, said a man had called him a racial slur as he walked on campus. Students protested for a week before Mr. Loftin, the chancellor, responded to the incident.

In October, members of the Legion of Black Collegians reported that someone had yelled a racial slur as they rehearsed for a play in a campus plaza. Later that month, someone used feces to draw a swastika in a bathroom in a new dormitory. At the homecoming parade last month, students formed a human chain to block Mr. Wolfe's car in an attempt to speak with him after officials did not respond to earlier requests to talk to him, the students said. Mr. Wolfe, who did not get out of the car, later apologized.
As far as we know, everything Tracy wrote was accurate, except for the possibility that the racial slur was yelled at Head near the campus, not on it. That said, we'll have to make an admission:

This list of events quickly became the press corps' standard list of precipitating events. That said, the list left us somewhat puzzled.

Here's why:

Obviously, people shouldn't yell racial slurs at people, whether on or near a college campus. This goes for the racial slur yelled at Head and for the racial slur directed at the Legion of Black Collegians.

The sickness of the swastika incident would seem to speak for itself. That said:

According to Tracy, students, including the football team, were calling for the resignation of the college president in connection with these events. The football team was refusing to play its upcoming game. A graduate student was even conducting a hunger strike.

People shouldn't direct racial slurs at people. That said, Tracy never quite explained what students thought the university president should be doing about these events, or why they thought his failure to act reached this level of concern.

By the way, did any students commit any of the offenses in question? That question went unexplained in Tracy's front-page report. You'll find an answer in this October 5 report by the student newspaper, which seems to say that the student who insulted the Black Collegians had already been identified and removed from campus.

Let's be fair! You can't necessarily expect a journalist to answer every question about a set of events in his first report on the subject. In the next day's front-page report, the Times provided more information about the nature of the complaints about Wolfe.

That said, a basic question has been lurking in all the reporting about the recent racial events at Missouri and Yale: Is it possible that students are over-reacting in some way to the events in question?

To state the obvious, there is no final, objective way to answer a question like that. In the end, different people will reach different judgments concerning any such question.

That said, at highly fraught times, we humans will be inclined to split into tribal groups. One tribe will hear about false reports of KKK sightings and about students being removed from campus. The other tribe will not.

The tribe which hears about the false sighting will be encouraged to think the worst about the people who reported the sighting. The tribe which doesn't hear about such events will be free to assume the best about the overall judgment of those with whom they're inclined to sympathize and agree.

Neither tribe is well served by this division of information. Increasingly, it's the way our tribalized systems work.

Why are students upset at Missouri and Yale? In our view, our big newspapers have done a rather shaky job reporting the nature of their complaints. On a journalistic basis, we think the commentary which has been published has been substantially worse.

Why are students so upset? What kind of advice are these students receiving from adults at their universities?

Most importantly from our perspective, what kind of journalism has been offered about these important events? We think the reporting has been rather weak, the commentary much worse.

Tomorrow: The New York Times goes to Mizzou


  1. I have been puzzled from day 1 about the extreme reaction and level of protest generated by these events, which don't even seem to involve the University directly. I was also shocked when the University caved in to the demands of the students who seemed to be protesting over relative trivia, things that happen every day, in every town in America. Is there more to it than that? If so, why hasn't it been reported?

  2. Warning to casual readers of this blog: These comments are unmoderated. They are infested by one or more trolls who routinely take up space without contributing to discussion and/or attack the blog author in a variety of ways, rarely substantive. Such comments are not an indicator of the level of interest of other readers, the validity of the content posted nor of the esteem in which the blog author is held by others.

    1. I saw the Klan here. I'm shaking. #standwithmizzou

  3. Why be shocked when sane people who stand to lose nothing and gain much from acquiescence to insane children "cave"? Why are the students so upset? The students and professors want to be upset because they're mentally compromised, and when upset they are rewarded with gratifying feelings of victimization, and the sympathy and nurturing they crave and can only get from what is now referred to at Yale as their "home." Besides, there's nothing like having the power to shut down the speech and expression of others, with "muscle" when necessary.

    1. You think it is rewarding to feel bad?

    2. It feels good to proclaim yourself a victim and enjoy the agreement of others of similar pathology, and thus be absolved of all accountability while posturing as a "good person." Bonus feels for lobbing R bombs. That's the essence of the ridiculous SJW.

    3. Hope good does it feel to lob SJW bombs at people who object to the way people are treated in an unjust society?

      How can the justness of a cause be determine by the feelings (positive or negative) of those fighting for it? If people hold a rock concert to benefit Alzheimer's research, is their cause less important if attendees enjoy the music or just came to hear the band?

    4. How good does it feel to lob acronyms?

    5. Alzheimers is real. Epidemic racism at Mizzou isn't. The racism in Affirmative Action is much more egregious and consequential than a truckload of townies saying nigger (likely a lie), but whitey isn't whining or making up stories about campus sightings of gangs with a history of murdering whites for being white. The difference is between rational and irrational grievances and behaviors. The SJWs are irrational. Their goal is feels and emotional self-gratification, and inventing fairy tales about Trayvon, campus rape, Mizzou racism, and race-based police brutality to publish in Rolling Stone in order justify their self-indulgence is a favorite tactic. Rolling Stone and a frightening proportion of faculty are right there with them.

  4. I was a student at univertsity of California, Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement demonstrations and riots in the 1960's. The supposed provocation was that a table where students distributed literature had been moved to a less desirable location. That seemed too minor a thing to justify the enormous to-do.

    David Horowitz was one of the leaders of the Free Speech Movement. He later changed his politics from far left to anti-left. He wrote a book explaining that the entire furor was planned and choreographed by a small group of people who stood to gain power from the unrest.

    I have little doubt that the demonstrations at Mizzou have a similar back-story. I expect that a group of agitators wanted these demonstrations and used whatever justification they could conveniently find. That's why the justification seems disproportionate.

    1. His politics are not "anti-left" but pro-right, in my opinion.

    2. Administrators who believe that their campus problems are caused by outside agitators are likely to be asked to resign.

      The Free Speech Movement wasn't about table placement in any quad. A precipitating event isn't a cause (reason for existence of dissent). What else was going on in the 60's that might have led to student unrest at Berkeley? I don't know -- could it be the draft, the unjust war, lack of ability to vote, overreaction by adults to changing mores among youth (e.g., sex, drugs, rock & roll), and a suppressive atmosphere? As they say, if you don't remember all this, you probably weren't there.

      The FBI used to send undercover agents into student organizations to try to stir up illegal activity. They generally weren't successful. The idea that outside agitators could have produced the widespread unrest simply by agitating, absent legitimate student concerns, doesn't seem likely. I suppose you can start a riot by throwing a brick, but how do you get all those people into the street in the first place?

    3. Student unrest used to be caused by the very real prospect of being killed in a useless war. Now it's caused by hurt fee fees of those who so crave coddling they will create a pretext by (lying about "the KKK") if necessary.

    4. Hurt fee fees are how you know something bad has happened to you. Shall we all become robots to avoid any feelings, good or bad. You probably mean to say that there is no actual injury beyond feelings, but you haven't actually said that. You are just making fun of people who feel actual emotion. That seems kind of weird.

    5. That might be the dumbest comment ever posted here. I suppose people who "feel actual emotion" when no harm was done is something we shouldn't make fun of because it's a sickness, but when those people grow in number and are supported in society when they call for "muscle" we ought to make fun of them, shame them, and say anything else even at the risk of further hurting their fee fees. Their mode of batshit crazy speech curbs will be encoded into law if not addressed. We've seen that movie. They haven't because their universities have decided the goal is "providing a home" and not teaching them historical consequences of oppressive movements like theirs.

    6. The sick part is you deciding for someone else whether any harm was done or not.

    7. Ah. You're saying when false accounts of racism, rape, etc. are exposed, "we must still respect her truth." Batshit.

  5. My friend Gary is a noted Professor at Northwestern U. He's not conservative, but he is realistic. He once told me that if a black student complained that s/he was offended by something, the alleged offender would always be found guilty, regardless of the facts. I've read cases illustrating that point. E.g., a student was punishe for offending black students because he was reading a book about the Ku Klux Klan in public. BTW it was an anti-Klan book.

    What we're seeing now may be the next step. If blacks on campus can accuse anyone of offending them, can blacks commit offenses without punishment? Events at Dartmouth seem to say they can. See and The College President is ignoring video evidence of wrong-doing by a group of black students.

    1. BTW if you doubt the episode of the Klan book, see

    2. You seem to have missed the point of today's post. Your anecdotes are like those klan sightings. Some may be true, some not, some exaggerated over time. What do these episodes mean?

      Do you think white students feel oppressed by black students on campuses because of events like the Klan book incident? Are you suggesting black students shouldn't complain about things they feel are wrong? What exactly is the point of these stories? Somerby asks that about the campus unrest and says reporters are not fully explaining. Neither are you.

    3. "I've read cases illustrating that point. E.g., a student was punishe for offending black students because he was reading a book about the Ku Klux Klan in public."

      I followed your link DinC.

      A university janitor reading a book in the presence of other co-workers during work breaks on campus got involved in a dispute with at least one other worker who found what he was reading offensive. Efforts to get him not to read the book in the presence of these workers failed, and a complaint found its way to the affirmative action office.

      No black students were involved, and the janitor was not punished, but he did get a fairly stupid letter sent to him by the affirmative action office which F.I.R.E. and people like yourself have been able to misrepresent for going on eight years.

      I will now imitate you.

      My fellow commenter David in Cal, is an obscure regular at a little known vanity blog. He is conservative and prone to have opinions about and alleged aquaintances involved in darn near everything.

      He once wrote a story which, when researched, had a grain of truth, but turned out was something he simply gleaned from a distorted account by others and further embellished all on his own.

    4. Everyone Who Knows DicNovember 18, 2015 at 2:10 PM

      "David in Cal once wrote a story which, when researched, had a grain of truth, but turned out was something he simply gleaned from a distorted account by others and further embellished all on his own."

      The ONLY thing out of place there is the "once."

      The correct adverb is "always."

    5. Anon 2:04 -- suggest you read about that case more carefully and in more detail.

    6. Are you suggesting black students shouldn't complain about things they feel are wrong?

      I am trying to say, as a likely guess, that the demonstrations at Mizzou had nothing to do with what was wrong. The plan to have demonstrations came first. Then, the planners looked for whatever grievances they could find to justify the demonstrations. As Bob points out, the grievances were minor to trivial. None really pointed to anything the Univeristy President had done wrong. Yet, the demonstrations gave the group leaders the power to force the resignation of the Univeristy President.

    7. Somerby pointed out that the grievances were not fully explained. That may be why they seemed trivial to you.

    8. To David in Cal @ 5:01. Don't tell me to read anything more carefully or in more detail after getting basic facts incorrect you pontificating windbag.

  6. My reading of this post may have been fairly lazy, but all the times described in Missouri in this post were highly fraught. Or so I rather thought.

  7. I don't know what to do or where to go next.

    1. Stay in Syria so one side or the other can bomb or behead you before you arrive in Oklahomistan and cause someone to die of fear of suicide bombing.

  8. High fives, bruh! Funny to mock outrageous paranoia. Like when people cry about guns. "Help! I'm gonna die in a mass shooting at my school! Too many guns! Not enough mental health screening! Boo hoo!" Dumb rubes, right bruh?

    1. After the Russian plane was bombed, I'm now afraid of Schweppes cans, and think they should not be allowed in this great country.

      Make sure not to mock me, because I can be reasoned with.

  9. I believe it is time for Black Lives Matter to have an Open Carry moment.

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