The Times [HEART] certain themes about race!


At long last, we learn about Oberlin: As we’ve often noted, the New York Times adores certain themes about race.

We don’t mean that as a compliment. In our view, the Times enjoys the fatuous stuff, especially if it lets them lord it over their lessers in the benighted South.

The great newspaper tends to be AWOL concerning more serious themes.

We were struck by the Times’ two reports about race at Ole Miss last week. In the process of musing about those reports, we even learned what happened at Oberlin last year, in the Klan sighting the Times ballyhooed, then dropped.

The Times never reported how that one turned out! Last weekend, we finally learned, or at least we came close. But first, consider the front-page report in the Times this Tuesday.

The headline stirred our soul, and suggested a serious problem.
This time, the Times was working the race beat way up North, Tanzina Vega reporting:
VEGA (2/25/14): Colorblind Notion Aside, Colleges Grapple With Racial Tension

A brochure for the University of Michigan features a vision of multicultural harmony, with a group of students from different racial backgrounds sitting on a verdant lawn, smiling and conversing.

The scene at the undergraduate library one night last week was quite different, as hundreds of students and faculty members gathered for a 12-hour “speak out” to address racial tensions brought to the fore by a party that had been planned for November and then canceled amid protests. The fraternity hosting the party, whose members are mostly Asian and white, had invited “rappers, twerkers, gangsters” and others “back to da hood again.”

Beyond the immediate provocation of the party, a sharp decline in black undergraduate enrollment—to 4.6 percent of the student body in 2013 from 6.2 percent in 2009—and a general feeling of isolation among black students on campus have prompted a new wave of student activism, including a social media campaign called “Being Black at the University of Michigan” (or, on Twitter, #BBUM). Members of the university’s Black Student Union have petitioned campus administrators to, among other things, increase enrollment of black students to 10 percent.

Similar episodes and tensions have unsettled colleges including Arizona State; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Mississippi; and Dartmouth.
Racial tension isn’t good, especially among younger people. On the brighter side, we were relieved to see that the Times had managed to work in Ole Miss.

Can anyone convince college students to stop throwing their brainless “back to da hood” parties? Possibly not.

That said, there’s always someone doing something stupid somewhere in this very large nation. And the Times is famous for front-page “trend stories” which don’t involve actual trends.

As Vega continued, we’ll have to say she didn’t seem to have an enormous number of racial incidents to discuss. That said, her report used Ann Arbor as its base, and she quoted a black student saying the feeling on campus was bad.

At this point in her piece, we tore our hair over the quality of standard old New York Times journalism, whatever the topic might be:
VEGA: Tyrell Collier, 21, the speaker of the Black Student Union, who is majoring in sociology and Afro-American and African studies, said racial tensions on campus had been mounting for months.

“There was a very tense climate brewing all semester, and I think the party was just the peak,” he said. Mr. Collier added that his group, which spearheaded the popular social media campaign, had received inquiries from other black student groups around the country looking to use similar tactics.
Collier is an important young person. (So is everyone else at Ann Arbor.) He said racial tensions on campus had been mounting for months, that the party was just the peak.

We’ll bite! Why had racial tensions been mounting? Why had the climate at Michigan been very tense?

If Vega asked these obvious questions, Collier’s answers didn’t make it into her front-page report. Later, a professor of science and engineering gave his explanation for “the recent spate of activism on diversity.” But Collier, who said the climate had been very tense, never got to say why!

In our view, that was a frustrating front-page report, right out of the New York Times can. Tomorrow, Mississippi and Oberlin.


  1. So, long lack of comments here. Well, I'll start. Okay, weak reporting. Like that's news. As for Oberlin v. Ole Miss ( or whatever this set-up is all about), I just hope Bob is not about to compare apples and oranges here. Ann Arbor's U of M is more interesting as a flagship university of its state, so it reflects the larger population of MI in a way Oberlin does not of Ohio. Michigan, the refuge of workers white and black thanks to the auto industry, once. Which means that southerners brought their conflicts north. (Not that these conflicts were ever exclusively a southern thing. But still. Bob, get over it. Racism was and is more virulent in the south.) Add to that the strong union-grounding -- really left-wing union -- the UAW provided. MI is not MS, never will be. Which is not meant to demonize MI! Just saying that I dread the Bob-thing coming on here, wherein somehow everything is all the fault of northern liberal hypocrisy. I can feel it coming. mch

    1. mch, Here's suggestion for you: stop feeling and start thinking. If TDH's blogging history is any guide, he won't be writing about the racial climates in MI and MS. He'll be slamming the slipshod reporting about the racial climates on campus.

    2. Feeling v. thinking. Hunh? Think about this: bob only pretends to analyze the coverage. mch

    3. Ding, ding, ding! And we have another entry on the troll list:

      Bob is a pretender!

    4. deadrat, who once boasted he had been critical of Somerby is now the master list collector of all things comments
      which must indicate trolling. Funny thing is it more and more resembles the list of favorite complaints Somerby himself makes about the media.

      Case in point:

      Lets search the old TDH archives for "-----------" and pretend.


      She went on Meet the Press and asserted the hoary old claim....Thirty-six hours later, on her own show, Maddow was pretending that she still didn’t understand why she had been challenged.


      "Knowing that Cruz had mildly rebuked Klayman for the things he said, he pretended to have misplaced Cruz’s statement. In that way, he was able to tell us that Cruz had done no such thing."

      An Entire Profession

      "Your journalists have agreed to pretend."

      Is Bob a troll? Is Bob trolling himself? Or is deadrat simply saying that claims made by Bob cannot be made against Bob.

    5. Did I once "boast" that I'd been critical of TDH? I agree with some of what he writes; I disagree with others. I think he hopeless when he writes about science. So what?

      Maddow isn't stupid. It's hard to believe she didn't understand the criticism in question. On the other hand, it's easy to misplace paper. Who knows whether O'Donnell actually mislaid a piece of paper?

      Only a fool believes that TDH claims a committee of journalists got together to agree to a resolution of pretense.

      I'm saying that Darlin' Rachel is doing bad work regardless of whether TDH is a hypocrite.

      As for the list, I don't recall TDH complaining about cable hosts who failed to make it as standup comedians.

    6. "More and more" does not mean "each and every" you silly literalist.

      You're right. "Boasted" was too strong a verb. "Claimed and still claims" would be better.

    7. OK, let's go through the list. Here's the original fifteen from 2/20:

      Bob is a crank.

      Everybody ignores Bob….
      People used to read Bob but they don't now.
Bob is a train wreck.
Bob used to be a pioneer and original and important....
Bob is lazy.
Bob puts no real work into his blog.
Bob is reliving the past.

      Bob is boring.

      Bob is envious.
Bob's allies have abandoned him.
Bob is isolated.
Bob thinks he's great.
Bob thinks he's powerful.
Even Kevin Drum doesn't like Bob now.

      If I squint, maybe I would say TDH applies "train wreck" to Darlin' Rachel. He actually calls her a partisan hack. Maybe lazy he applies to Matthews. He says Tweetie is often unprepared. But, sorry, I don't see how this list "more and more" approaches TDH's complaints, which are the same ones he's been hammering on for years: folks in the media are so driven by script and scandal that they feel no need to get things right, take the time to prepare, or cover important topics. And criticizing what they've become is verboten from within the guild.

      (Is "claimed and still claims" better than not mentioning it? You must think this is notable for some reason. That the claim is false? What?)

    8. That list deadrat was a response to things one person said in one comment.

  2. "I dread the Bob-thing coming on here . . ."

    I dread another Bob-thing other than, probably in addition to, the opportunity to beat on northern liberal hypocrisy some more.

    Bob has yet to find an allegation of racism that he will find credible. Thus the loaded questions, "Why had racial tensions been mounting? Why had the climate at Michigan been very tense?" as if he just can't understand why blacks, who make up 4.6 percent of a huge student body, could possibly feel "tense" and thus need to justify their feelings to him.

    Which of course he will then deftly dismiss because things are so much better today than they were 50 years ago, so why aren't they happy.

    Yes, playing the "race card" in this way is quite the Bob-thing.

    1. The fraternity hosting the party, whose members are mostly Asian and white...

      Spin to fool stupid people. Of course the fraternity members are mostly Asian and white. Blacks constituted around 12% of American population, so almost any group is apt to be "mostly Asian and white." E.g., the Democratic Party is mostly Asian and white. The group of Obama voters is mostly Asian and white.

      That phrase tells us is that the hosting fraternity does have black members. I wonder what percentage of its members are black. I wonder how its black members felt about this party theme. If the New York Times were still an actual newspaper, the article might have answered these questions.

    2. The phrase doesn't tell us it has any black members. Mostly Asian and white could mean there are also Hispanic or Native American members, not necessarily any black members. You are aware that the Asian population of the US is about 3%? So there is no reason to assume any group would be mostly Asian by chance.

      You statistics of 12% refers to the entire nation. The University of Michigan is a public university serving the state of Michigan which is 14% black. Certain counties have much higher percentages, including Detroit (22.8%), Wayne (44%), Flint (20%), and Genesee (20%), Saginaw (18.4%).

      Due to our history of segregation there are several historically black fraternities with chapters on most campuses. African American students may prefer to be members of them.

    3. From the standpoint of pure logic, Anon (and depending on whether Hispanics are included in the racial counts) you might be right that the phrase doesn't tell us it has any black members. However, IMHO if that fraternity had no black members, the Times would have trumpeted that fact. In any event, whether the University of Michigan draws from areas that are 12% black or 18% black, to say that the fraternity is "mostly white and Asian" seems to imply that black members are not welcome, but the only thing is actually tells us is that this is not a majority black fraternity.

      Your assumption that black fraternities are due to our history of segregation may be partially true, but I think another reason is that some people prefer to socialize with members of their own ethnic groups. E.g., at Cornell U., black students demanded and got an all-black residence, long after segregation was abolished. Another example: AEPi is a (primarily) Jewish fraternity, not because of segregation, but because some Jews prefer to live with other Jews.

    4. Such a load of dread and angst! I've got good news for the angst-ridden dreadful: if you don't read the blog, your terrors will abate. I promise.

      Anonymous @8:09, these aren' t loaded questions. They're basic Journalism 101. And thanks for adding to the troll's BOBlist: Bob's a racist!

    5. The importance of black fraternities today and during segregation is discussed extensively by Eugene Robinson in his 2010 book Disintegration, about African American unity.

      "to say that the fraternity is "mostly white and Asian" seems to imply that black members are not welcome." I think this is nonsense. This conclusion is not at all implied by the sentence, especially given your argument about preferences. You can have no idea how welcome or unwelcome black members might be, partly because you don't know what the word "mostly" means. It could mean anything from 51% to 99%.

      Would the party theme have been OK if the fraternity were mostly African American?

  3. At Glenn Greenwald's new site, The Intercept, the discussion of how intelligence agencies might disrupt online websites includes the following troll tactics:

    1. Stream of consciousness – nonsensical and long wearying posts.
    2. Ropadope – compliment the author, then question the source.
    3. Mock outrage – how dare you suggest they are against us not with us?
    4. Schizophrenic ramblings – I’m nuts!
    5. Bore to tears – begin with mimicry, then round in endless circles.
    6. The druggy – I’m clearly a drug addict and I love this writer.
    7. The illiterate – cram what looks like a meaningful post with so many typos it’s a chore to read.
    8. Poor me – I only said I disagree with everything, why should that make me a troll? (Well, it doesn’t, but it does seem highly likely.)
    9. Joke diversion – Trying to reroute deadly serious writtings into something funny so the message loses sharp edge.
    10. Anti-Muslim religious rhetoric.
    11. Follow ups – a deceitful message quickly followed by 3 or 4 seemingly random short messages of praise.
    12. Extremism – expression of violent sentiment.
    13. Having a psudonym like “Worzel Gummidge ” or “abbadabba”
    14. Off topic – what about plastics leaking into the foodchain, fertilisers, etc. etc.?

    1. Great cmment Anon, and of course a find blogger like Greenwald has reasons to fears this typo dirsruption. But getting back to trolls and trollsery, it has been soemthing that middle estern sects have been stoning and behading fro for years and centuries. But Greenwald is good and our fredom owes him a lot.

      Some have mad fun of me and others and called us trolls, which is why I began using capital letts agaisn in stead of just lowered cases. But we are on Glenn's side, even when he gets pedantic in his endless rebuttals of even comments that are tryign to be friends with his point.

      So trolls are legitimate problems with solutions to banning being perhaps to strong. But they must be watched. Or perhpas hurt.

  4. Often teachers start off a class with a short lecture (seldom as short as she intended it to be -- though, gee, bob could edit himself a bit more), and discussion follows. I guess that's my model for posts and comments. (Though bob never continues in the role of good teaching -- gee, that'd be real work -- responding, commenting, intervening, directing in response. Well, that's his prerogative.)

    When the discussion in comments becomes about trolling as often as it does here: is that the fault of the commenters/students or the blogger/teacher? I don't expect bob to comment here (well, maybe he does, but I've not detected it -- I don't try to). That's not my point. Rather, I suggest there's something problematic about the posts themselves, the set-up lectures -- not their content (well, yes, many have problems, but that's not my point now), but their rhetorical orientation. I come here (as everywhere) as a student, but I am ignored not just by the teacher but by his favorite students. I don't mean I give a sh-t whether I my comments here are endorsed by other commenters. I am talking about the teacher's rhetoric, the world of discourse he endorses. It's as if bob just wants to talk, won't listen.

    Some late Saturday early Sunday a.m. thoughts by a teacher (of older kids, the kind who are legally adults)..... mch