What's happening on our college campuses?


Here's what Scarborough said: We're pleased to report the following:

This very day, on Morning Joe, we saw Mika Brzezinski engage in some very solid questioning about a very serious topic.

It may have helped that her red-faced husband was absent today. Based upon his recent ranting, he may have been persuaded to take a much-needed "mental health" day.

At any rate, Mika's questioning was solid and strong. Tomorrow, we may be able to show you what she said.

For today, we want to discuss some of the things which were said on yesterday's Morning Joe. The (very important) question we're pursuing is this:

What is actually happening on America's college campuses? Yesterday, as part of his daily red-faced rant, Joe Scarborough joined with Molly Jong-Fast to offer this commentary about the performance of those three college presidents at this week's hearing about antisemitism on campus:

JONG-FAST (12/7/23): I was really disturbed that these college presidents couldn't say, "Antisemitism, just like Islamophobia, is wrong. It is wrong." Like, you don't need to couch it in anything else. You can just say, "It's appalling. It's not okay."

And the way they spoke, all in unison, saying the same thing in this very kind of lawyered way, when they couldn't just say it's not okay to discriminate against anyone, even including Jews.

SCARBOROUGH: We're talking about 18-year-old kids going to class and having mobs scream about the genocide of Jews.

I mean, if I were a college administrator— Well, you wouldn't want me to be in that position. You just wouldn't. It just wouldn't be pretty.

To watch the discussion, click here.

As we noted yesterday, we think those college presidents performed very poorly in the face of Rep. Elise Stefanik's rather disordered questioning. 

That said, consider that exchange between Jong-Fast and Scarborough. 

In her statement, Jong-Fast is assailing the college presidents for being unable to say the kinds of things they did, in fact, repeatedly say during the lengthy hearing. As for Scarborough, he was praising himself for the instant action he would take if he was one of These College Presidents Today.  

Along the way, he described what's happening on college campuses. According to Scarborough, as 18-year-old kids are going to class, they're "having mobs scream about the genocide of Jews."

Is that what's happening on the campuses under review? We've seen no footage of any such conduct, nor have Scarborough's producers ever aired any such footage.

That said, has some such thing been happening somewhere? In theory, our nation's "cable news" programs should help us learn the facts about such deeply important matters. Meanwhile, no one gains when multimillionaire corporate "journalists" posture in the way Scarborough has been doing of late.  

Yesterday afternoon, the New York Times' Michelle Goldberg posted a column about this very topic. As we had done a few hours earlier, she provided some basic background to the "grilling" to which the three college presidents had been subjected.

Good for Goldberg! Her column starts with a portrait of a dear friend who had been misled

GOLDBERG (12/7/23): On Wednesday, a dear friend emailed me a viral clip from the House hearing on campus antisemitism in which three elite university presidents refuse to say, under questioning by Representative Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, that calling for the genocide of Jews violates school policies on bullying and harassment. “My God, have you seen this?” wrote my friend, a staunch liberal. “I can’t believe I find myself agreeing with Elise Stefanik on anything, but I do here.”

As happens a million times every day, Goldberg's friend had watched "a viral clip" and had drawn an instant conclusion. With amazement, the friend announced that she found herself agreeing with something the normally horrendous Stefanik had said and done. 

Continuing directly, Goldberg began to explain what she presumably told her friend:

GOLDBERG (continuing directly): If I’d seen only that excerpt from the hearing, which has now led to denunciations of the college leaders by the White House and the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, among many others, I might have felt the same way. All three presidents—Claudine Gay of Harvard, Sally Kornbluth of M.I.T. and Elizabeth Magill of the University of Pennsylvania—acquitted themselves poorly, appearing morally obtuse and coldly legalistic. It was a moment that seemed to confirm many people’s worst fears about the tolerance for Jew hatred in academia.

But while it might seem hard to believe that there’s any context that could make the responses of the college presidents OK, watching the whole hearing at least makes them more understandable. In the questioning before the now infamous exchange, you can see the trap Stefanik laid.

Uh-oh! We're now being told that the persistently horrendous Stefanik had actually "laid a trap" for the three presidents.

We wouldn't make that accusation ourselves, but as she continues, Goldberg points to the same background information we'd laid out a few hours earlier. In this passage, Goldberg provides the background to Stefanik's repeated insinuations:

GOLDBERG (continuing directly): “You understand that the use of the term ‘intifada’ in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict is indeed a call for violent armed resistance against the state of Israel, including violence against civilians and the genocide of Jews. Are you aware of that?” she asked Gay.

Gay responded that such language was “abhorrent.” Stefanik then badgered her to admit that students chanting about intifada were calling for genocide, and asked angrily whether that was against Harvard’s code of conduct. “Will admissions offers be rescinded or any disciplinary action be taken against students or applicants who say, ‘From the river to the sea’ or ‘intifada,’ advocating for the murder of Jews?” Gay repeated that such “hateful, reckless, offensive speech is personally abhorrent to me,” but said action would be taken only “when speech crosses into conduct.”

So later in the hearing, when Stefanik again started questioning Gay, Kornbluth and Magill about whether it was permissible for students to call for the genocide of the Jews, she was referring, it seemed clear, to common pro-Palestinian rhetoric and trying to get the university presidents to commit to disciplining those who use it. Doing so would be an egregious violation of free speech. After all, even if you’re disgusted by slogans like “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” their meaning is contested in a way that, say, “Gas the Jews” is not. Finding themselves in a no-win situation, the university presidents resorted to bloodless bureaucratic contortions, and walked into a public relations disaster.

For ourselves, we have no way of knowing what people are saying and doing on college campuses. That said, are students hearing such repulsive cries as "Gas the Jews" as they walk to class?

If there is tape of some such behavior, a certain red-faced cable news host has never bothered to air it. He has also never aired any tape in which mobs are "screaming about the genocide of Jews," in any conventional sense of that term, as students walk to class.

Are mobs really behaving that way on some college campuses? If so, Scarborough should stop his self-impressed ranting and simply show us the tape. If he has no evidence of such behavior, he should stop making his inflammatory claims.

Along the way, millions of people—people like Goldberg's dear friend—become misled, and become upset, when the screeching of people like Stefanik is seconded by people like Mika and Joe, and by people like Jong-Fast.

For what it's worth, the three presidents did repeatedly say that they regard antisemitism as appalling. In all probability, those repeated statements were excised from the short video clips which Goldberg's friend probably saw.

Ditto for Jong-Fast and Scarborough. Had either party actually watched the fuller hearing? Or were they simply going by the edited clips assembled by Morning Joe's staff? 

We have no way of knowing. We'll guess that neither Jong-Fast nor Scarborough knew what they were talking about when they postured and posed in the manner shown.

Should Goldberg's friend have believed what she thought she saw when she watched a few video clips? Here's another passage from Goldberg's column:

GOLDBERG: Amid the uproar over the campus antisemitism hearing, many have claimed that if Stefanik were asking about attacks on any other ethnic group, there would have been no waffling. But Stefanik did ask about another group. Her first question to Gay was, “A Harvard student calling for the mass murder of African Americans is not protected free speech at Harvard, correct?” Gay started to respond, “Our commitment to free speech,” but Stefanik, perhaps realizing she wasn’t going to get the answer she wanted, cut her off and changed tack.

Is that why Stefanik quickly interrupted Gay at that point? We have no way of knowing. But a great deal of harm can be done when the work of routine offenders like Stefanik is taken at face value—for example, on programs like Morning Joe.

In her column, Goldberg discussed the same points we'd noted a few hours earlier. Most specifically, she noted the fact that Stefanik had adopted a very low standard for her claim that people on college campuses have been "calling for the genocide of the Jewish people."

What's actually happening on college campuses? When 18-year-old students are going to class, are they hearing "mobs scream about the genocide of Jews?" With apologies, are they hearing people yell such things as, "Gas the Jews?"

That's the impression Stefanik created. For reasons we can't begin to explain—Scarborough is much sharper than this—a certain red-faced millionaire has been eager to jump on that bandwagon.

Many people, like Goldberg's dear friend, become upset when they hear such things. This is completely understandable. It's also very unhelpful.

What's happening on our college campuses? It's a very important question.

Scarborough shows no sign of knowing. Nor does he seem to care. 


  1. Intifida, yes. Genocide, no.

    1. If intifada refers to what happened on 10/7, then Intifada no.

    2. In any case, genocide no.

  2. “As for Scarborough, he was praising himself for the instant action he would take if he was one of These College Presidents Today.  “

    And just yesterday, Somerby accused those presidents of giving a poor performance, implying that he knew a better response.

    Anyway, Somerby is making a valiant effort to be pissed off at someone over at MSNBC, and his attention to Scarborough, a man clearly in need of reform, is touching.

    As if happens, I agree with Somerby here.

    But Scarborough’s reaction was not uniformly shared across all of MSNBC. There was considerably more nuance on other shows.

    It might be worthwhile to compare and contrast with the line over at Fox News, which i suspect is uniform and matches or exceeds scarborough’s militant pro-Israel reaction.

    1. I disagree with Somerby’s take on the college presidents’ responses, particularly with Gay who clearly stated that speech is permitted but that conduct involving bullying, harassment, or intimidation will face disciplinary action.

      There is nothing disappointing or lawyerly or mealy mouthed about that response.

  3. Yawn. Obviously, it makes perfect sense to accuse the people protesting against the ongoing genocide of the indigenous Palestinian population in Gaza of being genocidal.

    The more often you keep repeating their drivel, even if unapprovingly, the happier they are. Just ignore them.

  4. To answer Bob's question of what is happening on campuses, one much look at many individual incidents. Here are a couple of examples
    Jewish UMass student violently assaulted after attending hostage release event
    The student also stole and spat on the victim's Israeli flag,
    UMass student arrested for punching Jewish student at Hillel vigil
    students from two of the institutions being represented by their presidents at the hearing said they and members of their cohort had been told "you're a dirty little Jew, you deserve to die" and that concerns about safety were dismissed by staff as "if they are scared, they should go back to Israel."https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/jewish-college-students-share-campus-experience-under-attack/ar-AA1l59VW

    Did the media that you rely on report these two incidents?

    1. Anything from Harvard, or MIT?
      Was the president of that college in Vermont called in to explain why students were getting shot?

    2. Here is what we know about Eaton, the man arrested for shooting the three students in Vermont (two are CT college students):

      "Eaton's online footprint contains numerous references pointing to an interest in libertarian politics and radical self-reliance, according to a review by ABC News. In a now-deleted March 2022 Substack post, Eaton suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic was a government conspiracy, referring to the COVID vaccines as gene therapy."


      These are right wing views.

  5. Pretty good piece:


    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks for the link, Cecelia, but I don't agree. If someone calls for the death of all Jews, they're calling for my death in particular, so I see that as a threat to me.

      In other words. suppose someone said to me, "David, you and the rest of the Jews should all be killed." That would clearly be a threat to me. But, killing me and the rest of the Jews is logically equivalent to killing all the Jews.

      However, this kind of logical analysis is really beside the point. The reality is that there's a big double standard. Calling for the death of all blacks or all transgender people, even indirectly, would be harshly punished at Harvard of U Penn. Calling for the death of all Jews would be tolerated.

      Ditto for other forms of bigotry or discrimination. Excluding blacks or gays for some function, or even for refusing to use certain pronouns, has been more harshly punished than discriminatory acts and statements aimed at Jews.

    3. David, would you feel personally threatened if I were to say in exasperation, “ We should shoot all the damn actuaries. Those guys are useless”. If I said, “We need to put all CNN staff in front of a firing squad”?

    4. Cecelia, if you were to call David's employer and say that, or call CNN and say it, you would be charged with a crime. Threats are not OK, especially direct threats made to affect other people's behavior.

      David has no idea who you are in real life. You might be harmless or you might be a terrorist or crazy person. Without info, he might have good reason to feel threatened or frightened.

      Here is what happened to me back in the early days of the internet. A crazy person latched on to me because of the university url I was posting from and began stalking me in real life. She contacted by employer where I was working and said negative things about me (fortunately they disregarded them). She called the lab and spoke to me directly, which was definitely intimidating because it arose from innocuous online discussion. Eventually, she was identified because of her use of a UCSD library computer, but not before she had driven by another person's house and shot a gun through his windows because she thought he was a satanist.

      There are crazy people in this world. Quite a few inhabit internet spaces. David would be smart not to tell people things online that would make him identifiable (e.g., such as that he is an actuary, or what city he lives in). Some crazy people are obsessed enough to use facts like that to track down those who preoccupy them. I wouldn't want to be Corby right now, given the schizophrenic asshole who has been stalking him here.

      So, you and others on the right need to understand that just because you believe you are just jerking someone around, you are not allowed by law to make specific threats against people. State laws vary but some now have anti-stalking laws that include internet behavior.

      In David's case, there have been general shootings aimed specifically at Jews, none of whom were personally known to the shooter, just because they were Jewish. These assaults are intended to terrorize Jewish people. They are classified as hate crimes because of their effect on the members of that group, Jewish people. Your suggestion that they should relax and be less worried is not supported by the many hate crimes and mass shootings, increasing during these times of hate speech, which have killed random people who did nothing to attract or deserve such a death. These are legitimate fears, but beyond that, it isn't your place to decide how scared someone else should be about hate.

      You have chided me about not using a nym, but I don't use one because I don't want to be stalked again. It is my right and choice to decide that the risk isn't worth satisfying a misplaced called for identifiability from someone I don't like much, you.

      I don't like the way pro-Palestinian groups have been behaving lately and I don't like it when Somerby or others condone that bad behavior as excess emotion or historically justified. It is wrong and people should be saying so, not thinking up reasons to justify it.

    5. I don’t stalk Corby, I just pretend to be Corby. I have not threatened anyone. I am an asshole, but I am not schizophrenic.

      David has revealed that Lizzie Skurnick is his cousin, so he’s easy to identify. I disagree with him, but I like him, and I will never harm him.

    6. Anonymouse 8:08pm, if I directly threatened David online or hr discovered that I was stalking him, , that context is different from me saying to David that the only way we can make the insurance business better would be to off all the actuaries. Or to kill all the lawyers. Or that the world would be a better place, if we got rid of all the Muslims or white men.

      The presidents of these universities argued that context is a factor in how they would react to the example statement about Jews. That is absolutely reasonable and correct.

    7. Of course context matters. Just don’t think you can threaten David specifically. It is illegal.

    8. Threatening the tax exempt status of these institutions is the best news I have heard to come out of all this (although it is highly unlikely to occur). Harvard spends over 100 million collars annually to manage its endowment of over 50 billion dollars: this amount nets them over 10% ROI annually, historically, and of course their endowment profits are taxed at capital gains rates, at worst. A recent article about Yale's returns for its endowment stated a13% annual yield. Do the math on compounding that. These are highly profitable businesses, unlike smaller colleges who struggle comparatively. Similarly, large wealthy denominational and health care businesses are tax exempt. Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, paying their higher administrators tens of millions of dollars, for example, is labeled nonprofit as are many hospital systems that post profits annually. Mega churches likewise. The tax evasiveness of these highly profitable enterprises is built Into the system and maintained by people like Elise Stefanik for the benefit of their wealthy donors.

    9. If someone calls for the death of all Jews,...

      David, people from your side of the aisle do it every day. Jews will not replace us. Remember those people in Charlottsville praised by your hero? You're a fan of Elon Musk also, who just recently endorsed the slanderous Replacement Theory. That puts on a target on your back as much as anything some anonymous person on the internet might write.

    10. Unamused, the endowments of universities allow them to provide tuition-free scholarships to students from economic circumstances where their parents cannot afford to pay (middle and lower SES students). Your attempt to punish them by reducing the endowment would primarily hurt opportunities for economically disadvantages students. And why target a whole group for the actions of a few people?

    11. "New research published in the British Journal of Psychology shows that Jewish individuals who believe antisemitic conspiracy theories are prevalent in society experience increased feelings of threat and a tendency to avoid those outside their group. This study, one of the first of its kind, sheds light on the often-overlooked consequences of conspiracy theories on the groups they target. While a significant amount of research has been done on why people believe in conspiracy theories, there has been little focus on how these theories affect the groups they target."


    12. 9:21 I specifically distinguished between those institutions with tens of billions of dollars and smaller colleges who need money to support such students, but your point is valid in that the line to be drawn between the haves and have nots would be a difficult one. But Harvard sitting on a 50 billion dollar endowment certainly does not need public money for disadvantaged students. And the other tax exempt organizations that I referred to are hardly needy.

    13. Higher education started as common good, became a business, and devolved into a racket.

  6. Morning Joe is not infrequently a blowhard who doesn't do a lot of homework. So, as Bob suggests, the fact we don't get even a Smartphone clip of these savage demonstrations is no big surprise.
    But MJ is following a group think narrative, a script as Bob sometimes says. Is this not unlikely another strained attempt to give smarty pants liberals what for, since these news vendors must sell products to both sides? And since the more or less have to be honest about the Right's abandonment of the basic decency, they have to jump on any opportunity.
    It might also be fair to spank Goldberg's friend a bit. If you are paying attention to things at all you should be able to see through the manipulative use of "gotcha" clips by now.

    1. Don't spank Goldberg's friend. Spank Cecelia.

    2. This isn't funny. Stop talking about using violence on other people here.

    3. Cecelia said that government employees who want a ceasefire in Gaza should have been spanked when they were children.

    4. Not funny Cecelia.

    5. Go on and pull your panties out of your crack.

    6. She never explains what crack she means. I am Corby.

    7. Spanked was used as an (obvious) metaphor here and no suggestion actual violence was meant or implied.

    8. Maybe panties and the crack are metaphors, too. I just wish she’d specify which crack she’s referring to. That would clarify the metaphor.

  7. What's happening on our college campuses is that young people are being educated. That happens in their classrooms and via the texts they are assigned to read, the labs where they practice techniques useful in various fields, and in the papers and projects they create as classroom assignments. What they do in their spare time is NOT part of what Harvard of Penn or any university is responsible for.

    I find it deplorable that there are predators who view college students as targets for their own purposes. These people range from Scientologists to marketers of vape products or alcohol or weed (in certain states), to religious evangelism, to white supremacist recruiters, to pro-Palestinian, jihadist, and other extremist political or terrorist groups (and yes, the Weathermen used to be such a group). It would be nice if students were immune to such predators, but they are not, especially the alienated or students lacking family and friends as a support group to ground them in reality. The various Republican youth groups preaching armed rebellion are another politically motivated group preying on college kids (the ones who ask in all sincerity "when do we get to start using our guns?).

    Blaming college presidents for this type of activity is unreasonable given that they do not have the means to keep bad influences off campus, any more than they can prevent rapes or theft of computers, or any other crime and undesirable behavior that affects students.

    In his discussion of what happened to Chanel Miller (she was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner) Somerby suggested that the college president was at fault for allowing beer in fraternities, even though fraternities operate off campus and include members that are of drinking age.

    Today, Somerby again wants to blame the college presidents for things beyond their control (genocide, Gaza) for the same reasons Stefanek was attacking them -- because colleges and universities are not only more likely to be liberal, but because Democrats are more likely to be educated, so colleges are viewed as places where Democratic voters are produced. The more you can discredit them and knock down people with education and expertise, the more the door is open to the kind of undereducated bilge right wing voters want to believe. Bigotry and disinformation thrive in a fact-free, science-hating environment, like that created and maintained by Republicans and the right wing noise machine, especially Fox News.

    Somerby takes every opportunity to attack those who pursue knowledge as a career, including journalists and professors and experts of all types. It comes across as personal bitterness over his Harvard education, but I suspect it is deliberate and motivated by political considerations or money. Unless he tells us himself, only Somerby knows why he writes the bilge he does.

    1. What an ignorant comment.

    2. What you’ve said is hardly dumb or incoherent. If Bob’s motivations are as rancid as you claim is hard to know definitively, but that you draw such responses does suggest you are onto something.

  8. Somerby wants to soft-pedal what college students are shouting on campuses. These are young people without restraint. They are shouting lots of things, some generic and innocuous and other things hateful, violent, and majorly inappropriate. Somerby isn't there and he has no idea what students hear shouted.

    "When 18-year-old students are going to class, are they hearing "mobs scream about the genocide of Jews?" With apologies, are they hearing people yell such things as, "Gas the Jews?""

    There are white supremacist groups on campuses and they do shout this kind of stuff, especially if attention-seeking and rebellious as some youth are. Does this not count if it doesn't happen to have been captured on video?

    But I am one of the people who finds it specious when Hamas and its supporters deny wanting to kill Jews after the massacre of largely innocent Israelis that happened on 10/7. Support for the goals of Hamas is a call for genocide in my opinion, especially if you use the altered meaning fashionable among pro-Palestinians. They cannot claim that relegating them to Gaza due to bad behavior is genocide and then turn around and claim that their own call to eliminate Israel is not. The missing part that Somerby does not mention is that the Palestinians want to eliminate Israel BECAUSE it is Jewish, not to regain ancient water rights or because they won't accept a two-state solution while Israel is one of the states. The Jewish part is what makes this anti-semitism. Somerby seems to think that by never addressing that part directly, he can justify the Hamas behavior. The anti-semitism in question belongs to Hamas and is inextricable from everything the Palestinians have done in recent history. Failure to consider that anti-semitism is itself anti-semitic in my opinion.

    1. It was a mistake to erect a Jewish state in Palestine.

    2. It was a mistake for Hamas to attack Israel on 10/7.

    3. Two mistakes.

      So, let’s not send weapons to Hamas, and let’s not send weapons to Israel.

    4. Why not expect restraint from Hamas, weapons or not? Let's stop the hate.

    5. No support for Hamas!
      No support for Israel!

  9. What an asshole Somerby is! Asshole, asshole, asshole!
    I like to play bridge and to smell my fingers. My finger smells funny now.
    I am Corby.

  10. What do Republicans think?