Racist incidents on campus

by Harry on December 20, 2016

My campus — like, no doubt, a good number of others — has been afflicted over the past 18 months or so by what seems like a rise in the number of racist incidents. We made the headlines recently, when someone attended a football game with an Obama mask on and a noose around his neck. (Oddly enough, the football stadium did not have a standing rule against people attending with nooses round their necks – and I am not sure how you can reasonably introduce such a rule frankly when you are about to introduce a rule that people can attend carrying guns). But there have been other, to my mind nastier (because anonymous) incidents. Nazi and other white-supremacist symbols scrawled here and there; “Heil Hitler” salutes in the face of two girls leaving sorority known (by those in the know which, bizarrely, includes me) to have a preponderance of Jewish members; racist graffiti in the bathrooms, etc. I say it ‘seems’ like a rise, because we don’t know how well reported incidents were before we introduced a specific mechanism for distinguishing racist and other ‘hate and bias’ incidents from general bad behaviour a couple of years ago. If there has really been a growth in incidents, that would be easy to explain. But one point of the post is to ask what the evidence suggests about whether there actually has been an increase on other campuses.

The other is to tell a little story about one of the lesser-known incidents. I tell the story because it is mildly amusing, but also because it hints at a different response to such incidents than that which has been publicized so much by the anti-coddling brigades. (I should say that students on my campus do not seem to demand coddling, though you might think that my response in the vignette below was a coddling response).

A student I regularly met with in the Spring is a member of a (n actually) Jewish sorority and, probably not coincidentally, Jewish. During one of our meetings I casually said something about one of the racist incidents in the news, and she became somewhat animated (to say she is not, usually, animated, would be an understatement) and told me not only about the Hitler salute incident above (which I didn’t yet know about) but that the door of a building right opposite her sorority house had a white supremacist symbol — a wolfsangel — scratched into it. She complained that it had been there for a number of weeks, even though they had told the police about it, and asked the building owner to remove it. I can completely see why it might need to be kept up for a week, maybe even more, for evidence (what do I know?) but it did seem to me that covering it up would be easy and would damage the evidence less than leaving it open to the elements. And that after a few weeks it is hard to see what purpose keeping it around would serve.

“Why haven’t you guys just covered it up or painted it over?”
“Well”, she looked uncomfortable, “We’re worried that we might get into a trouble”.

I laughed and told her I knew plenty of students who enjoyed getting into trouble, and, also, that I doubted a group of Jewish women would get into trouble for eradicating a racist symbol. But, different people have different strengths, and I know that it’s not her kind of thing. When she came in two weeks later, the symbol was still there, and I asked if she would mind if I mentioned it to some of my students who like getting into trouble. She was enthused. Very soon after that I was socializing with a few such students, and mentioned the issue: 4 of the students were connected to 4 non-overlapping groups of trouble makers. So I texted the picture of the symbol and gave them the address.

That was Monday of exam week. On Wednesday I ran into one of the 4 potentially trouble-making students — a whip smart, painfully softly spoken, Chinese woman who was graduating. In a tone that is as close to complaining as I’ve ever heard from her, she said she and her friends went out on Monday but the symbol had been eradicated already (i.e., someone else had got there first). She went on to ask if I knew of any other symbols she could paint over, and was sufficiently pushy that I started wondering whether I should be commissioning such symbols for her to deal with.

I didn’t see the original student again till the Fall. We meet from time to time and she has, this semester, told me about two more anti-semitic incidents off-campus that, as far as I know, have not been reported in the press. She confirmed that the symbol was eradicated on the Monday night, and I explained, somewhat apologetically, what had happened. She seemed fine with it. But maybe you think I should have handled it differently; if so I’m curious how. (Btw, the thought in the final sentence of the previous paragraph was a joke).



Fuzzy Dunlop 12.20.16 at 3:55 am

For the first question, this is a qualitative judgment–a lot of the really disturbing Trump-related hate speech and hate crimes in the news right around the election were in primary & secondary schools. And they sounded, to me, like typical bullying incidents that wouldn’t have received much attention had the perps not invoked Trump. In other words, bullying is a feature of childhood and adolescent social structures that, IME, educators turn a blind eye to, until it touches on a matter of public concern. Good bullies know how to make their behavior look reasonable, or like a part of normal social interactions, they don’t do things that give authorities a pretext for punishing them (at least not too much)–so, maybe Trump(ism) has changed their sense of normal.


JanieM 12.20.16 at 5:07 am

Harry, I’m not on campus and don’t have kids in school any more etc., so I don’t have any framework from which to answer your direct questions. But I just want to say that this is a wonderful story. The sentence that you felt the need to reassure us was a joke made me laugh out loud. (Without, I hasten to add, undermining the seriousness of the underlying issues one little bit.)

I really admire the way you write about your students, BTW.

Good reply from Fuzzy Dunlop, too.


Tabasco 12.20.16 at 6:36 am

I am shocked, shocked that incidents like these could occur in Madison, Wisconsin, of all places.


vasilis 12.20.16 at 7:38 am

” In other words, bullying is a feature of childhood and adolescent social structures ” No, it’s not. It is IN THE US. You guys really need to figure out what the schools are doing wrong.


SusanC 12.20.16 at 9:49 am

You could have asked the building owner if he’d like some assistance covering up the offensive graffiti. There’s a good chance he was also wanting to get rid of it, but was experiencing a shortage of time/money to get round to it. Asking about it may well result in either the owner getting embarrassed into fixing it, or giving you permission to fix it.

Repainting someone elses door without permision might be illegal (though in this case I doubt they’d complain); if they’ve given you permission to do the work, no problem.


Peter E 12.20.16 at 11:40 am

I think you were totally right to deal with it … but I would have preferred you to go to the art dept and get someone to use their skills to change it from the racist symbol to one of peace and unity.


hix 12.20.16 at 12:07 pm

Bullying seemed rather normal at the German grammar school (read “good” school) i attended. So excuse me if im not buying the its an US thing theory. US schools are probably on the extreme side in status competition in general if the tpypical US high school films are only 1% true, but on bullying in particular, rather unlikely.

Its not independent of culture, e.g. Turkey is sure much worse than Germany or the US, but unfortunatly it does seem rather normal everywhere. But its definitly not just an US thing…


Main Street Muse 12.20.16 at 12:12 pm

Did I read correctly that WI will now allow guns on campus and at crowded stadiums with a lot of drunk people?

Why is this needed?

We have seen more attention paid to racist statements made on campus. But I’m in the South – so I’m not sure if this is new or if we’re just paying more attention now. I know that when I have all-white classes, the discussion of things like Trayvon Martin’s death go very differently than when there is one minority student in the class.

There is a need for discussion that is not being met, it seems to me.

I am in NC, so still reeling from the fascist power grab we saw last week, where the NCGOP removed power from governor’s office after losing governor’s office to a Democrat (in a state that went for Trump.) There is likely more to come via tomorrow’s special session.

Incredibly terrified for America’s future, quite frankly.


rea 12.20.16 at 2:04 pm

Why is this needed?

People have to protect themselves from all the drunk people with guns on campus and in crowded football stadiums


reason 12.20.16 at 2:06 pm

One thing that concerns me is that people these days seem very intent on seeking an identity via what they are against rather than what they are for. Both my daughters are attracted to the identity of antifa (i.e. anti-fascist) which I find disturbing (because it means that they have no identity if there are is no fascism). Similarly, I tend to be disturbed by feminism that is defined by being against the patriarchy and libertarianism that is against government. In some ways I find Harry’s anecdote about the activist fits into this pattern. Isn’t it time that we started promoting positive identities?


Harry 12.20.16 at 2:12 pm

Peter. Good grief its been a long time. Thanks for the tip, I’ll do that next time! After asking per, as SusanC suggests. JanieM — thanks for your kind words! I really like my students (as you can tell). Getting to know them the way I often do makes me wish I’d been more sociable when I was young!

And.. yes, apparently a bill is expected to extend concealed carry onto campus. I’ll write about that soon.


Harry 12.20.16 at 2:35 pm

I posted that before reading rea’s response to MSM — brilliant!

I actually feel the same way as you do, reason, but it’s not really fair to my activist student, who does have a positive identity. I think it was more about it being an activity in which it was possible to involve others. When I think back to my youth, it seems like most of what I actually did was anti- something (Thatcher, nuclear weapons, the Anti Nazi League, Rock Against Racism) because opportunities to act for something were rare. But I did have a pretty well-developed and well-considered positive identity (if an evolving one).


Chris Grant 12.20.16 at 2:56 pm

There have been studies on the prevalence of bullying by country (see, e.g., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2747624/), and they don’t appear to support the notion that bullying is only an American thing.


jdkbrown 12.20.16 at 3:02 pm

Harry, I thnk your response was rather brilliant! (And your trouble-maker students sound fantastic.)


Theophylact 12.20.16 at 3:21 pm

vasilis @ #4: Indeed, bullying is famously a problem in Japan.


soullite 12.20.16 at 4:30 pm

How many of these incidents are false flags from leftists? We’ve had a number of those proven so far, so it’s fair to assume that plenty more of them are, too. You know, just trying raise issues.

And how many Trump supporters have been harassed, threatened or intimidated by Democrats?


JRLRC 12.20.16 at 4:58 pm

Of course, bullying is not “an American thing”. Some kinds of bullying (because of race and class) are very common, rather normal, in mexican private schools and universities (talking about education…). The white -yes, lots of mexicans are white- “children” of the upper middle class tend to be the bullies of the others. Skin and money… And there is bullying within that class, and the lower classes, due to “the nature of the women” (the words of a sexist bully, not mine). A mess, a disgusting mess.


bob mcmanus 12.20.16 at 5:11 pm

15: In other statistics, the USA has 27 times more reported rapes than Japan.

I am not saying these studies or statistics can be discounted or ignored, but they do need to be approached cautiously, as the link in 13 actually does. Thresholds of awareness, offense, and reporting can vary considerably.


Harry 12.20.16 at 6:08 pm

“How many of these incidents are false flags from leftists?”

On our campus, among the incidents I know, none. Ie, all verified as real incidents, and most (in fact, as far as I know, all) reported by people who couldn’t be described as leftists. And, as I indicated, some not reported at all.

“And how many Trump supporters have been harassed, threatened or intimidated by Democrats?”

I don’t know. That’s a serious issue though. To be clear, if a Trump supporting student told me about such an incident I would be equally supportive (though I might have a harder time finding troublemakers to work on the issues). Before you ask why such a student would come to me — in the aftermath of the election a closet Trump voter did, indeed, spend 90 minutes in my office describing (sometimes tearfully) the many sleights she had experienced in the week after the election, knowing that she was talking in safe space (eg, one in which she could reveal how she voted, which she has not done to her friends — though I have to say I knew ages ago how she would vote, and am bemused that it has escaped her friends).


WLGR 12.20.16 at 6:54 pm

Of course one can’t help but be sympathetic to your students’ concerns and to yours, but I have to ask, is there any significant advantage in framing incidents like this by default as a problem for college and university campuses as opposed to a problem for, y’know, society? Because at least to me, the significant disadvantage seems to be furthering an impression (whether or not justified) of a cloistered ivory-tower professional class fixated on its own immediate concerns at the expense of concerns outside its bubble, which plays into all sorts of issues not just of classism (since few demographic correlations are as obvious as education with SES) but also nationalist chauvinism in global affairs (given how much more we seem to pay attention to everything from mass poverty to “terrorist” attacks when the victims are Europeans or Americans). For that matter, a pushback against perceived professional-class insularity seems to be no small part of the ideological animus behind the political movements connected to these very incidents in the first place.

Just to show that I’m not necessarily alone in this kind of reaction, here’s Amber A’Lee Frost elaborating on the same on-campus/off-campus issue within a similar discourse, the one around “campus sexual assault”, in reviewing a recently published anthology of campus sexual assault survivors’ stories.

As is de rigueur in these days of intersectional feminism, Clark and Pino have made a valiant effort at “representation”—i.e., giving a platform to women and men, queer and trans people, immigrants, and people of color. It’s an admirable initiative, but the issue of representation also raises a nagging and thorny question that the close-in portraits of disrupted young lives in We Believe You don’t address: Does it clarify or improve the discourse around sexual assault to segregate discussion of campus sexual assault from the sexual assaults of nonstudents—especially when the matriculated are actually less likely to be assaulted than nonstudents?

This is not to fault Clark and Pino, who are themselves survivors of campus sexual assaults, for failing to address the entire society-wide scourge of sexual violence against women. At the same time, though, we are now hearing so much about the campus “epidemic” of sexual predation that we risk overlooking the troubling fact that female American college students are graduating into an outside world that’s even less safe for them than their campuses have been—as well as the important point that many more women have been suffering from brutal sexual attacks in that world all along.

So if college students are indeed safer from violence than their non-matriculating counterparts, why partition their experience from a larger dialogue? As many journalists have noted, there is a matter of privilege at play here: women who go to college enjoy a more elevated social standing than women who don’t, and are therefore more likely to receive media attention. (A similar dynamic plays out in terms of racial privilege, as any casual viewer of the cable-news subgenre of abducted or murdered women can readily attest.)

Of course, no one in We Believe You would argue that an assault on campus is somehow more significant than that of a homeless woman, a sex worker, a woman raped as a crime of war, or any other far more common context for assault. The women who have contributed to We Believe You are likely aware of their privilege, and I doubt any of them would invidiously contrast their experience with that of any woman of lower status. Nevertheless, the class bias is implicit, and feeds into the media’s fixation on allegedly heightened risks of on-campus sexual assault despite data to the contrary.

Even back when I was immersed in it, I could never shake the impression that no matter how much undoubtedly serious activism and organizing takes place on US higher ed campuses, for most students the unapologetic insularity of many campus communities acts as an ideological training ground of sorts for narrowing their immediate ethical focus to match the (ideally tacit) economic and national chauvinism of affluent First-World bougie society in general. It’s not necessarily that we don’t acknowledge things like racist graffiti outside of colleges and universities, or things like exploitation of workers in the Global South; we just don’t consciously treat these problems with any remotely proportionate sense of urgency or ethical imperative to what we reserve for cases when these problems happen to penetrate our own bubbles of relative privilege, be they campus boundaries or the proverbial “tracks” or barbed-wire border fences. And just to be clear, I’m not trying to accuse anybody here of anything directly, so much as to call attention to a general ideological trend that should be acknowledged and resisted.


J-D 12.20.16 at 6:55 pm


Why do you use the word ‘just’ (‘just trying to raise issues’), when it could not be more obviously false?


Kiwanda 12.20.16 at 7:16 pm

UW Madison’s bias incident report for Jan-June 2016 is here; it doesn’t describe specific incidents, but does mention an increase in reports, maybe due to more awareness of the incident reporting system.

thefire.org gives the school’s bias reporting process a “green” light, regarding it as protective of speech rights.

A petition to defund UW-M chapter of the conservative “Young Americans for Freedom”, following its sponsorship of a talk by Ben Shapiro, has received about two hundred signatures.


Ogden Wernstrom 12.20.16 at 8:40 pm

J-D @21, it could be that soullite is trying to raise the issue of innuendo…as performance-art. Maybe some analogy to false-flag operations gives the ironic twist needed to avoid classification as concern trolling.

Or not. I’m just speculating.


Shiying 12.20.16 at 9:08 pm

I’ve always thought that we don’t get into trouble for eradicating or painting over other people’s paintings in public places in China (but I could be wrong…) And it took a while for my friend to explain to me why I could get into trouble in US because of the private property thing… We even planned to paint a heart over the symbol to cover it up. Anyway, applause for the people who eradicated the symbol. I was much happier than actually complaining.
And about the bullying discussion, even if bullying is prevalent in many places around the world (I think it’s also a serious problem in China) and there might be an innate propensity for bullying behaviors in children and adolescents due to their special psychological features or social structures, it is not to say that bullying is normal or permissible. I personally think that educators should not turn a blind eye to bullying even when it doesn’t involve apparent “political correctness” issues. I think we could try to argue that even bullying not related to the typical “political correctness” matters should not be out of the concerns of the public, or belonging to the private sphere. Part of the reasons that bullying is such a huge problem now might be that educators, authorities and states in general don’t fully recognize how the social bases of self esteem are such important(perhaps the most important) social primary goods. And the “Trump(ism) has changed their sense of normal” part of Fuzzy Dunlop’s comment seems quite plausible to me.
Another thing is that in America some people are so entrenched in the idea of free speech that they forget “having the liberty to do something does not give us the reasons to do it”… I went to the Dewey Lecture given by Leslie Green last quarter at UChicago. He discussed how the idea of right speech can be compatible with free speech and explored the doctrine of ‘right speech’ in classical Buddhist thought. I think it’s a quite interesting and important topic, especially given the political division in American society now.


Sebastian H 12.20.16 at 10:09 pm

Well there were at least a few times during the election where Trump and swastikas were spray painted with the apparent intent to associate Trump with being a Nazi, but was initially misinterpreted as being pro-Trump. I think they were spray painted on Republican organizing structures which makes their intent more clear if you think about it. Though googling such things I can’t immediately find it because there are hundreds of links to the same three or four articles.

There may be a number of those cases being reported as pro-Trump incidents if sprayed on relatively neutral places like bridges or random building walls. It doesn’t have to be “false flag”.

I would tend to give the benefit of the doubt of being racist if spray painted on a clearly Jewish building, or a black associated building.


Chris "merian" 12.20.16 at 11:02 pm

I, too, admire how your mind works re: your students. How did you get them to know that you’d be providing a safe space, independently on who they voted for? I’ve had some post-vote conversations with students, including one who voted for Johnson and was airing some frustration about being called a racist by his mates for not having voted against the racist. But I’m afraid anyone who actually voted for Trump might not have felt they could confide in me. (Given that I’m in the natural sciences, it would have been a little forced to talk ideology and politics in this personal way.)

As for that nonsense about “false flag”, I have no words for how repulsed I feel at this nasty little war metaphor. Any pinko, liberal or progressive who’d come up with a hare-brained scheme to incriminate conservatives by painting racist graffiti will hardly be able to escape the conclusion that causing the harm you purport to oppose robs you of all credibility. Should that happen within my earshot — and indeed it never has — my contempt would be copious. I’m reasonably certain that the absolutely overwhelming majority of racist, misogynist or threatening symbols and slogans that are drawn in public view are the work of either people who feel some kind of allegiance with the content (whether they completely understand it or not) or by people who enjoy stirring up chaos and controversy. Sometimes I’m not sure which group is bigger.


Chris "merian" 12.20.16 at 11:45 pm

Sebastian H: Well, using a swastika to associate Trump with fascism is, indeed, not at all what they call “false flag”. It’s a statement. It may well be objectionable if it’s in a place where it could be interpreted as a display of the symbol rather than a use of the symbol.

In any event, the typical case is the one like when my spouse and I found the outhouses in a state park covered in “Fuck Obama”, “white power” and swastika graffiti. Not really ambiguous. (This was a year or so ago, not post-election.)


map maker 12.21.16 at 4:00 pm

Or as the case near my university:


Summarized by the local republican party as:
“a city attorney clad in a blazer and sipping wine while vandalizing an upscale grocery store with an anti-Trump message”

I disagree with this being an anti-Trump message, “Fuck Trump” is perceived as a positive by many millennials, as in “Team America, Fuck Yeah!” In fact, I’m not sure Trump would view that negatively, depending who said it…


Chris (merian) W. 12.21.16 at 11:26 pm

I’d make a large distinction between “Fuck Trump” (or any “Fuck $NAME” for a president, governor, prime minster, mayor et.) and a white supremacist symbol. The first is mildly annoying, but par for the course. The second is an implicit threat.


kidneystones 12.23.16 at 5:14 am

I’m a big fan of protests and don’t mind even the obnoxious ones ,as long as children are not among the targets. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4059082/Ivanka-Trump-aggressively-confronted-man-JetBlue-sitting-children-screams-father-ruining-country-asks-flight.html

There’s a great deal of cruddy information out there, but I’m not sure how well served we are by promulgating the memes that Americans are ‘painting Nazi symbols’ across America. I suspect some actually believe America is the Weimar Republic and I’ve no desire to engage any on that point.

The OP presents very little to indicate that America’s universities have been transformed into burgeoning bastions of nascent fascism with jack-boots on campus to follow. I doubt Harry believes that to be the case, either. I am concerned about the direction of American militarism (who isn’t?), but this is something of a constant, given the history of the great nation.

What is clear is that outside of California and New York, Trump is/was the overwhelming favorite, beating his opponent by some 3 million votes or so. True.

Thomas Edsall in the NYT puts the problem coastal elites and their supporters face into sharp relief. http://nyti.ms/2hcPCEU


Harry 12.23.16 at 2:13 pm

I do not believe we are the Weimar republic! and I honestly have no idea whether the number of incidents have increased. I am just very aware of the effects these experiences have on the people who talk to me, and I think it is not unreasonable for them to seek to reassurance and support of some sort. A wolfsangel on a building door is one thing; a swastika on a dorm room door is another (real example: seems like it must be experienced as a direct threat, and especially unnerving because the high levels of security in these buildings lead one to believe that the probability it was placed by someone who lives in the building is reasonably high).

When I was in grad school I occasionally received anonymous threatening notes in my mail box in the department, some wishing me death (because of my political stances) — and as I mentioned last year, Swift and I received many foul and sometimes threatening emails over the internet. It is disruptive, even if you are an adult, and reasonably hardened by politics. The students I am talking about are neither. My post was only about i) figuring out whether these incidents really are on the rise, and ii) offering a non-intrusive way of responding.

I completely take WLGR’s point, by the way, and didn’t mean to imply the problems on campuses are unique, or more important than, or even as important as, others. Just that my role gives me a special duty of care to the students I teach, and also more detailed information about what is going on with them than with others.


Barry 12.23.16 at 2:19 pm

“Thomas Edsall in the NYT puts the problem coastal elites and their supporters ”

I see that ‘coastal elites’ had to be supplemented by ‘their supporters’, probably to cover the fact that we won more votes. I’m sure that Trump’s oh-so-folksy billionaire cabinet makes up for that, though.


M Caswell 12.23.16 at 4:02 pm

” didn’t mean to imply the problems on campuses are unique, or more important than, or even as important as, others. Just that my role gives me a special duty of care to the students I teach”

It’s also the case that you are professionally/vocationally responsible for the particular functions and ends of an educational community, which may be incompatible with racist, uncivil, or threatening speech in special ways not at issue in society at large.


J-D 12.23.16 at 8:55 pm

Nothing in your comment (true or false) is of any relevance to this discussion, and nobody should imagine that it does. It is rude to butt into other people’s discussions to bring up topics that are of more interest to you.


sillybill 12.23.16 at 9:15 pm

Why wait weeks for your students to paint it over?


David 12.23.16 at 9:57 pm


Harry 12.23.16 at 10:57 pm

For a while it genuinely seemed to me there might be some good reason for it to be preserved (evidence?). I waited till the sorority had asked the building owners twice more. Then… I don’t know, it just seemed better if students did it than if I did it. I don’t have good reason for that.


kidneystones 12.23.16 at 11:01 pm

@32 Season’s greetings, Barry.

I’d much prefer Sanders to have been the nominee and the winning candidate. The content of my comment is linked to this issue and to the questionable tactics of the coastal elites and their supporters. The NYT piece examines some of the challenges a possible Sanders-type candidacy faces from billionaires on the coasts. The Daily Mail piece is an excellent example of what doesn’t work – spotting Ivanka Trump and her family flying Jet Blue – chasing her down, bragging about chasing her down on Twitter, and then shutting down the Twitter-account when the consequences of one’s actions begin to sink-in. One of the two is an academic in New York, the other a Brooklyn attorney. My reference to Weimar refers to the rhetoric promulgated by people who do not seem to understand what Weimar is/was and that Democrats have never been weaker.

Democrats need to stop sounding silly and start to wrestle with the fact that the party is failing to retain women, people of color, and the young. Other demographics have already decamped, except in the two states I mentioned. Hope you’re able to understand most people outside of these two states see the world differently from you. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong, but it means you’ve got a big task ahead of you convincing these people you’re right.

I don’t recommend any additional charges of racism and/or Trump is the next Hitler, no matter how well this plays with the choir.


Alan White 12.24.16 at 4:32 am


This really isn’t the place, but the Dems did not have a grand fail–they just did not manage to overcome a tsunami of emotion aided by the Russians that constituted an electoral win that was secured by a collective number of people that could be packed–or Packered–into Lambeau field. This was not an overwhelming endorsement of Trump–it was a bare tipping point of three states’ voters that made a difference. On the basis of these facts alone one could make a good case that Putin actually did make the difference in this election by influencing the FBI to stupidly doing what they did. So now we have someone who bragged about grabbing p*****s in the most powerful office of world politics, who understands almost nothing about possible courses of history, except he is “very smart”. The ascendancy of such erratic power by means of the vicissitudes of media might be explainable–but it is nothing short of an absolute horror of history, if history is to be assessed by anything like canons of reason and social virtue.


J-D 12.24.16 at 6:36 am


The content of my comment is linked to this issue

You have failed to make clear which issue you are referring to, but in any case it’s clear that your second comment, like your first comment, is not relevant to the original topics of discussion. Persevering in your rudeness makes it dull as well as rude.


kidneystones 12.24.16 at 7:34 am

@39 Hi Alan, best wishes for the holiday season.

I recommend you read the linked articles. I’m optimistic and thus tend to focus on that which we share, rather than the ‘enormous differences’ that divide. There’s a lack of respect that is, imho, based on fears named and unknown. As you know, I live in Asia. I have student who can me about people in her country selling children into slavery, both out of need and out of indifference. The other students in the class know a very different reality. Globalization has been a great good, lifting enormous numbers of people out of extreme poverty. That doesn’t mean we need cede all control of our lives to multi-nationals who focus exclusively on the ‘bottom line.’

We differ, I know, on Trump. But the discussions I believe we need to have about choice and about work may occur under Trump. I see practically no evidence that Bush/Obama/Clinton have any interest in these issues. Nor do the elites of either party.

Hope 2017 treats you well.


Layman 12.24.16 at 12:24 pm

kidneystones: “Democrats need to stop sounding silly and start to wrestle with the fact that the party is failing to retain women, people of color, and the young.”

A comment moderation scheme which focuses on the tone of comments while ignoring the factual basis of comments has surely gone wrong.


“Women supported Clinton over Trump by 54% to 42%. This is about the same as the Democratic advantage among women in 2012 (55% Obama vs. 44% Romney) and 2008 (56% Obama vs. 43% McCain).”

“White non-Hispanic voters preferred Trump over Clinton by 21 percentage points (58% to 37%), according to the exit poll conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool. Romney won whites by 20 percentage points in 2012 (59% to 39%).”

“Young adults preferred Clinton over Trump by a wide 55%-37% margin; by comparison, Obama had a 60%-36% advantage over Romney in 2012 and a 66%-32% advantage over McCain in 2008.”



Barry 12.24.16 at 2:23 pm

kidneystones 12.23.16 at 11:01 pm
“@32 Season’s greetings, Barry”

I have wishes and hopes for you, as well.


Alan White 12.24.16 at 3:27 pm

Thanks kidneystones–one good thing for 2016–there ain’t much–was our trying to model respectful disagreement here at CT. Let’s keep that up.

Trumps tweets are extremely disturbing, and in part because I think the man is disturbed. If he thinks it’s smart to tweet about stepping up an arms race without consulting even his own team, well, that’s frightening. And it doesn’t bode well for finding room for hope in making him take some sort of grow-up pill.

Anyway, holiday cheer to you too. And to you harry as well, for strongly encouraging respectful dialogue here.


JanieM 12.24.16 at 5:16 pm

A comment moderation scheme which focuses on the tone of comments while ignoring the factual basis of comments has surely gone wrong.

It’s possible to read tone, abusiveness, manipulation, etc., just by following a thread and reading comments as they come in. Having some familiarity with the cast of characters probably helps too, in some situations.

Expecting the CT crew to be fact-checkers on top of everything else is unrealistic, to say the least. If falsehoods get through the filter, other commenters can feel free to fact-check. (Not that it’s up to me, I’m only another commenter, and not a prolific one at that. But that’s the formula that makes sense to me.)

I am still checking in here only sporadically (partly just because I’m too busy), but Harry’s latest two posts have been treasures that I wonder if we would have seen (I kind of doubt it) before the era of active moderation. In general, commenters have showed up whom I haven’t seen for a long time, comments don’t go on and on and on repeating the same arguments as much as they used to, and I’m seeing much less of two or three people taking over a thread to the point where no one else wants to bother.

From my vantage point, the place is much improved. (I know this is OT but I’ve been wanting to say it, and the groundwork was laid above, so maybe it’s okay. If not — Harry, consider it feedback to the proprietors. :-)

Happy holidays! It’s Christmas Eve afternoon where I live, and raining. But there’s snow on the ground and a bit more predicted, so we should have the proverbial white tomorrow.


JanieM 12.24.16 at 5:23 pm

I’ll add (still pushing back at Layman) that if a commenter does nothing else much besides spew misinformation, and does it a lot, then if it were me I’d just boot that commenter.

Since it’s not up to me, I maintain my previous practice of just ignoring commenters who, from my POV and after some experience of them, don’t add anything worth spending minutes and eyeballs on.


Sebastian H 12.25.16 at 1:02 am

Regarding evidence of news items that were initially reported as pro-Trump racist incidents but look now like they weren’t:

The “Vote Trump” black church arson seems to have been set by a parishoner for non-political reasons AP Report

The widely reported Ann Arbor case of a Muslim woman claiming that she was threatened with being set on fire unless she took off her hijab appears to have lied about it Washington Post report

Both of these were very widely reported at the time and are probably two of the most widely reported instances, with the reports of them being incorrect not reaching even near viral status.


kidneystones 12.25.16 at 1:09 am

@40 I’m very sorry if you find my comment rude and OT. In the event that others may share your view, I very much hope you’ll permit me one comment to clarify my remarks.

“But there have been other, to my mind nastier (because anonymous) incidents. Nazi and other white-supremacist symbols scrawled here and there;”
(Harry OP. Sane and sensible. What to do?)

“there are swastikas being painted across America”
“Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them.”
(Link 1. Silly, supercillious, and a good example of what Dems should stop doing.)

My italics on ‘here and there’ and ‘across America’ underscore the difference between two world views – from two different kinds of Democrats.

Clearly I believe Harry’s to be the more accurate, but I’m not dismissing the arguments of those who believe that America is now the Weimar Republic. I leave that to Thomas Edsall.

What Edsall and a great many others are doing at the moment is examining the gulf between national political trends based on a state by state basis, and national trends based on population; and to the point of the OP, how best to inform and advise students. One of the principals in the Jet Blue incident is an educator at an east coast institution. He may very well feel that the election was ‘stolen’ and that Weimar is right around the corner. He’s entitled to his view. But I’m not sure how helpful his approach is, especially regarding the fears of his own students.

What Edsall does very effectively add data and nuance to the kind of policy choices available to those hoping to oppose Trump. Hint, not as many as some might believe.

Harry presents a thoughtful and welcome OP addressing these same issues in a local setting. I hope that this comment makes my linked comment clearer, and apologize again for any lack of clarity and unintentional rudeness. The same applies to @42.

Best wishes and seasons greetings to one and all.


Layman 12.25.16 at 1:27 pm

JamieM: “I’ll add (still pushing back at Layman) that if a commenter does nothing else much besides spew misinformation, and does it a lot, then if it were me I’d just boot that commenter.”

Push away, by all means. You are not wrong! But the fact remains: One can lie if one is polite about it, but one can’t call a serial misinformer a ‘liar’ because that isn’t polite. It’s a moderation scheme gone wrong.


JanieM 12.25.16 at 6:10 pm

One can lie if one is polite about it, but one can’t call a serial misinformer a ‘liar’ because that isn’t polite.

Why isn’t it enough to be able to point out that the assertions are false? No doubt it’s more satisfying to call people names — I myself have been moderating my urge to say what I really think about people who bitch about the moderation on a free blog, so I know the self-restraint it takes.

It’s a moderation scheme gone wrong.

Sez you. You could always start your own blog and run it the way you want. No one is making you come here.

I like CT better than I did in the past couple of years, and both ways I have voted with my feet. Beyond that, I’ve said enough and won’t respond again.


Collin Street 12.25.16 at 11:18 pm

Why isn’t it enough to be able to point out that the assertions are false?

Why do we talk about armies instead of talking about each individual soldier?


J-D 12.26.16 at 7:17 am


I’m very sorry if you find my comment rude and OT.

I would like to be able to believe that, but it’s hard, because of my experience of your comments in general.

In the event that others may share your view …

I have no idea. It’s possible that my experience of your comments and my reactions to them are a unique idiosyncrasy.

… I very much hope you’ll permit me one comment …

That’s an example of the kind of politeness in form which I experience as the opposite of genuine courtesy. To me, when you suggest that you’re asking for my permission, the implication is that I have some kind of power in this situation that enables me to grant or refuse the permission you request. But you must know as well as I do that I have no such power. Our hosts here certainly have the power to grant or refuse permission for your comment to appear, but if they choose to grant that permission there is nothing whatever I can do about it.

… to clarify my remarks.

Well, you have produced a kind of clarification, in the sense that you have solidified in my mind an idea of why you make the kind of comments you do, but it doesn’t change my view about the relevance of your comments to this discussion. Since you have clearly put some effort into your attempt at clarification, I am going to put some effort into explaining why it doesn’t work for me.

My general impression is that your contributions here are concerned primarily with castigating (often if not always, with an edge, or more than an edge, of mockery) a category of people who do things that you don’t like — it’s not a well-defined category, but it’s evidently sufficiently well-defined for your apparent purposes.

In this particular instance, the original post is not an example of those things that you don’t like. So your response is to find an example of something you don’t like and discuss that instead. Your idea of relevance, it seems, is to treat something that is not an example of your preoccupations as if by not being an example of those preoccupations it makes those preoccupations relevant to this discussion. But that’s equivalent to supposing that your preoccupations are always relevant, which they aren’t.

What Edsall does very effectively add data and nuance to the kind of policy choices available to those hoping to oppose Trump. … Harry presents a thoughtful and welcome OP addressing these same issues in a local setting.

But Harry’s post does not ask ‘how should we deal with Trump?’ It doesn’t even mention Trump. That’s your preoccupation.

When the question is ‘How should we respond to racist incidents?’ then the answer ‘Not by harassing Ivanka Trump’ is not a relevant answer, it’s a non sequitur, and it doesn’t stop being one just because I agree with you that people shouldn’t be harassing Ivanka Trump.

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