On the PR Disaster at #Skepticon and the lack of #ConcernedStudent1950 representation

Given how the late-addition “Q&A” session at Skepticon came into being, how it was sold to the convention, how it was advertised, and how it was “envisioned” by Danielle Muscato and Mark Schierbecker, it is no surprise the entire thing went off disastrously. Let us itemize the ways this all went wrong.

To catch you up, first.

Jonathan Butler went on hunger strike on November 2nd at University of Missouri (aka Mizzou), to protest systematic racism, the destruction of planned parenthood services and health insurance, the pepper-spraying of peaceful protestors, and edgelord bullshit such as nooses and feces swastikas on campus, along with Chan-culture making death threats via YikYak. After press of the less-than-sympathetic sort (e.g. Breitbart and Fox News) kept wheedling their way into the protest and into protesters’ faces, students created a press-free cordon around Butler and his closest protest supporters, many of whom are black students who have felt unsafe on campus thanks to the overt racism and ratcheting back of necessary services that they experienced.

A student boycott ensued, along with support from the football team and faculty members, including a Mass Media prof named Melissa Click. Mark Schierbecker — a “citizen journalist” non-journalist student of Mizzou — entered the area to take videos of people reacting to the news of the President and Chancellor both resigning. Click demanded he leave several times, and at one point put her hand on the camera he was using to film. Police are presently considering criminal assault charges for this.

Shortly thereafter, Click apologised thusly:

Yesterday was an historic day at MU — full of emotion and confusion. I have reviewed and reflected upon the video of me that is circulating, and have written this statement to offer both apology and context for my actions. I have reached out to the journalists involved to offer my sincere apologies and to express regret over my actions. I regret the language and strategies I used, and sincerely apologize to the MU campus community, and journalists at large, for my behavior, and also for the way my actions have shifted attention away from the students’ campaign for justice.

My actions were shaped by exasperation with a few spirited reporters. From this experience I have learned about humanity and humility. When I apologized to Tim Tai in a phone call this afternoon, he accepted my apology. I believe he is doing a difficult job, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with him. His dignity also speaks well to the Journalism program at MU. Again, I wish to express my sincere apology for
my actions on Carnahan Quad yesterday.

Note, Tim Tai is another reporter, who was crowded out of the press-free zone by the students and who had his arms pulled down when he tried to take a jumping photo of the inside of the cordon.

Schierbecker characterized this apology as “insincere” and “curt”, and to this day believes Click should step down. In fact, during the Skepticon event, he stated that he won’t rest until she does step down, even knowing that putting the focus on his pain and his belief that his “first amendment rights” were violated by not being allowed to access people who wished for privacy distracts from the issues of racism on campus.

The video by Mark Schierbecker went viral. The short version of the video is being used to make arguments against black folks generally by overtly racist orgs like Stormfront, and also by those attempting to damn the Black Lives Matter and ConcernedStudent1950 movements like Breitbart and Fox News. The video as edited in the “short version” shows Click demanding Schierbecker leave the area, touching the camera, and ends with Click calling for “muscle”. The fuller version shows more attempts to get Schierbecker to leave before Click becomes frustrated, and has two students serving as “muscle” approaching Schierbecker and repeating the requests to have him leave the area, and effectively physically blocking Schierbecker from persisting in attempting to film the students against their wishes. The “muscle” did not actually strongarm or physically contact Schierbecker in any way, but served to assert the requests for privacy of the people Schierbecker was attempting to gain access to.

Now, for the specific event and everything that went wrong, in no particular order.

This programming addition to Skepticon was advertised online shortly before the official opening of the con, so it was not printed in the schedules. It was only available on the online schedule, and it was announced in a blog post dated Friday, November 13th, the first day of the con programming.

On the schedule, the lunch break between speakers was registered for between 12pm and 2pm. The speakers were also expected to gather for a Speakers Photo from 12 to 12:30, however this process easily dragged on til at least 12:45. It seems while I was running to the bathroom and to get some coffee, the talk started, and I missed the opening timeline.

There were only a small handful of people in attendance — no more than 25 or 30. Peak attendance within the main hall was probably 400-ish, which is good considering there were always contemporaneous events in other rooms and attendance (though lower than last year) is likely around 600 (remind me to ask for actual registration numbers!), and there was at least 200 in the room at the 11-12pm talk for Fallon Fox. The low attendance is undeniably because it was both late within the schedule, held during the lunch break, and poorly advertised — nobody knew there was a reason to stick around through lunch, as nobody even mentioned it (by my recollection) after Fallon Fox’s talk when lunch break was announced.

The talk was evidently sold to Skepticon as a “Question and Answer”, though Danielle Muscato and Mark Schierbecker did not envision it as such. The questions for the probably-scripted event all came from Danielle Muscato, who, during the course of the event, disclosed that she was acting as pro-bono Public Relations for Schierbecker, whom she considers a friend. Only because a number of black activists effectively started shouting out questions when Muscato declared the interview to be over did the event actually become a Q&A.

Evidently, Muscato was using this event to essentially coach Schierbecker on how to repair the image damage he’d done himself by putting the focus on his “first amendment rights” issues over the racism and death threats happening on campus. That Skepticon doesn’t appear to have been aware of this relationship, and that the “press release” in the blog post appears to omit this fact, indicates to me that Skepticon, knowing Danielle Muscato from previous events, trusted her to use the forum judiciously. This use was, as I posted on Twitter shortly thereafter, a gross abuse of the venue. There is nothing “skeptical” about posting the views of the person with all the power who was aggrieved on a small scale with having their camera touched, while omitting the views of those aggrieved in the grander scheme, in a public-relations spin job fashion, when the person in question is already being published in major (right-leaning) news organizations uncritically.

Repeatedly, both Muscato and Schierbecker conflated right to access to people with freedom of speech. You have every right to say what you want, but you have no right to demand access to others. And indeed, being a student on campus and having access to the football field generally would not grant you access to the field in the middle of a game if you’re not a player — you’d get tackled, even though you have the same level of “right” to be there that Schierbecker had to the area where students requested privacy from press. No amendment grants you as a fundamental right the freedom to harangue people who’ve asked you to back off, given that you can be charged with criminal harassment even if you are on public property, nor does it grant you a right to an audience, specific or general. It’s this sort of conflation of free speech with entitlement to other unrelated aspects of communication that progressives like us call “Freeze Peach”.

From my tiny contingent, when Muscato declared she was Schierbecker’s PR, Niki Massey (whose notes on Skepticon you really should read) left the room saying to us, “I can’t do this.”. Shortly thereafter, Stephanie Zvan left to make sure Niki was all right (EDIT: she left to get migraine meds and food, and supporting Niki was a side-effect). Me, Greta Christina and her partner Ingrid stayed, out of an inclination to witness this event. Between us, we each kept remarking to each other that this was unbelievable and surreal, that we didn’t understand what was actually happening, but that it was certainly not a Q&A as advertised, and we speculated that Skepticon didn’t know what exactly was unfolding.

When the black students from Mizzou started asking questions about why the narrative was focused on Schierbecker and why there were no representatives from ConcernedStudents1950, the cameraman, Rob Lehr of Hambone Productions, was absolutely guerrilla in his coverage of this. He turned the camera toward the protesters and brought a boom mic to get their questions, and encouraged Muscato to keep going because he would keep filming. I think without his quick thinking and his self-sacrificing (this was his lunch hour too, after all!), we would not have had as much actual Q&A for the event.

When during the audience questions portion Schierbecker suggested that he would only stop distracting from the important fight against racism on campus when Click stepped down, when his own injustice was redressed to his satisfaction, I finally broke and yelled something like “You get justice before anyone else!?” This was, for the record, the only time anyone from my contingent said anything. A few seconds after that, Greta, Ingrid and I left. This was probably for the best because I was angry enough to heckle, and that doesn’t really happen with me.

A very important point to note is that Skepticon, and especially Lauren Lane, Skepticon’s lead organizer and primo boss lady, do not appear to have had prior knowledge that Danielle Muscato was acting as Mark Scheirbecker’s Public Relations. I have yet to confirm this single fact directly with anyone on staff, but staff seemed genuinely distressed by the events. When we were leaving the room, I saw Lauren Lane entering with a power-walk stride, looking to my eye pretty horrified by the events unfolding, so clearly someone had informed her what was going on and she was returning from her lunch with a mission. That said, things kept happening for a few minutes more thereafter.

I think someone — possibly Lauren, but I didn’t see, as we were just exiting the huge room at that point — asked about a question from the audience more than once, and it might have been directed at Greta who was leaving the room with me. Greta had, after all, had her hand up for many minutes without being called on before the three of us walked. I’m completely unsure as to who asked whom about questions, and the video doesn’t help fix things in my mind.

Muscato posted on Facebook that she’d severed her relationship with Schierbecker as PR manager for “multiple indefensibly racist comments”. I did not sense there were actual directly racist comments in what Schierbecker said — only that his (and now, unfortunately, my) efforts continue to center attention on him and his “freedom” to access people to catch a story, rather than the black folks being made to feel unsafe by threats and overt racism. While he did say “everyone’s a little bit racist”, and repeatedly said “fuck racists” and “I have white privilege”, he also asserted that privilege to demand that justice for transgressions against him should take priority.

And the fallout after the fact is ridiculous in the hamfisted attempts at reshaping the narrative being made by trolls and racists and reactionary right-wingers and Chan culture who want to tear down progressives in general, and Skepticon in particular — Schierbecker put out a video (titled “Journalists’ Lives Matter”, subtitled “Fuck Skepticon”) shortly after Muscato threw him under the bus.

(ETA, this may have been edited later to “Journalists’ Livelihoods Matter” given the current title and the number of people who remember it as “lives”, which while it’s good that Schierbecker realized there are some lines you probably shouldn’t cross, is actually pretty damning that people being killed is somehow comparable to journalists having the right to play paparazzi.)

During the video he admitted to being on the autism spectrum, and was clearly shaken by the whole experience of being called to account for his prioritizing himself. Trolls have seized upon this, pretending like they can now catch progressives out on what they perceive to be our attempt to play “identity politics” by claiming that Skepticon and progressives criticizing Schierbecker are actually attacking him for being autistic. (This from people who regularly use “retard” as a slur, so take it for what it’s worth — which is to say nothing, because I know plenty of people on the spectrum, none of whom are assholes or racists.)

The trolls also repeatedly demand that Skepticon apologize for calling Schierbecker racist, though clearly the only person who’d done so was Danielle Muscato, the person serving as his PR agent. Granted, Muscato was given a great deal of autonomy in putting together the event, so one might conceivably make an argument that Skepticon is on the hook for Muscato being an agent for the con. But the distress among Skepticon staff was visible to me, placed as I am such that I can actually see the feet paddling below the surface in most cons that I attend, and despite that distress, none of the agents actually called Schierbecker racist.

Shortly after the talk, I said on Twitter:

Among the people who favorited that was Danielle Muscato. Some time after she favorited that tweet, she posted this on Facebook with some clarifications, including agreement that the event should not have gone on without representation from ConcernedStudent1950, while reiterating that she’d attempted to get them to show up.

I fully understand why they didn’t, knowing now what Schierbecker’s and Muscato’s goal was for the event. I stand by my assertion that it was an abuse of the venue. A number of Skepticon’s organizers seem to feel the same, and this statement by Lauren Lane seems to agree, even if it takes more responsibility for “failure” than I think the con deserves — if it failed, it was only in trusting Muscato would not use the con improprietally. I have a great distaste for everything that has happened, and I’m more than upset with Muscato, and am suspicious of her intentions and her apparent cavalier use of the venue. She redoubled the damage to the narrative that has happened with the event in trying to do damage control, when she declared that Schierbecker made “indisputably racist statements”, because that overstatement doesn’t bear out. Now trolls can say “he didn’t say anything wrong and Muscato says so herself”, when a) she was doing damage control; b) she overstated the case after she felt she had to retract her support; c) the case is actually still about the covert racism of white privilege rather than hoods and pitchforks.

And now, Muscato has posted again, appropriately walking it back, retracting the “indefensibly racist” part, hoping to still be friends with Schierbecker. But the damage’s already done.

Much like how Dan Rather took damage from an overstatement of the case against George W Bush’s missing military service records despite the fact that there’s still a gap that’s unaccounted for, this particular story’s sails were sabotaged by the overstatement. I fear the damage is done now and the story will forevermore be about how wronged Schierbecker was in having his camera touched and in being denied access to people who asked that he step the hell off, rather than the story being about the black folks who are effectively under emotional and potentially physical siege by the systemic racism they’re facing at University of Missouri.

Once again, a white person’s metaphorically stubbing their toe takes precedence over a black person being assaulted.

And once again, a white person is swinging into action to defend and fix the PR problem that first white person caused. Then, that same white person is screwing things up by overstating the case, then walking it back.

And once again a white ally — because we’re, basically, the only people the white folks squabbling over what’s racist and what isn’t will ever listen to — has to lay everything out for easy consumption by white eyes.

I am so, so sorry that all of this is happening. I honestly feel every bit as betrayed by the parties involved in putting together this sham of an event as the folks at Skepticon, and the black folks who expected an actual Q&A from this session without having to take it by force.

I really need to put together a post about all the good that came out of Skepticon, and all the huge wins. I think Stephanie is putting something together now, but I have my own high points, so maybe I’ll make mine more personal and less event-specific.

EDIT: some grammar edits and clarifications added Wed, Nov 18, 11:45am CST. Likely more to come as I notice them.

On the PR Disaster at #Skepticon and the lack of #ConcernedStudent1950 representation

72 thoughts on “On the PR Disaster at #Skepticon and the lack of #ConcernedStudent1950 representation

  1. 51

    Repeat after me: They had no right to demand an audience.

    Everyone has the right to demand an audience. It’s the right to an audience that you’re thinking of.

    Besides, that’s irrelevant. They had every right to be there in that publically available space and, more importantly, threatening or suggesting violence as a way to get them to move was completely inappropriate. These were student reporters and Click was a professor at that school. Her expressing solidarity with the protesters does not absolve her of her responsibilities to other students.

  2. 52

    a) A space being public doesn’t grant you access to all parts of it. You couldn’t, for instance, legally access the computer lab after hours, or the football field during a game, as I stated in the original post. You couldn’t access the quad during a music event sanctioned by the university. You don’t have access to all parts of a place at all times even if it’s public — you can still get arrested for trespassing.

    b) You also don’t get access to people just because they’re in a public space. You don’t have a right to video them if they’ve asked you to stop. You don’t have a right to be in someone’s personal space just because it’s a public place — you can still be cited for harassment for repeatedly following someone around to be nearer to them (without touching them) than they’d like.

    When the protesters formed the press-free cordon, it was because they uniformly did not want press approaching them because that press kept castigating them publicly and unfairly. They didn’t deny the press the right to keep lying about them — they denied the press access to them personally.

    Click agreed that her actions were inappropriate and apologized for them. Regardless, these students had a right to deny press access to video them or otherwise harangue them. You can’t keep relying on it being a “public space” to justify harassment any more than the assholes on Twitter can butt into random conversations without being rude as fuck then balking at people blocking them for being rude as fuck.

    Think of it that way, Julian. I know you’ve complained about randos invading conversations on Twitter, even though it’s in public, and they have the same right to use Twitter that you and I do. That’s what’s happening here. They got blocked and you’re upset that that abridges the randos’ free speech.

  3. 53

    I’m leaving the comment out because it probably already notified everyone here. But you’re not getting a ninth turn at the microphone til I can deal with you myself.

    Thanks, Jason. And everyone barring Ivan, really. Doing anti-ablesplaining stuff really drains my spoons.

  4. 54

    Really drains my spoons. Amend “everyone to “most people here”. Apparently I’m not as good at skimming as I thought – I see at least one more troll has crept in.

  5. 56

    Jason Thibeault

    You don’t have a right to video them if they’ve asked you to stop.

    Assuming you’re talking about a legal right, this is generally false under US law. Here’s a Missouri law firm’s summary of the relevant law. I’m also pretty sure you’re wrong about “cited for harassment” under Mo. law as it doesn’t seem to cover “repeatedly following someone around to be nearer to them (without touching them) than they’d like,” although subsection (6) might. Mo. Rev. Stat. Section 565.090.2. You need to look at the case law on what counts as evidence of specific intent in Missouri.

    More broadly, I don’t think the legal issues matter that much in this case and you don’t seem to know what you’re talking about. Maybe stop talking about whether things done by or to the white guy are legal or not and talk about the nationwide walkouts in solidarity with ConcernedStudent1950 that happened yesterday. #StudentBlackOut: College Students Rally, Demand Change Across Campus

  6. 57

    Your comments will be easier to read (though no less frustrating to read due to their insipidity) if you learn to blockquote the comments you’re responding to. Do this:
    <blockquote>place quoted text here</blockquote>
    gives you this:

    place quoted text here

    (don’t forget the forward slash when closing out the blockquote)

  7. 58

    You’re right that if I was speaking of legalities, I would be talking out of my ass. I wasn’t. It’s interesting that the “relevant law” link you showed has a whole thing about reasonable expectation of privacy “like being in a first-aid tent”. Did you see the tent farm they had put up? It’s visible in the video above.

    You’re also right that creeping repeatedly on someone might be technically legal. But you’re likewise right that it’s possible subsection 6 might apply if the person is being a creeper. And regardless, a person can complain about someone repeatedly harassing them *even if that harassment happened on public space*, which was my point.

    Giliell has the right of it with conceding moral defeat if the argument is “it’s technically legal”. Legal != moral, and vice versa. And there’s no line granting an “inalienable right to access to people who’ve told you to back off” in the constitutional amendments or otherwise, which is why this entire piece excoriates the conflation of that supposed right with “free speech”. The First Amendment doesn’t grant you access to people. That’s the argument.

    So since you’ve told me I don’t know what I’m talking about while making assumptions and showing proof that perhaps the law might actually side with me despite my not knowing what I’m talking about, I don’t know what to say here. I agree that the ongoing hashing-out of whether or not Schierbecker is aggrieved is still a distraction from the ongoing protests against blatant racism — that was, in fact, my entire goddamn point in writing all this. (And also to deflect unfair blame on Skepticon when it appears the instigator is Schierbecker’s own friend and volunteer PR.)

  8. 59

    ivan @45:

    I see. But is it not condescending to state “You’ve mistaken a discussion by adults about an adult for the PattyCake Corner.” Which was after all the comment to which I was replying. Or is it only condescding when you don’t like it?

    You might be an adult incapable of having a discussion that includes the use of so-called profanity, but many of us here do not share your fucking problem. If you have such a hard time parsing the substance of a comment because there are ‘fucks’ and ‘shits’, the problem is on your end. And a comment does not lose its substance because someone uses harsh words that offend your delicate fee fees.
    All of this is to say if you’re going to participate in this conversation, you ought to recognize that some people will use coarse language (though not bigoted) and deal with it. Or move on. But whining about people using ‘fucks’ and ‘shits’ will get you nowhere other than your own personal Tone Troll badge. Speaking of which, I think I have a signed one for you.

  9. 60

    At The Grade, education reporters strongly feel presence of student photographer at Mizzou protest meeting held in public did not violate anyone legitimate “safe space.”

    What Education Reporters Think About Student “Safe Spaces”

    … “I experienced a mild version of this covering a BLM protest in the last year,” wrote an education reporter who didn’t want to be identified. “At one point, some of the protesters suggested that media that were “with us” were welcome to follow along, and those who were not should not. But I was troubled by that. We are observers, and our job is to relay what is going on in our communities to readers who are not there on the scene, regardless of our own views or political leanings.”

    These are all interesting and helpful perspectives — and obviously relevant to education reporting. Whether it’s a protest, a sit-in, a hallway conflict, or a board meeting, education reporters are regularly working in situations where things are heated and they may be asked to leave. Usually it’s those in positions of authority who ask or demand that journalists stop reporting, rather than students, but the issues and dynamics are much the same.

  10. 61

    Please correct me if i’m wrong, but what I’m getting from this post and the comment amounts to: “Mark is wrong for worrying about his issues before the issue of systemic racism is properly addressed/solved.”

    I don’t mean to be obtuse but I’m not sure why a person voicing their issues is wrong. I agree that Mark/Skepticon’s issue is receiving outsized attention, but to say: “you can’t talk about your issues until we fix this over here” is the same argument that some use to de-prioritize racial injustices.

  11. 62

    Well, papercuts_guy, that’s kinda exactly what’s going on here — Mark’s grievance is making such a clatter that all the air has been sucked out of the protests and pushback against racism at Mizzou. It is the only part of this whole thing that’s still making news. It’s fine if he wants to pursue his redress quietly, but the more he draws attention to himself, as though his camera being touched is more severe a crime than someone who just got arrested for making active shooter death threats, that means he’s taking priority. And the fact that he says he’ll stop taking priority (because he recognizes it’s a distraction) only when he gets his way? Yeah.

    He’s the one effectively silencing black people’s issues with systemic racism by sucking all the air out of the room over his own grievances. The only news cycles covering Mizzou any more are about him, not about the racism on campus. That’s a problem.

  12. 63

    Starfleetdude: So reporters agree that a reporter trying to invade people’s space to get a story isn’t actually a problem. Okay. So that means that people have no expectation to privacy anywhere, any time any person claiming to be a reporter decides what a person’s doing is newsworthy. Paparazzi will love this idea.

  13. 64

    It was never about “safe space” though. It was about controlling the message by restricting reporters. Here’s the latest about that, from Smith College where demonstrators were demanding that reporters had to be on their side to be allowed to cover the demonstration:

    In an effort to create a safe space free from potential insensitivity from the news media, activists at Smith College barred reporters from covering a sit-in Wednesday that drew 300 to 500 students.

    The demonstration, organized in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri, was held from from noon to 12 a.m. in the Smith College Student Center.

    The activists’ goal was to establish a place where students — prioritizing students of color and black students — could share their thoughts, feelings, poems and songs related to a rash of racially charged episodes this fall at Mizzou, as well as personal experiences of racism.

    An event that draws so many people, especially one that concerns a topic of magnitude such as civil rights, is customarily covered by media outlets. But reporters who arrived at the sit-in were met with a clear message: Keep out.

    Alyssa Mata-Flores, a 21-year-old Smith College senior and one of the sit-in’s organizers, explained that the rule was born from “the way that media has historically painted radical black movements as violent and aggressive.”

    “We are asking that any journalists or press that cover our story participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color,” she told MassLive in the Student Center Wednesday. “By taking a neutral stance, journalists and media are being complacent in our fight.”

    Smith organizers said journalists were welcome to cover the event if they agreed to explicitly state they supported the movement in their articles.

  14. 65

    Considering every media outlet reporting on it has been either hitpieces or befuddled “why are they doing this?” as though it’s some big mystery, I don’t see a problem with saying unsympathetic folks don’t get access to people. I really don’t. If you want to cover it critically, if you want to uphold the status quo, do it from outside.

    The first amendment gives you right to speech, not access. You have every right to report on it however you want. You don’t have a right to access to people. If a person wants to make access to them contingent on you not publishing bullshit, lies and slander about them? No problem by me! I’d no sooner demand that Ray Comfort or Kirk Cameron be allowed to citizen-reporting style ambush Richard Dawkins, as a for-instance.

    Freedom of association is implied in the US Bill of Rights as a subset of the First Amendment, and it is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and I’d argue it’s every bit as important as freedom of speech. That right is what’s being undercut by saying that reporters need access to people against their consent. (edited to fix reference poorly quoted from Wikipedia :p)

  15. 66

    How can you cover a story without being able to report on it fully from all the parties involved? I’m sure you can understand the dilemma a reporter is placed in by the demand that they first agree with the demonstrators, because it clearly biases what they report thereafter. All the demonstrators are doing by claiming that the media’s neutral stance is wrong when reporting on events is playing PR games.

  16. 67

    Reporters are already and are still reporting on the events there without access to the protesters directly, or with only getting access to the one or two individual spokespeople when those people are willing to make a statement. Reporters have never had a problem with this system when it benefits the status quo, e.g. uncritically accepting and regurgitating only that which the police states about an issue, or uncritically regurgitating that which politicians state about an issue, without bothering to fact-check or verify or demand personal access to people who aren’t the spokespeople. The second the press is upset at being thrown out of a police station’s locker room (even though a police station is government-owned and thus “public” in the same way as a university), then I’ll take your complaints at face value.

  17. 68

    Quote: “We are asking that any journalists or press that cover our story participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color,” she told MassLive in the Student Center Wednesday. ” That doesn’t sound like reporters can ask questions of anyone demonstrating at Smith College without first agreeing with them. As for locker rooms, given they are used for personal things like showers, dressing, etc., there is some expectation of individual privacy there, no?

  18. 69

    Again, I don’t see a problem with people setting boundaries for talking with them. Spokespeople give statements without demanding you be sympathetic — granting access to people who are not spokespeople is contingent on being sympathetic. So?

    And I suppose like others you think there’s no expectation to privacy in a tent farm when you’ve asked people to leave you alone for a bit to “process” the events that just occurred. Being in a police station’s locker room is only different insofar as there’s the potential for being in a state of undress? What about in the tents that are there, then?

    You’re repeating arguments without adding anything to them, and it’s beginning to bore me.

  19. 70

    Ok, I think this’ll be my last comment on this.

    1) Expressing solidarity with someone or a group does not require you agree with them. I don’t doubt many will expect you too but, as is pretty clear just from reading what black academics have been writing about these protests, it’s perfectly possible to respect these protesters, think they have reason to protest, and still have misgivings about tactics/demands.
    2) It’s pretty standard to make demands of what journalists will print about you. After all, it’s in your best interest not to be misrepresented in print.
    3) That has nothing to do with safe spaces and it’s really dishonest to wrap up your demands of how media will cover you in that kind of language. If you refuse to speak with people because their publication endorses racist campus policies, say that.
    4) Part of a reporter’s job is to earn the trust of the people they report on. At least enough for them to trust you won’t misrepresent them. You can’t just show up and demand an interview. You’re not gonna get it and you certainly aren’t gonna get anything worthwhile. You might as well have stayed home and written your 500 words in a cozy room.
    5) If you are deliberately causing a large disruption, there will be media. They may not be your intended audience but they will be there and they should be there. Large protests and social trends are things that should be reported on.

  20. 71


    How can you cover a story without being able to report on it fully from all the parties involved?

    Well, that’s the journalists’ problem, right?
    Why should protesters have to make the journalists’ jobs easy for them and prioritze their needs before their own?
    Seriously, why?
    Why do journalists thisk they’re entitled to access to people and stories 24/7?
    Ever heard somebody say “no comment”? Or simply push past a microphone that’s being shoved in their face? People have the fundamental right NOT to talk to the media and NOT to give them access to their lives, ideas, talks, conferences.
    End of story.

  21. 72

    Jason Thibeault, thank you so much for the reasoned reply. We agree on the result but possibly not the “blame”. It’s up to individuals to decide where to focus their attention. Mark is doing his job by focusing on what he feels to be of most importance; if media is focusing on the wrong thing then bring them to task, not Mark. It’s not Breast Cancer Survivors’ fault that they receive more attention and donations than pancreatic or lung cancer.

    I agree with you about the access to people comment, there’s no law saying you must give an interview to anyone who asks. But isn’t the issue access to public event on public land at a state run college? If a faculty member attempted to bully a person out of an area or the protesters attempting to push people out of an area isn’t that different than saying “no comment”?

    I’m not being critical of your and other’s position, i’m merely trying to understand your POV. Initially i had the same feelings, but as i thought more, it felt a bit like special pleading because I agree with the protesters.

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