Nothing is more infuriating than ignorance. Nothing is more unacceptable than hypocrisy.
So imagine the combination of hypocritical ignorance.
That describes the scene at my alma mater – The University of Missouri this week.
In a nutshell the infuriating and unacceptable actions occurred among protesters at Mizzou who were angry about racial problems on campus.
When a young man with a camera approached the protesters (who were gathering to protest racial problems which led to the resignation of the university’s president) and told them he was covering the protest they pushed him away. They said they didn’t want him there and they had the right to keep him from invading their private space. If there was no law dictating it – then just for “humanity” he should give in and evaporate.
One woman tried to push him and he resisted while protesters in the background can be heard chanting “Hey Hey. Ho. Ho. Reporter’s got to go,” proving the protesters probably saw the movie P.C.U. but had no idea it was a parody and they themselves are mere clichés of political correctness.
When a communications professor approached the young man with a camera, she denied him an interview, told him he had to leave and grabbed his camera before asking the crowd for help and “muscle” in removing the problem – the reporter. In this video, we last see a small cadre of like-minded sheep pushing the poor man from the protest area.
This happened on the Quad – in front of Jesse Hall – and for those of us who know the school – literally a stone’s throw from the nation’s oldest and one of the most influential journalism schools in the country.
So, what has become of journalism when the place held up to us as a model for disinterested third party, professional reporting is the site for such brazen and horrible stupidity?
Officials at the journalism school have a huge publicity problem. They have tried to address it in a recent news release from the Dean of the Journalism School. And while I understand this was not a journalism professor, the problem exists that on that campus there are students and teachers who have no idea what the First Amendment is about, or what constitutes free speech. This vast and militantly ignorant display cannot be dismissed lightly.
Some of us actually went to jail to defend our constitutional rights. I’ve been told recently that act of sacrifice doesn’t mean much – that only armed soldiers can defend our rights – and in fact anyone who “defends” the First Amendment by going to jail is really no different than a hippy protester. I disagree.
Those reporters who defend their rights be refusing to kowtow to police or politicians may not be heroes, but they should be applauded for their efforts to stand their ground against government officials or against ignorant protesters.
I share the anger the protesters feel about racism. The University of Missouri had that problem when I attended school there and it appears it hasn’t improved.
But I’m furious some students today seemingly have no concept of civil liberties or increasingly appear to never have taken a civics class in middle school, high school or college. The idea of using a “safe space” against the media on public ground is not only ridiculous but hypocrisy and lunacy rolled up in one big fish ball.
The fact is those protesters want and need reporters to attend their protests. If you don’t get media attention, good luck in rousing sentiment from the public on your behalf. All you did today was throw fuel on the fire of those preaching law and order (i.e. police state) above your civil rights. You gave them video evidence that the mob cannot be trusted. You destroyed your First Amendment rights. You didn’t defend civil liberties. You contributed in a very graphic fashion in showing their demise.
A professor asking for “muscle” to remove a reporter should be fired immediately and never allowed to teach in an accredited college again. Let her get a job and work in the trenches for a while and perhaps she can learn what it means to try and gather and disseminate facts to a public that increasingly needs real facts and ever increasingly doesn’t care.
On a personal level I was sickened by the ignorance. I have been shot at, jailed, struck, threatened and faced far worse intimidation from government officials in trying to gather news. I did it to try and give people the information they can use in addressing their grievances against the government.
I stood up to a President of the United States during a drug summit news conference and confronted him about the hypocrisy of his “war on drugs.”
I was threatened by police in Ferguson – not the protesters. Though the crowd’s mood was angry, it was never contemptuous of the media – many protesters invited us in because they knew we were there to shine light on the event. During the Baltimore riots the protesters there offered me food and drink late at night because they knew the pictures we showed and the stories we wrote were important. We were chronicling history and allowing others to see things they otherwise would not be able to see in the comfort of their homes hundreds and thousands of miles away.
The difference between those protesters in Ferguson and Baltimore and those at the University of Missouri may well be – as some have suggested – the difference between the privileged and the poor. I do not know.
But I do know this – You can’t defend your rights by trampling on mine. You cannot use “muscle” to force reporters from the scene and you have no right to put your hands on a reporter or photographer.
That constitutes assault.
But it is more than simple assault I saw today. It was an assault on my dreams and desires. There was a dream that was the U.S. and I see it evaporating at breakneck speed.
The day such blatant disregard, belittlement, and abuse of a reporter is accepted by those protesting to defend civil rights is a day I didn’t think would ever be possible in this Republic.
I was wrong and I fear the consequences if such behavior isn’t eradicated.
Welcome to my nightmare.