I am truly baffled by this video.

Here’s a pro-tip. If you are fighting for social justice by interfering with others’ First Amendment rights, you’re doing it wrong. You are violating core principles of American democracy. And the rest of America will encode you as extremists and will simply stop listening to what you have to say.

The individuals in this video associated with #ConcernedStudents1950 owe photographer Tim Tai an unequivocal apology. It isn’t complicated. They were entirely in the wrong.

With the exception of Mr. Tai, the people in this video disgraced themselves in what should have been a moment of triumph. I am just baffled by the whole thing.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

14 thoughts on “I am truly baffled by this video.”

  1. There are a lot of times I think the approach of fighting for justice through maximal confrontation with everyone around you is wildly misguided. Equally annoying are the people who insist that it is inappropriate to critique those engaged in fighting for justice because you don't share their experiences, even when the approach is wildly misguided.

  2. I'm not surprised by the reaction to this on Twitter, though. Some folks on the left just have an extremely hard time criticizing misconduct by people they've slotted into the "victims/revolutionaries/underdog heroes" category, and so we're seeing all kinds of equivocation and defensiveness about "feelings" as a rationale for why it was somehow okay for them to bully a student reporter. I particularly love the ones talking about how social movements are all about pushing boundaries, see.

  3. So I'm not sure I see anything objectionable here. I get the vague idea that a complicated game of sensitivity chess is being played, but I'm not clear on how all the pieces move. I'm hearing talk about "respect" and "safety" and "bullying" and "encoding" and "interfering with others' First Amendment rights," and that all I guess adds up to something awful? These are big important words, after all.

    But then I look at the tape and I see a bunch of people talking to each other, and everyone being where they want to be and saying what they want and getting the video they wanted to get and nobody getting beat up or pepper-sprayed or shot, and I have a hard time understanding why people who watch that video are wringing their hands and demanding apologies.

    1. I see a bunch of demonstrators shoving and threatening a news photographer.

      Worse, I see a faculty member trying to remove someone taking a video in a public place, and calling for "muscle" to help out.

    2. You don't see a basic contradiction between putting on a big protest, including use of "social media," and also trying to commandeer public space and evade scrutiny? I am not one of those people who think that everything we do in public should be publishable … but this group of people is clearing asking (begging) for attention. But they want to control the flow of information too. It is not only unethical and illegal (probably), but highly suspicious as well. What good can this do them, if they get what they want? It would be like letting a child eat as much cake as they want. Reality doesn't conform to our internal b.s monologues.

  4. “Moment of triumph” for what? I think you saw there what they’re fighting for, and no sane person should want them to triumph.

  5. This is actually frightening.

    It nearly becomes mob violence, and Dr. Click's behavior is disgraceful or worse.

  6. Click has apologized and resigned her courtesy appointment at the J school, although not her paying gig as a prof.

    I think her behavior is comparable to Geoff Marcy harassing students/junior faculty, at least the first time he did it. She was inciting/directing students to commit misdemeanor assault. She might need to take a bit of a financial hit, as Marcy should've for a first offense.

    I'm sure she feels she cares deeply about students, and I don't think that's meaningless. OTOH, Marcy probably felt the same and was a big supporter of women in astronomy on a policy level.

    1. Prof. Click does make me want to see a chorus of drunken frat brothers singing outside her office:

      Oh the girls don't smell like roses at Mazzou
      No the girls don't smell like roses at Mazzou
      But they know a hundred poses
      So come down and hold your noses
      No the girls don't smell like roses at Mazzou.

      Maybe they could all be wearing those "muscle" sweat shirts that some medical school bookstores used to sell.

  7. If a journalist had done this at a Veterans Day public event, say during a moment of silence, would you approve then? Is there never a time when it's inappropriate to insert yourself into an occasion happening in public? Or does privacy only belong to those with money for a board room?

    1. There is a difference between having a moment of silence during which it is inappropriate to take pictures and using intimidation to prevent coverage of a public event altogether, and especially physically forcing the photographer off of public grounds. And one does not need money for a board room to have privacy; every college campus I've been on has places where student groups can have private meetings.

      Your analogy really doesn't hold up.

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