Home > Academia, Politics > My Response to Snopes’ Response to Me

My Response to Snopes’ Response to Me

Claim: Snopes claims that Emory University students didn’t lose their minds over chalk graffiti that said “Trump 2016”

Screen shot 2016-03-28 at 9.06.49 AMWhat’s True: Snopes focused on the media aftermath

What’s False: Everything related to the event itself

I woke up this morning to a message from a friend that I had been included in a Snopes article. In particular, Snopes had decided to copy a tweet that I had made concerning Emory University:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Evidently Snopes used my tweet, along with three others, to indicate a “mostly false” narrative condemning the ultra-sensitivity of Emory’s college students. However, could it be that Snopes is cherry-picking to form its own Social Justice narrative?

The Decline of American Universities

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the state of American Universities is in a horrible, pathetic decline. The emergence of hypersensitive infants on campuses, the first of many waves of the Participation Ribbon Generation (as I call them), has begun to hit epidemic proportions.

In just the last year, we have observed way too many examples of hyper-sensitive children running amok and bringing university administrations to their knees because of a misdirected focus on extending the “feelings first” mentality instead of academics.

• At Princeton university, protestors occupy the President’s office, demanding change which includes scrubbing Woodrow Wilson’s name over racist connections.

• Claremont McKenna College (California) students protest the President for an email where the Dean of Students made an off-the-cuff statement about “fitting into the college mold”. They want to be included and partially responsible for hiring faculty members. Sarkon of Akkad provides the best commentary about this of anyone. Watch the video in full – especially to the end – but the key point here is where one student decries that it’s the university’s “literal” job to take care of them when they don’t feel safe (at around the 20:00 mark):

By the way, as a bonus (or if you don’t want to watch through the entire video), I’ll skip to another clip that shows just what happen when one of the students tries to “expand” the narrative:

• Yale students have a conniption fit when it’s even suggested that they may be adult enough to handle a few uncomfortable moments in life:

• Rutgers University protestors cover themselves in fake blood to protest Milo Yiannopoulos’ talk about Free Speech:

• And, of course, saving the worst for last – the horrific incidents at Mizzou University when a faculty member, Richard Callahan stood by while Tim Tai was harrassed and bullied by students, and then Melissa Click assaulted another student, Mark Scierbecker, before “calling for muscle” to forcibly remove him from a public space:

And these are not even all of the moments I could have posted about. There is also Dartmouth, Northwestern, Harvard, Brown, Smith College, Goergetown University, and of course, Berkeley. [Update: And now Scripps]

What About Emory?

As I noted above, I happened to come across the original article of Emory’s debacle on March 22, direct from the school’s student newspaper, the Emory Wheel. The article, in turn, continued on to another in which the Administration responded to those student protests.

The basic gist of the story is that someone wrote “Trump 2016” in chalk throughout campus, and the students lost their ever-lovin’ minds:

Roughly 40 students gathered shortly after 4:30 p.m. in the outdoors space between the Administration Building and Goodrich C. White Hall; many students carried signs featuring slogans such as “Stop Trump” or “Stop Hate” and an antiphonal chant addressed to University administration, led by College sophomore Jonathan Peraza, resounded “You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!” throughout the Quad. (emphasis added)

Obviously, the atrocious calamity that befell them in the form of chalk lettering was something that the University needed to prevent because, well, it’s unsafe:

Pausing in the staircase, a few students shared their initial, personal reactions to the chalkings.

“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” one student said. “But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school,” she added. (emphasis added)

The trauma was nearly all encompassing for some students, in fact:

“How can you not [disavow Trump] when Trump’s platform and his values undermine Emory’s values that I believe are diversity and inclusivity when they are obviously not [something that Trump supports]” one student said tearfully. (emphasis added)

[Update: Apparently students interviewed by the Daily Beast were truly traumatized: ““I legitimately feared for my life,” Paula Camila Alarcon, a freshman at Emory who identifies as Latino, told The Daily Beast. “I thought we were having a KKK rally on campus.”]

It seemed incredulous – to these paragons of non-hyperbole – that the University would take such a cavalier attitude towards such an egregious crime?

“Why did the swastikas [on the AEPi house in Fall 2014] receive a quick response while these chalkings did not?” (emphasis added)

We just wanna be loved, is that so wroooong?

We just wanna be loved, is that so wroooong?

Of course, the students didn’t really have a solution to the problem. They just wanted to stomp their feet, have a temper tantrum, and complain. In other words, they just wanted some attention:

One student clarified that “the University doesn’t have to say they don’t support Trump, but just to acknowledge that there are students on this campus who feel this way about what’s happening … to acknowledge all of us here.” (emphasis added)

And when the University didn’t capitulate right away, this of course meant that it was open season on the students!

“To us, the administration’s silence sanctioned the fact that this Nazi reincarnate is threatening to deport our parents—to put us in concentration camps and kill us,” said [Sophomore Jonathan] Peraza.

At first, Emory University stuck to its guns, that it wasn’t going to be issuing any stance against Trump, but instead of standing by that position, the school decided to show it’s coddling mentality:

Assistant Vice President for Community Suzanne Onorato, who was also present during the protest and suggested that she would look into hosting a forum for those involved, agreed with Wagner’s sentiments. “I think it’s wonderful that students are taking a stand for something that they’re passionate about, for something that’s so much about themselves  — and we want to support that,” she said in an interview with the Wheel. (emphasis added)

To say that this “is so much about themselves” is a grotesque understatement. These cry-bullies have been told since birth that it was always about themselves.

Of course, the university standing by any measure of integrity was too much to hope for – especially for a school like Emory.

In a campus-wide email, [President] Wagner outlined four steps that administrators plan to take in order to address the issues raised by the protesters. He proposed “immediate refinements to certain policies and procedural deficiencies; regular and structured opportunities for difficult dialogues; a formal process to institutionalize identification, review and addressing of social justice opportunities and issues; and commitment to an annual retreat to renew [their] efforts.”

Remember, this is over a chalk writing about a current Presidential candidate. Apparently, though, a spade might not actually be a spade:

“Was it really just a message about a political preference, a candidate preference, or was it a harsher message?” he asked. “And I will tell you, those who met with me were genuine in their concerns that it was the latter.” (emphasis added)

Of course they thought it was a harsher message! Because in the warped ideological lens of these students everything is about a “harsher message,” whether it is or not.

Those of us who watched the participation ribbon grow up wondered – often loudly – what was going to happen when these helicopter-parent spoiled brats got into the “real world” and found out that life wasn’t all about them.

What we didn’t realize was that “the real world” never knew what was coming – the sheer numbers of entitled self-important hypersensitive snowflakes overwhelmed any sense of reason, rational thinking, or logic.

Snopes Steps In It

Evidently someone thought it was necessary to write a Snopes article about the event, for some bizarre reason. I’ve looked, but I have not been able to find a retraction from The Wheel, and in my research this morning I’ve not been able to find any contradiction of the events that I’ve outlined above (from the Wheel Article) were inaccurate.

Even so, Snopes found the story to be mostly false.

Digging in a bit deeper, it appears that Kim LaCapria (the author of the article) has focused on a couple of specific elements that were tangential to the actual event:

  1. The claim of “emergency counseling”
  2. The source of the misinformation came from other news sources

However, they make the statement – outright – that students complained that their “safe spaces had been violated” and were afraid by the chalk markings, were false.

What’s interesting is that Snopes seems completely perplexed by the “emergency counseling” mis-reporting from subsequent sources. In their executive summary, they explicitly claim that students did not feel unsafe or afraid, but then later in the article they admit that there was a protest for that very purpose:

While it was true that several dozen Emory University students protested in response to the Trump chalk scrawlings, we were unable to substantiate that anyone (student or administrator) offered emergency counseling, or, indeed, counseling or any sort. Neither did anyone seek counseling that we could see, and no students complained “safe spaces” were violated (though at least one said they felt “unsafe”). (emphasis added)

Now, if you look in the tweets that Snopes quotes, mine was the only one that mentions “safe spaces.” However, I didn’t say that they thought their safe spaces were “violated,” but rather they demanded safe spaces.

Well, since I was the one who sent the tweet, I am in a position to defend it. In the original Wheel article, the grievances did, in fact, include references to safe spaces:

Grievances were not restricted to shortcomings of the administration. “[Faculty] are supporting this rhetoric by not ending it,” said one student, who went on to say that “people of color are struggling academically because they are so focused on trying to have a safe community and focus on these issues [related to having safe spaces on campus].” (emphasis added)

Doubling Down on Denial

Okay, so Snopes got this wrong (though the correction of the followup reporting was appropriate – I have not read the subsequent reports from The Daily Mail, Fox, or Mediaite, so I can only assume that there was possibly more embellishment than necessary), but in the grander context Snopes decided to call the whole thing a symptom of mass hysteria:

The Emory University media brouhaha was one of several distorted claims of rampant political correctness on college campuses and elsewhere.

Wait, what!?

What’s notable is that Snopes does not provide any evidence other than what a student protest organizer wrote to them after the fact in an admirable (but self-defeating) effort of damage control:

LET US BE CLEAR: We are not scared of the chalk. We are not mad about being politically challenged. We are rightfully angry because we also exercise our first amendment right to freedom of speech and there are people on this campus, and in this country, who as a result choose to threaten us and twist the truth to protect their own bigotry.

The inclusion of this at the end of the Snopes article does nothing to help them, however. It shows that at best The Wheel accurately depicted the Emory students’ perspectives, and at worst Snopes is attempting to whitewash the students’ intolerance and bad behavior.

The entire story that Snopes wants to convey is that this is no big deal. They begrudgingly concede that the chalk markings were the catalyst for the events, and that administrators were examining the nature of the vandalism as it occurred “outside designated areas” (does neither Snopes nor Emory University understand how vandalism works?). They are projecting this as a twisted anti-PC conspiracy in some fevered minds (mine too, evidently).

Either we have gotten to the point where this kind of extremist behavior is so commonplace as to be considered ‘normal,’ such that reacting negatively to it is akin to time-for-the-tin-foil-hats, or Snopes is actively trying to ignore what is a very serious problem on college campuses.

Snopes effectively downplays the students’ entire reaction to the chalk text, and doesn’t seem to have any issue with students expressing fear about it. It’s notable that they claim only one student made such a claim, when the original article – that Snopes never contradicts, by the way – identifies multiple students in photos.

Special Snopesflakes

The travesty here is that Snopes is actively dismissing a very real, and serious, problem.

In nearly all such claims, details of the actual controversy were obfuscated by embellished elements framing students or schools as overly sensitive.(emphasis added)

See, this is the issue right here: the students and schools are overly sensitive. I provided the abbreviated set of examples above for a reason: this is a very disturbing trend in American universities that does not show any hope of abating. I included YouTube videos of the protests themselves so that there would be no doubt (or mitigation) of some of the twisted insanity that appears to be more commonplace than Snopes will admit).

As far as the Emory incident goes, this was exemplified by the quote from the protest organizer above. It takes a leap of hypersensitivity (or extreme self-indulgence) to launch a protest march over a campaign chalk marking.

Nope, don't see any hypersensitivity here!

Nope, don’t see any hypersensitivity here!

Snopes deliberately ignores most of the most blatant example of over-reaction on the part of the students and administration:

While it was true some students of color expressed that the large number of Trump chalkings made them uneasy.

Uneasy, yes. And tearful. And unsafe. And in fear. And convinced of a harsher message. And the equivalent of swastikas. And in pain. And afraid.

Oh, and don’t forget the list of demands that now include free speech zones (because, you know, that’s worked out so well for universities in the past):

In case after case, courts across the country have unequivocally and uniformly held speech codes at public universities to be unconstitutional. Public institutions of higher learning attempting to regulate the content of speech on campus are held to the most exacting level of judicial scrutiny. Typically, courts find speech codes to violate the First Amendment because they are vague and/or overbroad. This means that because the speech code is written in a way that (a) insufficiently specifies what type of speech is prohibited or (b) would prohibit constitutionally protected speech, it cannot be reconciled with the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech. [State of the Law: Speech Codes]

But Snopes doesn’t realize that they have actually played into the hands of these cretins. By minimizing the experience of “grief and agony,” Snopes denies the protestors exactly what they seek the most: acknowledgement of their inherent oppression:

College freshman Amanda Obando disagreed with Reibman’s view [of allowing free speech zones], saying that it dismissed the personal experiences of many who felt offended by the chalking.

My reaction to the chalking was one of fear,” she said. “I told myself that it was a prank, and that the responsible individual was probably laughing in their room. I told myself that Emory would do something about it.” (emphasis added)

So, either Snopes feels it is completely fine to cow-tow to the temper-tantrums of college students because it’s the new “normal” (as evidenced by referring to this as a “brouhaha” and the claims as “distorted”), or they are actively trying to minimize the widespread danger of these kind of cry-bullying tactics.

Either way, this is not a good thing, and Snopes’ evaluation is a mighty fail of, well, Snopes proportions.

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  1. W. Curtis Preston
    March 28, 2016 at 10:51 am

    FWIW, I’m with snopes here. Yes, some students got all bent out of shape over what they perceived as the University supporting a racist, xenophonic, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican presidential candidate. Yes, they complained. And no, I don’t agree with everything they said, but I agree w/their right to protest something and to be heard by their university.

    But I agree with snopes that the NARRATIVE about the event is mostly false. There was no proof of emergency counseling or anyone “demanding a safe space.” That is the narrative. That is the hyperbole.

    • The Truth
      June 2, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      The Snopes “reporter” is happy to have us think that Senior Emory administration became aware of the “Trump chalkings” only as the result of some supposed routine review process of campus “chalkings”. In fact the students initiated the contact with administration not the other way around. (As if The President has a daily task of reviewing the content and location of campus “chalkings”). No one in administration except perhaps an Assistant Campus Life Dean in the lower echelons of administration would even be aware of the chalking policies – and even then he or she would probably have to refer to the written policy (if there even is one). The interesting thing is that chalkings involving any number of topics happen in arbitrary and “unsanctioned” areas of the Emory campus (e.g. Black Lives Matter) so it’s not as if Trump chalkings were somehow exceptional. No. the students initiated the “dialogue” and It was their indignation and manufactured offense because the chalkings were pro Trump, combined with Wagner’s subservient behavior, that got the negative attention from the media.
      Not liking Trump is freedom of speech. Claiming that “chalkings in authorized areas” was the cause of the problem and nothing more is not the correct NARRATIVE.

  2. March 28, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Hi Curtis,

    If you take all the evidence and come to that conclusion, that is certainly your prerogative. As I mentioned the subsequent media followup may (or may not, I still haven’t read them and given Snopes’ bypassing of the events in the original article, I don’t care to spend the time fact-checking the fact-checkers) be correct, but my issue comes from the direct misrepresentation of the events themselves.

    The issue isn’t whether or not students have a “right” to complain, nor even the applicability of protestation to emphasize perceived slights against them. The issue is whether or not the response to the perceived slight is proportionate or not.

    Snopes is actively pushing their own narrative: that the students’ “tearful,” “scared,” “pain,” “afraid,” and “unsafe” reactions is, in fact, not disproportionate. On the contrary, they’re dismissing any raised eyebrows and observations of over-reaction as “embellished.”

    I’ve already showed where students specifically demanded that they be safe in the university, and have provided multiple examples from the original source to that effect. That was not hyperbole.

    So, while additional media outlets may have added to the noise, it does not negate that the original story provided its own level of “overly sensitive” hyper-reaction on the part of the students.

    • W. Curtis Preston
      March 28, 2016 at 11:09 am

      I read both the emory article and the UK article and I read most of your post. It got a little long for me. 😉

      I do not believe that snopes is pushing a narrative. I believe they thought that your tweet and others were a bit hyperbolic, as do I. No one “demanded safe spaces” and no one was “given emergency counseling.”

      I believe it is you and the tweeters that are pushing a narrative. That narrative being that the idea of safe spaces is dumb and political correctness has run amuck on our universities. I read that narrative throughout your story. That’s YOUR prerogative to do so as you are not a new organization. I actually agree w/you on that narrative. I also agree w/snopes that this story was “spun” a little by you and others to further your narrative. You didn’t quote from the original article in your tweet (which is all they had to go on). You used at least a few words that were stronger than what I read in either article.

  3. W. Curtis Preston
    March 28, 2016 at 11:11 am

    BTW, thanks for not snapping my head off. 😉 I believe in civil discourse and name calling and ad hominem attacks have no place in that world.

    Which is why I hate Trump so much… I believe he is nothing other than one ad hominem attack after another. He is literally the worst debater I have seen at this level, if we judge him by any actual debate logic.

  4. March 28, 2016 at 11:31 am

    I see no purpose in ad hominems, either. Only a fool believes that they cannot learn from a dissenting viewpoint. And I try my best not to be a fool 🙂

    I would like to disagree with one statement you made, though. You said that my initial tweet “didn’t quote from the original article,” but I did link to the original article directly. You are correct that I used synonyms for what I perceived to be going on at Emory, but they did “cry” (“tearfully”), wail (“You are not listening! Come speak to us, we are in pain!”), and demanded safe spaces (“struggling academically because they are so focused and trying to have a safe community and focus on [getting safe spaces]”). The article did mention all of these things originally.

    Am I pushing a narrative? You bet. I’m calling out the deleterious effect of modern academics emphasis’ on student feelings rather than, well, academics. I’m calling out that there is no such thing as rational discourse any more on campuses. I’m pushing the observation of what is happening at once-proud institutions, now resorted to being not-so-glorified babysitters.

    I’m pushing it because the evidence is incontrovertible, as long as people recognize that it’s not ok to harass others based upon their beliefs, that it’s not a catastrophe that someone disagrees. If one believes that it is perfectly fine to “no platform” someone because of their race, sex, gender, or belief system then yes, I guess they would see my distaste for institutionalizing such policies as pushing a “narrative.”

    Note that this is not about Trump. This is about the false equivalency of Emory students between “Trump 2016” and swastikas and not finding the irony. This is about students either legitimately having panic attacks (was the term “micro-aggression used? If not, I’m surprised) – which would mean that they are hyper-sensitive – or using the innocuous political statement to be opportunistic in bringing the administration to its knees – in which case they are being disingenuous. Either way, it seems to me that it’s worth calling out.

    You’ll also note that the complaints did not say anything about taking issue with Trump’s ideas, or even what specific claims were problematic. Instead, nearly every complaint that the students had (and remember, I’m talking about that which was reported in The Wheel, not anywhere else) had to do with how the phrase made them feel. This wasn’t about them being disenfranchised (i.e., the suppression of their own freedom of speech), but rather that they believed the University ought to prevent them from being subjected to the uncomfortable reality of the presidential election in the first place.

    So, yes, to me I find that behavior and outlook to be highly problematic, and rational people should find the attempt to chill dissenting viewpoints equally troublesome, IMO.

    • W. Curtis Preston
      March 28, 2016 at 11:35 am

      Linking to and quoting the article are different things. “Cry” and “wail” are YOUR words for what happened there, and are (IMO) hyperbole to make a point. And that’s all snopes was saying.

      • March 28, 2016 at 11:36 am

        Are you saying that Snopes more accurately captured the sentiment of the students than I did?

      • W. Curtis Preston
        March 28, 2016 at 11:40 am

        Their article is not about your tweet. It’s about all of the tweets and articles that came out after the original article, which either use hyperbole or quote comments instead of the original article. I’m just saying I disagree with your statement that they are pushing a narrative. I agree w/their assertion that the reaction to the article was hyperbole. Come on, dude. Even your tweet of “cry” and “wail” was hyperbolic on purpose. And the other articles quoted comments as if they were facts.

      • March 28, 2016 at 11:47 am

        That’s not exactly fair, Curtis. You know as well as I do that there’s no way I could encapsulate the students’ behavior with exact quotes in a single tweet. “Tearfully = Cry”, for crying out loud. I’ve already explained about how they actually did “wail” as well, without quoting their entire protest.

        See, I don’t think that’s “all Snopes was saying.” On the contrary, I think Snopes was deliberately trying to mislead readers into thinking that the issues with American college campuses are non-existent or, at the very least, “blown out of proportion” (they use the word “obfuscated by embellished elements,” so I’m simplifying the synonym for our purposes here).

        It seems to me that in order to conclude that they are not pushing a narrative, you have to explain their dismissal of the general issue in Academia as “one of several distorted claims of rampant political correctness.” See, this isn’t even a hint of an agenda – they’re stating it explicitly!

        I’ve shown in the beginning of this post how this is not a “distorted claim of rampant political correctness.” I’ve shown “rampant political correctness.” Help me understand our disconnect here – how has what I said and shown incorrect? How has the evidence that I’ve presented shown that Snopes is not avoiding blatant (and often violent) examples of political correctness on campuses to make their point?

  5. April 16, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Curtis, you (and snopes) appear to be focusing on the individual trees and not the forest Let me concede that there may not have been actually “emergency counseling” sought and/or offered. Let me concede that the students did not actually state that they wanted “safe spaces” (though I find it hard to see where that differs from “safe community”).

    I am then left with: and your point is …?

    Are you suggesting that there has not been a disturbing trend of hypersensitivity and political correctness on our college campuses? Are you also suggesting that college administrators are not contributing to this trend by backing down to these “hypersensitive snowflakes?”

    For example, Emory president, James Wagner, basically said that he empathized with his students’ “pain” and that the “chalkers” would be punished, if identified. That just emboldens these entitled — and intolerant — protestors.

    (I hope that I live long enough that the general response to these protestors is “grow the f–k up and get out of my office.”)

    Look, I protested when I was in college and in graduate school — from issues such as college endowment investments in apartheid-dominated South Africa or a campus incident involving racism. But, those protests, while passionate, were extremely by today’s standard. No one literally got into the face of a faculty member (serving as a master of a residential college at Yale) telling not only to “f–k” off” but to resign immediately because his wife had the audacity to say that maybe the campus community had become overly sensitive about Halloween costumes.

    I have spent most of my professional life as a college professor and administrator, and what J Metz outlines is true. There IS a disturbing trend of intolerance being generated by today’s students who feel entitled to be protected from everything that might make them the least bit uncomfortable. If something isn’t done soon, it is going to get MUCH WORSE.

    You want to see where things could be headed — watch what happens if Yale University does not rename John C.Calhoun Hall, and does not name at least one of the new residential colleges after a person of color. We will look at what happened there in November as the good old days.

    Of course, President Peter Salovey is not going to let that happen — not because he will put his foot down, but because John C. Calhoun will be scrubbed from Yale’s institutional memory, and one of the new residential colleges will be named after Bobby Seale.

  6. Mike
    May 11, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    Is it an urban legend that David Mikkelson is no longer with his wife Barbara? She was the brains behind the sleuthing at snopes.
    https://www.facebook.com/elyssa.young.37

    • May 11, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      Good question. Maybe there’s a Snopes article on it. 🙂

  1. June 5, 2016 at 9:53 am

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