Politics & Policy

Newsflash, Mizzou Kids: Public Protests Are Public

Student protestors at the University of Missouri, November 9, 2015 (Michael B. Thomas/Getty)
That's what the word means.

According to an infographic on the University of Missouri school newspaper’s website, there are now more than a hundred colleges across the country supporting their student protesters.

In other words: There are now more than 100 schools across the country supporting blatantly illegal actions and a total disregard for both responsible journalism and the First Amendment.

How could this be possible? Well, because what is actually right versus what is actually wrong is simply not relevant on campuses anymore. Anyone who is accused of hurting another person’s feelings is automatically a monster, and anyone who claims they have had their feelings hurt is automatically correct and deserving of celebration and praise.

I’ve been seeing evidence of this for a while now. I’ve seen a school cancel a fun little petting-zoo event over concerns that having a camel on campus could make Middle Eastern students feel “unsafe.” I’ve seen a school tell students not to use the word “freshman” because the word makes freshmen women sound weak and therefore puts them at risk for sexual violence. I’ve seen a school declare pro-free-speech posters to be a “safety hazard.”

College students are being conditioned to believe that their emotional health is the rest of the world’s responsibility, that they have the inalienable right to feel totally comfortable at all times and that everywhere they walk, it had better damn well be on sunshine — or else someone is going to have to do something about it.

It’s been bad for awhile. But it all reached a new low for me when I read an opinion piece in Mizzou’s newspaper, the Maneater, explaining that even though the protesters’ actions were “inarguably” illegal and unconstitutional, this was just “not as simple as right and wrong.”

“I know the protesters made serious mistakes, mostly choosing a public space and yet still expecting absolute privacy on their terms,” Nate Gatter wrote — before moving on to a “but” and an explanation of why journalists still needed to have empathy and understand why they had been unlawfully forced out of a public, taxpayer-funded space.

But here’s the thing: There are actually no “buts” allowed in this situation. Because guess what, snowflakes? Right and wrong do matter, and people who do things that are wrong in public should expect to be criticized for them.

You cannot expect that carrying a “No Media, Safe Space” sign will keep the media away from you any more than you could expect that carrying a “No People, Safe Space” sign would force every street and establishment you entered to become automatically and exclusively your own just because you liked it better that way. You’re adults — at least you’re supposed to be — and these actions deserve nothing but disdain and mockery.

Yes, I get that I’m white. I understand that this means I don’t get to have an opinion about what it is like to be a black student at Mizzou or on or any campus. I do, however, also understand what words mean. If you are going to protest in a public place, you are going to be in the public eye, because that’s what “public” meansIf you don’t like it, stay home and write an anonymous blog post about how upset you are. Hell, write a thousand of them . . . but if you don’t want something you’re doing to be seen by the public, then don’t do it in public. Groundbreaking, I know!

I mean seriously, protester kids . . . did you ever even stop to think about what the whole point of a protest even is? Did you ever wonder why the Civil Rights March on Washington was done in Washington instead of inside the protesters’ own homes? The whole point of a protest is to get public attention, and demanding that the media not cover yours would be like me going on television and demanding that no one watch or listen to anything I have to say.

#share#I really don’t understand what these kids’ view of the world looks like. Is it one where you can run around on the street naked and if anyone tries to film you, you cry “How dare you!” because the street is somehow supposed to be your “safe space” and oh my God look at this rape culture?

I’m honestly asking . . . is that your view of the world? I really want to know, and I need help understanding, because whatever has replaced basic human logic in these protesters’ heads is too twisted and idiotic for me to comprehend on my own. After all, it would seem to me that thinking a “public” place automatically ceases to be “public” as soon as you don’t want it to be means you’re either a whiny, entitled brat or so completely and totally delusional that you need mental-health assistance far beyond what any college campus could offer you.

Feel free to call me mean if you’d like . . . I’ve somehow developed the skill to handle insults without them destroying me. Personally, I also think it would be a lot more “mean” to suggest that people who commit these kinds of illegal, blatantly unconstitutional actions deserve anything but the scorn that they get for doing so. After all, condoning them is just another slap in the face to the freedoms we are supposed to cherish as Americans — freedoms that will no doubt disappear if we keep passively allowing them to be destroyed.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review.   

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