The strangest story of the day is in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which apparently went to the trouble of filing a public records request to read Missouri professor Melissa Click’s e-mails. Yes, this Melissa Click:
The story is obviously designed to elicit sympathy for Click. She may have violated the First Amendment rights of a journalist and tried to facilitate an assault, but — hey — someone said mean things about her on email. And I love how they phrased their project:
We were curious to know what kinds of messages people send to a professor on a day when public opinion has deemed her an enemy of the state based on 12 seconds of video.
Isn’t that about like saying that public opinion has “deemed” a person an armed robber based on, say, 12 seconds of convenience store surveillance footage? At any rate, you won’t be surprised to know that Click received hundreds of e-mails. According to the Chronicle’s painstaking analysis, the words “shame,” “ashamed,” or “shameful” appeared a whopping 238 times in the messages. Writers mentioned the First Amendment 242 times. And, yes, there were some vile emails as well – where people expressed a desire that other people hurt her – but no true threats, at least none quoted in the story. (There’s a material difference between saying, “I hope someone hurts you” and saying, “I will hurt you.” When I’ve received similar messages, I call them “death aspirations,” not death threats.)
Every single human being who does anything of note on the Internet gets vile messages. I’ve received far worse hatred from people angry that my family adopted a child (yes, you read that correctly.) So, please, spare us the sob stories about nasty e-mail. A communications professor intentionally violated the First Amendment rights of a student journalist, even calling for “muscle” to remove him from a place where he had a right to be. She has not only kept her job, more than 100 of her colleagues signed a letter in support. I find that far more scandalous than a few cruel e-mails from unidentified Internet trolls.