The Dissembling Protesters

My experience at Ohio University offered me a first-hand glimpse into the mindset of anti-due process activists, and the subsequent media coverage has indicated a troubling willingness for misdirection.

Austin Linfante, a reporter for the OU campus news site New Political, noted that the protesters furiously tweeted how the talk doubted that “the justice system favored white men accused of rape over African American men accused of rape.” Yet the only reference in the talk to the justice system was about the lacrosse case, an instance in which the accused people were white (and who clearly didn’t receive preferential treatment). And while I observed that colleges treat all students accused of sexual assault unfairly, regardless of race (as the Dez Wells case showed), the only reference in the Q&A to the justice system came in my positively citing Harvard Law professor Janet Halley’s recent point that, historically, weakening due process safeguards have disproportionately harmed minorities. It’s hard to imagine how an endorsement of Halley’s thesis could be labeled a denial of racial injustices in the criminal justice system.

One of the protesters, Katie Conlon, subsequently penned a letter to the Athens Postjustifying the failed efforts at a heckler’s veto, on grounds I had committed a worse offense: “calling victims of sexual assault ‘comically unbelievable.’” First, the phrase I used was “almost comically non-credible,” not “comically unbelievable.” In the talk, the phrase described not “victims of sexual assault,” but summarized the ever-changing and wildly inconsistent claims presented by one person—Crystal Mangum in the lacrosse case.

Mangum, of course, wasn’t a “victim[] of sexual assault.” I realize that most newspapers don’t employ fact-checkers for letters to the editor, but did Conlon write her letter unaware that a tape of the talk exists? Or did she assume that misrepresentation, on behalf of a broader cause, is acceptable behavior?

As Daniel Stein-Sayles, a reporter at the Brooklyn College Exclesior, noted, another of the protesters, Claire Chadwick, asserted that I “denied there being a rape culture at OU.” Unlike Conlon’s alleged quote, which was outright deceptive, Chadwick’s statement described a talk that didn’t occur. My only use of the phrase “rape culture” came when a protester, at my request, offered his definition: “The normalization and acceptance of things like alcohol-involved cases, where it’s just OK for a rapist to walk free.” I noted that probably everyone in the room had their own definition of the term. Indeed, in her letter to the editor, fellow protester Conlon proved the point; though she used the phrase “rape culture” eight times in an eight-paragraph letter, she never mentioned any role for alcohol or alcohol-involved cases.

In the event, the subject of the talk was due process in how campuses respond to sexual assault allegations, not whether “rape culture” exists at a single campus. If 20 percent of Ohio female students reported being raped, as opposed to the 0.5 percent who actually have so reported, it wouldn’t have changed my argument that universities aren’t equipped to investigate serious felonies, and have unfairly handled this issue in the adjudication process.

I previously had expressed my belief that the protesters were utterly sincere, even in their off-the-wall statements (such as the claim of one that the odds of a false rape report are 2.7 million to one). It’s harder, however, to attribute good faith to after-the-fact misrepresentations. Much like the aborted attempt at a heckler’s veto, such conduct demonstrates the protesters’ lack of faith that their approach can triumph in the marketplace of ideas.

KC Johnson

KC Johnson

KC Johnson is a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is the author, along with Stuart Taylor, of The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America's Universities.

11 thoughts on “The Dissembling Protesters

  1. @ Tina:

    Your comment is simply an assembly of hyperbole, wild assumptions, and barking. And you sound just as inept as Austin Linfante who inaccurately reported the relevance of racial disparity to the presentation.

    “You’re merely showing us the place where you will turn and, feeling heat you’d care not, do precisely to others — specifically real victims of real rapes by black men — what the Duke radicals did to the lacrosse players.”

    — Please explain how KC Johnson acts ‘precisely’ as Duke radicals.

    “Ironically, academic radicals have done the same to victims of sex crimes by black men for decades now, not that you seem to care when it’s not you in the crosshairs.”

    — KC Johnson was in the crosshairs, stupid. Protesters in the front row wore T-shirts reading, ‘This is bullhsit’; and, as the initial video started, they stood up in unison in order to disrupt it. Finally, a police officer was standing in the back.

    “Perhaps you feel it burnishes your credentials as a victim of the mob to puff that you never denied the alleged “racial injustice” you’re apparently willing to believe blights our real justice system in cases of rape by minority men.

    — Despite the rather elegant word ‘burnishes’ in the first clause, the syntax of the second clause is incomprehensible.

    “And if you believe that there aren’t instances of minority male rapists who have been treated with kid gloves by college and other schools because of their race, then you are working hard to not see them.”

    — I cannot figure out why you offer the possibility that KC Johnson has this belief.

    “How cynical, not to mention statistically ignorant.”

    — How hypocritical you are, Tina, to offer NO statistics or data to support any claims in your rant.

  2. KC, the 2.7 million statistic has an interesting provenance.

    1) It comes from a math error by Charles Clymer, apparently rooted someplace in FBI stats. Here’s Clymer’s post, and one by Scott Alexander pointing out the errors.

    http://charlesclymer.blogspot.com/2014/01/men-are-32x-more-likely-to-be-killed-by.html

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/17/lies-damned-lies-and-social-media-part-5-of-%E2%88%9E/

    2) Ironically, Clymer himself was driven out of the movement a few months later for alleged bigotry and insensitivity.

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/06/14/living-by-the-sword/

  3. I don’t think there is any sincerity involved at all with these people. It’s all grandstanding and attempting to show their friends that they are “down with the cause,” whatever the cause may be that week. But I can’t stop wondering how one would calculate the odds of a false rape report? How would that be measured?

  4. I don’t think that the people who commented about your talk bothered to watch the video. The protesters in the front row were not listening to you (their minds were closed), and they were not listening to President Obama. Otherwise, they would not have turned their backs on someone who was more in agreement with them than with you. The protesters and commenters were feckless, but not all were mendacious IMO.

  5. Mr. Johnson,

    Perhaps you feel it burnishes your credentials as a victim of the mob to puff that you never denied the alleged “racial injustice” you’re apparently willing to believe blights our real justice system in cases of rape by minority men.

    You’re merely showing us the place where you will turn and, feeling heat you’d care not, do precisely to others — specifically real victims of real rapes by black men — what the Duke radicals did to the lacrosse players. Ironically, academic radicals have done the same to victims of sex crimes by black men for decades now, not that you seem to care when it’s not you in the crosshairs. Quite selective outrage you’ve got there: race mob for me but not for thee.

    And if you believe that there aren’t instances of minority male rapists who have been treated with kid gloves by college and other schools because of their race, then you are working hard to not see them.

    How cynical, not to mention statistically ignorant. This campaign of yours is either about telling the truth, or it is about jostling to have you and your ideological peers included in the vast registry of new special victim classes.

    Some of us prefer the truth to political pandering, no matter where it leads us.

      1. I can try…

        She’s offended at truth that doesn’t support the liberal ideal viewpoint; therefore she only wants “truth” that supports the liberal ideal; to avoid “political pandering”.

        In this case, she’s offended he didn’t focus entirely on race in his discussion of rape, because the racial disparity argument is a liberal one, due process for everyone is not.

        She wants to have OTHER truths be the only permitted stories; and to silence all dissent from the liberal views… to avoid more political pandering.

        It makes sense, if you only allow one party’s viewpoint to exist; political pandering is pointless. You just have to silence any other viewpoint first… which is her first goal.

        Then she wants only “truth”, of course limited by not permitting the disallowed topics to be said, much less “truth”.

      2. I think she is saying that minority males do commit more sexual crime, and that Mr. Johnson is invalidating the victims of those crimes by not declaring this is so. She is angry that he protects himself and his own discussion by not addressing this head on when it came up.

  6. Two things occurred to me while watching this video. First is that Prof. Johnson did an incredible job using real statistics & substantiated facts to demonstrate the lack of due process on campuses. Students, their parents and every American should be scared to death and screaming from the rooftops to ensure we NEVER lose our right to due process. (Maybe it’s because any of us born in the US have never had to experience what life would be like without it). Secondly, the protestors stuck to their own agenda and appeared not to have any concept at all of what the discussion was really about. I work in social justice and have met many young people who use their intellect, youth and energy to promote real change. Thankfully, those protesting at Prof. Johnson’s talk do not represent the majority of young people today. Without intelligent dialogue and the presentation of real facts they have instead of become a liability to their cause.

  7. KC Johnson’s experience at Ohio University, as well as the media aftermath, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. The contemporary media is a propaganda machine for feminism and neo-Marxism, not a fact-based or logic-based reporting system.

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