On Saturday we posted the statement issued by the Oberlin College administration in response to conservative media having exposed the racism hoax and Oberlin’s part in playing along by not disclosing the hoax to the student body.
The sentence most of us focused on was: “These actions were real.” That “fake but real” narrative seemed ludicrous to me and to others:
— Brit Hume (@brithume) August 24, 2013
But there was another aspect of the Oberlin statement that was more devious and calculating than any of us suspected.
Oberlin falsely portrayed those who exposed the hoax and called Oberlin out for not telling students as somehow excusing the underlying conduct:
A report issued by the Oberlin Police Department regarding racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic incidents which occurred on the Oberlin College campus this past February and March has generated speculation on some web sites regarding the motives of the alleged perpetrators….
We will not tolerate acts of hatred and threats of violence regardless of motivation….
Some commentators have suggested that the perpetrators engaged in these actions merely to provoke a reaction from our community.
As we have stated, these incidents occurred on a virtually daily basis over a period of weeks. The acts in question included racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic graffiti, flyers, and Internet postings, as well as written harassment of targeted individuals including threats of bodily harm and rape.
We take all such threats seriously and recognize that our obligation is to assure the safety of all members of our community. Many students, faculty and staff raised reasonable concerns about their security on our campus, based on these incidents and threats. Oberlin College will not tolerate an atmosphere in which people feel threatened on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, under any circumstances.
This was a complete deflection.
No one was calling for Oberlin to have done nothing in response to the hoax; all that was called for was some transparency and honesty with the student body that the perpetrators were not Nazis and the KKK, but rather liberal pro-Obama “anti-racist” activists out to get a campus reaction.
I think Conor Friedersdorf put it well:
The way I’d put it is that Oberlin students had a right to know that the perpetrators weren’t motivated by Nazi or KKK ideology.
Many feared they were — and for that reason, they did as much damage as actual neo-Nazis or KKK members would have.
Rather than addressing this failure, Oberlin creates a straw man argument that people are calling for it to have done nothing at all. Oberlin then plays the hero by standing up to these imaginary calls for inaction by insisting that it cannot tolerate hate.
The Oberlin administration is acting as if the victim of the hoax having been exposed was the Oberlin administration.
It will be interesting to see if students demand accountability from the Oberlin administration. I doubt it will happen, but we’ll follow up on it.