Should reporters self-censor for fear of internet reaction to a truthful news story? Progressives at Brandeis think so.
Daniel Mael is a senior at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. That’s the university that last spring canceled a commencement speech by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Ardently pro-Israel, Mael has had run-ins with progressive groups on campus like J Street.
Mael also is a prolific reporter for Truth Revolt, in addition to writing guest columns at many publications. Mael, writing at Breitbart.com, exposed a Brandeis faculty-run list-serve in which anti-Israel messages were circulated.
After the execution-style murder of two New York City police officers, Mael reported at Truth Revolt how a Brandeis student leader had tweeted her lack of sympathy for the slain officers, Student Leader: ‘No Sympathy’ for Executed NYPD Officers:
Following the execution of two New York Police Department officers, a Brandeis University student leader wasted no time in making it clear that she did not care that they were murdered.
“i have no sympathy for the nypd officers who were murdered today,” Khadijah Lynch, a junior and an Undergraduate Department Representative in the African and Afro-American Studies Department, wrote on Twitter.
i have no sympathy for the nypd officers who were murdered today.
— Khadijah (خديجة) (@punQros3) December 20, 2014
lmao, all i just really dont have sympathy for the cops who were shot. i hate this racist fucking country.
— Khadijah (خديجة) (@punQros3) December 21, 2014
[Note: The tweets have been deleted.]
Mael also reported on Lynch’s history of such tweets and public statements, including her interview in a student newspaper in September in which she said, among other things:
The very essence of the United States relies on the social implications of race in which black bodies are deemed as sub-human with little to no access of the rights that are so called applicable to every American citizen. The American police forces of today descend from a legacy of slave captives and overseers whose job was to protect the property (enslaved black bodies) of rich, slave owning capitalists. We must understand that we are not that far removed from this country’s legacy of slavery and that most of our laws are shaped to uphold a system of white supremacy.
Brandeis officials quickly distanced themselves from Lynch and she resigned her leadership position, as Mael also reported:
Twitter comments by Brandeis undergraduate Khadijah Lynch (‘16) regarding the recent shooting of two New York Police Department officers have received widespread media attention. Many of the responses to her comments, beginning with an article written by a fellow Brandeis student Daniel Mael (‘15) for the blog Truth Revolt, have noted that Ms. Lynch is a “student leader” who serves as an Undergraduate Department Representative (UDR) for the African and Afro-American Studies (AAAS) Department.
The comments of Ms. Lynch, made through her own personal Twitter account, do not reflect the views of AAAS as a department. AAAS, unequivocally, does not promote nor condones a disregard for the loss of human life. The deaths of officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu are a tragedy and should be treated with proper respect. We express our most sincere condolences to their family and loved ones.
Ms. Lynch has offered her resignation as an Undergraduate Degree Representative for AAAS, which I have accepted.
(Image below via Daniel Mael Twitter)
Certainly seemed newsworthy in a news cycle when reporting on Twitter and other reactions to the execution was all the rage. Mael did not give out any private information on Lynch.
Then an unfortunate but all-too-common internet-thing happened. The post went viral, and people (not Mael) started attacking Lynch online, including apparently threats and racist comments. A Facebook group was formed calling for Lynch to be expelled.
Nonetheless, progressives and activists on campus turned on Mael for reporting, and now are demanding that Mael be punished not only for reporting in the first place, but also because of the internet reaction.
An email was send out to senior administrators and others demanding that Mael be “held accountable” both for his reporting and the internet reaction:
Subject: VERY IMPORTANT: Holding Daniel Mael accountable, and other threats to student safety!
Hello to all,
This email is similar, but not identical, to one that had been sent out previously today. The first was to call attention to the issue, whereas this one is a request from many members of the Brandeis community that the student responsible for the incident be held accountable for his actions. We apologize for any redundancy.
As you may have been made aware, the safety of one member of the Brandeis community, Khadijah Lynch, has been compromised by the actions of another Brandeis student, Daniel Mael. Those of us within the Brandeis community who value the safety and integrity of all members of our community are requesting that action is taken to hold this student accountable for his actions, which have directly put Khadijah in danger and continue to do so.
Mael, a regular contributor on a website called “TruthRevolt”, a popular conservative-oriented political website designed, according to its mission statement, to “unmask leftists in the media for who they are, destroy their credibility with the American public, and devastate their funding bases,” wrote an article targeting Khadijah for a series of tweets she made on her own personal Twitter over the last month. In doing so, he posted a photo of her as well as information about her as a student as well as giving people access to her Twitter username. The article can be seen here:
Whether one agrees or not with the very blunt comments Khadijah made on her Twitter account, the audience of these postings was originally those who frequented her Twitter. We do not propose to offer any opinion on the posts themselves, but it is important to note the sequence of events and intended audiences. After having posted the aforementioned article, Mael has exposed Khadijah to the largely white supremacist following of the website on which he posts, which has led to harassment, death threats, rape threats, and excessive hate speech directed to her personal Twitter (now private), Facebook (now deactivated), and Linkedin. People who frequent TruthRevolt have also gained access to Khadijah’s personal email address and her Brandeis mailbox number, and have threatened to contact her persistently. We have taken screenshots of some of these threatening comments and have attached them to this email, although more will likely be posted after this has been sent.
As can be seen in the article itself, Khadijah specifically requested that her personal comments be removed from the website and the article in question taken down, but her wishes were ignored and Mael continued to post updates to the article until Khadijah made her Twitter private.
In doing so, he has potentially violated multiple parts of Section 2.10, particularly 2.10.f of Rights and Responsibilities, and we have screenshot and uploaded as an attachment the relevant portion. It is essential that this be taken into consideration. Other sections potentially violated are 3.2a (stalking), and attention may also be warranted about Section 17, 20, and 21.4.
A Facebook page has also been made on which hate speech, directed toward Khadijah herself as well as a plethora of racist comments, have been made, and there has been word that professional hackers may have now stated plans to target specific members of the Brandeis community. The safety of the Brandeis community has been placed in jeopardy also by another student named Ben Vizlakh, who posted an article to this Facebook page telling its members that this email was going to be sent out, mentioning one student by name (a screenshot of his post has been attached here). Vizakh has potentialy violated 2.13 (retaliation) with regard to spreading the word of this email to people who pose a threat to the safety of Brandeis students. Here is the relevant Facebook link:
Upon Khadijah’s resignation as a UDR, Mael also posted the following, which did little more than to spur more negative comments about her (including another rape threat) as well as Brandeis University and its faculty:
Additionally, if you go to Google and type “Khadijah Lynch Brandeis” this story has been reposted all over the Internet, with similar hateful comments and threats directed toward her. Not only does the posting of this article put Khadijah in danger, but also the Brandeis community at large, given the volume of hateful messages being posted about the school on social media by strangers.
The most pressing concern ought to be the safety of our students, and as such we request that action is taken to ensure Khadijah’s safety. A large part of this involves holding the student responsible who callously disregarded her safety. With the speed at which information is spread digitally these days and the fact that her personal information has been compromised and is in the hands of strangers, it is essential that action is taken. As students and community members who know Khadijah personally, we neither condone nor condemn the statements she had made, but we must understand the intent with which her posts and personal information were made accessible by a fellow Brandeis student to the general public, especially on a website frequented by white supremacists that seek to threaten and intimidate anyone with views that differ from their own. It is unfathomable to many within the Brandeis community that such an action could have been carried out with anything but malicious intent, as contributors to websites are perfectly aware of the following their websites receive. As a journalist, he must be aware of the impact that publishing such articles could have on other people’s safety, and it is important that he be held accountable for his actions.
Included in this email are students within the Brandeis community who stand in solidarity with Khadijah in this difficult time and who wish to see action taken to hold the student in question responsible and to protect her safety. As Chad Williams, Chair of the African and Afro-American Studies Department mentioned in his statement on this situation, “While it may be easy and convenient at this emotionally charged moment to condemn Ms. Lynch, we must also strive to understand why she would make these comments. This means openly and honestly recognizing the very real pain and frustration that many young people of color struggle with in trying to navigate their place in a society that all too often delegitimizes their existence.” While Khadijah has taken responsibility for her comments and has withdrawn from her position as a UDR, it is the responsibility of our community to condemn the threatening and hateful comments she has received and stand up for the principle of social justice on which Brandeis was founded.
Thank you so much for your time and we hope that you have a Happy Holiday!
The Brandeis Community
I emailed the person whose name appears as the sender of the email seeking clarification:
Other than calling attention to the tweets, is there anything else you believe Mael did wrong? Did he misquote them? Did he fail to quote other tweets that would have changed the context?
In what way to you want Mael “held accountable”?
Despite all the accusations against Mael, I’ve yet to see anyone demonstrate how his reporting was false or misleading.
An #standwithkhadijah hashtag has been started for the purpose of attacking Mael, even though Mael did nothing other than report what Lynch actually tweeted.
A Change.org Petition, which now has over 1000 signatures, was started backing Lynch, which states in part:
While we may not all share her views, we cannot ignore the public war that ensued due to the misguided, diluted and unscrupulous representation of her character in an article written by Daniel Mael on the TruthRevolt website.
This raises important questions that confront anyone who reports on inflammatory public statements, including on social media: Should we self-censor out of fear that “the internet” will go crazy and attack the subject of the reporting?
Does it matter that the person was a student, and in a leadership position on campus?
Notice how easily claims of “white supremacists” are thrown against the reporter, just because the subject of the (accurate) reporting was black. All too typical of how debate is shut down on campus, and now, apparently, reporting.
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