Media Fail Trying to Sell Campus Protest
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No publication tried harder to persuade the public of the righteousness of the recent campus protest movement than the Kansas City Star.
Backing the Star in its attempt were virtually every major broadcast media other than Fox News. If nothing else, these media succeeded in drawing the attention of the public to events taking place on the state’s flagship campus in Columbia.
And yet as poll results have clearly shown, the media failed to convince Missourians of the protests’ value or even that there was a problem worth protesting.
Indeed, if there were ever a test case of the mainstream media’s estrangement from ordinary America—and no state is more ordinary than Missouri--this was it.
For a week Star editors were giddy with excitement at having a major racial meltdown take place right on their home state campus.
Almost immediately, the editors called for the head of MU system president Tim Wolfe. His crime: responding to “ugly” racist incidents on campus in “bureaucratic, uncaring fashion.”
As to hunger striker Jonathan Butler, the editors begged him to desist. He had “already achieved dramatic change at his university,” they assured him.
“It is my hope and belief that from this point on,” wrote columnist Barbara Shelly in a public letter to Butler, “no one in Missouri will discount the acts of racism and evil that too often smear your campus as isolated, not-so-serious incidents.”
These were two of the score or more pieces the Star dedicated to highlighting the “evil” Butler and his pals were protesting. In a vacuum, they might have been effective, but in the age of social media, they merely appeared foolish.
Through alternative channels, the public learned that Butler’s fight against white privilege was bankrolled in part by his father’s $8 million-plus annual income.
The public learned that the gay, black, student body president who got the racism drum beating was a proven liar.
If his lament that a guy in a pickup truck called him names went unchallenged, his later claim that the KKK had invaded campus did not. That was provably false, and the fellow had to apologize.
Finally, if the public carefully parsed the deliberately clouded campus police reports, they might have learned that the chief suspect in the notorious “poop swastika” incident was likely black.
Certainly, the public learned enough to reject the Star’s thesis—echoed throughout the major broadcast media—that the campus protest was a good and noble thing.
After the MU president was forced out, the Remington Research Group ran a statewide poll on behalf Missouri Scout, a website for state political news.
Although 96 percent of the respondents followed the events on campus, a reassuringly low percentage of them swallowed the party line sold by the mainstream media.
When asked if they agreed with the MU “student protestors’ actions,” 62 percent disagreed, and only 20 percent agreed.
For white respondents, the margin was even greater: 63 percent to 18 percent. For that matter, only 51 percent of blacks agreed with the actions while 38 percent did not.
The “message”—whatever that was—did not fare much better than the “actions.” Among whites, 23 percent approved; among blacks, 53 percent.
For university administrators, the results had to be particularly worrying. By a greater than 5-1 margin, respondents disapproved of the administration.
By a 48 to 38 percent margin, respondents would vote against a cigarette tax to provide public scholarships to the university.
Even more troubling, by a 45 to 35 percent margin, parents would discourage their children from attending the university. As to the future of the football program, forget it.
Unconvinced perhaps by the statewide results, the Star ran its own poll among its own generally liberal readers and fared no better.
When asked if the protestors deserved praise for exposing racial problems, 66 percent said “no.”
When asked if Tim Wolfe should have resigned as president, 67 percent said “no.”
When asked if the two faculty members who intimidated student journalists should be fired 67 percent “agreed strongly” and 84 percent said “yes.”
If there is a genuine cause worth protesting it is that even in a fairly sane state like Missouri the left has a stranglehold on the media and on the universities.
This is not true everywhere. Kudos to President Mitch Daniels and my homeboys at Purdue for publicly taking a stand.
Wrote Daniels in the wake of the protests, “Last year, both our undergraduate and graduate student governments led an effort that produced a strengthened statement of policies protecting free speech.”
Daniels continued, “What a proud contrast to the environments that appear to prevail at places like Missouri and Yale.”
Proud contrast indeed.
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