There is a decade-long precedent of flashpoint that serve a much larger narrative about the university system, and by extension, the students that are churned out of them. These include the reaction to the Compton Cookout in 2010 at UC San Diego, the Berkeley riots in 2017, the Yale Halloween costume controversy, and most importantly the insurrection at the Evergreen State College in 2017 by social justice extremists. Now in 2020, the United States of America is now enthralled in the “Evergreen of the United States” by means of sustained rioting, looting, people being beaten within an inch of their lives, and the swift takeover of major institutions and the general culture by the Marxist organization Black Lives Matter and the racist ideology called “anti-racism.” You read that last part right. Read the books to find out.
The progressive activists not willing to pour out into the streets to riot, smash or burn private property, and loot businesses needed to have an enemy to bludgeon into submission, real or manufactured. An obscure Instagram account with the handle “whiteatucsd” decided to be that enemy that could not be dismissed. “It must be stopped!” some probably thought after an emotional breakdown stemming from the news about the account’s existence. The online wokescolds of UC San Diego had an absolute meltdown, pleading for the account to be banned and crying through the Internet to their university overlords to protect their feelings from a perceived threat.
From July 27 to August 3, the account received “reply-guys” spamming comment sections, its posts being left with comments tagging the ASUCSD, UC San Diego, and The UCSD Guardian Instagram accounts, calling for the account owner’s (and even the account’s followers’) expulsion. Much resemblance to Two Minutes Hate and the catharsis was felt reading these comments myself, showcasing the need for their phantom adversary to repent and face retribution for their grave sin of creating something they emotionally, rather than rationally, object to. There were even imposter accounts being created after the morally righteous tried and failed to get the account banned permanently. One of them was made presumably to fill a name so it cannot be used, as it does not have a post and is on private mode with only one follower. Another posted Black Lives Matter propaganda for an entire day before going inactive. Clearly many strenuous hours of effort was put into these accounts to combat the evils being spouted by the original account. Truly revolutionary activism.
Some argued that the account was being tagged for claiming affiliation with UCSD, which it does not. The account can only then be reported as an impersonation account, of which it is not. Since they could not get the account banned, why would these people tag ASUCSD, The Guardian, The Triton, and UC San Diego’s accounts?
The answer lies in this passage about the building blocks of a victimhood culture, which are referenced in the book written by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind, a work that delves into the reasons for why the Millenial and Gen Z generations have grown to act out the way they have on college campuses in the last decade. They include a high senstivity to slight, a tendency to complain to a third party to resolve the issue, and the self-generated image of being a victim, requiring a third party to save them. Consistently relying on an authority to sanitize the world around you from manufactured threat leads to a “moral dependence” in students on an external force, individual or institution, to engage in conflict resolution for them.
Of course, the university was forced to respond, and it did so in the typical corporatized, bureaucratic form of empty platitudes of condemnation and the need “to be an ally.” Instagram posts addressing the account came from both the university itself and the ASUCSD, the student government. The UCSD Guardian newspaper also wrote an article calling the account “racist” in the headline, with bone-headed takes like this:
“The new account mirrors the previous one and has continued to use misleading quotes and insulting memes. By drawing on information from the far-right website Breitbart and conservative political commentator Candace Owens, the account attempts to spread hateful messages targeted at African Americans and other minorities.
The advent of this Instagram page is not the first time African American students at UCSD have faced blatant discrimination. A decade ago, the university had another incident, now known as the Compton Cookout, during which students had a “costume” party where guests wore stereotypical African American attire and accessories. The event was followed by multiple racially motivated episodes, including a noose found in Geisel Library and a Ku Klux Klan hood found adorned on the Dr. Seuss statue. The racist events have since gained notoriety as the Black Winter.”
A digression to tell the Guardian staff how to do their job properly, if you will.
The headline to this piece, “UC San Diego Responds to Racist Instagram Account,” is editorialized. If an outlet strives for objectivity, putting the word racist in quotes would be more appropriate, since the outlet itself is not calling the account racist, and is quoting another entity’s assessment, in this case the university and the ASUCSD’s opinion. Failing to do so equates to the outlet themselves labeling the account as racist before the article starts, which is malpractice and a failure to provide objective journalism to an audience.
Furthermore, the phrase “attempts to spread hateful messages” is also framed poorly to confirm the bias of people who believe the account was racist, rendering this “news article” an opinion piece in effect. There is no evidence to assert that the person who created this account is racist, given the shifting definition of the word over the last few months. Is it the traditional definition of the word, or the new ‘antiracist’ definition peddled by self-avowed racists like Robin DiAngelo? It’s all very complicated. Not only that, but the content is not objectively hateful, but is interpreted as hateful by the writer of the article.
To them, an alternative position is not entertained for readers to assess on their own because there is no other perspective that does not throw around the term racism like Oprah used to with respect to cars. This story can also be framed that a person, most likely a UC San Diego student, created an Instagram account to post Anti-BLM, right-of-center, pro-Hong Kong/Anti-China, and Anti-woke propaganda/poorly made, amateur-style memes. The account features and pulls quotes from figures like Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., former presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama, and contemporary conservatives such as Candace Owens, Brandon Straka, and Andy Ngo. No racial slurs or hateful language is used. To fix this, write that the account was deemed hateful by some people and the university leadership, and do not assume that what they said is factually correct, so the outlet is not caught taking a position on whether the account is racist or not.
Finally, it is absurd to compare this to the events of Black Winter, which may in fact be founded on a lie, as explained in an original piece about the Compton Cookout. At this point personal bias really needs to be held in question. It is clear the majority of people who viewed this account negatively operated without the principle of charity, and instead only assume that the intentions behind the genesis of the account is baked in racism. That is possible, but it is not correct to assume that that is the most likely or the only possibility for making the account. However, the people who have a clear bias and do not bother to check it automatically jump to the conclusion that this is evidence of racism against black people, which is intellectually dishonest.
End of digression.
Let me quote for you the most dangerous parts of all of those standard-email responses to the petulant, infantilized young adults’ pleas for intervention:
“The Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination is working with our Chief Information Security Officer to investigate the incident.
If anyone has information about the creator of this account, please contact our Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination at OPHD@ucsd.edu. If found that UC San Diego community members are involved, they will be held accountable.”
Ignore the content expressed for a second, what kind of authority does a university bureaucracy have to hunt down an individual for exercising their 1st Amendment to say things a lot of people do not like in order to “be held accountable?” Is a university not about engaging in civil discourse to discuss all ideas, repugnant or not? Very telling. UC San Diego does not have principles as an institution and does not care about free speech, and would rather infringe on one person’s 1st Amendment when the alternative is a wave of backlash and accusations of racism for not doing so. To them, one person is easier and safer for them to get rid of to appease the mob than to stand up to protect that one person from the mob. It is even explicitly stated that if possible, you should rat out the owner of the account and give him up to the authorities.
The university empowers people to become their version of Pavlik Morozov, a 13-year-old boy who sold out his father to the Soviets for committing “counter-revolutionary acts,” who was later executed by firing squad, and the boy was hailed a national hero by Stalin. The students are Pavlik, the account owner is the father, the counter-revolutionary act is creating “whiteatucsd,” and UC San Diego is Joseph Stalin.
If have not stopped reading, you might be thinking by now, “Oh, this is a stretch.” “There is no way UC San Diego is comparable to the Soviet Union.” Ok, fine. How about Oceania, the setting of 1984?
From the ASUCSD post:
“Actions that have been taken thus far to combat this act of racism:
1. Contact has been made with the Campus Privacy Officer and additional campus admin to find out if anything can be done regarding who made this account and what consequences will occur if it was made by a member of the UC San Diego community
2. We understand content like this can be triggering for some students, so we have reached out to the BSU to include them in this case to the degree which they feel comfortable and necessary
3. Training programs for students interested in learning how to continue the fight against anti-Blackness will be made available through Associated Students
4. As this is not an isolated incident, UC systemwide student advocacy efforts are underway”
Consider what happens to Winston in 1984 once he is caught by the authorities of the Party. He is forced by means of intense torture to repent for his crimes against the state, and to reinternalize the Party’s goals and statements. Over multiple sessions, Winston goes from saying, for example, 2+2=4 to saying 2+2=5 for the sole reason that the Party states 2+2=5, and the entire society of Oceania is structured in a way that Party is always right- past, present, and future, all at once.
How does this relate to ACUCSD, you may ask? The student government and the university administration are in lock-step saying students can, and probably should (because you do not want to be complicit in racism), rat out whoever committed this grave sin, and will simultaneously distribute resources to further indoctrinate students, and to convert those who do not internalize their whiteness, and commit to anti-racism and to fighting anti-blackness just yet. You may decide for yourself which is the more apt comparison: the Soviet Union or the Party of 1984.
After one week, everyone ignored the account. So why the fuss?
To go back to the book, this incident is a microcosm of what is called an “overreaction case,” which is defined as disproportionate response to a perceived threat. “Almost all overreaction cases model the mental habit of catastrophizing, and communicate that disaster would result without the intervention of the administration.28” In addition, they perfectly demonstrate the prioritization of safety in a social setting, better described as safetyism.
Safetyism is defined in the book as a culture where people are blindly willing to voluntarily give something up in exchange for more security, the extent to which can be material goods such as money or property, but more importantly individual liberty such as free speech and the right to bear arms. Haidt and Lukianoff explain, “‘Safety” trumps everything else, no matter how unlikely or trivial the potential danger. When children are raised in a culture of safetyism, which teaches them to stay “emotionally safe” while protecting them from every imaginable danger, it may set up a feedback loop: kids become more fragile and less resilient, which signals to adults that they need more protection, which then makes them even more fragile and less resilient.”
Furthermore, the term “safety” has also undergone a concept creep in the preceding decades to include “emotional safety,” which the university now has an obligation to protect due to demand for such protection from the students and their snowplow parents who never let their children experience adversity. This all stems from what is dubbed “the Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.” People are believed to be inherently fragile, therefore they must be “coddled” and shielded from any and all potential threats to safety, physical and emotional. This leads to moral dependence on an institution, in this case the university administration and its resources. To put this in proper context, a group of students became outraged at an Instagram account saying things they disagreed with, and levied frivolous accusations of racism in order to pressure the university into siding with them (because who wants to be called a racist), especially since it is very easy to be labeled as such. Once their authority responds to appease them, the mob feels emotionally safe and morally righteous until the next time they feel threatened.
This entire series of events creates a negative feedback loop, which results in the denigration of students’ mental health with each run of the loop, leading to mass depression and anxiety. People’s threat-response system are then dialed to respond in an instant that they accumulate a “hostile attribution bias,” meaning even the most benevolent of interactions can generate an outburst of hostility, which lowers the threshold of severity to create a large-scale conflict to a very minute amount of tension. If the institutions or the parents do not teach the skills of conflict resolution or accumulating mental fortitude, which the university and the public education system at large has failed to do, the result is succumbing to learned helplessness, and the demanding that an Orwellian, authoritarian institution step in and save them from the external threats that be due to perceived physical and emotional dangers.
There is a hopeful interpretation of the end of 1984, which can apply to this debacle: If Winston can take so much force from the Party before being re-educated, imagine how much impact a group of Winstons can do to destabilize a tyrannical institution. If an individual can generate such a reaction from a group of people and an entire university from an Instagram, to the point where the institution is giving student the tools to turn their potential fellow student over, the individual is more powerful than we are taught to believe, and that the outcry of the individual just may have a kernel of truth that is coming under threat of being silenced.