A Response To A Critical Email From A University of Wisconsin-Superior Student

In response to my post yesterday, a UW-Superior student wrote to me. I responded. Meanwhile, after receiving the FIRE's letter, UW-Superior closed the investigation without action. I confirmed that the person writing me was a student, but have elected not to name him here.

Dear Mr.White,

Last Friday (04/23/2016), you published an article called "How Inanely Censorious Can College Administrators Get? University of Wisconsin – Superior Will Show You", which raise many concerns. First of all, you're using the name of Ilana Yokel and Debbie Cheslock without their consent and you attacked them on a personal level, which is a terrible thing to do. Secondly, the nature of the investigation and the complaint filed by Debbie Cheslock were that of "student misconduct". Therefore, the procedure occurred as an attempt of trying to resolve a misconduct between student, which shouldn't involve the defense of the First Amendment nor Free Speech. This means that your article wrongly attacked both Debbie Cheslock and the Institution. Thirdly and most importantly, your comment section is filled with hatred and harassment for this poor women, whom life is now threatened because of what you published (including her place of work and her location). Upon learning that you can moderate your comment section, I sincerely ask you to censor those comment (or at least the information regarding Debbie Cheslock) as an attempt to protect her from harassment, cyber bullying and potential assault.

I believe that hurtful action came from misunderstanding, rather than bad intention. Which is why I wrote you this letter to inform you about the situation as well as the possible consequence.
Best regard,

John Doe.

Dear Mr. Doe,

Thank you for writing to me with your response to my post.

You may find my reply disrespectful, rude, or even cruel. In fact, I believe that respect requires me to treat you as an adult capable of a forthright response. I believe you can hear what I have to say, evaluate it, and reject or accept parts of it as you see fit.

First: Mr. Doe, I do not need anyone's consent to speak or write their name. There is no legal requirement that I obtain someone's consent before expressing myself about them, and any such requirement would violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Moreover, you have implied that I need people's consent to write about them even after they have given quotes to newspapers about an issue of public interest, which takes your complaint from silly to utterly ridiculous.

Second, I reject your assertion that I attacked Ms. Cheslock or Ms. Yokel "on a personal level." I attacked their conduct and their demands. Ms. Cheslock demanded that a state school bound by the First Amendment punish students for engaging in satire that is unquestionably protected by the First Amendment, and to be subjected to "cultural competency training" — that is, mandatory education on the right way to think and speak. This is wholly despicable and un-American, and nothing I have said about her comes close to expressing the contempt it deserves. Ms. Yokel asserted that a student newspaper has a nebulous "duty" to exercise free speech in a "responsible way." I stand by calling that incoherent and unprincipled.

Third, your argument about "student misconduct" is nonsensical. University of Wisconsin-Superior is a state school bound by the First Amendment. It cannot violate student rights by labeling things "student misconduct" or labeling an investigation as "trying to resolve a misconduct between a student." If a public school investigates a student and threatens to impose official discipline on that student based on protected speech, it is violating that student's constitutional rights. Your assertion that this "shouldn't involve the defense of the First Amendment nor Free Speech" is also nonsensical. The law, not your feelings, governs whether constitutional rights protect speech. The paper's attempt at satire was obviously protected speech. It's just not a close call at all. The fact that you don't feel it ought to be a First Amendment issue is irrelevant. As the FIRE's letter linked in my post accurately shows, it is a First Amendment issue, and the administration was squarely in the wrong — until it recently announced it had abandoned the "investigation."

Fourth, I think your assertion that the comments are "filed with hatred and harassment" is overwrought. I have deleted some comments that contained gratuitous insults and racism, because Popehat is my private blog and I use it to express myself and exercise my right to free expression. But so far, I don't see anything published that exceeds the level of contempt I think these totalitarian attempts at censorship richly deserve. I will not be "censoring" any of the comments I've approved.

Mr. Doe, let me be more forthright. I do not believe you have equipped yourself to be an adult citizen in a free society. It is not too late to do so.

I am not suggesting that becoming a responsible adult citizen in a free society requires you to become a conservative or eschew "liberal" or "progressive" values. To the contrary. But becoming a responsible adult citizen — and an effective advocate for liberal or progressive values — requires a quite different approach.

We're in the middle of a modest conservative backlash and a resurgence of bigotry, both actual and arrested-adolescent-poseur. I believe a large part of this backlash results from the low quality of advocacy for progressive ideas. Much of that advocacy has become characterized by petulant whining and empty dogmatism. The message conveyed by too many of your generation is not that people should adopt progressive ideas because they are right or just, but that they should adopt them because that is what they are supposed to adopt because that is what right-thinking people adopt. That is irritating and ineffectual. Faced with an idea, I don't expect your generation to confront it. I don't expect you to explain how it's wrong, and win hearts and minds that your ideas are better. Rather, I expect you to assert that you should be protected from being exposed to the idea in the first place. That's disappointing and doesn't bode well for the success of progressive ideas (many of which I admire) in society. In short: if this is how you're going to fight for what you think is right, you're going to lose. Do better.

Meanwhile, I sincerely wish you fulfillment and joy in college, which is a marvelous experience. Don't stop meeting new people and trying new things. Don't overspecialize; you'll never again have such an opportunity to expose yourself to new and different subjects. Take advantage of it.

Very truly yours,

Ken White

Last 5 posts by Ken White

Comments

  1. That Anonymous Coward says

    Whats the over under on this email being submitted to the FBI demanding an investigation into you for some sort of attack?

    I really think killing off civics and letting the void be filled by whatever this sort of 'you have to think how I want or you're breaking the law' hysteria is part of the problem.

    I mean really how DARE you mention someone who has put themselves out into the public sphere without getting permission?? Next you might say a word that someone 15 people away finds offensive and trigger them into collapsing into a wailing ball because you targeted them. O_O

  2. Jack B. says

    I hope you got his consent before printing his email.

    Seriously though, I'll bet he hit the "send" button on that email thinking, "Boy, I sure told that fancy lawyerin' guy what's what!" (In my mind, that's how college students talk… I'm out of the loop.)

  3. Taliesyn says

    Ken,

    As an unabashed liberal who, while disagreeing with you on many social issues, backs you whole-heartedly on First Amendment issues, let me simply say: BRAVO!

  4. NickM says

    I wish to know the name of that student's middle school and high school English teachers, so that I may pummel them for giving that student passing grades.

  5. David C says

    First of all, you're using the name of Ilana Yokel and Debbie Cheslock without their consent

    Thirdly and most importantly, your comment section is filled with hatred and harassment for this poor women, whom life is now threatened because of what you published (including her place of work and her location).

    Didn't she give her name and place of work to Wisconsin Pubic Radio voluntarily, for use in the article they wrote? It's not like Popehat dug up the name and/or place of work of someone who submitted an anonymous complaint (which, although it would STILL be protected speech, might be inappropriate.) She went to the media herself. I don't see why it's inappropriate to quote from the WPR article.

    Secondly, the nature of the investigation and the complaint filed by Debbie Cheslock were that of "student misconduct". Therefore, the procedure occurred as an attempt of trying to resolve a misconduct between student, which shouldn't involve the defense of the First Amendment nor Free Speech.

    Calling this a mere "student misconduct" incident and saying the First Amendment isn't involved misses the point. It's like calling someone wearing a yarmulke a "dress code violation" and saying that freedom of religion isn't involved.

  6. Miles Archer says

    Wow. That was far too nice. Ok. Maybe not too nice. But way nicer than I expected from this blog and what was deserved.

  7. says

    I dunno. Something about the phrasing and syntax of the letter says "troll" to me. It's a too-perfect recitation of cliches, written to someone who, the letter writer must know, would react, well, exactly as you reacted.

  8. Agammamon says

    Is that a verbatim copy of what that college student wrote?

    Because the care with which this correspondence was prepared is abysmal.

    procedure occurred as an attempt

    whom life is now

    I believe that hurtful action came from misunderstanding, rather than bad intention.

    Which is why I wrote you this letter to inform you about the situation as well as the possible consequence.

    I would say that if the issue is of sufficient importance that you're going to 'cold-call' someone about it – you put in the effort in proofreading. This guy isn't some ditchdigger who doesn't have the privilege of attending an American university.

  9. Agammamon says

    I didn't – I see that sort of carelessness all the time on forums. He's got *too good* a grasp of English, just exceedingly careless. Its like first draft writing. He just never went back and cleaned it up.

  10. Angstela says

    A kind response, considering the difficulty I'd have in mustering a civil reply to such silliness.

    As for the grammar issues others are discussing: I'd like to say "non-native English" but, over the last six months I've had a lot of opportunity to read things written by post-secondary students – both native speakers and transplants – which are supposedly academic and formal in tone. If I got something like student's letter printed here (grammar-wise), I'd be pretty happy considering what I usually receive.

  11. Boblipton says

    far too polite Ken. I think this one deserved no more than "Piss off, you inane infant, and when you learn the rules of the society you think you can whine into submission, come back and I'll beat you to a pulp."

    Bob

  12. The Other JD says

    Dear Mx. Doe:

    If we want any more shit out of you, we'll come up there and squeeze your head.

    Your Pal Always,

    The Other JD

  13. Brian Kemp says

    The author asked you to censor your blog? You, a first amendment lawyer?

    The Author would have had better luck asking you for a pony.

  14. An UK reader of your blog says

    What a fantastic reply – a lovely mixture of educational, amusing, and blunt advice.

    Hopefully all of the students involved will learn from this.

    PS Fantastic blog, I'm a big fan.

  15. Jason says

    This is a troll, for sure. The whole thing is tuned precisely to aggravate Ken and play off his perceptions of what the students involved in this kind of news story are like.

    It's not the writing style that indicates a troll, but just how perfectly silly the opinions are. It reads like someone who wants to get a kick out of seeing Ken demolish "those stupid SJW students" and, in the absence of real students to offer themselves up as sacrifice, decided to invent one.

  16. Michael 2 says

    Your response is remarkable. Succinct, focused, passionate and civil all at the same time.

  17. says

    I suspect that Mr. White was so uncharacteristically nice because (1) Doe approached him directly and (2) he's been reading the data about how millennials are largely incapable of critical reasoning or principled argument (note his reference to his low expectations of Doe's generation).

  18. says

    To those saying it's a troll: it was from the email address of a student (I Googled and matched it), it was from a campus IP, and the student in question has a footprint in that area of politics.

  19. King Squirrel says

    On reflection, few people I know (including myself) have the self control and discipline to write a response letter as instructive and compassionate as this. The temptation to snark and put on a self-righteous display would be too high.

    Impressive.

  20. Careless says

    Honestly, I'd feel bad arguing with someone that stupid. Hell, I have felt bad for arguing with someone that stupid.

    Aga, I got the impression that the writer is indigenous to somewhere else.

    At UW-Superior? Foreign students? ha

  21. ANOTHER_JD? says

    Let me add my kudos, Mr. White – you do our profession proud. Bravo.

    In particular for taking the opportunity to engage the opposing viewpoint on a meaningful and substantive level – too often these days the opposing sides exist in their own bubbles, never crossing (or even approaching) the fence to engage the other side with anything other than hurled insults and vitriol. Mr. Doe reached out on the merits, and you responded in a way that (hopefully, but I remain an idealist) will provoke reflective thought about the underlying issues, not simply right or wrong on a superficial level. More 'teachable moments' should be seized as you have. Again, kudos.

  22. Michael Cox says

    'Twas a lovely response. The current mindset of the bill of rights as a "living document" that one need not amend, nor pay attention to, is disheartening, to say the least. Thanks, Ken, for offering me a glimmer of hope for the future.

    "Do Better" is exactly what I told one of the neighborhood miscreants the other day. It's something everyone should take to heart, daily. Myself included. Thanks again, Ken.

  23. raphidae says

    Doe's parents are probably on the hook for years of therapy now it's been so viciously assaulted with all those horrible words.

  24. Jeff Field says

    When did the ability to write beyond a sixth grade level stop being a prerequisite for college admission? This kid is in dire need of an editor and/or some intensive tutoring in English grammar and composition.

  25. ... But I Play One On TV... says

    WTF the kid couldn't edit the damn thing before he sent it? Looks like it was written by a 2nd-grader. The poor writing is so off-putting I didn't have feels-enough-left-to-care about its hilarious premises.

  26. Quiet Lurcker says

    @That Anonymous Coward:

    Normally, i would tend to agree with your position re. the teaching of civics.

    Then I thought about McCarthyism. What occurs to me here is, McCarthy and his cronies were attempting to force on the U.S. and its citizens a conservative, patriotic, religious form of group-think; a sort of reverse-political correctness, if you will. And people lived with – maybe even encouraged – the fall-out from that type of thought, until McCarthy ended up making a complete fool of himself. And this was in the fifties, when civics – from what I have been able to discover – was taught, and at some length, in the public schools.

    I begin to wonder. Is this down to a lack of civics, or similar instruction? Or is it more down to the fact schools don't seem to teach students to think critically these days, and may not have been for quite some time now?

  27. Richard says

    @Brian Kemp:

    The Author would have had better luck asking you for a pony.

    Given Ken's well-known stance on the pony menace, wouldn't that be tantamount to assisted suicide?

  28. albert says

    @Ken,
    Well done, again! I especially like your last two paragraphs. The second to last is a gem. If students could only retain the concept of reasonable discussion, rational debate, and effective persuasion, we'd have a more civil society, and perhaps, a better one.

    When I read John Does letter, I thought: 'I hope this guy's not going into law', then wham! You came back with: "…the student in question has a footprint in that area of politics….".

    When will I ever learn?
    . .. . .. — ….

  29. Canvasback says

    "Mr. Doe, let me be more forthright. I do not believe you have equipped yourself to be an adult citizen in a free society. It is not too late to do so."
    That's the stuff right there. I told my kid when he went off to college he'd see a lot of young people practicing to be adults. He said that advice haunted him for the next four years.

  30. Nullifidian says

    That bit about not getting permission to use their names is what really bugs me. The snowflakes sincerely think that they're entitled to operate in an entirely closed world where none of their activities will ever be subjected to overview or adverse comment. The fact that they think like this makes me worry for the future of any government or business venture run by them. How many of them will retain the idea when they leave grades 13-16 (which is the best way I can think of to refer to what ostensibly is a period of education for adults, but obviously for many is just an extended period of adolescence) that sunshine laws and honest financial records are things for other people?

    And I have to second the commenters who point out that the grammar here is atrocious. I'm only 36, but I'm at the tail end of a generation that is old enough to remember when I would have been flunked if I had turned in a piece of writing like that as a school essay. However, I also had three different teachers who taught sentence diagramming (in elementary, middle, and high school), plus an elective course that focused on in-depth study of techniques of grammar and rhetoric in persuasive writing in college.

  31. mdv1959 says

    I hope John Doe reads the letter and appreciates that he has been given invaluable advise for free from a lawyer who probably charges several hundred dollars an hour. In my experience it's unlikely to happen again.

  32. nhrpolitic13 says

    Without further resort to juvenile humor, I will simply say that it is my observation that there is at least a non-insignificant portion of modern youth who are going to be *severely* disappointed when they reach the real world. Or at least, I hope so . . . else the world will be a far more humorless place, if less troubled by juvenile and perhaps ill-considered humor. Nice response, Ken.

  33. says

    One more piece of advice for Mr. Doe: while your ideas can still be ferreted out, many people will pay closer attention if you proofread for grammar and spelling before you publish.

  34. pennywit says

    Reading through this, I definitely think Mr. Doe is not a native English speaker. So, I would cut him some slack in that department.

  35. says

    It's possible that Mr. Doe speaks English as a second language. If so, his command of English is orders of magnitude better than my command of any second language. Just saying.

  36. albert says

    @Nullifidian, piperTom,

    Agreed. I might add: One can learn a lot about expository writing by -reading- well written exposition. This sort of learning by osmosis may be unconscious, but as writing standards in the press and online decrease, so will those of students. Ad-speak was lost 50 years ago. Will we become a nation of computerized spell checkers an grammar checkers? Have we given up on poor grammar? Have we been forced to settle for intelligibility?

    Would proofreading have helped Mr. Doe? Perhaps…if someone else did the proofreading.
    . .. . .. — ….

  37. rich says

    Incredibly polite and detailed answer when a two word answer would have more than sufficed

  38. Murder Hobo says

    The legality of doxxing seems hard to pin down because it's such a broad thing. When it involves circumventing some sort of security to identify someone, it seems pretty clear that this may be violating a defensible* law in a way that publishing public information about a guy who was volunteered his own identity.

    It's also possible that posting legally obtained information for the purpose of getting your fans to use that information to do something illegal can meet the elements of incitement. Other people can (and I think Ken has in a post not long ago) explain how that legal hair is split much better than I can, but I generally think that it should be a pretty high bar to show both that the doxxer intended to cause his audience to act, and that the act he wanted them to commit is a crime. (I don't think writing angry e-mails–or telling people to do so– to someone who inserted themselves into a public debate should ever be considered a crime, and any anti-harassment laws that would appear to criminalize such actions should be seriously reexamined.)

    *defensible in the sense that laws against hacking into an ISP or someone's server to identify an anonymous user, or even hacking by social engineering to accomplish the same goal, seem perfectly consistent with the Constitution, in contrast to some privacy/anti-harassment laws that would probably criminalize reposting information obtained legally.

  39. BadRoad says

    What I'd like to know is what led Mr. Doe to believe that Ms. Cheslock's life is in danger and why that danger can specifically be traced here.

  40. Michael Gorback says

    "It's possible that Mr. Doe speaks English as a second language. If so, his command of English is orders of magnitude better than my command of any second language. Just saying."

    He writes pretty well for a Millennial (i.e., above 6th grade level), which means he probably did learn English in another country.

    One tip-off that Mr. Doe might not be American born and bred is that he didn't start his letter with "So", as in "So last Friday (04/23/2016), you published an article . . ."

    I would need to see how he uses comparatives ("then" vs "than") to be reasonably certain that he is not a native speaker.

    I think he was very kind at the end of his letter where he implied that you weren't evil, just ignorant.

  41. John Fenderson says

    As a strong lifelong liberal, I approve of your response 100%. It was a perfect blend of scolding, educating, and being kind.

  42. JCC says

    I too assumed that email was parody, until I saw the post which claimed the email and IP were genuine for a student at that college. Hard to believe that the kid is such a dolt. Undoubtedly has a career ahead in government…sadly, I would know.

  43. James Hanley says

    the procedure occurred as an attempt of trying to resolve a misconduct between student,

    The phrasing assumes the satire was a misconduct. The relevance of the First Amendment, which the author wished to set aside, is that it removes the very basis for assuming the satire constitutes misconduct.

    To those suggesting the author is a non-native English speaker, as a college prof I read native English speakers' writing for a living, and nothing in the writing struck me as out of the ordinary. I have students for whom this writing would be a distinct improvement. (I do not teach at an elite school.)

    I'm also dubious about the trolling claim. To me this read exactly like the direct quotes from protesters that we find in news articles. It doesn't seem too perfect, just too typical.

  44. TutonePrime says

    As a guy on the leading edge of the "millennial" catch-all: have higher expectations of us.

    This isn't a matter of "goddamn kids these days are soft idiots" (though Mr. Doe seems to be). We're looking at one generation of many as it realizes that the internet gives a voice to its most vapid and unthinking. This problem applies to boomers, gen-X-ers, and millennials.

    For every idiot like Mr. Doe, here, I can cite ten of the nebulously-defined "millennial" generation who actually value free speech and are willing to take principled stands for it. The FIRE doesn't exist because students are by and large opposed to free speech; it exists because there is still a need and an outcry from the damn young'ins who have limited resources to fight the censors of ALL ages (yes, including millennials) who scurry across the floorboards of academia.

    Idiots needn't have been excessively coddled to think their positions unassailable or their right to be free from offense absolute. This guy does not speak for an entire generation: he speaks for the easily-offended part of America that thinks only IT is responsible enough to carry a bullhorn. That portion of America that whose discriminatory practices only exclude the logical thinkers. That part of America that sure as hell isn't comprised exclusively of folks born after 1980, 1990, or even 2000.

    Ken has every right to paint younger folks as coddled and soft if he wants, of course. But I'd ask him to try and remember there are "kids these days" who don't just support the First Amendment, but recognize its significance in making progress possible– even as it also protects idiots.

  45. Cecil says

    My guess is that removing the essay requirement from the application process has not been a boon to education. On the other hand, it allows more students to be enrolled at higher and higher tuition rates.

  46. PLW says

    "Kids these days can't write/think like they used to," said every educated old person in the history of educated old people, starting (at least) with Horace in 20 BC. If I ever start spouting that drivel, I hope they take me off to the retirement home where I belong.

  47. Tradegeek says

    "Far too polite Ken. I think this one deserved no more than "Piss off, you inane infant, and when you learn the rules of the society you think you can whine into submission, come back and I'll beat you to a pulp."

    Bob

    My gut reaction is the same. But the tone of Ken's response is really how you have to speak to young people these days. It' s something as an employer I have just had to come to grips with. It's typically the better educated that have the thinnest skin. Story book family, wonderful college experience and bristling with a immensely fragile overestimation of self worth. If they are reprimanded for any reason (I don't mean yelling, but simple direct correction of a mistake) they either fall to pieces in shame or become hugely defensive. My gut reaction is that I want to fire them immediately. Then the pragmatic businessman in me remembers just how much of a pain in the ass it is (not to mention expensive) to hire and train staff. There is also no certainty the next hire won't be the same. it's just the new normal. So many young people cannot handle constructive criticism much less direct criticism.

    I don't have this problem with employees on the lower levels. Typically, they are less likely to have come from storybook families, didn't attend college and have some life calluses. It's the 24 year old greenhorns who have never been yelled at, criticized or reprimanded by anybody…. ever. They simply have no clue how to handle it.

    I'd love to go off on all of them. But realistically, sometimes you have to take a deep breath and respond with restraint. You say what you need to say. You get the point across, but you have to do in a way that is most likely to lead to a productive outcome. It's the outcome that your working towards. Even if you have to suppress a very justifiable instinct. You get used to swallowing the vomit after a while.

  48. Tradegeek says

    TutonePrime says

    "But I'd ask him to try and remember there are "kids these days" who don't just support the First Amendment, but recognize its significance in making progress possible– even as it also protects idiots."

    I'd argue that it is less an issue of misunderstanding the first amendment or anything else. It's more fundamental than that. What I see is more an immature view of what the real world is like. People don't have to respect your feelings. They don't have to agree with you politely. In the real world people will look you directly in the eye and tell you exactly what they think of you. And it can sting. Sometimes, really really bad. It may even ruin your day.

    It's not just colleges. Parents are not preparing their kids. They hand out trophies simply for showing up. They show anger to teachers who don't give their perfect child an automatic A. They don't let their kids out of their site for 30 seconds because they believe every bush contains at least three child predators. When I was 10, I would ride off with my friends miles from home. Had to be back before dark. Now? My kids have friends who's parents won't let them walk three doors down on the same block without them.

    These young people can't handle adversity because everybody from pre-school through college, parents included, has done everything they can to assure that they never have to.

  49. Andy Stow says

    Out of curiosity, I pasted the student's email into Word and ran a spelling and grammar check. The only mistake it found was the missing space in Mr.White. Very odd.

  50. says

    Without going too far down the old v. young rabbithole that results anytime someone realizes millennials read Popehat too, I'd just remark that John Doe's conduct is exactly the sort that is exceedingly strange to judge a generation by. Disregarding the present preponderance of education statistics that simply weren't trendy when "life was good" and "they taught civics" and "Back to the Future happened", is there really such a difference between this isolated email and the all-caps punctuation-free stream-of-consciousness inanity produced by everyone's stock 50-year-old co-worker?

    The "feelsiness" that pokes in its head is certainly an actual and unpleasant characteristic across at least the collegiate sector of the generation, but as manifested in a "he named names" whine it doesn't come across as anything more than hypersensitivity about Internet exposure, the same (not wholly unreasonable) hypersensitivity that plagues every lawyer, doctor, and amateur blogger who finds themselves starring in a particularly unflattering webdrama. It just seems silly to look at this letter and imagine it is somehow uniquely millennial-scented.

  51. Tradegeek says

    "It just seems silly to look at this letter and imagine it is somehow uniquely millennial-scented."

    Every generation has its own idiosyncrasies. My grandparents were children of the depression and lived through a world war. They were frugal, cautious and skeptical. My parents were baby boomers. They had fond memories of the 50s and 60s as a "golden era" of blue collar bliss. 60s kids were molded by Vietnam and watergate. 80s, as far as I can tell, had an obsession to hair product, shoulder pads and Ronald Reagan.

    I'm part of gen X. I didn't like hearing criticism of gen X, but it was largely true. We were the first generation since the depression who didn't have the threat of global war looming over our heads. The 90s were a time of smooth economic growth. We were selfish, optimistic and very ambitious. College kids were trading Internet stocks on Etrade in their dorm with money advanced from credit cards calling their parents "stupid" for investing in "old economy" loser companies like GE. We loved debt, lots of it. We made fun of people who didn't know the difference between a router and a modem (to be fair, I still do that).

    We had a scent. The Great Recession washed allot of it off. Allot of my colleagues lost their houses, businesses and saw their first real economic hardship. The rose tint from the 90s persisted longer than it should have.

    Millennials have a scent. And it's all over that email.

  52. Murder Hobo says

    @Andy:

    Out of curiosity, I pasted the student's email into Word and ran a spelling and grammar check. The only mistake it found was the missing space in Mr.White. Very odd.

    Spell check only checks that every word exists in the program's dictionary, not that it's the right spelling of the word meant to be used. For example, Tradegeek's use of "allot" instead of "a lot" is painfully obvious to a human who knows what "allot" means and that it doesn't make sense where he uses it, but spellcheck won't flag it because "allot" is the proper spelling of a word in the English language.

    The Great Recession washed allot of it off. Allot of my colleagues lost their houses, businesses and saw their first real economic hardship.

    I don't know how grammar check works, but I imagine most rely more on heuristics and general knowledge of common mistakes. I know from experience that Microsoft's used to give a lot of false positives for subject/verb agreement when you used uncommon sentence structures. It's not surprising if it works the other way as well–it won't flag anything as blatantly bad grammar, but to a reasonably literate native speaker, something about the way it's strung together just defies convention.

  53. Peter Sutton says

    I don't think this is a troll. The pro-troll argument seems to be

    "This writing style matches EXACTLY with what we would expect from an undergrad SJW…it's TOO perfect. So it can't be legit."

    While I acknowledge that there are people in the world who could and would perfectly imitate the undergrad SJW style for trolling purposes, the argument is forgetting one thing: Ken said he had confirmed that this was a student at UW-S. How many undergrads have the sort of subtlety and nuance to pull this off as a troll? Maybe one in 10,000. How many have the ability to write like this sincerely? Maybe 5,000 in 10,000.

    I know Ken never said it was an undergrad, so it might be one of the 150 grad students there. Still, I like the odds that this is legit.

  54. E. G. Gordon says

    Just one more variable to explain where the mindset prevalent in millennials comes from: I got out of teaching at a Southern California university in 2008. In the next two years two former colleagues of mine shared that parents of students in their classes had contacted them to complain about hard tests, too much work and/or failing grades. After that I've heard the same from many professors across the country. Too many of these kids have never had to think for themselves or solve their own problems, which is another contributing factor to the shelter mentality displayed in the student's email.

  55. Craig Ellis says

    "We're in the middle of a modest conservative backlash and a resurgence of bigotry, both actual and arrested-adolescent-poseur. I believe a large part of this backlash results from the low quality of advocacy for progressive ideas. Much of that advocacy has become characterized by petulant whining and empty dogmatism. The message conveyed by too many of your generation is not that people should adopt progressive ideas because they are right or just, but that they should adopt them because that is what they are supposed to adopt because that is what right-thinking people adopt. That is irritating and ineffectual. Faced with an idea, I don't expect your generation to confront it. I don't expect you to explain how it's wrong, and win hearts and minds that your ideas are better. Rather, I expect you to assert that you should be protected from being exposed to the idea in the first place. That's disappointing and doesn't bode well for the success of progressive ideas (many of which I admire) in society. In short: if this is how you're going to fight for what you think is right, you're going to lose. Do better." Drop. The. Mic.

  56. David Schwartz says

    "Incredibly polite and detailed answer when a two word answer would have more than sufficed"

    But then how would he know whose taint to snort?

  57. Zos says

    The mix of vague demands that one agree to back down combined with the earnest belief that the accusations they work in are real threats is about right. I was once on the recieving end of the same sort of false friendliness that basically insisted that I better drop my position that rape is sex one of the participants did not consent to – instead if sex that women like Gloria Steinem and other moral middle class women feel is an assault on womenkind – or that women simply are
    victims of hormones, society, and men like the guy she insisted raped her friend on the basis that casual sex is wrong and the friend's belief she consented is proof that she didnt.
    Even after my consistent disgust with both her position and various people I thought had some backbone telling me I was a monster and of course consent did not invalidate her lived experience of pain at the thought of others pleasure.

    After the public first round she wrote some friendly worded threats that I better stop misunderstanding the harm I am doing by degrading women through belief in their ability to make decisions for themselves or else she might need to report my wife as a victim of brainwashing and kidnapping to get her to safety… Or perhaps I don't understand that the idea of many sexual positions makes her cry… Obviously with this information I will reform my ways and not need to be on her list of pigs. Eventually I just ignored her after realizing that she could not grasp that I didn't fear being seen as disagreeing with the group.

    What I could not brush off was when mental health professionals started telling women I knew they were selfish for believing that consent means they are not being abused by their partners if they have too many or enjoy degrading to middle aged church ladies acts…. While also making sure that any talk of abuse by a mother is a lie and a false memory….

  58. Rick says

    Meanwhile, I sincerely wish you fulfillment and joy in college, which is a marvelous experience.

    ..and re-take English 101, repeatedly, if that's what it takes for you to write above a 5th grade level.

  59. Another Lawyer says

    Dear Lord, I pray this day that I will someday write retorts as effective as Ken White.

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