YouTuber Logan Paul faces backlash after posting video of suicide victim – December 31, 2017

Sea of Trees Forest, Fujikawaguchiko, Japan

Vlogger Logan Paul came under fire after posting a video on YouTube on December 31, 2017, that showed his encounter with the corpse of a suicide victim in a Japanese forest. The video was removed just two days later, but its initial publication ignited weeks of outcry on social media. YouTube issued an official condemnation of the incident and later distanced itself from Paul.

Key Players

Logan Paul is a 22-year-old internet personality who regularly uploads comedic videos to YouTube, a practice known as vlogging. Paul has monetized his videos, meaning that he profits from the advertisements placed on his channel, which currently has more than 16 million subscribers. Although he chose not to monetize the video in question, Paul earned $12.5 million from his other videos in 2017.

YouTube is the Google-owned, video-sharing social network that hosts Paul’s content. Through its advertising program, Google Preferred, companies place ads on channels that the website identifies as highly influential.

Further Details

On December 31, 2017, Paul posted a 15-minute YouTube video in which he wades into the Sea of Trees Forest in Japan, a place notorious for its high incidence of suicides. Early in the video, he happens upon the body of a suicide victim. He laughs and remarks, “Bro, did we just find a dead person in the suicide forest?” and “Are you fucking with us?” Later, when someone in his crew says he is uncomfortable, Paul jokes, “What, you’ve never stood next to a dead body before?” and laughs. In the video, he also urges people who are experiencing mental illness to seek help.

Two days after posting the video, and after it had received six million views, Paul removed it from his channel. By then, however, people on social media were decrying the vlogger for trivializing suicide, and a petition calling on YouTube to delete his channel had amassed 671,000 signatures. He issued a written apology on Twitter, saying he had “never made a mistake like this before” and that he did not “do it for views.” The following day, Paul issued another apology, this time in a video, in which he expressed regret for publishing the Sea of Trees Forest video and asked his fans not to defend him. He ended by promising to “be better.” That same day, a YouTube spokesperson confirmed to CNN that the video violated the website’s standards by portraying gory content in a “shocking, sensational or disrespectful manner.”

On January 9, 2018, YouTube posted an open letter to Twitter that condemned the incident, adding that suicide should never be “a driving force for views.” The next day, YouTube announced a series of sanctions against the social media star.

Outcome

YouTube removes Paul as a preferred ad partner and cancels future projects with him

YouTube announced on January 10, 2018, that it would no longer include Paul in the Google Preferred program, meaning that his videos would not be flagged as highly influential for advertisers. The company said it would cut Paul from the fourth season of its original comedy series “Foursome” and would suspend any future projects with the vlogger.

Paul’s channel remains active

After YouTube’s sanctions, Paul continued to post videos weekly. He recently renewed his social media notoriety by posting a video in which he is shown tasing rats. As of March 7, 2018, his channel’s subscriber base had grown to nearly 17 million.

External References

Logan Paul’s original video

Logan Paul Apology: Read It in Full, The Independent

YouTube’s open letter

YouTube says Logan Paul video violated its policies, CNN

The Social-Media Star and the Suicide, The Atlantic

Logan Paul, YouTube Star, Apologizes As Critics Slam Video Showing Dead Body, NPR

Logan Paul: Following the YouTube controversy, should social media have the same regulations as journalism? The Independent

YouTube distances itself from Logan Paul as it drops him from comedy series in the wake of suicide video scandal, Daily Mail

Delete Logan Paul’s YouTube Channel, Change.org

The World’s Highest-Paid YouTube Stars, Forbes

Prepared by Jesus Rodriguez ‘19

Uploaded March 20, 2018

 

ESPN’s Jemele Hill sparks White House controversy with anti-Trump tweets – September 2017

Washington, DC

ESPN SportsCenter host Jemele Hill posted two tweets on September 11, 2017, expressing her dislike of President Donald Trump. They elicited a strong backlash on Twitter and in the media, leading a reporter to ask White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to comment on them. She called Hill’s tweets a “fireable offense.”

Key Players

Jemele Hill is a black sports journalist from Detroit. She joined ESPN in 2006 as a national columnist on ESPN.com, before beginning a podcast with fellow sports journalist Michael Smith called His & Hers. In February 2017, Smith and Hill became evening co-anchors of SportsCenter. Their show was called SC6 with Michael and Jemele. In September 2017, she posted a series of tweets criticizing President Trump. Two of them read:

“Trump is the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy. Period.”

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the only daughter of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. After managing her father’s presidential campaign in 2016, she became the Trump campaign’s senior advisor handling communications for coalitions. When Trump won the election, Huckabee Sanders was named deputy White House press secretary. Following Sean Spicer’s resignation, she assumed the role of press secretary in July 2017. She is the third woman ever to hold the position.

Further Details

The day after Hill’s tweets incited an immediate backlash, ESPN tweeted out a statement, which read, “The comments on Twitter from Jemele Hill regarding the President do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate.” In a White House press briefing the following day, a reporter read Hill’s tweets out loud to Huckabee Sanders and asked her to comment. The press secretary called them some of “the more outrageous comments that anybody could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”

That same day, the National Association of Black Journalists released a statement supporting Hill’s right to speak freely “on all matters of discussion, within and outside the world of sports, as they do not impinge on her duties as a host and commentator,” reported NBC News.

A few days after Hill’s tweets were posted, Trump weighed in from his Twitter account. He tweeted, “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!”

Ratings for SportsCenter in the 6 pm time slot did drop 20 percent year-over-year after Hill and Smith became hosts, compared to when Lindsay Czarniak headlined the show, reported Forbes. However, ESPN’s overall ratings are decreasing regularly. Pardon the Interruption, for example, saw a similar drop.

Outcome

Jemele Hill suspended from ESPN following a second social media violation

Despite Huckabee Sanders’ claims that Hill’s tweets were a “fireable offense,” ESPN did not dismiss the sports anchor. However, the company did take action when in October 2017 Hill reportedly violated its social media guidelines a second time. When Cowboys Head Coach Jerry Jones threatened to bench any of his players who “disrespect the [American] flag” and kneel during the national anthem, Hill responded on Twitter by suggesting people who disagreed with Jones ought to boycott his team’s advertisers. As a result, ESPN suspended her for two weeks. Her tweets on the topic, posted on October 8 and 9, read:

Jerry Jones also has created a problem for his players, specifically the black ones. If they don’t kneel, some will see them as sellouts.”

“If you strongly reject what Jerry Jones said, the key is his advertisers. Don’t place the burden squarely on the players. […]”

“Just so we’re clear: I’m not advocating a NFL boycott. But an unfair burden has been put on players in Dallas & Miami w/ anthem directives.”

“If fans really are that upset about what JJ & Stephen Ross have done, don’t call the players sellouts, but you’re watching every Sunday.”

Following the announcement of Hill’s suspension, Trump took to Twitter once more. On October 9, 2017, he tweeted, “With Jemele Hill at the mike [sic], it is no wonder ESPN ratings have “tanked,” in fact, tanked so badly it is the talk of the industry!”

Jemele Hill leaves ESPN’s SportsCenter

In January 2018, it was announced that Hill would move from SC6 to The Undefeated, an ESPN digital news outlet that analyzes sports, race, and culture, reported Variety. Despite rumors that she was demoted or removed from the show, according to Forbes, Hill took to Twitter to claim that the move was her own decision. “I asked to leave the show,” she wrote. She also thanked her co-host, Smith, the SC6 staff, and her SportsCenter colleagues.

External References

Did Jemele Hill Get Demoted From SportsCenter Or Request The Move To ‘The Undefeated’?, Forbes

Donald Trump’s Tweet

Jemele Hill, known for anti-Trump tweets, is leaving ESPN’s SportsCenter, Vox.com

Jemele Hill Will Leave ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’, Variety

White House Says ESPN Should Fire Anchor Who Called Trump White Supremacist, NBCNews

Jemele Jones Suspended by ESPN over Jerry Jones Tweets, The Cut

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says anthem protests are damaging the NFL, The Guardian

Jemele Hill Suspended by ESPN After Response to Jerry Jones, The New York Times

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded March 19, 2018

Protests outside Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington turn violent – May 16, 2017

Washington, D.C.

On May 16, 2017, a group of protesters who had gathered across from the home of the Turkish ambassador to the United States were assaulted by embassy security guards, bodyguards for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other non-affiliated individuals. Local police intervened to stop the attacks, but not before eleven people were injured, nine of whom were taken to the hospital. In the aftermath, two U.S. citizens pled guilty to their involvement in the assault, and 15 Turkish security officials and four other individuals were indicted for their role in the altercation.

Key Players

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is president of Turkey. He served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, and was elected president in Turkey’s first-ever direct elections in 2014. His time in power has seen many controversial incidents:

In late May 2013, anti-government demonstrations broke out in Istanbul. The protests began when a small group of demonstrators gathered in Gezi Park, located in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, to protest Erdogan’s plan to bulldoze the park and build a mall in its place. They were angry about the negative impact razing the park would have on the environment. Turkish police tried to clear the park using tear gas and water cannons, injuring more than 100 people, The Guardian reported. The protesters were eventually cleared, but demonstrations spread across the country in response to what many perceived as excessive force on the part of police in Istanbul.

In December 2013, a corruption probe was launched to investigate more than 50 government officials, including members of Erdogan’s inner circle. The government dismissed some350 police officers before the prosecutor eventually ceased the inquiry.

In July 2016, Erdogan faced an attempted coup by a portion of the Turkish military. Addressing the nation via Facetime, he urged his supporters to go into the streets and demonstrate against the military. The coup was eventually put down.

In April 2017, a constitutional amendment passed via referendum, with 51 percent of the vote. It disbanded the Turkish parliament, gave more power to the executive, and made it possible for Erdogan to remain in power until 2029. International election monitors questioned the legitimacy of the referendum result, in light of last-minute changes to the voting process and state media coverage that was biased in favor of its passage.

Further Details

On May 16, 2017, Erdogan met with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. During a joint press conference, he pledged to help the U.S. fight terrorism and praised Trump for his election. Trump commented that the U.S. and Turkey have a “great relationship” and that “[they] will make it even better.”

Meanwhile, approximately 24 demonstrators gathered outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence, waiting for Erdogan’s return from the White House. The group included Americans, Kurds, and Armenians who opposed the Turkish president’s policies. They gathered in Sheridan Circle, across from a group of Erdogan’s supporters, including government security forces and other armed individuals. A line of D.C. police officers initially separated the protesters from the pro-Erdogan forces, but the latter group soon rushed across the street through the police lines and attacked the protesters. The police attempted to break up the fighting.

A video posted to Voice of America’s Turkish language service showed the attacks on the protesters. Another video also showed Erdogan watching as he exited his car and entered the residence.

Flint Arthur, of Baltimore, Maryland, one of the anti-Erdogan demonstrators involved in the clash, told CNN, “We are protesting (Erdogan’s) policies in Turkey, in Syria, and in Iraq. . . . They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey. They stopped us for a few minutes . . . But we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan’s tyrannical regime.”

The following day, the U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the violence. It read, “We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel . . . . Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest,” reported Politico. The State Department also reportedly reprimanded the Turkish ambassador for the incident. In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry lodged a complaint with the U.S. ambassador to Turkey about the police’s role in halting the incident. It blamed U.S. authorities for their “inability . . . to take sufficient precautions” to prevent violence. The complaint also alleged that U.S. “security personnel” had taken “aggressive and unprofessional actions.”

The Turkish embassy claimed that the protesters were affiliated with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a terrorist organization that has been in conflict with the Turkish government for 30 years. Embassy officials insisted that the protesters were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President” and who “responded in self-defense,” reported CNN and Politico. In contrast to these allegations, DC Police Chief Peter Newsham announced in June 2017 that there was no evidence the protesters were associated with any terrorist group.

On September 19, 2017, Erdogan told PBS Newshour that Trump had apologized for the incident. Erdogan said he was sorry as well, but he maintained that the protesters had instigated the violence and that local law enforcement was slow in stepping in to stop the fighting, reported Business Insider.

A group of Republican lawmakers called the incident an “affront to the United States.” Senator John McCain of Arizona tweeted, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this type of thuggish behavior.”

Outcome

Turkish government blamed U.S. law enforcement, protesters for violence

The Turkish government alleged that the protesters were responsible for inciting the violence, and claimed they were affiliated with the PKK, a terrorist group in Turkey. President Erdogan also claimed that U.S. law enforcement was slow in responding to the violence.

19 people indicted, two American citizens pleaded guilty

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, two people were arrested: Ayten Necmi, of Woodside, New York, was charged with aggravated assault, and Jalal Kheirabaoi, of Fairfax, Virginia, was charged with assault on a police officer, reported The New York Times. The two were allegedly among the protesters.

In August 2017, U.S. officials indicted 19 other individuals for their role in the incident. Fifteen were Turkish security officials, and four were individuals not associated with the Turkish government. Several of them faced charges of assault with a deadly weapon, reported CNN. All 19 faced felony charges of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, reported CBS News.

In December 2017, two U.S. citizens, Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim, pleaded guilty to charges of assault with significant bodily injury. Video footage showed the two kicking protesters in the head while they were on the ground, reported The Washington Post. They are not known to be associated with the Turkish government.

External References

Turkish forces clear Istanbul park, CNN

Failed coup in Turkey: What you need to know, CNN

Turkey tests Trump’s patience after protesters roughed up, Politico

In video, Erdogan watches as his guards clash with protesters, The New York Times

International monitors deliver scathing verdict on Turkish referendum, CNN

Turkey referendum: Erdogan declares victory, CNN

State Department condemns violence by Erdogan security guards at D.C. protest, Politico

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Fast Facts, CNN

Turkish president: Trump told me he was ‘sorry’ for bloody protest in DC, Business Insider

Turkish security officials indicted following Erdogan’s May DC visit, CNN

Protesters injured outside Turkish embassy in DC after Trump-Erdogan meeting, CNN

Erdogan security forces launch ‘brutal attack’ on Washington protesters, officials say, The New York Times

More arrests in attack on protesters at Turkish embassy, CBS News

Two U.S. citizens offer guilty pleas for attack outside Turkish embassy, The Washington Post

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

Uploaded March 5, 2018

Subpoena of Jamie Kalven – December 2017

Judge protects reporter from revealing his sources

Chicago, IL

A Chicago police officer accused of killing an African American teenager attempted to force Jamie Kalven, the independent journalist who uncovered evidence of the shooting, to reveal his sources, for the purposes of the defense in the officer’s murder trial. Though Kalven was reportedly prepared to face jail time rather than comply, a Cook County, Illinois, judge rejected the officer’s subpoena.

Key Players

Officer Jason Van Dyke is accused of killing Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old African American man, on October 20, 2014. A police dashboard camera video, released by court order on November 25, 2017, allegedly shows that Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, according to the Chicago Tribune. The video’s publication inspired weeks of protests, the firing of the police superintendent, and a critical examination of the Chicago Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice. Van Dyke is charged with 16 counts of aggravated battery, six counts of first-degree murder, and one count of official misconduct. His indictment marks “the first time a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder for an on-duty fatality in nearly 35 years,” reported the Tribune.

Jamie Kalven is an independent journalist who investigated McDonald’s death. It was Kalven who revealed the existence of the video that documents the incident, reported The New York Times. His story about the killing, titled “Sixteen Shots,” was published by Slate in February 2015. Kalven is the founder of the Invisible Institute, an independent news organization based in Chicago. His father, Harry Kalven Jr., was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and a First Amendment scholar. After his father’s death, Jamie Kalven completed his unfinished book about the First Amendment.

Further Details

Jamie Kalven brought the death of Laquan McDonald into the national spotlight by questioning the actions of Officer Jason Van Dyke and revealing the existence of dashboard-camera footage that documented the incident. With the help of two anonymous sources, Kalven discovered that McDonald had been shot 16 times. An autopsy report, as well as the dashboard-camera video, sharply contrasted with the police department’s report that McDonald had “lunged at police” before being shot. Shortly after Kalven’s story was published, protests against the police erupted in Chicago.

Van Dyke, whose trial is pending, filed a subpoena to discover Kalven’s sources of information relating to the shooting. The officer’s attorney suggested that the journalist had “obtained leaked documents and may have passed along that information to witnesses of the shooting, influencing their accounts to investigators,” reported the Times. Specifically, he posited that Kalven may have received statements made by Van Dyke to the Independent Police Review Authority, an agency conducting an internal investigation of the incident. Public employees have a right not to incriminate themselves during investigatory interviews by their employers. This right, often referred to as a “Garrity Right,” is rooted in the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision, Garrity v. New Jersey. Van Dyke’s legal team alleged that Kalven had obtained and reported on the police officer’s Garrity-protected statements.

Kalven resisted the subpoena, and 18 news organizations, joined by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of him. “The public interest in protecting confidential sources is particularly compelling in this case,” the brief asserted. “Kalven’s reporting exposed misconduct by the Chicago Police Department and an official cover-up that led to a public accounting and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.”

On December 13, 2017, the subpoena was rejected by Judge Vincent Gaughan. However, his decision rested primarily on the “inadequacies of the subpoena itself rather than Kalven’s legally protected status as a reporter,” according to the Tribune. The judge determined that Kalven may have received information from multiple legitimate sources, and there existed no evidence that he ever was leaked protected material.

Kalven, who had expressed a willingness to face imprisonment rather than reveal his sources, attended the court hearing concerning his subpoena wearing his press identification around his neck. “I think it’s part of the job description to uphold a covenant with sources,” he told the Tribune. “The real hero in this case is a source within law enforcement who provided information … that enabled me and others to report on it. We have kind of a sacred trust with sources.”

Outcome

Kalven will not be compelled to reveal his sources

Judge Gaughan ruled that Van Dyke had failed to demonstrate that Kalven’s testimony would be relevant to the case. “To uphold the subpoena of Jamie Kalven would be nothing more than a fishing expedition in search of information that the timeline of events, discovery documents and testimony suggest simply does not exist,” he wrote.

External References

Journalist Who Told Laquan McDonald’s Story Faces Fight Over Sources, New York Times

Sixteen Shots, Slate

Laquan McDonald reporter won’t be forced to testify at Chicago cop’s hearing, Chicago Tribune

Amicus Curiae Brief by News Coalition and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Van Dyke indicted on 16 added counts for each shot to Laquan McDonald, Chicago Tribune

Van Dyke lawyers want activist-journalist Jamie Kalven on the stand, Chicago Sun Times

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

Uploaded on January 25, 2018

 

Public displays of disrespect for Trump cause firing, arrest – October – November 2017

Herndon, VA

Two women were penalized for public acts of protest against President Donald Trump late in 2017. Juli Briskman, a former employee at Akima LLC, a federal government contractor, was fired in October after a photo of her giving the middle finger to Trump’s motorcade went viral. In November, a Texas woman, Karen Fonseca, was arrested near Houston on an outstanding felony warrant for fraud after she had displayed a profanity-laden sticker criticizing Trump on the rear window of her pickup truck.

Key Players

Juli Briskman was photographed “flipping off” President Trump’s motorcade while riding a bicycle next to it. She had been employed for six months at Akima LLC, a government contractor that works with public and commercial service providers, before being dismissed.

Karen Fonseca was arrested in Rosenberg, Texas, after she had displayed a sticker in the rear window of her pickup truck that read, “FUCK TRUMP AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” She was released on bail, and the district attorney’s office is not pressing charges against her.

Further Details

Briskman posted the photo to her Facebook profile and Twitter account, and initially did not identify herself as the biker. However, she confirmed her identity to friends, and word spread online. A yoga studio where Briskman also worked asked her to remove any mention of it from her Facebook page, due to threatening emails the studio had received and negative comments on the studio’s own Facebook page. She complied. After she received the request from the yoga studio, she informed the human resources department at Akima about the incident. A day later, she was fired, reports The Huffington Post.

Akima said Briskman was dismissed for allegedly violating the firm’s social media policy, which states that “Covered Social Media Activity that contains discriminatory, obscene malicious or threatening content, is knowingly false, create [sic] a hostile work environment, or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and will be subject to discipline up to an [sic] including termination of employment,” reports The Washington Post. According to The Huffington Post, Briskman was told that her gesture toward the presidential motorcade was considered obscene.

During her six months at Akima, Briskman was in charge of the company’s Facebook page. She told The Guardian that she had found an obscene comment from a senior director at the company who was engaged in an online debate concerning the Black Lives Matter movement. He deleted the comment, and apparently was not fired.

Briskman wasn’t the only person to face consequences in 2017 for protesting Trump. Karen Fonseca was arrested by the sheriff’s department in Rosenberg, Texas, after locals called in to complain about the profane, anti-Trump sticker on her truck. She was allegedly taken into custody on an outstanding warrant for fraud, but Fonseca asserts that the timing of the arrest was directly related to her having exercised her right to free speech in a manner critical of the president and his supporters. She was soon released on bail, and then added another sticker to her rear window that read, “FUCK TROY NEHLS AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” Troy Nehls is the sheriff who had arrested her, and had threatened her with a charge of disorderly conduct. She, in turn, has threatened to take legal action against the sheriff’s department.

Outcome

Briskman considering legal action against company, receives financial support

Briskman said in interviews that she had consulted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the situation, but that she had not decided whether to take action against the company. In the meantime, a GoFundMe page started to support her while she looks for new employment had received $133,805, as of January 4, 2018.

External References

Woman fired for flipping off Donald Trump’s Motorcade, The Huffington Post

Cyclist who gave Trump the middle finger: ‘He wasn’t going to hear me through the glass, The Guardian

The biker who flipped off President Trump is now out of a job, The Washington Post

Fundraiser for Juli Briskman by Rob Mello

She put an obscene anti-Trump message on her truck and was arrested. Now she might sue. The Washington Post

‘F**k Trump’ decal woman adds a profane slam of Texas sheriff to her truck, Salon

Woman with crude anti-Trump decal arrested for fraud, CBS News

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

January 10, 2018

Public radio station cancels event with prominent biologist over anti-Islam comments – August 2017

Berkeley, CA

KPFA, a public radio station in Berkeley, California, cancelled a planned public event featuring scientist Richard Dawkins, due to protests over past comments he had made regarding Islam.

Key Players

Richard Dawkins is a prominent evolutionary biologist and author. He is particularly well-known for his outspoken atheist views. Dawkins was scheduled to participate in a live discussion and book signing, organized as a fundraiser for the radio station, part of the Pacifica network. He would have been promoting his new book, “Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist,” a compilation of 42 of his essays concerning scientific thought and inquiry.

Further Details

In 2013, Dawkins tweeted, “Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter & verse like I can for the Bible. But often say that Islam greatest force for evil today.” In an article published in The Telegraph on June 11, 2017, Dawkins expanded on this sentiment, saying, “If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam.” He added that he does not believe all Muslims are evil; rather, they “suffer more from Islam than anybody else.”

The New York Times reported that KPFA received messages criticizing Dawkins’ planned appearance. A former KPFA board member complained that Dawkins is an Islamophobe. Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, wrote to the station that Dawkins’ comments “give legitimacy to extremist views.”

In an email to ticket-holders, KPFA wrote that it had booked the event so Dawkins could discuss his new book; station representatives said they “didn’t know he had offended and hurt – in his tweets and other comments on Islam – so many people.” While the station supports free speech, the email said, it does not support “abusive speech.” It apologized for not having known of Dawkins’ comments before inviting him. Bob Baldock, the events coordinator for KPFA, told the Times he supported the decision to cancel, but described it as a “fraught decision.” He also said he could not think of another station event that was cancelled because of content in the thirty years he had worked there.

In an interview with the Times, Dawkins said of the cancellation, “Many people are saying this is a freedom of speech issue, and of course it is. But it’s actually more a freedom of listening issue. People bought tickets because they wanted to hear me.”

Outcome

Richard Dawkins writes open letter in response to cancellation, requests apology

In an open letter, Dawkins criticized KPFA’s decision and asserted that if the station had done “rudimentary fact-checking,” it would have “concluded that [he has] never used abusive speech against Islam.” He said he had criticized the “pseudoscientific claims” of “Islamic apologists” and the “appalling misogyny and homophobia of Islam,” and that he thinks “Muslims themselves are the prime victims of the oppressive cruelties of Islamism.” Dawkins also pointed out that he has criticized Christianity, too, but has never been “de-platformed” for that. He concluded the letter with his expectation of a public apology from the radio station.

External References

Cancellation of Richard Dawkins Berkeley Event Baseless and Unconscionable

Radio station cancels Richard Dawkins appearance over Islam tweets, The Independent

Richard Dawkins: religious education is crucial for British schoolchildren, The Telegraph

Richard Dawkins event canceled over past comments about Islam, The New York Times

Richard Dawkins hits back at allegations he is Islamophobic after Berkely event is cancelled, The Independent

Richard Dawkins event cancelled over his ‘abusive speech against Islam, The Guardian

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

January 5, 2018

Google – August 7, 2017

Google employee fired for critiquing company

Mountain View, CA

James Damore, a former senior software engineer at Google, was fired on August 7 for violating the company’s code of conduct by circulating a memo in which he criticized Google’s hiring and training practices that are intended to increase diversity within the company. He argued in the memo that there are biological reasons for the gender disparity in the tech industry, and he also claimed that the company reinforces ideas and beliefs held by a large number of its workers. After being fired, Damore filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board and is currently pursuing legal action against Google.

Key Figures

James Damore started working at Google in December 2013. According to a profile in The Guardian, he excelled in his work at the company and was promoted to senior engineer in early 2017. He wrote the memo in June and sent it in early July to the organizers of Google’s diversity meetings. He did not receive a response, so he began circulating the memo to internal forums and mailing lists within Google. On August 5, Vice reported that the memo had gone “internally viral,” and later that day Gizmodo published the memo in its entirety.

Danielle Brown is Google’s Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance. She previously worked at Intel before being hired by Google in late June 2017. On August 5, she issued a response to Damore’s memo, stating that Google did not endorse his views.

Sundar Pichai has been CEO of Google since August 2015. On August 8, he sent a memo to Google employees stating that he supported the rights of employees to express their opinions, but that this memo expressed harmful stereotypes.

Further Details

In January 2017, the US Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against Google after the company allegedly failed to hand over its data concerning equal pay for its employees. On April 7, The Atlantic reported the department had found that Google’s labor practices involved “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce.” The Guardian reported that Google is 69% male and that in the tech industry overall, only 20% of jobs are held by women.

In his memo, Damore wrote that the “overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left,” and that Google was “shaming into silence” dissenting views on diversity that created “an ideological echo chamber.” He then discussed possible non-bias-related causes of the gender gap in the tech industry. He wrote that “[w]omen generally have stronger interest in people rather than things,” “women generally [have] a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading,” and “neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance) … may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report” and “to the lower number of women in high-stress jobs.” Damore then laid out potential solutions for increasing the representation of women in tech, including making software engineering more people-oriented, making tech and leadership less stressful, and allowing men to be more feminine. He criticized Google’s “discriminatory practices” like a “high priority queue and special treatment for ‘diversity’ candidates,” “[p]rograms, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race,” and “[h]iring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates.” The memo concludes with Damore giving Google advice to “demoralize diversity,” “stop alienating conservatives,” confront its own biases, be “open about the science of human nature,” and stop the restriction of programs and classes to certain genders or races.

In Danielle Brown’s response to the memo, she wrote that she “found that [the memo] advanced incorrect assumptions about gender,” that Google did not endorse the views Damore espoused, and that Google employees “must feel safe sharing their opinions.” “Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul,” Brown wrote.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent a response to Google employees on August 7 after news broke of Damore’s memo. Pichai wrote that he supported the rights of Google employees to express their views, but that “portions of the [Damore] memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.” He continued, “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects ‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.’” He stressed that some Google employees were hurt by the memo, and he acknowledged that other employees were questioning whether or not they could express their views in the workplace after Damore’s firing. He also acknowledged that many of Damore’s concerns had merit. “[Many] points raised in the memo — such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all — are important topics,” he wrote.

After the backlash against his original memo began, Damore added a paragraph at the beginning with the heading, “Reply to public response and misrepresentation.” In that paragraph, Damore wrote that he values diversity and inclusion, that he is not denying sexism exists, and that he is not endorsing stereotyping. “Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber,” he wrote.

He added that he had received personal messages from fellow Google employees who expressed gratitude to him for raising the issues he discussed, and who “would never have the courage to say or defend [his views] because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired.” Wired reported that leaked internal messages showed some Google employees supported Damore’s ideas. Motherboard reported that a Google employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that some employees disagreed with what Damore was saying, but believed he should have a voice, and that a few expressed that they agreed with Damore’s views and thought he was brave. Another employee said, “The fact that colleagues are calling for him to be fired—on very public forums—proves his point that there is an ideological silo and that dissenting opinions want to be silenced,” reported Motherboard.

On August 11, Damore wrote an op-ed titled “Why I Was Fired by Google” in The Wall Street Journal. He said he had engaged in discussions with some of his peers after he circulated the original memo internally in early July, but that he was mostly ignored. Once the memo went viral, Google’s human resources department and Damore’s superiors received emails from individuals who demanded “censorship, retaliation, and atonement.” He accused upper management of shaming and misrepresenting his views, but acknowledged that the management couldn’t do otherwise because “The mob would have set upon anyone who openly agreed with me or even tolerated my views.” He concluded by writing that Google was walking “blindly into the future” by ignoring issues raised by its diversity policies.

After his firing, Damore did two interviews with Stefan Molyneux, a right-wing YouTube personality, and Jordan B. Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor known for his controversial statements regarding gender and who also has a large YouTube following. Damore told Molyneux that Google was hypocritical for firing him and that conservatives in the company feel the need to “stay in the closet.” He told Peterson that he had declined to speak to mainstream news outlets because he believed they would “twist whatever I say towards their agenda.” The Guardian reported that at Peterson’s behest, Damore began doing more interviews with other right-wing YouTube figures, including Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos.

Outcome

Damore files complaint with NLRB over firing

On August 8, Damore filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board. Wired reported that Damore hired Harmeet Dhillon, a prominent San Francisco Republican, as his attorney to explore legal action against Google. This action could potentially involve other ex-Google employees, the article reports.

Damore speaks out

In an interview with The Guardian, Damore said that he was frustrated that he had become associated with the alt-right because of the memo. “Journalists and commentators were incentivised to distort facts to generate outrage,” he said in the interview.

External References

The Department of Labor accuses Google of gender pay discrimination, The Atlantic

Google on anti-diversity manifesto: Employees ‘must feel safe sharing their opinions,’ Motherboard

Google’s new diversity chief tasked with moving the needle, USA Today

Exclusive: Here’s the full 10-page anti-diversity screed circulating internally at Google, Gizmodo

Internal reactions to Google employee’s manifesto show anti-diversity views have support, Motherboard

Internal messages how some Googlers supported fired engineer’s manifesto, Wired

Segregated valley: the ugly truth about Google and diversity in tech, The Guardian

Why I was fired by Google, The Wall Street Journal

‘I’m not a sexist: Fired Google engineer stands behind controversial memo, The Washington Post

The engineer Google fired over diversity memo has filed a complaint with federal labor officials, Business Insider

The Google employee who wrote the controversial Google manifesto was fired after CEO Sindar Pichai called it ‘not OK,” Business Insider

‘I see things differently’: James Damore on his autism and the Google memo, The Guardian

James Damore case could spawn more legal headaches for Google, Wired

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

December 1, 2017

Religious monument at Arkansas State Capitol destroyed – June 2017

Little Rock, AR

Michael T. Reed drove his car through a large stone monument of the Ten Commandments located in front of the Arkansas State Capitol at 4:47 am on Wednesday, June 28th. He was arrested outside the building and charged with criminal trespass, first-degree criminal mischief, and defacing objects of public interest.

Key Players
Michael T. Reed is a 32-year-old man who was arrested for driving his car through the monument. He was involved a previous incident involving a monument outside the Oklahoma State Capitol in 2014.

Jason Rapert is a Republican Arkansas state senator who originally led the movement to have the monument displayed outside the state capitol. The Washington Post reported that he said a replacement monument had been ordered shortly after Reed destroyed it.

Further Details

On October 24, 2014, Reed was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for ramming his truck into a similar monument at the Oklahoma State Capitol. ABC8 Tulsa reported that he was “charged with destruction of state property / improvements, indecent exposure, making threatening statements, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle while license revoked.” He was also charged with four counts of felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for his actions during his detention by police. Reuters reported that after the incident, Reed ran into a nearby federal building where he made threats against President Obama before he was arrested. Tulsa World reported that after that incident, Reed was sent to Norman’s Griffin Memorial Hospital as part of an agreement with Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater. There, he received therapy, and was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. On June 30, 2015, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court ordered that the Ten Commandments monument on display in Tulsa be removed.

Little Rock Patch reported that Reed was streaming the Little Rock incident on Facebook live as he drove his car into the monument at a speed of more than 20 mph. He reportedly shouted, “Oh my goodness. Freedom!” on the broadcast.

Trent Garner, a Republican Arkansas state senator, tweeted after the incident, “We will rebuild. In fact, we should build the monument bigger and higher to show that we will not be intimidated.”

The Washington Post reported that a 2015 law was passed in Arkansas requiring the state government to allow the display of the monument outside the capitol. The article also stated that groups criticized the monument as a violation of the separation of church and state.

Outcome

Reed taken into custody, replacement ordered for destroyed monument

The Washington Post reported that State Senator Rapert said a replacement monument was ordered for the Arkansas State Capitol after Reed drove his car into the original one and destroyed it.

External References

Letter from many who destroyed Ten Commandments monument gives insight into his illness, Tulsa World

Man smashes Arkansas Capitol’s new Ten Commandments monument, Reuters

Driver Arrested After Running Over Ten Commandments Monument, ABC8 Tulsa

Michael Tate Reed: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Heavy

Arkansas 10 Commandments Monument Destroyed On Facebook Live: ‘FREEDOM!’”

Oklahoma’s Ten Commandments statue must be removed, state supreme court says, The Washington Post

Why one man keeps ramming his car into Ten Commandments statues on government property, The Washington Post

Arkansas’ Ten Commandments Monument Lasted Less Than 24 Hours, NPR

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 24, 2017

Republican pleads guilty to misdemeanor assault, wins special election – May 2017

Missoula, MT

Greg Gianforte, a Republican candidate for a special election to fill the at-large U.S. House of Representatives seat for Montana, assaulted a reporter for The Guardian named Ben Jacobs on Wednesday, May 24, 2017. The assault occurred two days before the election results were finalized. Gianforte won the seat and apologized to Jacobs in his acceptance speech. Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was sentenced to 20 hours of anger management sessions and community service, along with a $385 fine.

Key Players

Greg Gianforte is the current representative for Montana’s at-large congressional district. He amassed wealth working as a tech entrepreneur prior to running for public office. On the evening before the voting took place, Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian, was questioning Gianforte on the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate attacked him. According to Alicia Acuna, a Fox News reporter who witnessed the incident, “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.” In an audio recording of the incident, Gianforte yells, “I’m sick and tired of you guys,” and “Get the hell out of here,” after assaulting Jacobs. Gianforte won the special election with 49.9% of the vote, CNN reports. At his victory rally, he apologized to Jacobs, saying, “I should not have responded the way I did, for that I’m sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I’m sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs.” The crowd responded, “You’re forgiven,” CNN reports. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault.

Ben Jacobs is a reporter for The Guardian. Immediately after the incident, Jacobs tweeted, “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses.”

Brian Gootkin is the Gallatin County sheriff in charge of the investigation into the incident. He said in a statement, “Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County sheriff’s office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault … The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault.”

Further Details

The special election was being held to replace Ryan Zinke, who had been appointed Secretary of the Interior by President Trump. CNN reports that early voting played a large role in Gianforte’s victory in the election, so that many votes had already been cast before the incident.

The New York Times reported that Jacobs went to the hospital for x-rays. The article also reported that Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that Gianforte should apologize and that the incident “should not have happened.” But Ryan also said that he would not block Gianforte from taking office.

Three newspapers in Montana, The Billings Gazette, The Missoulian, and The Independent Record all rescinded their endorsements of Gianforte after the incident.

Shane Scanlon, who was a press contact for Gianforte at the time and witnessed the incident, released a statement on behalf of Gianforte immediately afterwards, saying that Jacobs had “entered the [campaign] office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions … Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground,” as reported by Fox News. The campaign blamed the incident on Jacobs’ “aggressive behavior.”

Outcome

Gianforte Wins Election, Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor Assault

Greg Gianforte pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault after he “body-slammed” reporter Ben Jacobs. He was sentenced to community service, 20 hours of anger management sessions, and had to pay a $385 fine. Gianforte won the special election that was held a day after the incident, and he took office soon thereafter.

External References

“Greg Gianforte: Fox News team witnesses GOP House candidate ‘body slam’ reporter,” Fox News

“Republican Greg Gianforte wins Montana special election, CNN projects,” CNN

Ben Jacobs on Twitter

“Republican candidate charged with assault after ‘body-slamming’ Guardian reporter,” The Guardian

“Who is Greg Gianforte?” CNNPolitics

“GOP candidate charged after allegedly ‘body slamming’ reporter,” CNN

“Greg Gianforte sentenced to community service for assaulting Guardian reporter,” The Guardian

“Montana Republican Greg Gianforte, Charged With Assault, Awaits Fate in Vote,” The New York Times

Gianforte Campaign Statement

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 20, 2017

Shooting at congressional baseball practice – June 2017

Alexandria, VA

On June 14, 2017, James Hodgkinson opened fire at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, VA. Five people were shot, including US Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA.), the House Majority Whip. Hodgkinson was shot and killed after exchanging fire with US Capitol Police. The Congressional Baseball Game took place as planned two days afterwards.

Key Players

Steve Scalise is a Republican representative from Louisiana and the third-ranking member of the GOP leadership in that body. He was the most critically wounded in the assault. After being shot in the left hip and rushed to a hospital, Scalise underwent surgery and was in critical condition. The Washington Post reported that the doctors described Scalise as being at “imminent risk of death” when he was first brought to the hospital. Following several surgeries, Scalise was discharged on July 26, and began rehabilitation. On September 28, he returned to the House chamber to a standing ovation from fellow lawmakers, and remarked that he was “a living example that miracles really do happen.”

James Hodgkinson was the apparent perpetrator of the shooting, and he was killed during the firefight that broke out after he fired at the Republican lawmakers on the field. Originally from Illinois, Hodgkinson was a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) campaign for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Hodgkinson’s posts on Facebook included content such as “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.” and “Republicans are the Taliban of the USA.” Sanders acknowledged that Hodgkinson had volunteered for his presidential campaign, and he denounced the shooting as “despicable.”  After an investigation, the FBI determined that Hodgkinson had acted alone, reported The New York Post.

Further Details

The shooting began shortly after 7 a.m. on June 14, as the practice was concluding. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) said that he encountered Hodgkinson moments before the shooting, as Duncan was leaving. Hodgkinson asked him if the people practicing on the field were Democrats or Republicans. Duncan replied that they were Republicans, then got in his car and left. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said one gunshot sounded, followed by a burst of gunfire. Scalise was near second base and dropped to the ground after being hit. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), who had been standing on the third base line, said he heard gunfire behind him, and turned around to see Hodgkinson pushing through the chain-link fence while firing toward second base and the outfield. The legislators ran for cover, and US Capitol Police, who had been standing guard, returned the fire and killed Hodgkinson; one officer was shot in the ankle. A staff member and a lobbyist who were helping with the practice were shot and hospitalized, and both recovered. Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) and another US Capitol Police officer suffered minor injuries. Officials found a list with the names of several Republican lawmakers in Hodgkinson’s pocket.

It was later revealed by The Washington Post that Hodgkinson had been “casing” the field for months prior to the shooting. He was spotted watching the Republicans play baseball on the day before the shooting occurred. The article also reported that Hodgkinson fired 62 rounds from his rifle, and that the officers fired at least 40 shots back at him, hitting him three times.

The New York Times ran an editorial in the wake of the shooting titled “America’s Lethal Politics.” It stated that the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in 2011 had been the result of incitement by former Alaska Republican Governor Sarah Palin’s political action committee. It specifically blamed a map the committee circulated that depicted Rep. Giffords and 19 other Democratic incumbents under cross hairs, as if they were targeted for attack.  After the editorial’s publication, the Times was criticized for misrepresenting the map. Two days later, the Times ran a correction in which it stated that no link between the map and Giffords’ shooting in fact existed. Two paragraphs in the middle of the editorial were edited.

The original paragraphs read:

In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.

Conservatives and right-wing media were quick on Wednesday to demand forceful condemnation of hate speech and crimes by anti-Trump liberals. They’re right. Though there’s no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack, liberals should of course hold themselves to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.

The corrected paragraphs read:

In 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established.

Conservatives and right-wing media were quick on Wednesday to demand forceful condemnation of hate speech and crimes by anti-Trump liberals. They’re right. Liberals should of course be held to the same standard of decency that they ask of the right.

The following statement appeared at the bottom of the editorial:

Correction: June 16, 2017

An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established. The editorial also incorrectly described a map distributed by a political action committee before that shooting. It depicted electoral districts, not individual Democratic lawmakers, beneath stylized cross hairs.

Sarah Palin filed a federal lawsuit against the Times, claiming the newspaper had “falsely stated as a matter of fact” that Palin had incited the shooting in which Giffords was injured. The case was dismissed by a federal judge, who stated that Palin “failed to show that a mistake in an editorial was made maliciously.”

Outcome

Scalise recovered from injuries and returned to Congress

Steve Scalise made a recovery from his injuries and returned to Congress on September 28.

The Congressional Baseball Game occurred as planned

The Congressional Baseball Game proceeded on Friday, June 16, two days after the shooting. There were no further incidents.

The Times ran a correction of its editorial

The Times ran a correction of its editorial that withdrew the allegation that Sarah Palin’s political action committee had directly incited a shooting that led to the wounding of Gabrielle Giffords.

Palin’s lawsuit against the Times was dismissed

A federal judge dismissed Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the Times over the editorial, because Palin failed to show that the mistake was malicious. “Negligence this may be; but defamation of a public figure it plainly is not,” wrote US District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

External References:

What we know about the congressional baseball shooting, ABC News

Steve Scalise shot: Gunman James Hodgkinson killed in shootout

Rep. Steve Scalise Discharged From Hospital, Now Begins Rehabilitation, NBC News

Congressman Steve Scalise, Three Others Shot at Alexandria, Virginia, Baseball Field, NBC News

Suspect in congressional shooting was Bernie Sanders supporter, strongly anti-Trump, CNN

FBI: Congressional baseball practice shooter acted alone, The New York Post

Shame on the New York Times. Shame. National Review

America’s Lethal Politics, The New York Times

NYT issues correction to Giffords editorial, The Hill

Sarah Palin sues New York Times for editorial on Steve Scalise shooting, NOLA.com

Sarah Palin’s Defamation Suit Against The New York Times is Dismissed, The New York Times

‘Miracles really do happen’: Rep. Steve Scalise returns to Congress 15 weeks after he was shot, The Washington Post

Gunman Had List of GOP Lawmakers’ Names, NBC News

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

October 10, 2017