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Juicy Eph

Ever been to the Williams College section of Juicy Campus? Me either. Background:

In the annals of online discourse, “did you hear about [student]’s nose job?” isn’t among the best of what the Internet has to offer. It also isn’t the worst. An anonymous Web site that’s caught the attention — and provoked the ire — of students across the country has already unleashed comments like that one, and much worse, in carefree, unregulated and sometimes vicious discussion threads that have raised privacy concerns and condemnations on several campuses.

On JuicyCampus.com, anyone can post to campus-specific boards with the guarantee that their identities will be protected and their messages left uncensored.

Hard to believe that this will raise the level of campus discussion. A Williams student wrote me:

It would be much appreciated if you could post something on EphBlog that can get some helpful alums riled up to help have this site pulled down. The state of New Jersey is already filing litigation under the premise of consumer fraud. Get that nosy detective work up and running!

I didn’t check more than a couple of the posts. It seems like some students have said not very nice things about other students. But, others have seemingly replaced (how?) some of the negative material with random text. Big picture: Students sometimes said nasty things about each other 25 years ago. They sometimes say nasty things about each other today. It would be nice if that happened less often. Ideas for accomplishing that are welcome.

Is there anything to be done about Juicy Campus? Probably not. (Eph legal opinions?) Consider the related controversy over college confessional sites (e.g., here).

At Amherst, where that was a problem earlier this semester, the college’s attorneys are planning to contact the Massachusetts attorney general to discuss possible legal avenues in light of New Jersey’s actions against JuicyCampus, said Ben Lieber, the dean of students. He said the college was interested in whether the attorney general would “take action either in conjunction … or independent” of the New Jersey investigation, under that state’s Consumer Fraud Act.

Lieber has also written to the site’s founder and to students, asking them to ignore the site, to no discernible effect. “We’re a population of about 1,600 students,” he said. “Virtually all our students live on campus. Of the students who live on campus, virtually all of them eat in the same dining hall three times a day if they don’t skip breakfast…. People see each other all the time, people are very, very visible to each other. It’s bad enough to have this kind of thing happen at a big university where the degree of anonymity that people have is much greater, but to have it in a place where there’s less anonymity is I think even more problematic.”

True. And if Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley ’75 feels like getting her name in the paper, she might make some noise on the topic. But the First Amendment says what it says. We all need to learn to live in this brave new world. The Williams student mentioned that there has been a “pretty concerted effort to drown the Williams section with noise.” Sounds like the correct approach. Extra points for the reader who knows which recent science fiction book predicted that noise-drowning would become a widespread technique for protecting privacy.

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#1 Comment By Rory On October 7, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

i hope attention does not bring it much more active engagement–though the noise is pretty clever and amusing to read.

at penn, i’ve seen juicy campus (or whichever one they use here) get some undergrads really heated. it’s sad/pathetic/completely understandable (considering some of the things written about people).

it is kinda interesting to see this post in light of dcat’s arguments re: anonymity.

#2 Comment By jcob On October 7, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

Huxley.

#3 Comment By JG On October 7, 2008 @ 1:05 pm

David – you think drowning this site with noise is a good thing, but you thought that Obama supporters drowning a radio station with noise about a guest was a bad thing and in opposition somehow to free speech. I’m assuming you see a distinction, and I’m wondering what it is.

#4 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On October 7, 2008 @ 1:24 pm

Grumph.

I’ve been trying to keep this site as under the radar as possible, or you would have seen a post from me about it before now. Look for one tomorrow on this and a few other issues.

I leave y’all to guess why I will post tomorrow, and not today.

#5 Comment By David Kane On October 7, 2008 @ 2:06 pm

JG,

1) I believe in freedom. If individuals post noise on this site, they are acting freely. I have no problem if other people do the same elsewhere. I do not worry that this would lead to bad equilibrium, although that is a tough prediction to be sure of. The central point is that web pages are an unlimited resource with no (meaningful) constraints imposed by the government.

2) The Obama case was quite different. Recall my original comment in that post:

Call me crazy, but I find it scary that Obama’s supporters want to live in a world in which someone like Stanley Kurtz does not appear on the radio.

The cases differ because, first, radio is a limited resource. Only so many stations can fit on the spectrum. Second, radio is managed by the government. No license means no broadcast.

But these process differences are not the main concern, obviously. There is a substantive difference between drowning out with noise anonymous gossip and preventing a serious academic from criticizing a presidential candidates. Do you really not see the distinction between what Stanley Kurtz has to say about Obama and the dreck that appears on Juicy Campus? Again, the scary part to me is that (some/most) Obama supporters want to prevent Kurtz from appearing on the radio.

3) The trickier case would be something more parallel. Imagine that Obama (McCain) supporters flooded Red State (DailyKos) with noise in an effort to drown out speech that they found offensive.

Will, If I had known you had planned to post, I would have held off. But when I student asks me to post something, I almost always do so.

#6 Comment By JG On October 7, 2008 @ 2:28 pm

David, without even getting into the idea that radio is limited (I don’t think it really effectively is given the number if internet radio stations now, low power community radio, etc.) or that radio is licensed (totally irrelevant to this particular issue) I find it interesting that part of your argument is based upon what YOU think the relative value of a speaker might be. You think Kurtz is worth listening to, but that the postings on that website are “dreck.” To me, that is a weak defense of free speech, if you can call it a defense of free speech at all.

I firmly believe that the radio station had the right to bring Stanley Kurtz on the show, but I also believe that individuals had the right to express their disapproval about that decision. The radio station can make its own business decisions as to how to act in the future. These were private individuals (albeit coordinated individuals) expressing their distaste and pledging not to listen to that station (or patronize its advertisers) anymore if there were particular guests. I may not agree with that opinion, but they were operating in exactly the same manner as anyone boycotting a particular business. I don’t like policy X at your store/lunch counter/bus company, therefore I will not patronize it.

Government licensing has no bearing on this discussion. The license is not granted to present a balanced viewpoint on politics. Radio stations are businesses that must operate within exceedingly broad content guidelines. What does that have to do with whether people can disagree with one guest on one show? Radio station licenses do not guarantee a forum for anyone.

Free speech does not mean unchallenged speech. I think flooding this site with noise is a brilliant response. I think boycotts can also be very effective. I also sometimes yell in opposition to crazy street preachers that tell me I’m going to hell for not being a submissive virginal woman or that my friends will go to hell for being gay. They have a right to speak on the street corner, I have the right to speak back.

#7 Comment By ’10 On October 7, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

All-campus email today from Dean Merrill:

from: Karen.R.Merrill@williams.edu
to: WILLIAMS-STUDENTS@williams.edu
date: Tue, Oct 7, 2008 at 2:09 PM
subject:Message about Web Site

To All Students:

I’m writing about behavior on at least one so-called gossip Internet site that falls far below the College’s community standards.

The site encourages students to indulge their basest instincts by anonymously posting provocative things about each other. No good comes from such activity; only harm does. There’s the harm that results from debasing oneself and the greater harm experienced by those targeted. There’s also the poisoning of our sense of community.

Over the past week, I’ve talked to and strategized with students about how we should respond. Understandably, some students have urged the College to block the site from the campus network. However, the only sites we block now are “phishing” ones that present a security risk to our network, and we do not block other sites because of their content. Moreover, blocking the site on campus would not mean students couldn’t post messages from outside our network and, indeed, would not prevent another gossip Internet site from emerging.

There are other responses that the College and individuals can and should make. The College is offering support to those who feel harmed by such postings and, by this letter, naming the activity as the cowardly, bad behavior that it is. You, as individuals, can do both those things. Some enterprising students have also taken to posting random items that push the offensive ones further from the sight of casual viewers.

And if you know students who are posting hurtful items, you can tell them how wrong you believe such behavior is and you can report the behavior to any member of the Dean’s Office, Campus Safety and Security, or to the CSS anonymous tip line, which can be found on CSS’s Web site. Students for whom we have clear and convincing evidence of posting harassing messages to the site will be subject to disciplinary action.

I know that the vast majority of students on campus find this Web site to violate everything we hope to be as a community. I applaud the students who’ve done everything they can to neutralize the harm of the site and trust that the small number of students who have posted hurtful messages will soon grow out of such behavior.

Regards,

Karen Merrill

Dean of the College

#8 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

So Dean Merrill probably just increased readership (and posting) on that site by an order of magnitude.

#9 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

Students for whom we have clear and convincing evidence of posting harassing messages to the site will be subject to disciplinary action.

Let me see if I have this straight. You will be subject to discipline for posting harassing messages to a stupid website, but not subject to discipline if you and your idiot boyfriend paper the dormitories with Hitler posters?

Well, alrighty then. If you’re going to claim academic freedom and free speech, fine. But, then don’t turn around and threaten to throw the free speech card out the window for something as truly inconsequential as posting on a website for morons.

#10 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On October 7, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

HWC, the Record is publishing on it, so Dean Merrill isn’t doing anything but getting out ahead.

#11 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

Nobody reads their college newspaper so that won’t be a problem. Who knows if anyone reads e-mail from the Dean.

These kinds of sites, in the form of the Daily Jolt, have been around for years with a few morons posting “hottest freshman” threads and everyone else ignoring them.

#12 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On October 7, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

hwc,

you’re wrong, at least about here.

I see the record being read everywhere on Wednesdays. In class, in dining halls, and especially in Paresky.

#13 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

BTW, speaking of potential for harrasment.

I am not going to test the hypothesis by actually sending an e-mail, but did ’10 just post the e-mail link for a group e-mail to the entire student body at Williams College?

On the odd chance that the link is valid, somebody might want to edit those address lines on the Dean Merrill e-mail.

#14 Comment By some guy On October 7, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

hwc, emails sent to that address get screened (i can’t remember by whom) before they actually go out.

#15 Comment By ’10 On October 7, 2008 @ 3:52 pm

That mailing list is restricted and doesn’t accept messages from the general public or even the student body. AFAIK it’s limited to senior administrators and Campus Life staff.

#16 Comment By jcob On October 7, 2008 @ 4:44 pm

Hmm HWC, you seem to be missing the fact that much of what is on this site is libelous.

What I posted on people’s doors happened to be non-threatening historical fact.
I also made no effort to remain anonymous. Literally not a single student has EVER approached me to tell me what I did made them upset. It was stupid, and tasteless and a variety of other things but it was not defamation. The denziens of the interwebs are way better at that than I am.

People who didn’t know me said a lot of shitty, false things about me simply because they could under the cloak of anonymity and would never have to say them to my face. Oh, and the google hits are really nice too.

I’m not sure if this juicycampus nonsense will affect people I’m friends with long-term, but seeing as the website has a giant section on terms and conditions it looks like they’re willing to put up with a legal fight.

Why not fight ’em?

#17 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

Mary Jane Hitler:

Is that you? Are you still at Williams?

I must say that I’m disappointed to learn that Morty couldn’t figure out some creative way of getting rid of you and your idiot boyfriend without violating your precious free speech rights.

#18 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On October 7, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

Dave, it’s fine. I still have another angle to post on – you just scooped me.

HWC, she said “It was stupid, and tasteless and a variety of other things but it was not defamation.”

That’s accurate, and though I wasn’t here, I think our comment wasn’t called for.

#19 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

I heard what she said. I also heard all of the snotty, legalistic tripe from her and her idiot boyfriend after she papered students’ rooms with Hitler posters — not one word of which ever included anything remotely resembling an apology.

IMO, Morty should have had her idiot boyfriend arrested for trespassing and figured out a creative way to invite Mary Jane Hitler to take her act elsewhere.

The College’s weak-as-water response was not its finest moment.

Just my opinion.

Just my opinion.

#20 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

She’s still posting snotty, legalistical tripe by claiming that her Hitler posters in response to Holocaust Rememberance were “non-threatening”.

If I’m a Jewish student and I wake up to find Hitler posters on my door, I’m plenty threatened. The fact that she STILL claims otherwise is precisely why Morty should have figured out a way to move her out of the Williams community.

#21 Comment By jcob On October 7, 2008 @ 6:16 pm

Oh Hwc, Your memory must be failing you in your old age. I’m a senior now seeing as it’s been 1.5 years and I was a sophomore at the time.

Sorry to disappoint, but I sure am glad that the administration doesn’t take into account the opinion of a spiteful curmudgeon when they make decisions.

It is just my opinion, but I think you simply have no gauge as to what actually happens on this campus.

#22 Comment By Ronit On October 7, 2008 @ 6:21 pm

Will – I hate to wade into any of this again, but I strenuously disagree if you are suggesting that “Ephblog” should not have commented on the incidents when it happened… is that what you mean by “our comment wasn’t called for”?

#23 Comment By Will Slack ’11 On October 7, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

I missed a y. Meant to say “your comment wasn’t called for.”

#24 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

I know what happens on campus when a student and her idiot neo-nazi boyfriend paper the dorms with Hitler posters.

Nothing.

#25 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

BTW, when I asked if you were still at Williams, I was implying my hope that Morty had found a way to get rid of you and your idiot boyfriend. Give you both more time to work on his neo-nazi websites.

#26 Comment By jcob On October 7, 2008 @ 6:43 pm

If you wanted an apology HWC, you could’ve asked for one. I extended an invitation for people to e-mail me or write me their feelings or to have a chat- and only one prof did.

Instead you continue to perpetually bitch and moan anonymously on this blog.

The only thing that pisses me off about you is that if I saw you on the street I wouldn’t have the pleasure of spitting in your face.

#27 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

That’s pleasant. I can see that you are still the same old Mary Jane Hitler.

I don’t need the apology. You and your idiot neo-nazi boyfriend owed the Williams campus community the public apology. None was required of you (Morty’s first mistake). None was ever offered.

#28 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

Let me be clear. I don’t think espousing neonazi anti-semitic views as you did makes you a bad person. I just do not believe that Williams College should endorse students who publicly espouse neo-nazi and anti-semitic views by granting them Williams College degrees. I think doing so, in your case, is a black mark on Morty Schapiro’s tenure.

#29 Comment By rory On October 7, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

jcob now should be banned from the site as well. not only is she unrepentant for her vile and anti-semitic bs from two years ago, but she’s talking of spitting in the face of regular contributors (however much i dislike hwc, he’s right here).

jcob, the idea that individual people should–after having their doors postered with anti-semitic garbage–try to engage you one on one is asking them to be heroic. People don’t have a duty or even a good reason to engage in such conversation with you after your act. By doing what you did, you spoiled any chance for a good further conversation. It’s what I call “toxic speech”. Yes its free, and yes, you can be a complete jackass–but you can’t then complain that others don’t respect you enough to contact you directly. You want to have your cake and eat it too.

In reality, the best thing to do with someone who does something as vile as you did is tell them once they’re an ass and then never speak to them again unless they make the effort to apologize and repent in a meaningful way. Consider this my one time.

#30 Comment By David Kane On October 7, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

Rory,

1) Why would you ban jcob from EphBlog? I agree that “spitting in your face” is not the sort of phrasing we are looking for, but unless my memory is failing, several regulars have said equally impolite things to HWC.

2) If jcob can bring you and HWC together, then more power to her!

HWC,

Either you believe in free speech or you don’t. jcob did not “papered students’ rooms with Hitler posters.” She placed posters on student doors (all the doors she got to, not targeting specific students). The College clearly allows this behavior, as the Holocaust Remembrance Day posters demonstrated. If you allow group X to put posters on student doors, you need to allow group Y to do the same.

I have no problem with people criticizing jcob for doing so, even vociferously. But the notion that College could have, would have or should have taken disciplinary action against her is absurd.

#31 Comment By rory On October 7, 2008 @ 8:11 pm

can we not talk about that episode again? no need to rehash old wounds.

#32 Comment By frank uible On October 7, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

Isn’t this all so uplifting?

#33 Comment By hwc On October 7, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

dkane:

I wouldn’t have taken action against her and her idiot neonazi boyfriend for freedom of speech issues. I would have “invited” her to make a public apology and then, having seen that was not forthcoming, I would have shared her admission of illegal drug possession with the Williamstown Police and used the resulting drug charges to ride her out of town.

Morty is a sharp guy. He could have figured out some way to not endorse a neo-nazi anti-semite spewing student with a Williams College degree.

To me, the defining action was not the initial mistake, but the failure to show even a shred of contrition or engage the community in discussion as she was invited to do. Her Record article was a disgrace, basically rubbing the campus’ nose in it.

#34 Comment By JeffZ On October 7, 2008 @ 11:32 pm

Hmm, I’m not sure who to root for (or I guess against, more accurately) in this one … but I agree with Rory’s comment 31 — I’d rather not rehash arguments that we already covered in exhaustive detail, and risk inflaming old campus wounds in the process.

#35 Comment By Ronit On October 8, 2008 @ 12:07 am

I swear, the next person to post a personal attack will be blacklisted and sent to the outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. Look upon my Admin powers, ye mighty, and weep.

#36 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 8, 2008 @ 12:28 am

Does that mean I can’t quote the debate?

I really wonder if every $1500+ ticketholder realized that at no point in this fiasco would they be in the same room as either of the candidates?

#37 Comment By JeffZ On October 8, 2008 @ 6:16 am

Yeah, too bad the Eph pundit stuff is over (it would have been fun to watch HWC retract all the stuff he so confidently asserted about the Palin choice …). And Ken, I blame Brokaw and the format. God I wish we had Tim Russert still. Brokaw was horrific. His own weird questions were terrible and almost universally added nothing. The questions selected from the audience and internet could also have been a lot better. I mean, as one example, when you ask the candidates, what don’t you know, what do you expect? One to say, I know nothing about Russia, the other to say, I know nothing about Health Care, or something like that? Of course the only answer you’d get is, we don’t know what will happen in the future …

The town hall event just sucks, especially with no follow ups from the audience. Should be replaced next time with a debate where the candidates can actually directly question and engage each other. Now THAT would be interesting. It would be fun to watch McCain and Obama each desperately continue to change the subject when McCain asked Obama directly “were you or were you not wrong on the surge?” and Obama asks McCain “were you or were you not wrong on when you said we’d be greeted as liberators and this war would be easy?”.

OK I will shut up now, sorry. But at least I’m not talking about nazis …

#38 Comment By PTC On October 8, 2008 @ 6:45 am

I am bummed you guys stopped doing ephpundit.

#39 Comment By Larry George On October 8, 2008 @ 7:18 am

Will,

I’d be interested in periodic updates on the gossip site situation at Williams, assuming (as it might and as I hope it will) the site doesn’t just fade away. If the site doesn’t just moulder away, it will be informative to see what the Dean’s Office (and, presumably, the President’s Office) does, having warned the student body.

The whole premise of the website is kind of sickening, especially on a small residential campus. I am encouraged that it bothered some students and that they tried to do something about it.

#40 Comment By JeffZ On October 8, 2008 @ 8:05 am

Any mid-90’s readers recall Uncle Eph? I have a vague recollection of a similar purpose, and I also recall it being shut down due to similar problems, but my memory on point is very, very hazy.

#41 Comment By nuts On October 8, 2008 @ 11:45 am

Ephpundit: Nothing to see, nothing to talk about, move along.

#42 Comment By Ronit On October 8, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

Ken/JeffZ: Your points are well taken, but if you watched C-SPAN, you’d have seen that the most interesting dynamic of the debate played out after most of the cameras were turned off. John and Cindy left as soon as they possibly could, within a minute or two, while the Obamas spoke with numerous audience members, shook hands, posed for pictures, answered questions – for at least half an hour.

This kind of thing says a lot about confidence. Only one of these candidates is comfortable in his own skin, and eager to converse with ‘uncommitted’ voters in an unstructured format.

#43 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 8, 2008 @ 4:09 pm

Jeff: Ask Uncle Eph: bulletin board run by a counselor in Psych Services to answer questions; had some vaguely similar but far more detailed threads (names are coming to mind). Its main flaw was unrestricted anonymity; its second flaw that the counselor (or someone) wasn’t hands-on enough to delete anything; its (somewhere around third) that a certain Jesup admin refused to allow Williams newsgroups, so it got all the traffic that would have went to them…

Debate: note: there were two ‘audiences:’ the somewhat oddly selected ‘Nashville-area’ (but not Nashville-Davidson) 40 in the room: and several hundreds, mostly non-local (Belmont got a few tens of tickets), bussed in from the hotel sites– allowed to watch on video from other sites in the building– and promptly bussed out (note: this meant ticket-holders couldn’t get in if they drove, and either had to take the official busses back or cab it).

In short, it was a closed, tightly controlled non-public event; I think “fortunately,” the protesters around it didn’t try to storm the security cordon, primarily because the late-afternoon rain drove many away, but “open the debate” was one of the most prevalent signs; the local issue was that Belmont took no steps whatsover to make this a local, public event or have facilities for public viewing.

McCain’s fleet left the — hotel at exactly 7:30 and returned immediately thereafter (at least there were street closings); Obama went to the Gores’ somewhat later and I didn’t see/hear of another closure around his hotel (notably, security closures appear to have occurred without either candidate being present).

Best quote of the night, from a TPD officer, as —–‘s entourage left Marriot: “Anybody know where the bomb squad guys are?”

Best joke: “how can you tell McCain’s fleet from Obama’s?” “McCain’s has the trailing ambulance.”

#44 Comment By Soph Mom On October 8, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

Ronit,

I saw that as well. It was a very positive plus for Obama.

Although this debate was not substantive, it was a perfect venue to see the contrasts that ‘physicality’ can reveal. Ease of temperament, grace, voice quality, vigor, ability to connect with the audience…all of these were evident in Obama, whereas, McCain just looked stiff, uptight, and disdainful.

Also, his ‘edge’ just causes all his attempts at humor to fall flat.

CNN had a very interesting sort of ‘audience reaction gauge’ that ran at the bottom of the screen with separate lines for men and women. Every time McCain attacked Obama, or got snide, the women especially reacted very negatively to him.

I’m not fond of Brokaw. He coddled McCain and interrupted Obama to the point that he seemed biased.

#45 Comment By Soph Mom On October 8, 2008 @ 4:20 pm

Ken,

FYI, one of the sites had some fairly negative comments about Nashville hospitality, or lack thereof…Belmont in particular.

#46 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 9, 2008 @ 4:14 am

Continuing OT:

from tonight’s NFD post-meeting (notes):

NFD Paramedic, driver of one of the ambulances:
“the Secret Service agent told me:”
“It doesn’t matter if I get shot, don’t touch me, you’re there for him, get him in the ambulance.”

#47 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 11, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

PS. To SophMom: didn’t find anything via Google, so if you have a link; and I should add to the above some concessions to both the difficult security realities of the event, and the constraints imposed by the parties’ negotiations.

#48 Comment By Soph Mom On October 11, 2008 @ 8:48 pm

Ken,

I apologize. It was rude of me to post that comment without the link. (You’d think I would have learned my lesson in that regard :@)

However, I am looking. It was an ‘aside’ by one of the reporters blogging live from Nashville on to a site on debate night. And it was aimed at Belmont. I could swear it was Politico.com, but I am having trouble finding it now. I only noticed it because, considering the reputation Nashville has for ‘southern hospitality’, it stood out.

However, you are so right. Considering the stress of security, I can imagine that everyone at Belmont had to be on complete alert, exuding a ‘tone’ that could easily have been misinterpreted by an equally stressed out ‘live’ reporter.

*(Note to self… attach pertinent link with comment)

#49 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 11, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

Well: no big deal on the link, if I put in all the links I could/should, it would take me three times as long.

I was just interested to see what someone said. Reporters officially were given a place on the soccer field– quite a ways from the actual event– and I didn’t actually see anyone there by 7:45p or so. (Belmont press releases said they expected 3,000 reporters). Fox had a truck in front of the event, but I didn’t run into much media. The structure of the event pretty much assured that no one involved mixed with Nashvillians, which in retrospect seems to me a mistake– but I did want to temper that with the caveat that it was a very difficult logistical situation, and I don’t know any of the internals.

Southern hospitality… well, as you may know, is another and quite complex topic. If the reporter had made it to the group of protesters, democrats, Greens, republicans, election and event organizers outside the event (on Belmont Ave), she or he would certainly have received a warm welcome. The security cordon and preparations probably made that difficult.

If anyone really lost, I would point out it was the Belmont students who volunteered for the event– put in weeks of effort– should have been able to actually participate– and were instead asked to go home as the central building on campus was cordoned off. Imagine how Williams students would feel if Paresky and one of the academic buildings were both closed for an event, they were asked to move their classes etc., and students couldn’t participate in the event.

#50 Comment By PTC On October 11, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

Ken- What everyone needs to remember about this, students and others who want to be involved but somehow feel “shunned” that they are not allowed, is that the protection is unreal. They are cutting the angles, and shutting off any possible location that cannot be watched. The event I tried to watch in Newport News definitely had the principle covered from every avenue that could not be screened. Think about it, he has the most dangerous job in the world right now. He would not last three days without protection.

The only thing I have not figured out, is why on earth the local chapters and groups that sponsor this kind of thing have not used technology to make up for the fact that it is damn hard to see him. It would be so easy and cheap to hang a couple of big screens and pipe in a feed. Sounds like they screwed up another venue.

#51 Comment By Larry George On October 11, 2008 @ 10:42 pm

PTC – I think some of it has to do with trying to make it look, to the maximum extent possible, that “the room is very full.” If it looks as though there was a huge unexpected groundswell, with lots of energy and a good bit of chaos and not enough room for everyone to get close enough to hear or see, it plays on tv much better than something where everyone expected and planned for a huge crowd. The big screens would take away the desired aura of spontaneity (even though just about everyone knows that the events are carefully planned and staged) – it’s a little trying to make it look as though one is effortlessly doing well at Williams. I think, too, that there is big fear that the Jumbrotrons, or whatever the big screens are called, might make him look like a demogogue or too cool and too remote. And even though everyone knows the campaign is spending megabucks, maybe the presence of the big screens would make that too obvious. And what if they had the big screens but the crowd turned out to be a bit smaller than expected – would the candidate seem diminished? And does providing the screens make him look arrogant or over-confident? I think it’s all about perception.

I wish you and your family could have seen and heard him better, though, as I know it would have meant a lot to you. And isn’t it exciting that you are living in a state that is in play?

#52 Comment By rory On October 11, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

it was fivethirtyeight.com from their liveblog of the debate:

the relevant paragraph: “By the way, a special shout out for an absolutely horrible experience on the campus of Belmont University. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a less welcoming place. We hated this campus and the staff here so much that we left to watch the debate at a pizza joint. I don’t like to regret things, but it would be hard to overstate how terrible a day this has been, and how crappy every interaction we had in Tennessee was. It was a terrible decision to leave Indiana and come down here. That had to be said for the record.”

#53 Comment By Soph Mom On October 11, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

That’s it, Rory! Wow, thanks so much.

I visit that site almost every day, along with a few others…but kind of assumed I had seen the criticism on Politico.com as I don’t think of five thirty eight as having live blogging.

So there you have it, Ken, FWIW.

#54 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 12, 2008 @ 12:58 am

PTC: Starting at the end– yeah, compared to PRD rallies in Mexico, it was obvious to me that the solution was to put up a few big screens in prominent locations. I don’t think anyone thought about it in advance.

I think the Debate 2008 volunteers and other students, at least, could have been cleared and processed into the building in some way– gotten a chance to mix with the people there (if shortly) and etc.

“I know where we are:” I’m fairly surprised none of the confrontations with local volunteers/staff have related in violence (the ones I’ve heard of have been bad enough).

The overall security situation was terrible in this instance, simply given the geography around Belmont: the two places where there could have been a public appearance of any kind, the front and rear entrances of Maddox/Student center, are exposed to a tight series of hills and highrises on each side: elevated positions … No way you can guarantee anything there– I think they probably snuck Obama out through the tunnels.

It seemed difficult to tell where Obama was at any point during the visit, or whether he was actually in his motorcade; even the officers kept switching which hotel they said each was at. All probably for very good reasons.

All that said– what I’m claiming is that all was understandable and with good reason– but it also would have been very good to have rally points with large public screens (for both parties), and things could and should have been done in a better manner. A public appearance would have been difficult to arrange, but there is nothing like the power of public spectacle… and fifty thousand people within a square mile probably wanted a chance to glimpse Obama in person. The opportunity was to create a single media image of “Obama’s visit to Nashville” to accompany those of Kennedy and Ike and etc… to form that story and bond. I’m sorry it was lost.

#55 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 12, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

In the vein of the OP and online defamation: Korean Star’s Suicide Reignites Debate on Web Regulation.

#56 Comment By Larry George On October 13, 2008 @ 8:19 am

The screens in the debate cities should have been no brainers for the campaigns, municipalities, and debate organizers, no matter what their concerns about having them at other rallies on the campaign trail.

Re: switching the motorcades around and hiding Obama – the Secret Service seems to get a lot of practice with that when some controversial foreign leaders visit the DC area (if they aren’t such huge high security risks that they get shunted off to Camp David or the ranch instead). I hope they have gotten to be really good at their jobs.

I find myself worrying a lot abut whether we can get through the election without violence.