“Living Hell”: Clemson Professor Prompts Others To Find The Home Address Of Public Letter Author

Clemson_University_Seal.svgAnother professor is under fire this week for rabidly anti-Republican views.  Clemson School of Computing Assistant Professor Bart Knijnenburg called not just Trump but all Republicans “xenophobic and racist.” He previously called all Republicans “racist scum.”  Despite his hateful and intolerant views, I still believe that he has a free speech right to express those views in social media and would oppose efforts to terminate him.  Unfortunately, such views are not uncommon among faculty. What made this story stand out is that Knijnenburg appeared to encourage others to find the home address of someone who published an open letter calling for schools to stop admitting Chinese students.  It has become a standard practice of some groups to harass and threaten people at home if they express opposing views or contradict a new orthodoxy on our campuses.

This week I testified in the Senate about the erosion of free speech and academic freedom in our universities where professors are being punished or even fired for expressing viewpoints that challenge this new orthodoxy, particularly with regard to racial and political issues.

Professors who express anti-Republican views are rarely subjected to campaigns for removal. Indeed, Change.org recently took down a petition criticizing a professor for declaring “White Lives Don’t Matter.” From a free speech perspective, it is not just the threats against expression but the bias in enforcement that is so concerning. However, that does not change the fact that Knijnenburg is expressing deeply held political and social views in stating that “anyone who still calls themselves a Republican despite all this is xenophobic and racist.”

On his Twitter account, Knijnenburg uses the common acronym “ACAB,” for “all cops are bastards” and proclaims “Burn it down.”

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Knijnenburg was previously under fire on Campus Reform for declaring on Facebook that “all Trump supporters, nay, all Republicans, are racist scum.”

What was disconcerting was a professor encouraging the harassment of people with opposing views at their homes. Knijnenburg went to Facebook to attack a man who wrote an open letter to the president of the Clemson University Board of Trustees, asking the university to “keep Chinese nationalists out of Clemson.” The letter reflects a view of various political leaders that Chinese military and intelligence operations are using students to steal data and research from American universities. Knijnenburg profanely attacks the man and then engages in others who want to get “personal” and ask where he lives.

Knijnenburg reportedly responded with “Greenwood. His name is Paul Gilbert and he was an assistant town administrator in Calhoun Falls. And then a zoning administrator in Greenwood. Now retired, I guess.” Knijnenburg later followed up with “lemme know if you find out his address.”  He later responded to other comments and said that “part of me wants to just not bother; another part of me wants to make this guy’s life a living hell.”

The involvement of an academic in seeking to harass those with opposing views is a disgrace to our profession. Universities are dedicated to the exchange of ideas and based on the faith that ultimately the more worthy or justified viewpoints will prevail. Knijnenburg does not address the merits of Gilbert’s position as an academic. (I disagree with Gilbert and those seeking to ban Chinese students in part because I believe that it is important for Chinese students to experience the freedoms in this country, including the freedom of speech). Instead of a substantive response, Knijnenburg unleashes profane and personal attacks combined with a threat to make Gilbert’s life a living hell. To many students already believe that such attacks are an acceptable substitute for debate or dialogue on our campuses.

In seeking to intimidate people with opposing views, Knijnenburg confirms that he is more of an advocate than an academic. He and these other commenters want to deter others from expressing opposing views by making Mr. Gilbert an example. While other academics are assaulted or put under police protection for trying to speak freely, Knijnenburg is spurring on the mob.

The problem with being an advocate for free speech and academic freedom is that you often must defend people who would deny both rights in others. Indeed, we often support those who want to silence others while espousing hateful views.  While Knijnenburg would “burn down” those things that annoy him, protecting his right to express such views protects us all.

However, Knijnenburg is coming close to the line of protected speech in his encouraging the harassment of other people.  We have previously discussed how some faculty have had to be placed under police protection due to such campaigns. The targeting of homes has often led to trespass and even violence. Knijnenburg’s stated desire to burn down part of society can easily be taken as a desire to burn down people who support those institutions.  When such speech turns to action, Knijnenburg may find himself beyond the protection of these rights.

288 thoughts on ““Living Hell”: Clemson Professor Prompts Others To Find The Home Address Of Public Letter Author”

  1. Saying that all Republicans and Trump are scum is going a little too far. Trump is definitely scum. Every body knows that even though some Republicans simply can’t admit it, their champion and all that. Most, or at least half, of all Republicans are scum to some degree. That is clearly illustrated in FoxNews and even on this blog. This is a wonderful country that allows for its citizens to progress and evolve to be better people. The other edge of this sword, however, protects those that would hold back the country. They’re the old, ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it.?’ ones, the ‘America, love it or leave it.’ ones. They will not stop the true American spirit of fixing problems, evolving into better and more equitable peoples, etc. They just come along from time to time representing that one step back for every two forward. The proof of all this can be found in comparing America today with America sixty years ago.

      1. Rhodes, I agree that Isaac goes too far in condemning “Most, or at least half, of all Republicans ” as scum. I note that more commonly most of your fellow right wing posters here regularly condemn “democrats” and the “left” and you don’t object to their bigotry.

        For my part, I recognize that the overwhelming number of Republicans and Democrats are moral people with the best wishes and intentions for the country and their fellow Americans – and no party affiliation either way indicating this quality. Condemnations on that broad a basis are not only obviously wrong but self delusional and a bigger problem made worse by our 24/7 cable media, talk radio, and internet self confirmation, bigger than any real disagreements among us. We can and will deal with and survive differences on affirmative action, health care, “dreamers”, tax cuts, and the defense budget, but the phony polarization into protective tribes is self destructive BS which helps some candidates and the sellers of soap on TV and radio. IN fact, most of us will know personally people on the other side of this divide and in most cases shake our head, like what’s wrong with them, but still admire and hang out with them. That’s true for me, and my two personal heroes – both now past – were my mother, a life long Republican of the northern tribe, and my sister, a Democrat . Both were selfless and brace in the face of very painful life experiences. How can I not realize that party affiliation or ideology had little to do with who they were and what I aspire to be?

        1. Read again. Half of Republicans are given as not being scum. Your parents may belong to that half. However, as I said, to some degree the other half are of scum. They may be mostly good but misguided and just a little racist. Or, they may be adamantly racist but when the cards are down would offer a meal and a bed to anyone. In the end, the overall criticism of the left is naivety. The overall criticism of the right is bigotry and racism. You may call liberals or progressives, fools. But, the right owns the label, scum.

          I agree that most Americans fall in the center where neither label is correct. However, when one considers that almost half of the voters, three million less than voted for Clinton, voted for that scumbag Trump, it doesn’t make being a Republican something to be proud of. It’s scum by association. The future of the Republican Party does not lie anywhere near the ilk of Trump, Miller, McConnell, Inhofe, Scott, Graham, etc. Get rid of that scum and perhaps being a Republican will mean something again.

          1. We don’t agree issac, though I fully hold those still supporting Trump – I think everyone get’s a mulligan on the 1st term – responsible and judge them accordingly. That goes to their inability – willful or not – to detect simple human signals on who is a low life scumbag, lacking all sense of honor, principle, and empathy and who is not. I will accept that they are still otherwise honorable people themselves who will help someone in trouble, be kind to animals, and practice normal human virtues. Some of them, probably not.

          2. issac – I am an Independent and have been for over 40 years. I voted for Trump and intent to again. Does that make me racist and if so, how?

            1. Yeah, Paul, you’re a ‘Libertarian’. Not a ‘real’ Republican, mind you. Heavens no!

              You’re well-aware the GOP is weighted by heavy baggage. So ‘Libertarian’ sounds hipper and more original; especially in your theater circles. Out of politeness no one has told you they see through that sham.

              1. Peter – Arizona has a Libertarian Party but they never get anything accomplished. I didn’t name myself anything to sound “hip.’ I have 4 people that I care what they think of me. You are not one of them. 😉

            2. Not all who vote/support Trump are racists. Some have simply not paid attention to who this disgrace truly is. Take the time to reread some of the idiocies that have come out of his mouth and his track record. Almost everything he has said and continues to say is based on lies. If you come upon life and see it all in a flash then you are prime material for a con man. Trump is a con man.

              As far as you being an Independent, that means nothing. Most Republicans have little to no idea of what it means to be a Republican. The same is so for most Democrats. The perversion of a country having only two choices is that one could not be further from having a choice. If you support Trump, then you are a Republican. Perhaps no more than the hypocrite Trump, as he rides whatever horse that suits his ego, but a Republican nevertheless.

              1. Issac, you are wrong. I don’t know Trump personally but lives cross one another and have experiences along with other people that are in common. In this fashion I have known Trump for decades and your comments do not fit the Trump I know distantly nor the Trump known by people who knew him better and also know me. I’m not saying that I am an expert on Trump rather you don’t have the evidence you think you do. Most of what you think is proof represents correlation not causation or plain ignorance.

                1. I have a suspicion Isaac and Natacha are held together (more or less you can see) with psychotropics. Not sure any exchange with either one of them would be productive.

              2. issac – Trump is a New York Democrat and became a Republican late because he saw a need. What I see is a man who makes promises and tries to keep them, even as Democrats run to the courts to stop him. Surely he has set a record for court cases at this point. He really is a Populist.

    1. Trump’s famous slogan is “Make American Great Again” and you put down his supporters down for having an “if it ain’t bork, why fix it?” attitude.

      You’d come across far better if you thought about what you write.

    2. I know of know one who opposes fixing problems.

      But the error in your thinking is blatantly obvious and on display right now.

      While most of us grasp that the police are not systemically racist, few of us beleive no improvement is needed.

      But one should always take care when making changes to something that is working well, if not perfectly.

      We are seeing spokes in crimes and violence in the very places we are defunding police.

      Ideas that sound good often aren’t.

      Often the cure is worse than the disease.

      We should work to improve things.
      But we should be careful not to make them worse as a consequence of efforts to make them better.

      Good intentions do not forgive bad acts.

  2. Imagine if a Republican professor at any university said that “test scores in public high schools in New York demonstrate that the vast majority of African American students are not very smart.” How long do you think it would take for that professor to be fired and then charged with a crime, assuming BLM or Antifa let him live? An imported jerk from the Netherlands can condemn half of the people in this country and publicly call for someone who disagrees with him to be harmed. What he has proven is that academia has no courage and even less judgment.

    1. Democrats do not even know who our enemies are so how would they know the difference between an ethnic Chinese person and a Chinese communist”?

    2. Apparently you don’t know that there is no difference between a Chinese nationalist and a Chinese communist.

    3. Paul Gilbert, who wrote the letter that Knijnenburg responded to, used the phrase “Chinese nationalist ‘students'” more than once in his letter (e.g., “I am urging that the board of trustees take immediate action to discontinue the enrollment of all Chinese nationalist ‘students’ in advanced degree programs”).

    1. Not a conflict necessarily. Publishing personal information with the intent to disrupt or embarrass someone’s private life, his right to be left alone, could be a basis for a suit.

  3. We should recognize that this idiot wishes to do harm to another human being but he is too much of a coward to do it himself. If it turns out that because of his rhetoric and the simultaneous release of the home address leads to harm can that idiot have civil or criminal actions taken against him? He is awfully close.

  4. Find The Home Address Of Critic

    Fake FedEx delivery guy found the address. Attorney targets home address of NJ federal judge…And pressed the door bell at 5pm, Sunday.

  5. Most social media organizations prohibit doxxing and I’m sure most or all corporations do as well. Seems like this could be a clear case of violating institutional standards irrespective of freedom of speech concerns.

    1. No, it’s not “perfectly reasonable” letter.

      As a simple example, it’s ludicrous for him to assert “The singular responsible party for all the above is China!,” where “all of the above” refers to:
      “As of this writing [on May 25], more than 60,000 U.S. citizens have been stricken with the Wuhan virus and died, and thousands more will succumb to its horrible symptoms in the coming months. Moreover, through absolutely no fault of our own, within the span of 90 days the greatest economy in the history of the U.S., perhaps of the world, has been transformed into the worst economy since the Great Depression. It is likely that thousands of deaths that have yet to occur will be attributable to the affects of job loss and economic ruin, resulting in extreme poverty and despair, and potential starvation, homelessness, opioid addiction, alcoholism and suicide. Even worse, we could see the complete breakdown of societal order, as civilization has been referred to as a “cooled, thin crust over a boiling volcano.”

      The Chinese government shares part of the responsibility. But they are certainly not solely responsible, as there have been many significant avoidable errors on plenty of other people’s part, notably by President Trump.

      Over 150,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S.
      Over 5 million Americans have tested positive, some of whom are now facing longterm health sequelae.
      Many more millions are dealing with financial hardship.
      Kids have lost time in school.

      Compare that to the developed countries with the best responses, like New Zealand. Trump crows about keeping America great, but he’s unfit for office, and his incompetent response contributed significantly to all of the harm here.

      1. It’s a perfectly reasonable letter. Reasonable statements can be disputed. You fancy it’s ‘unreasonable’ because it conflicts with your worldview. Well, your worldview isn’t worth sh!t.

      2. Some people have little concern over the survival of America or it’s citizens. Additional parts of the letter demonstrate the writers concerns for America while the above post by CTHD does not.

        ” this has nothing to do with race; it has everything to do with our nation’s survival.”

        “Even worse, we know that some of those graduates have been applying their knowledge to enhance China’s military, including, for example, hacking “enemy” military computer networks; building operating bases in the South China Sea; designing “state-of-the-art” aircraft carriers; enhancing missile launch and payload capabilities; designing satellites that kill “enemy” communication satellites; designing and making operational unstoppable (nuclear capable) hypersonic missiles that can reach the U.S. in 30 minutes; and researching (potential weapons-grade) pathogens, likely in the very same Wuhan lab from which COVID-19 escaped.”

      3. Commit– It makes no difference whether the letter was reasonable. If it were blatantly racist it does not justify menacing him with a mob.

        1. I agree that “If it were blatantly racist it does not justify menacing him with a mob,” and I stated earlier that “I oppose threatening people’s physical safety, whether it’s Mr. Gilbert or Christine Blasey Ford. It’s bad for the person who’s threatened and for society as a whole” (https://jonathanturley.org/2020/08/08/living-hell-clemson-professor-under-fire-after-prompting-others-to-find-the-home-address-of-critic/comment-page-2/#comment-1987937).

          I disagree that “It makes no difference whether the letter was reasonable.” TIA claimed that “It’s a perfectly reasonable letter,” and I strongly disagree, and I believe it’s appropriate to explain why I disagree.

  6. NB, UC Irvine and Clemson imported this lout from the Netherlands. To all parties participating in that exercise, I’ll say ‘heckuva job’.

  7. I’m not supportive of chasing down critics to their homes no matter what their views are but I wonder why you think a racist letter regarding chinese students was written by a Republican? Interesting

    1. Why not trying to formulate a counter-argument to the thesis in the letter? Yeah, I know. Too taxing for you.

    2. There’s nothing racist about the letter. It asks that Chinese Nationals be excluded because there is a proven history of the Chinese Communist government using the students’ access to steal intellectual property. He does not ask that all Chinese be excluded.

  8. It’s sort of grossly amusing the way academe has turned into a collecting pool of juveniles and head cases. You want to know who is responsible for that? Go to a faculty meeting and have a look around you. Note also, that the man is employed at a public institution incorporated under the auspices of the State of South Carolina. In 2016, Donald Trump carried the state with a margin > 15%. It is so like academics in our time to maintain that they merit lavish financing and comprehensive discretion courtesy people they despise. There’s a term for that mentality. The term is ‘arrested development’.

    1. It is reasonable for you disagree with the characterization of the letter. My point was that one should not take that characterization as an excuse to terrorize the family which this professor has done. I do know that you do not approve his abhorrent behavior.

  9. ” I still believe that he has a free speech right to express those views in social media and would oppose efforts to terminate him. ”

    Even AOL is now tightly ‘ moderating ‘ comments posted to their news articles. It seems that any derogatory adjective attached to a person or organization on the Left is automatically subject to scrutiny!

  10. CNN and MSNBC like to dox, however I am against it. This guy may show up in his class and make his life a living hell in reality.

  11. Knijnenburg’s actions have an extremely adverse effect on Clemson which as specified in the Faculty Handbook is grounds for dismissal.

  12. It would appear that the left has developed the religious fervor of an islamic jihadist in their intolerable notion that heresy from what they believe is the one true truth is punishable even to death. I find not a hair’s difference in the methodology and principles between the fanatic left and the fanatic jihadist and to attempt to ameliorate any of this nonsense that has been issuing from the left these past decades is repugnant.

  13. He should be disgraced, humiliated and fired not for his speech but for trying to sic a mob onto the home and family of someone with whom he disagrees. At some point these twisted individuals will risk getting a dose of the same medicine.

    1. He’s an import from the Netherlands, drawing a salary here while loathing the people who pay it. Why not send him back to the sex-and-death boutique from which he came?

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