USC Under Fire Over Student’s Anti-Zionist Threats on Social Media

The University of Southern California is under fire this week after a student tweeted that she wants “to kill every motherf–king zionist” as well as other postings denounced as anti-Semitic. The student, Yasmeen Mashayekh, is listed as a diversity and inclusion (DEI) senator for the University of Southern California Viterbi Graduate Student Association.  The school has refused to take action against Mashayekh, but other students have objected that the school would not have been so circumspect if Mashayekh said that she wanted to kill others like BLM supporters.

Mashayekh also tweeted in June “Death to Israel and its b–ch the US” and later declared that “if you are not for the complete destruction of Israel and the occupation forces then you’re anti-Palestinian.”  In a May tweet, she stated “Yes I f–king love hamas now stfu.” On June 21, she tweeted “Zionists are going to f–king pay.”

When asked about her calls for violence, Mashayekh was unapologetic on a podcast by Palestine in America on Dec. 2: “I still don’t feel any pressure to change any stances or apologize for anything at all.”

Other students have objected. Molly Davis, a student at USC, told Fox News that “while students are being forced to go through a virtual ‘diversity’ training, DEI senators are tweeting how they want to literally end the lives of humans who support the Jewish people. It’s dark and severely twisted.”

Sixty-six current and former faculty members at USC signed a letter to the university’s leadership, calling on it to “publicly and explicitly rebuke Yasmeen Mashayekh for her offensive behavior and to distance USC from her hateful statements.”

However, a USC spokesperson told Fox News that the statements are “disturbing” but legally protected.

“The individual is a member of a graduate student group that is self-organized, elects its own council members and does not set the university’s policies. Even though the statements at issue are legally protected, we understand they are disturbing. USC rejects and condemns hatred in all its forms.”

I agree that these comments are protected speech. I would oppose an effort to expel a student for posting such views on social media as an infringement of free speech.

That said, there is a striking contrast in how universities (including public universities) respond to controversial postings.

We have previously discussed the concern that academics are allowed (correctly) to voice extreme views on social justice and police misconduct, but that there is less tolerance for the voicing of opposing views on such subjects.  There were analogous controversies at the University of California and Boston University, where there has been criticism of such a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. Some intolerant statements against students are deemed free speech while others are deemed hate speech or the basis for university action. There is a lack of consistency or uniformity in these actions which turn on the specific groups left aggrieved by out-of-school comments.  There is also a tolerance of faculty and students tearing down fliers and stopping the speech of conservatives.  Indeed, even faculty who assaulted pro-life advocates was supported by faculty and lionized for her activism.

Nevertheless, in the past, I have defended extremist views on academic freedom grounds like those of University of Rhode Island professor Erik Loomis, who rationalized the murder of a conservative protester and said that he saw “nothing wrong” with such acts of violence. (Loomis also writes for the site “Lawyers, Guns, and Money.”)

Notably, despite his past views on the killing of conservative protesters, the New York Times still published Loomis on its opinion page (after promising not to run future op-eds by people like Sen. Tom Cotton).

I have defended faculty who have made similarly disturbing comments on “detonating white people,” denouncing policecalling for Republicans to suffer,  strangling police officerscelebrating the death of conservativescalling for the killing of Trump supporters, supporting the murder of conservative protesters and other statements.

Yet, there is a zero tolerance for statements or jokes from the right of the political spectrum. We recently discussed how St. Joseph’s University refused to renew a contract for a professor who actually prevailed in such a free speech fight. A conservative North Carolina professor  faced calls for termination over controversial tweets and was pushed to retire. Dr. Mike Adams, a professor of sociology and criminology, had long been a lightning rod of controversy. In 2014, we discussed his prevailing in a lawsuit that alleged discrimination due to his conservative views.  He was then targeted again after an inflammatory tweet calling North Carolina a “slave state.”  That led to his being pressured to resign with a settlement. He then committed suicide  just days before his last day as a professor.

We have also seen universities remain silent as student government bodies and boards engage in blatant content-based discrimination in exercising their control over budgets or publications (here and here and here). That includes denying funding for a speech of former Vice President Michael Pence.

Student publications are firing writers and editors who write columns espousing dissenting views on police abuse or other subjects. This pattern has repeated itself at WisconsinSyracuse, Oklahoma State, and other schools. Student columnists have been formally condemned at schools like Georgetown and both faculty and students have sought to eliminate whole publications at schools like Dartmouth as “incubators of hate.”

It often seems like schools like USC see the free speech values with clarity in dealing with the speech of individuals like Mashayekh. Yet, these schools are silent or actively engaged in the targeting of speech from other perspectives. This content-based discrimination is the scourge of free speech. The record of most schools shows that their tolerance for controversial speech is based largely on the content of the viewpoints or the groups being targeted. Consider the call “to kill every motherf–king ______.”  If you fill in that blank with an assortment of other groups or identities, it is doubtful that USC would have reacted in the same way.

The test of free speech is whether it is defended universally, not episodically.  Mashayekh likely felt little concern over whether she would be punished for her hateful statements. However, many at USC do not have such faith or luxury in speaking their minds on contemporary issues.

 

 

68 thoughts on “USC Under Fire Over Student’s Anti-Zionist Threats on Social Media”

  1. How much you want bet that this Duke University Professor gets attacked for his comments?

    He is speaking out saying American Muslims need to face some hard truths and carefully consider how they address Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic speech within their own community.

    That is not something the radical Leftists or rabid anti-Semitic’s are going to take kindly to at all.

    A small hint to the Leftists that attend this Blog…..notice how the FBI had to change its Statement re the Texas Hostage Situation and now….after much heat from the American Public at large….does call it an attack that involved the Jewish Community in general.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10408835/Professor-says-Texas-synagogue-terror-attack-inspire-Muslims-confront-growing-Jew-hatred.html

  2. I support Ms. Mashayekh right to free speech.

    I also support my Jewish friends right to free speech to comment on Ms. Mashayekh meeting a piano, descending from a extended height at a high rate of speed.
    But they have too much class to say something like that.

  3. As usual, feeding the troll only gives him the attention he desperately searches for. Truth, reason, logic are all lost on a person that desires nothing but to be noticed.

    1. The troll appears to be a female…but who can tell from a name that would not be recognized as too its gender by 90% of readers. And this miscreant dares to attack a group that has made an enormous contribution to our society?
      WQhat has she contributed?

  4. OT: “New emails released by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request revealed that last year, outgoing National Institutes of Health Dir. Dr. Francis Collins instructed Dr. Anthony Fauci to carry out a “quick and devastating” takedown of The Great Barrington Declaration, a document authored by experts who advocated for herd immunity to stop the pandemic, and “focused protection” for the most vulnerable populations over universal lockdowns.”

    https://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2021/12/anthony-fauci-political-thug.php

    1. Collins referred to Bhattacharya, Kulldorf and Gupta, professors at Stanford, Harvard and Oxford, respectively, as “fringe epidemiologists”.

      1. They are not on the fringe. They have important opinions that, before politics entered the discussion, probably matched the opinions of most people educated in the field of viral respiratory infections.

  5. Ralph says:

    “There can be no room for such speech in a civilized society.”

    What have I been saying from day one? You are preaching to the converted. Your problem is with Turley’s free speech absolutism, not with me.

    Has Turley EVER gone on the record to state that ANY bad speech crosses the line to the point that PRIVATE people and concerns may ignore, shun, boycott, ostracize and marginalize such a speaker for the sake of maintaining a civilized society or institution?

    Given that the government is forbidden to do so for good reason, are we as private citizens not free to police ourselves? How many times must we entertain and debate the same old hatreds and new lies before we may say, “No more, not here, go away?”

  6. Monument says:

    “You piggyback on Turley’s columns to get a forum that you could never earn on your own merits. Then you complain endlessly about him.”

    I praise his devotion to law and order. I admire his erudition. I appreciate that he is a Never Trumper. I share his liberal values. I applaud that he did not vote for Trump. I welcomed his call to censure Trump in Congress for his “reckless” 1/6 speech. I agree with his constant complaint that there is too much rage in the media.

    I fault him ONLY in his refusal to acknowledge the rage and lies emanating from his employer Fox News, and other Rightwing media such as Newsmax, OAN and Infowars.

    To be fair, if I was paid, say, $200k/year to ignore my employer’s lies and rage, I might sell out too.

    1. Jeff, you relentlessly troll our host on his own blog. The irony is that he doesn’t read the comments, so your insults fall on deaf ears.

      It looks really bad for you to constantly bash the blog host. Nearly every one of your posts is ad hominem on Professor Turley, Trump, Trump voters, and Fox. You have nothing else to say, certainly nothing positive. It must be wearing on your spirit.

      It’s excruciating to see you expose yourself like this. Can you not set aside your hate? At least stop insulting the host of the blog.

      1. Karen says:

        “Jeff, you relentlessly troll our host on his own blog. The irony is that he doesn’t read the comments, so your insults fall on deaf ears.”

        I praise his devotion to law and order. I admire his erudition. I appreciate that he is a Never Trumper. I share his liberal values. I applaud that he did not vote for Trump. I welcomed his call to censure Trump in Congress for his “reckless” 1/6 speech. I agree with his constant complaint that there is too much rage in the media.

        It’s a pity my heartfelt praise falls on his deaf ears as well.

        You say:

        “It looks really bad for you to constantly bash the blog host. Nearly every one of your posts is ad hominem on Professor Turley, Trump, Trump voters, and Fox. You have nothing else to say, certainly nothing positive. It must be wearing on your spirit.”

        I fault him ONLY in his refusal to acknowledge the rage and lies emanating from his employer Fox News, and other Rightwing media such as Newsmax, OAN and Infowars. If only he would honestly acknowledge what we all know is evident, I would say only positive things about Turley. I remain positive that Turley will ultimately quit Fox when he won’t be able to remain silent in good conscience like the departures of Shepherd Smith, Stephen Hayes, Jonah Goldberg and Chris Wallace.

        You ask:

        “It’s excruciating to see you expose yourself like this. Can you not set aside your hate? At least stop insulting the host of the blog.”

        I don’t hate Trumpists. I despise the sin of lying, not the sinner. I pity Trumpists for being fooled by a consummate conman. As for Turley, I fully understand it makes you uncomfortable exposing his abject hypocrisy. I readily confess that if I were paid, say, $200k/year to ignore my employer’s lies and rage, I might sell out too. I am being brutally honest. And if did that, you could insult me too! Fair enough?

        1. Jsilberman: (1) I am pretty sure Professor Turley is NOT am employee of Fox-I have previously pointed this out to you. Do you understand the difference between employee and independent contractor? (2) Because of your NEW-FOUNDED effusive compliments of the good professor, I went back many months and reviewed your comments. I find NO compliments of the professor from you –until people on this site (including me) started calling you out. Correct me if I am wrong (with attached reference).

          1. Lin,

            I have never believed (and have so stated many times) that Turley is a Trumpist. I can’t give him a greater compliment than that. I have also repeatedly said that I agree with his criticism of the MSM press. I fault him ONLY for not holding Fox News to the same standard- employee or independent contractor- it makes no difference. He is on the payroll.

            If I thought that Turley was a Trumpist, I would not waste my time here. What fascinates me is how Turley panders to his overwhelming Trumpist audience while trying to maintain his academic credibility! His is quite a circus act! He will be hard-pressed, however, to keep his Trumpist followers when he will not call the eventual civil and, quite possibly, criminal trials against Trump “witch-hunts.” Is there any doubt that the lying Trumpists will? They will not accept Turley’s silence. They will realize his true colors when he does not second-guess the juries’ verdicts.

            Tell me how you reviewed my comments. I would love to know how I can review my comments scattered among many threads over several months.

        2. “JS, are you again concluding at the edge of libel. Turley is a big fish swimming in a big ocean, so you get a pass while swimming in a pis-pot, tiny and unnoticed.”

          1. Email my comments to Turley with your recommendation that he sue me for defamation, and convey his reaction to this blog. If he demands a retraction, I’ll consider it after reading his arguments. I’m a fair-minded person. I’m always willing to be corrected when proven wrong.

  7. The privileged status of any type of speech from the enemies of the West in all its major institutions is now well established. Asking nicely for equal speaking rights among those in the opposition is naive and pointless.

    The only way to attain free speech for all is for its advocates to hold the currently privileged to the exact standard they currently use to silence those who disagree with them.

  8. OT

    “MANCHIN A ‘NO’ VOTE ON BIDEN’S BUILD BACK BETTER SPENDING PLAN” – NY Post
    _________________________________________________________________________

    So were the American Founders a “NO” vote.
    ___________________________________

    Article 1, Section 8

    “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes,…to…provide for [ONLY] the…general Welfare of the United States;…”
    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    General – adjective

    of or relating to ALL persons or things belonging to a group or category:

    – Dictionary.com
    _____________

    General welfare, not particular welfare, not individual welfare, not private welfare, not redistribution of wealth welfare, not charity welfare, etc.
    ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    NO AD LIBITUM

    “…THEY ARE NOT TO DO ANYTHING THEY PLEASE TO PROVIDE FOR THE GENERAL WELFARE,…”

    “THEY [CONGRESS] ARE NOT TO LAY TAXES AD LIBITUM FOR ANY PURPOSE THEY PLEASE;…”
    _______________________________________________________________________________

    “[T]he laying of taxes is the power, and the general welfare the purpose for which the power is to be exercised. They [Congress] are not to lay taxes ad libitum for any purpose they please; but only to pay the debts or provide for the welfare of the Union. In like manner, they are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose.”

    – Thomas Jefferson

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