Freedom of the Press
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EXCLUSIVE: Videographer Thrown Out of Mizzou Protest Has Grim Outlook for Future of Free Speech and Race Relations
I had the unique opportunity to interview Mark Schierbecker over the weekend regarding his viral Melissa Click video from the November protests at the University of Missouri and her recent termination from the college. Schierbecker’s video culminated the outrage built up over the span of several months, resulting in protests and in some cases violence.
“This was the intersection of a lot of social movements on campus,” Schierbecker stated, citing the loss of graduate student healthcare coverage, the Michael Brown incident, the close proximity of the Ferguson protests, and various other allegedly racial incidents. According to Schierbecker, it wasn’t until the football team got involved that the administration started to give in to protester demands.
Protesters were camped out on the campus lawn for days, but the volatility didn’t escalate to its peak until the day the university president announced his resignation. Schierbecker said professor Melissa Click, whom he did not know at the time, was seen in an altercation at the protest with another reporter grabbing his camera prior to the incident we see in his viral video. “I got there at a pretty timely moment,” Schierbecker said, having gotten involved with the incident merely as a bystander trying to capture video footage.
ESPN freelancer Tim Tai was being pushed out of the public area by protesters who demanded that the media “respect their privacy.” “I went over for his safety,” said Schierbecker, assuming that the video camera would influence the crowd to behave in a more civilized manner. In his footage of the incident, Tai can be seen ultimately being pushed out of the protest areas however Schierbecker was ignored and able to cross the barrier of students between him and the protest area.
Having seen Melissa Click in an altercation with the media before, Schierbecker approached her nearby the tent area of the protests. “I found who I had wanted to talk to […] I basically just wanted to know […] why do you feel the media doesn’t have a right to cover your story?” As seen in the video, Click told Schierbecker that he needed to “get out” and that she needed “muscle” to throw him out. “It ended up getting physical,” said Schierbecker, “I eventually relent […] I draw the line right at before I get physically punched.”
Melissa Click was charged with assault and has recently been fired in part due to this incident and others caught on camera as well.
When asked about the outlook of free speech on college campuses, Schierbecker gave a rather negative perspective. “I think students now are more sensitive than they’ve ever been […] obviously I have a problem with the methods the protesters are using.” Particularly with regards to race relations in the country which has spurred much of the civil unrest that has led up to these protests, Schierbecker was equally grim. “I wish I had a prescription or a diagnosis to the problem, but I really don’t.”
Follow Mark Schierbecker @Schierbecker on Twitter. Watch the full interview here.
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Why Twitter Is Better Than Facebook
I’ve often complained that my FaceBook experience is far inferior to the fun and games we all have on Twitter, so I thought I’d elaborate on just what exactly makes Twitter so much better than FaceBook.
Twitter is open
Probably the best example of why Twitter is a superior platform to FaceBook is it is an open network. The premise of Twitter is that unless you have a protected account—and who wastes their time with those—everything you post on Twitter is visible to anyone and everyone else on the Internet. Twitter is your own little broadcast network that can be as big or as small as the effort you put into it; therefore it is a given that personal, sensitive, or intimate material is posted at your own risk. In contrast, FaceBook is the Soviet Union of social networking—unless you have an active following virtually no one can see your content due to FaceBook’s limiting and restrictive algorithims. The rules that must be adhered to and the hoops that must be jumped through in order for the average person to grow their network are nearly impossible to overcome, and many would say it’s just not worth the effort. This idea that social networking should or can be limited to you and just your personal friends is contrary to its purpose, as the sharing of ideas and information should be allowed to go far beyond your immediate sphere of influence.
Twitter is impersonal
This is a huge (or yuge if you’re Donald Trump) advantage that Twitter has over FaceBook. Somehow I always feel obligated to respond to people on FaceBook even if I don’t want to for fear of offending someone. Other times, I feel I have to think and rethink what I’m about to post on FaceBook, wondering if this post might offend this person or seem inappropriate to that person. Still other times I really would rather not be friends with a particular person, yet I might offend him or her by unfriending or blocking whomever it is on FaceBook. It the social justice warrior’s dream where everyone has to walk on eggshells to prevent people from being offended, or suffer the consequences! With Twitter there is none of this flip-flopping over what I want to post or who I unfriend or unfollow—it’s not personal, so I don’t have to care.
Twitter levels the playing field
This is my favorite part of Twitter—the fact that I get to digitally meet and exchange ideas with people that in any other circumstance I would never get a chance to communicate with. Imagine a Californian getting to connect with conservatives in other states, a U.S. based college student sharing ideas with a British celebrity, or an average fan of a T.V. show getting to communicate with one of its actors. These are only a few of the ways that Twitter has broken down the traditional barriers between the middle class and the elite that FaceBook and it’s elaborate barriers only work to reinforce.
Twitter is a free for all
Anything, and I mean anything, goes on Twitter. If the U.S. would loosen the restrictions on its economy the way Twitter has allowed most information sharing to be unrestricted, we’d be going gangbusters! It is universally understood by most Twitter users that you are undoubtedly going to see everything offensive—whether it’s an opinion you dislike or a picture with graphic content—and that’s the nature of the free for all. FaceBook would restrict all content which it subjectively determines to be offensive in pursuit of some fascistic utopia where no one gets offended and no one really has any contact with other ideas. Unfortunately, with PC fears beginning to encroach on Twitter the free for all may not for much longer. So if I could give one piece of advice to Twitter I would ask that it continue to be the opposite of everything that FaceBook stands for by loosening restrictions and facilitating the unlimited exchange of ideas.