MSU professor responds to university’s statement on controversial posts
WICHITA FALLS, Texas (TNN) - Dr. Nathan Jun has released a statement in response to MSU Texas President Dr. Suzanne Shipley’s statement earlier Thursday afternoon.
Dr. Jun’s full statement can be found below:
Following George Floyd’s extrajudicial murder at the hands of the police on 25 May, certain remarks I made on Facebook prompted a group of local far-right extremists to organize a vicious targeted harassment campaign against me that endured for the better part of the summer. The campaign started when the individuals in question began to circulate a screenshot of my Facebook profile, which, at the time, featured an “Abolish the Police” cover image. In the course of doing so, they repeatedly described me as a “terrorist” and a “member of antifa [sic]” and urged others to contact MSU to demand that I be terminated. I subsequently received hundreds of death threats by phone, email, text, and DM, several of which called me a “k*ke” and a “n***er-lover.” In addition, my house was vandalized four times and my personal information (as well as that of my parents and sisters) was publicly disseminated. Between June and August MSU received hundreds of emails from friends, neighbors, and colleagues of mine--as well as two open letters with more than 600 signatories from around the world—urging the university to protect my rights of free expression and publicly condemn the actions of my harassers.
The harassment—which had waned considerably by the start of the fall semester—resumed with a vengeance last week following a speech I made at a political rally on campus on Thursday, 24 September. Within 24 hours of that event I had already received 200 death threats and was forced to temporarily leave my home out of concern for my safety. By Friday morning members of the local far right had begun circulating a screenshot of an unrelated comment that I had posted on a friend’s private Facebook page. Since that time I have received hundreds of death threats and my home was subject to antisemitic vandalism for a sixth time.
Reporting on this controversy has consistently omitted certain key facts which are essential to situating it in proper context:
- First: The offending comment (“I want the world to burn until the last cop is strangled with the intestines of the last capitalist, who is in turn strangled by the intestines of the last politician”) was not “public.” It was posted in response to a private post on a (local) friend’s page and never would have been disseminated if someone on his friends list hadn’t screenshotted it (which happened, again, because the local rightwing mob was already incensed over my remarks at the aforementioned rally and had been targeting me for nearly five months prior to that).
- Second: The offending comment does not threaten anyone with violence, nor does it call on others to commit violence. At most it expresses an abstract desire for a certain state of affairs—and even then, it is no more intended to be taken literally than the Diderot quote of which it is a paraphrase (“Man is not free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”). It does not meet the legal criteria for “incitement to violence,” “terroristic threats,” or any other sort of illegal speech.
- Third: In context, the comment was tongue-in-cheek and is typical of the kind of banter and inside jokes I exchange with this particular friend. [Indeed, it was accompanied by an absurd video montage of police riots set to the tune of Andy Williams' “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (!!!)]. While it is scarcely surprising that people didn’t get the joke or simply found it offensive, disgusting, or tasteless, the fact that the comment was intended as a joke in the first place makes clear that it was not an attempt at serious political discourse.
Although I feel deep and sincere regret for the trouble my online behavior has been causing the university (and have expressed as much to President Shipley in private communication), I am nonetheless extremely grateful to MSU for publicly defending my right to free expression—all the more so given the enormous pressure it is under to take adverse action against me. In the 12 years I have worked at MSU I have never made any secret of my politics, nor have I shrank from expressing my political beliefs publicly, often in an inflammatory and provocative manner. At no point has the university attempted to discipline me on account of public statements nor to curtail my expression more generally in any way. On the contrary, it has consistently recognized my contributions in teaching, research, and service—most importantly by granting me tenure and promoting me in rank twice. Whatever people may think of my politics, there is absolutely zero evidence that I have ever abused my responsibilities as an educator to agitate or indoctrinate students.
I applaud President Shipley for issuing today’s statement, as it is crucial to make the public aware that the utterances of individual faculty members do not necessarily represent the views or values of Midwestern State University as an institution when they are made privately and are not intended for public consumption. If this comment is indeed worthy of condemnation (irrespective of context), then I am the one who deserves to be taken to task for it—not MSU. Though I have already suffered and will surely continue to suffer extremely negative consequences as a result of this controversy (deservedly or not), I can at least take some comfort in knowing that my university honors and respects the right of free expression.
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