Sunday, November 29, 2015

No classes Monday


     Erring on the side of caution usually has good connotations. 
     Buying some extra insurance.
     Tucking a flashlight in the glove compartment.
     But college campuses, which magnify and concentrate our social flaws, have made caution a sickness, with their trigger alerts and manifestos of victimhood. They seem to think their job is to prepare the real world for students, and not the other way around. 
    So the FBI notices an online threat directed at the University of Chicago, informs the school, and in response the entire place shuts down Monday as a result. Classes canceled, students urged to stay indoors and, oh I don't know, cower. 
     Have we lost our minds? 
     Does the FBI have any idea how easy it is to post those online threats? How closing the school is the kind of wild overreaction that inspires mopes to do this kind of thing in the first place, and responding in such an extreme way only invites more threats?  We don't pay ransoms to terrorists holding American hostages overseas, even at the cost of their lives, because we know that doing so only makes the situation worse. Yet one of the world's great intellectual institutions grinds to a halt tomorrow because somebody typed something mean? 
   Maybe there's more here than meets the eye. Maybe the FBI has some intelligence about a real danger, as opposed to some random threat. If so, they didn't mention that. 
    So much for safe spaces. For a cynical society, we can be shockingly naive.  The New York Times Magazine ran a story Sunday about "swatting," the practice of online pranksters sending SWAT teams crashing in on the unsuspecting. It's jaw-droppingly easy, and an indictment of our reactive, militarized police force that some disturbed teenager in Vancouver could dispatch armies of cops across the country at his whim. It's so easy to do, you can barely blame the juvenile, and law enforcement was slow to respond -- to him, not when sending in the heavy artillery—until he had done it dozens of times. 
     We live in a dangerous time, but then we always have, one way or another. The question always is, what do we do about it? Do we give in to fear? Or do we resist? Do we go about our business despite the risks? The adults need to show more discretion. We need cooler heads that will understand that crouching in fear doesn't solve anything.  If a person actually intended to shoot up the campus Monday, they wouldn't warn the students away. When does that ever happen? Such threats are the empty acts of brainlessness or unbalance. Which also explains the University of Chicago's reaction. 

25 comments:

  1. I could be wrong, but I seem to recall at least one school shooting in which the shooter had posted his intentions of doing harm to students on social media. Afterwards, there was much regret that said posting was ignored or not taken seriously. Though I generally don't believe in reacting with fear to terrorist threats, if I had a son or daughter who attended the University of Chicago I'm pretty sure that would change everything.

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    1. Seeing the ST report on Monday, if the FBI is involved, it's not something to take lightly.

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    2. The FBI said it noticed an anonymous threat.

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  2. Mr S, if the Sun-Times received a credible bomb threat, you would object to the paper closing while the threat was investigated? You'd report to work as usual, just another day? What if the threatened school was not U of C, but an elementary school? Any difference?

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    1. Yes. What is a "credible bomb threat" anyway? Someone saying "I've placed a bomb at the Sun-Times" online is not a credible bomb threat.

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    2. Times have changed. What if the threat was called in ahead of time at Newtown, or at Umpqua, or a dozen others? Granted, this is the benefit of hindsight, but isn't that how we learn? You still send your kids to Sandy Hook school that day? Or do you wait til the threat is more "credible"?

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  3. Better safe than sorry-what if it was one of the colleges your boys went to? or the bldg. your wife works in? She probably wouldn't take chances with that.

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  4. My son and daughter go to the Lab School and my wife works at the university. I'm not too worried about it. We as adults need to teach judgment. I'll take them at their word there was a threat, but I'm not going to get worked up about it or get my kids wored up over it because it's probably just an idiot posting something. My big fear is that the school will turn this into some "teachable moment" that scares the hell out of the kids and encourages them to be fearful and unable to deal with difficulty. The cure is often worse.

    They have security and two police forces out there today and there will be more security there for a while after this. It's more dangerous in nearby neighborhoods for people who live over there day to day.

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  5. The whole notion of a "credible threat" has reached the point of absurdity. The fact that someone can shut down a university by sending an anonymous email is nuts. When violence actually happens, there is seldom a warning. And if this threat is "credible" won't the threatener simply wait till tomorrow when school is open?

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  6. 8 killed and 20 wounded in Chicago over the holiday weekend.

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  7. Terrorists won't even have to get up from their keyboards anymore...

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  8. I agree in theory that closing schools, or public facilities of any kind, is not a practical solution to what very well may be a harmless prank or other ploy to get out of going there on a particular day. It's not what I consider the "best" way to respond and could easily give false credibility and even encouragement to any moronic individual or copycat. But I can't completely fault the University of Chicago either. It's a dilemma, for sure.

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    1. I agree. I might have, in the first flush, been too hard on them. But it's a solution that only works now. The next threat can't close the school again.

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  9. I notice the Sun-Times just posted online about the arrest of someone connected to the threat to UChicago.

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    1. Below is part of the threat he sent:

      "This is my only warning. At 10AM Monday morning, I'm going to the campus quad of the University of Chicago. I will be armed with an M-4 carbine and two desert eagles, all fully loaded. I will execute approximately 16 white male students and or staff, which is the same number of time McDonald was killed," wrote the commenter, who posted with the initials "JRD" and a Chicago Bulls logo, according to the police report. "I will then die killing any number of white policeman in the process. This is not a joke. I am to do my part and rid the world of white devils. I expect you do the same."

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    2. So it seems to be part of the Laquan McDonald protest. That'll get society to value African American lives more.

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  10. Reverse racism at work...

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    1. How so? You mean the venom toward whites? That isn't "reverse racism." That's plain old racism. "Reverse racism" is an antique term, like "shell shock."

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    2. Like the old Bakke case.

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  11. no name is given so far

    The Associated Press CHICAGO — The latest about an online threat that led the University of Chicago to cancel classes on Monday (all times local):12:55 p.m.The University of Illinois at Chicago says one of its students living off-campus has been arrested in connection with threats made against the University of Chicago.

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    1. They've named him now: one "Jabari Dean." My guess would be he never owned a gun in his life.

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  12. What an idiot, he just threw away the chance of an education at a great school that many could only dream of getting into. He can study online in jail perhaps.

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    1. That's what I said at dinner. I imagine he'll escape jail, out of mere pity. But really, who'll hire THAT guy?

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  13. We had a threat of violence through use of weapons posted on the washroom wall at our high school a couple of weeks ago. While the school didn't close, a message was sent to staff and parents reporting the threat and adding increased security at the school the following day. A great many parents kept their children home. This seems to be the sensible way to handle the situation, though we have seen weapons and homemade bombs brought to our schools in the past.

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