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Little Triggers

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Hey kids, you’ll never guess who is back in the news!

Yep, it’s the good folks at Yale Law School:

The Yale Law School has been thrust into the national spotlight after a student sent what some saw as a racially charged email to a student group, prompting a broad conversation on racism and free speech at the school.

Trent Colbert LAW ’23, a member of the Native American Law Students Association and the Federalist Society, sent the email on Sept. 15 to the NALSA listserv to announce a social event between the two groups. . . .

Colbert’s email has spread widely since it was initially sent on Sept. 15.

“This Friday at 7:30, we will be christening our very own (soon to be) world-renowned NALSA Trap House … by throwing a Constitution Day Bash in collaboration with FedSoc,” the email said. “Planned attractions include Popeye’s chicken, basic-bitch-American-themed snacks (like apple pie, etc.), a cocktail station, assorted hard and soft beverages, and (most importantly) the opportunity to attend the NALSA Trap House’s inaugural mixer!”

What happened next is that nine [!] students complained to the law school administration about this email. Colbert was summoned to meet with a couple of administrators who are apparently employed by YLS for the purpose of dealing with this kind of thing, which is where things really went off the rails:

On Sept. 16, the day after the email was sent, Law School Associate Dean Ellen Cosgrove and Diversity Director Yaseen Eldik met with Colbert after receiving nine complaints from law students about the email. In the meeting, Eldik explained the potentially offensive nature of the language Colbert included in his email — including a “fried chicken reference,” which has been “used to undermine arguments that structural and systemic racism has contributed to racial health disparities in the U.S.” [ed: WTF??] — and suggested that Colbert apologize to his peers. They drafted up an apology letter that Colbert could send.

Things got worse the next day, when one of these drones suggested in a followup meeting that a failure to apologize could lead to repercussions for Colbert in regard to the character and fitness review process when he applied for admission to the bar after graduation. These idiots then really threw fried chicken-generated adiposity on the fire by sending an email to the whole second-year class:

An “invitation was recently circulated containing pejorative and racist language,” the administrators’ email reads. “We condemn this in the strongest possible terms [and] are working on addressing this.”

Now all this is, as far as it goes, pretty bad. To call Colbert’s email “racist” is a preposterous over-reading: a poll taken by the Yale Daily News reveals that nearly half of the students on the listserv from which the complaints arose didn’t even know what a “trap house” is, plus the stuff about fried chicken is just insane on its face (“Racial health disparities?”).

Interestingly, the one actually offensive to people not dying to be offended so they can report a fellow student to the Stasi phrase in the email — “basic-bitch-themed American snacks” — has been pretty much ignored in all the pixels that have been spilled over this stupid incident in the last few days. (Hi Karen).

But here’s the thing: that’s as far as all this went. After a couple of days even these administrative blockheads realized they had over-reached, and the whole thing was dropped. (The administrators then exacerbated the continued fucking up of their useless overpaid jobs by not responding for two weeks to a subsequent email from Colbert, who asked if any further action was going to be taken).

But Colbert, who is obviously a mouse training to be a rat, had the foresight to record the relevant conversations, and decided to transform his almost completely imaginary martyrdom on the altar of Political Correctness and Cancel Culture into a national news story. We’ve since gotten plenty of garment-rending from Even the Liberal types, plus the eminently predictable screeching from the right wing noise machine.

The funny/not funny thing here is that the administrators are being excoriated specifically for their characterization of the Federalist Society. Andrew Koppleman in the CHE:

Then came this disastrous blunder: “The email’s association with FedSoc was very triggering for students that already feel like FedSoc belongs to political affiliations that are oppressive to certain communities through policies. … That of course obviously includes the LGBTQIA community and black communities and immigrant communities.” (The Federalist Society is one of America’s most influential legal groups, whose members include six U.S. Supreme Court justices.)

This may have truthfully reported how some students feel. But Eldik should have distanced the law school from those feelings.

The Washington Free Beacon, which first reported the story, claims that Yale’s leaders “now regard membership in mainstream conservative circles as a legitimate object of offense — and as potential grounds for discipline.” That’s an overreading — at this point in the conversation, there had been no mention of discipline — but Yale’s apparently uncritical endorsement of the complainants’ feelings was a mistake. The cause of diversity is not promoted when stupid stereotypes about Black people are replaced with stupid stereotypes about the Federalist Society.

Hey Andrew, I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with current events, but the Federalist Society is an unofficial wing of the Republican Party, which has become an authoritarian ethno-nationalist crypto-fascist (crypto is at this point kinda generous) organization, rapidly morphing into a straight-up cult of personality, led by the former and quite possibly future president of the United States.

I sure hope this description isn’t triggering for anyone, but facts is facts.

But of course lots and lots of super respectable people — look at those six SCOTUS justices! — are Federalist Society members and alums, just as lots of super respectable people — look at those Congressional leaders! — are still Republicans, so we just have to keep pretending this isn’t actually the situation, don’t we?

And part of that pretending includes pretending to be really upset when Trent Colbert, Amherst ’20, YLS ’23, and future 11th Circuit and SCOTUS clerk — just taking a wild guess on those latter potential developments — pretended to have his fee fees hurt by a couple of idiot administrators, just like all the other people in this incident who pretended to have been “hurt” by his initial email.

You know what really hurts? Fascism!

ETA: I’m very unsure in my own mind if Colbert (c’mon writers try harder) was cynically planning this from the jump, or whether he just wrote a sophomoric email because he’s 23, and then took advantage of the situation when it spiraled out of control (The taping of the conversations show that at a minimum the latter is the case).

I also hate writing about this bullshit but every time I think I’m out they pull me back in.

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