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By Aaron Bady
Anyone claiming to be an expert is selling something. I brandish my ignorance like a crucifix at vampires.
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Who are you going to believe, me or your lying ideology?

Ideology means many things, but one of them is the difference between who gets the maximum benefit of the doubt, and who gets the presumption of guilt. I know what I see, when I see this clip:

I see a law professor shoving a student—shouting “Get away from my space, you prick”—making more threatening movements, attempting to provoke a fight verbally, and grabbing a student’s cell phone out of her hand. I see the student who was pushed and threatened staying calm and passive, even trying to defuse the situation. I see the student whose phone was taken from her hands defending herself verbally and no more. And then the clip ends.

It is clear to me what I see in the video. It is clear to me who, in the video, is turning a political conflict into a physical one, and who it is that is aggressively trespassing into whose space. Mine is an ideological account of what happened, of course. Which is not to say that it’s wrong—yours is ideological too—but simply that any reading of this event, this brief window in time, cannot help but be shaped and contextualized by what you or I expect to see. And it also can’t help but be shaped by the context which we assume into existence, framing the event.

After all: what happened before this video began? What happened after it ended? That context could change how we view what we’ve just seen. In fact, it has to: we’ve already filled in the gaps in our knowledge with assumptions about what we don’t know. One of two things is true: either the law professor was provoked in some way that would justify or mitigate his conduct, or he wasn’t. And before we come to a decision about what we’ve seen, we’ve decided which of those two things are probably true. And how we come to that decision will most likely have everything to do with what our opinions are about Israel/Palestine, border checkpoints, and the meanings of the words Apartheid and Imperialism.

For example, the person who posted the video framed it this way:

“During our solidarity mock check-point/border check point, University of Oregon professor, James Olmsted, physically pushes two students after making very racists remarks to all of us. This was after we had asked him to calm down because he was making us feel intimidated.”

In this video, we see the same confrontation from a different angle, and we see some of what happened after the first video cuts out:

The poster of that video says more or less the same thing as the poster of the first video:

“Seconds before this video was recorded he shoves a student and continues to stir up tension until UOPD arrive on the scene.”

A commenter on the first video asserts:

“there are two sides to everything…people dont just act like this for no reason…I guarantee you the professor was reacting to something that isnt shown in this video”

An a commenter on the second also asserts that they are the aggressors:

“hahaha that girl thinks she’s being harassed. In reality, it’s a group of weirdos surrounding a law professor recording him, and pushing their ideals on him.”

After all: if this confrontation began with the students aggressively encroaching on his space—as he seems to be claiming—thereby impeding his ability to move freely, then our sympathy will naturally gravitate towards his side of the story. If he was simply going about his business, and they provoked him, then at least he isn’t the only asshole in the situation. But if the reverse is the case—if they were simply putting on a campus demonstration, peacefully—then he is obviously the one trying to provoke a confrontation. This is especially the case if, beforehand, he was making racist remarks.

Which is it? Which do you see?

Now, watch this six minute version, which is taken from the phone that he snatches from the students hand and puts in his pocket:”If you want this country back, start fucking war to take it back…Instead of being pussies and talking, do something.

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10 Responses to “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying ideology?”

  1. kaminkatze says:

    You published the second 1:33 video twice, instead of the 6 min version.

  2. Jonathan Dresner says:

    “You need a protagonist”….

  3. Aaron Bady says:

    Yeah, thanks. Fixed it.

  4. Get over it says:

    Jeez, get over it. Shit happens. Not everything that offends your delicate sensibilities is a crime. There are assholes and there are the assholes that make assholes famous. Neither is illegal. All are annoying and forgotten in a week. Get over your drama.

  5. Aaron Bady says:

    These are my favorite kind of comments.

  6. Eilif Verney-Elliott says:

    Fascinating how ‘both side(s)’ seem to have an immovable ideological perspective. The law professor makes some interesting points about the romanticising of ‘Native American’ culture, this idea that it was a happy paradise before the Europeans came. Also, the activists make an excellent point by confronting the ‘dominant paradigm’ (his words); their ‘white guy’ taunts seem to be a mirror of his critique, although it is very obscure. Your analysis of this ‘situation’ is incredibly worthwhile.

  7. R. Michael Litchfield says:

    For a little bit of of background that doesn’t completely get covered in the article/videos. They had set up an “immigration checkpoint” on the curved path going down to the lower level of the EMU (one of the central arteries here at UO) and were physically stopping people (white male preferentially I believe) and demanding to see their papers. They were being very aggressive and confrontational and like I said physically stopping and laying hands on people so I wasn’t too surprised to see cops being involved and thought that was part of their goal. Interesting they managed to flip out a prof but hay, it’s the day before finals, _somebody_ was going to flip.

  8. It’s pretty clear to me that they’re all acting like assholes, trying to enforce their respective dogmas on one another. A protest like this is meant to incite an emotional reaction. Adults should know better than to bite.

    The professor makes the confrontation physical when he takes off his jacket. The tall student then aggravates the situation by getting in the professor’s face and initiating physical contact. The professor then loses control. I hope he gets fired.

  9. Dennis Igou says:

    I went to jr high with James. The bliss ninnies political theater was whack from the start. Too bad a proud Professor loses his job with such tomfoolery. Dennis

  10. Aaron, how do you read the references to “property” and “private property” in these clips?

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