Monday, March 29, 2010

John Burns Ranting and the Problem with Puffery

Last week, I wrote about the fact that the local media coverage of the Tea Party enables the tea party to act as extreme as they want because they know that the media will cover for them and try to present them as reasonably as possible. I don't think there could be any more perfect illustration of this concept then yesterday's article on tea party anti-transit activist John Burns by Ken Lieser. Ken spoke to me on the phone about my research on Burns, and I later directed him to two completely unhinged writings by Burns where Burns alleges that there is a massive conspiracy at college campuses to suppress conservative thought. Out of these two writings, Leiser extracts only the following quote from Burns:
There's a myth that there's free speech on campuses

As is now well documented, the whole gulag "controversy" was a hoax. The group only filled out paperwork to pass our literature, and then violated the university's guidelines for building a structure on campus. James O'Keefe and Joseph Basel flew in to St. Louis specifically to videotape the administration and try to make it look like they had an agenda against conservative students. In other words, O'Keefe, Basel and Burns were intentionally disregarding the rules in an attempt to set up the administration. You don't need to take my word for it. You can read the account of Young Americans for Liberty member Cailtlin Hartsell to know that Burns claim that he was being "persecuted" was knowingly false.

Given this background, the rantings of John Burns in this blog post have to regarded as either completely delusional or willfully deceptive. As commenter Michael M, former president of a conservative group on the Wash U campus, noted in this SMD post, he was involved in far more controversial displays that were "never hampered" by the university because they, in contrast to Burns, followed the actual rules. The idea that Washington University is "oppressing" conservatives is absurd.

So, with that in mind, check out some of the extremist rhetoric from Burns' writings about the event:
If there is no free speech on colleges, then what does that mean for liberty activists like you?

It means a couple of things:

1) You must "steel" yourselves for inevitable confrontation with cops. As with everything else socialist, policies -- even arbitrary ones -- cannot be enforced peacefully. At some point, they will have to bring men with guns and night sticks and handcuffs who are authorized to do violence against you. You must prepare yourselves for this encounter.

Whenever you demonstrate for liberty and the cops come for you -- and they will come for you sooner or later -- as long as you have video cameras ready, and press realeases ready, chain yourself to anything you can and yell, "HELL NO, WE WON'T GO. WE HAVE THE RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH AND NOT YOU OR ANYBODY ELSE ON THIS EARTH IS GOING TO SHUT ME UP OR SHUT ME DOWN. I HAVE A RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH. I AM AN AMERICAN CITIZEN. THIS IS A PUBLIC UNIVERSITY."

So, you should realize that there is considerable risk.


The answer then, is not to tuck your tail between your legs, but rather FIGHT. FIGHT. FIGHT.

Your parents will try and calm you down and scare you into inaction. DON'T LET THIS HAPPEN. Do you believe in free speech? If so, there is no choice. You must act and damn the consequences. What future do ANY of us have if we lose our liberties?

In a different post, Burns compares the college administration to people suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and writes:
So what does all of this mean? It means your administrator-overlords have sold-out. They're part of the 'captor class' now. Whatever decency they had as people prior to holding their present job is now gone. They will trample upon your rights wittingly or unwittingly. And it doesn't make a damn bit of difference to them even if they realize it, because their agenda is the same as the school's: enforce the agreed upon agenda of the prevailing winds of power -- which at this point happens to be anti-liberty.

So I guess the bottom line is that you shouldn't expect justice from your captors -- they've already given themselves over to the dark side. The key is not becoming hostages yourselves.

Leiser ignored the entirety of the content from both of the articles, and instead settles for getting a quote from John Burns: "There's a myth that there's free speech on campus." Like I said, basically bending over backwards to make an absurd position sound as reasonable as possible. I'm not sure how the mainstream media expects people to actually stay informed when they operate in this way. I don't think they're intentionally trying to promote a right-wing agenda, but the warped notion of "balance" taught in journalism schools basically leaves people completely uninformed.


  1. this Burns character is pathetic beyond words

  2. Colleges don't need to stifle conservative thought, conservatives (lately) have been doing that on their own.

    Ask Kit Bond off the record what his thought are about the disabled. Sure, he'll show up at a photo-op at some center for autism in Columbia, but the rest of the time he's fighting against giving those kids the money. This isn't something recent. It's been happening for about a few years now, and was one of my many motivations to join the Democratic Party.

    Anyway, back to the entire transit issue.

    Metro over the past year has gotten its act together. It wasn't until 2009 that Metro finally integrated their schedules with Google Maps. Now Transit users don't need wonder when the nearest bus will show up.

    The leadership at Metro has changed to someone more serious about running a mass tranist service rather than a business.

    Metro has plans for the future, both short range and long range, something Burns doesn't believe exists. From following railroads on Google Maps and comparing them with Amtrak Schedules, Metro and Amtrak should really consider the following:
    1. Creating an Amtrak Station in Eureka and Pacific using the existing Missouri Mule line to use part of the rail road as a heavy rail system that would makes stops in Pacific, Eureka, Kirkwood, St. Louis, and Alton IL.
    2. Allow Amtrak To use a freight line that runs along most of I-44 for passenger service between St. Louis and Oklahoma City with stops west of Pacific in Rolla, Springfield, Joplin, and Tulsa. We can't get Missouri on board with using rail service as an alternative unless they can use the most direct path to get there. Currently, if anyone wants to get to Oklahoma City, passengers must transfer trains in Fort Worth, Texas after going through Arkansas. To Memphis, passengers must make a stop in Chicago or take a bus to Carbondale.

    Sure enough, once Congress takes care of some sweeping banking regulations, Transportation will be the next big issue to tackle.