Saturday, January 29, 2011

John Burns: Not Giving Bristol Palin $20,000 is Exactly Like Segregation

The tea party narrative of victimization is reaching new, unprecedented heights. If you recall, John Burns of American Majority and the St. Louis Tea Party tried to disrupt the free speech of LGBT activists, was involved in James O'Keefe's plot to sexually humiliate a CNN reporter on secret camera, and led a campaign against public transportation based on incessant lies that ended with a ridiculous publicity stunt where they claimed that the Mayor of Chesterfield was "harassing" them.

Burns also has a bizarre obsession with Washington University. He, along with James O'Keefe and Joseph Basel, secretly videotaped Washington University employees and then selectively edited the tapes to try (and fail) to convince people that the campus has an agenda against conservatives. He then accused the university of "malicious, retaliatory action" when the university asked his group to pay for the cleanup of hammer and sickle graffiti they sprayed around the campus as part of their gulag display. In paranoid rantings, he claimed that college administrators have "Stockholm syndrome" and that conservatives on campus have to be prepared for the university to come after them with "guns and night sticks and handcuffs..authorized to do violence against you." Considering his obsession with the belief that conservative free speech is somehow being oppressed it's also quite ironic that he has stated that one of the goals of the tea party is to purge all liberals from academia.

Anyway, since Dana Loesch has been made editor of Big Journalism, she uses the site as an opportunity to dole out Andrew Breitbart's money to her friends, no matter how disreputable those friends are. Enter John Burns. Burns, in an absurd rant, claimed that the decision by students at Washington University to not pay Bristol Palin $19,000 is exactly like the violent repression against African Americans that took place during the civil rights movement. Interspersing his Big Journalism post with photos from the civil rights movement, here's what Burns had to say:
So the message is, “Don’t bother coming, Bristol, or we’ll shout you down and riot because WE DON’T WANT YOU HERE!” This seems eerily similar to Southern intimidation and oppression of blacks during attempts to desegregate. It’s reminiscent of a scene from Forrest Gump, where a young black girl is harassed by a young white student and knocks her books out of her hands.
He continues:
Let’s not kid ourselves, here. what has transpired at Wash U is nothing short of bigotry and hate. These students weren’t protesting Bristol because she’s some evil mass murderer. No, they’re protesting her because they hate her. Yes. Hate. They hate everything Bristol represents, and they hate the fact that proponents of abstinence and others that share Bristol’s family-oriented culture suddenly have a beautiful, popular advocate – who can dance! They hate the fact that she makes being a goody goody look attractive and desirable.
It's pretty amazing how idiotic Burns' assessment is, though it is entirely in keeping with his paranoid hatred of academia. The issue with Bristol was, from the beginning, the belief on the part of the students that (1) there was nothing to indicate that she was qualified to speak on the subject of abstinence to a college audience and (2) she certainly wasn't worth the $15,000+ that she was going to be paid. I can say unequivocally that students, and particularly liberal students, disliked Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales far more than they disliked Bristol Palin. In fact, I doubt most students actually dislike her. But there's a reason that Bristol was disinvited and Rove and Gonzales weren't: and that is that it's obvious to any clear-thinking person that she's not qualified to speak to a college audience about this issue. In fact, I've heard from multiple students that the College Republicans were opposed to paying Bristol Palin that much money to speak.

Burns also, as I predicted yesterday on Twitter, broke out the absurd conservative talking point: ZOMG, it was originally reported that Bristol would get $20,000 but it's actually less money!!!!! Actually, it sounds like it was $19,000, since the cost of the other panelists is less than $1,000. From the student newspaper:
On Tuesday evening, Treasury voted to approve SHAC’s $20,000 appeal to bring in Palin and the three other members of the panel.

According to SU VP of Finance Eliot Walker, SHAC will now have to return the $20,000 and resubmit an appeal to fund the new panel. If the group’s new appeal is less than $1000, as Walker said is expected, SHAC can take its request straight to Walker for approval, as opposed to going through another round of a Treasury vote.
So yeah. Only $19,000 from Bristol as opposed to $20,000, while the other three speakers cost a maximum of $1,000 combined. Great argument there.

Burns also falsely reported that Van Jones was paid $20,000. First of all, Van Jones is actually an expert in his field and is an amazing speaker. But second, Burns is completely wrong as usual. Jones's usual speaking fee is $20,000, but the Student Union Treasury only allocated $5,000 for his talk at Wash U, and refused to allocate an additional $2,500:
“The speech was only $5,000 because we were able to call in a personal favor.”
The tea party might be finding ways to propel their absurdist rhetoric to new heights, but it's comforting to see that their lack of commitment to facts remains the same.

h/t Eric Boehlert


  1. They are so sad in their attempts to rationalize why Bristol Palin should be paid to explain why exactly having a baby is so horrible after it got her the cover of Us Weekly & People Magazine and on a reality show.

  2. I enjoyed reading your post Eric. Thank you, your reported things I had not read elsewhere, I'll be sharing your blog.

    I can't believe they were willing to pay Bristol $19,000 and the others $1,000! That's insane. And no wonder the students cried foul. She should be ashamed of her greedy self. Her mother taught her well didn't she, go for the big bucks.

  3. If Ms. Palin wants to speak at Washington U so badly, and insists on being remunerated for her appearance, maybe WU can offer her a scholarship in exchange for her speaking talents?

  4. Insane. The students I heard from were not planning on shouting her down, they were going to protest in a much better way. They planned to ask her some serious hard research based questions about abstinence. Questions that an expert on the topic would be able to answer with ease, but Bristol would not. Yes, it would embarrass her, but only because she lacks the knowledge required to be a key note speaker on the subject.

  5. It seems hilarious to me that John Burns is so adamantly against academia and schooling...yet he's a law student at St. Louis University...A fairly liberal, left-wing law school with a strong Gay Rights Law student organization, OUTLaws. Seems like an oxymoron...

  6. You sure it's the same guy? I mean, "John Burns" is a pretty common name.

  7. Yes...he spews his "message" during long speeches in class. He's even less coherent in class discussions than he is in some of the quotes above. He's pretty open about his affiliations with his classmates. He made us aware of his political views before the first day of Orientation was over...