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Administrator targeted by right-wing blogs, threatening comments

Paul Dionne, the Inclusive Success Coordinator for Beloit College’s Office of Academic Diversity and Inclusiveness, became the target of right-wing blogs and commentators following Dionne’s recent “Love Made Public” lecture.

Websites such as The Daily Caller and Right Wing News publicized Dionne’s lecture, entitled “Working Against Whiteness.” According to The Daily Caller, which allegedly received audio of Dionne’s lecture from an undisclosed source, as a means of defining “‘whiteness,’ Dionne instructed the student attendees to chant ‘imperialist, capitalist, white supremacist patriarchy.’“

According to Dionne, he was unaware that his lecture was being recorded, but he stands by his remarks.

“Without my knowledge or consent, somebody recorded my talk and forwarded the recording to a reporter for The Daily Caller,” Dionne told The Round Table in a statement. “The secrecy with which this was done indicates the person knew they were not acting with humility and respect. My words were twisted and taken out of their context in order to spin a misleading story that would feed the ever-deepening social and political divisions that fracture our country. The intent was to take my comments about two highly controversial and emotional issues, religion and race, and broadcast them with malicious intent. The hateful comments attached to the reporting and emails I have received are meant to fulfill another objective: to bully and threaten me into silence and inaction. That will not take place. I stand by my actual words and continue my work to advance social justice on our campus, in our community, and in this world. Whiteness, which I used as a placeholder for bell hooks’ larger oppressive system identified as ‘imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy,’ remains the primary political, economic and cultural system that I endeavor to work against every day.”

Wisconsin is known as “one-party consent” state in the world of audio recording law. One-party consent states mandate that only one person needs to consent to a recording of a conversation for the recording to be legal. The person consenting can be the person recording the conversation.

The Beloit College Student Handbook includes a section under “Sexual Misconduct” that prohibits non-consensual audio recording and distribution, but it is unclear if those rules apply to material that is not sexual.

Dave Blount, a writer for Right Wing News, a right-wing blog that features contributions from the likes of conservative radio host Ben Shapiro and controversial political operative Dick Morris, expounded upon the original Daily Caller article and wrote a scathing criticism of Dionne.

“Too bad students seem to learn corrosive and neurotic racial self-hatred rather than world history,” Blount wrote of Dionne’s teaching methods. “They would know that Islam has used extreme violence to all but eradicate Christianity from the Middle East, where it originated and used to be the dominant religion. If not for white Europeans holding the line against Islamic expansionism, Christianity would be an obscure sect that would only be able to survive by lying low.”

In a post on “It’s About Liberty,” a self-described “conservative forum,” the response to Dionne’s comments were significantly more hostile.

In a post entitled “The parade of idiots continues…,” a variety of anonymous commentators made aggressive and even threatening comments about Dionne and his lecture. “Wow,” wrote a user going by the handle Libertas. “Hates himself, hates his race and wants to turn his race into voluntary slaves to people of color.”

“F’n pencil-neck teaching young people to hate themselves and each other,” wrote a user named Pandora.

Comments by a user named AlanS took a violent turn. Quoting Dionne’s position as Inclusive Success Coordinator, AlanS wrote, “Whoever dreamt up that position should be shot.”

Libertas replied, “Indeed. More behind that though. Maybe line them up single file?”

Libertas also posted a racist remark about Marijuana Sawyer, the Director of Student Excellence and Leadership for Beloit College, using a reference to the 2001 film Super Troopers to refer to her as a monkey.

A number of commentators posted photos of Dionne, as well as links to his social media. Several articulated their belief that Dionne was unqualified to be a college-level educator.

Others decided to criticize Beloit College as a whole in their writing. “You too can get a worthless Beloit College degree in Theater Dance and Media Studies for a bargain basement price of $230,000, all in,” wrote user ToddF.  “What a deal.”

This is not the first time members of the Beloit community have been targeted by right-wing media outlets. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called Orianna O’Neill’16 “a nitwit” in a broadcast from November 2015.

O’Neill had been quoted in a Reuters article on the relationship between religious faith and belief in climate change. Limbaugh, who addressed O’Neill and Beloit College by name, went on to claim that O’Neill’s mind had been “polluted and poisoned by a bunch of professors.”

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