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Hidden microphones betray community trust

The hate emails are coming in, folks; the blogs rippling with distortion and invective.  And for your reading pleasure, don’t forget to check out the comments sections, where you’ll find the straight up personal attacks and veiled threats.  I’ve often lamented the stupid cruelty that so much dominates online, but when this garbage comes home, to a friend, it cuts.  That it started in an event sponsored by the Spiritual Life Program, in a room I consider sacred space, I’m outraged.

Last Monday, a respected colleague came to the Spirituality Room as part of the “Love Made Public” speaker series to share his personal philosophy.  He had titled his remarks somewhat controversially and, to some, offensively.  No doubt because of that, a hidden microphone decided to attend.

I often fret before events like this one, “Will anyone show up?”  I needn’t have worried this time, though, because that microphone opened a backdoor for way more people to come in than the good old Spirituality Room could ever hold.  Before the day was out, everyone who’d been in that space for that talk became an unwitting guest of the conservative Daily Caller website.  Mr. or Ms. Hidden Microphone had apparently sent off a full-length recording.

Welcome to the Spirituality Room, Daily Caller.  No need to actually listen or understand context.  Just pluck a few juicy half-quotes, toss them online in a ridiculously misleading ideological framework, and post.  Et voila!  A hot, fresh dish of race bait, served with a side of treachery.  A feast fit for a troll.

Maybe you hoped this would happen, Microphone.  But did you think it all the way through?  Did you anticipate your target getting all the hate mail?  Did you plan for somebody out there in internetland to amp up the intensity with a call for “somebody” to be shot?  Were you looking to frighten your target’s family?

Look, Mic, I get that this is a harsh, hostile place for white conservatives.  Everywhere you turn, people are talking about systemic racism and calling out white supremacy.  Have you tried to push back with your own point of view, or to question the reasoning of your ideological antagonists, and gotten shot down or branded as an oppressor?  I wouldn’t be at all surprised, and like you, I hate that this is so.

How long ago did you give up on actually talking with progressives?  I don’t blame you.  It seems most of your liberal peers have no more interest in talking with you than you displayed last Monday.  Maybe you want some revenge for all the “political correctness?”  Or at least the satisfaction of having a little online backup?

Whatever your motives, you’ve brought us to a new low, Mic.  By answering the polemical shouts on campus with your internet whisper, you have changed the game.  You have notched up the violence.  Isn’t it ironic you did this at an event called “Love Made Public?”

I intend to use your actions as inspiration, as a moral call to this community.  Love made public.  Beloit College has seldom been further from that cosmopolitan, liberal arts ideal than we are right now.  The climate of ridicule and attack is out of hand, on all sides.  I want to know who else on campus is ready to push back, to stake out some space for civility and honest debate.

I want to know who will speak without apology for “love made public,” hidden microphones be damned.

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