Friday, April 15, 2005

The Tribune’s Terrorist Blogger

When the Marquette Tribune wrote an editorial about the dangers of blogs, they cited the case of one Paul Wainwright, a student at Grinnell College who supposedly threatened the Des Moines police with violence. To quote the Tribune:
Passionate advocates for the First Amendment could feasibly suggest that this action amounts to a violation of Wainwright’s rights. People focused on security over civil rights would say that Wainwright’s statement, “This means blood in the streets,” apparently directed at Des Moines Police officers, deserved investigation, and part of that investigation is to detain Wainwright until the verité [sic] of the “imminent threat” could be investigated.
Even as the Tribune staff was writing that editorial, there was plenty of reason to doubt that Wainwright was seriously threatening anybody. The Tribune noted that he is “apparently a member of a Grinnell College Comedy troup [sic] analogous to the Studio 013 Refugees.”

But there was a lot more the Tribune editors didn’t know about this incident, much of it posted on Inside Higher Ed on March 29, more than a week before the Tribune editorial.

In the first place, the message wasn’t written on a blog, but on a private (password protected) discussion board that caters to Grinnell College students. In the second place, it wasn’t the Des Moines police who were supposedly threatened, but those in Grinnell. Wainwright is indeed part of an improvisational comedy troupe called the Ritalin Test Squad.

But most important, the message wasn’t a threat, but rather a jibe at the attitudes of his fellow Grinnell students in the wake of some drug arrests on campus.
If we can’t depend upon the administration to protect the bubble we were promised and that they are selling us for 34,000 goddamn dollars a year, then we will have to take matters in our own hands. That means violence and bloodshed. That means warfare.
The post, which was rather profane, then invoked Ruby Ridge. At left-leaning Grinnell, no mention of Ruby Ridge could be interpreted as showing sympathy.

The Marquette Warrior Blog contacted Wainwright, who declined (on advice of counsel) to say what his intentions were in the post, but he explicitly directed us to the Inside Higher Ed article in which people who know Wainwright insist that his post has to be interpreted as sarcastic.

At the moment, Wainwright, who was briefly suspended from Grinnell but then reinstated, is free on bail but still charged with a Class D felony which could theoretically get him five years in jail.

He is, at most, an undergraduate smart aleck who posted something stupid. At best, he’s a comic who badly miscalculated and pushed the envelope too hard.

But to the Tribune, he’s a terrorist, and a Poster Boy for the evils of blogs!

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