I picked up the buzz late yesterday when I checked the tags for “Kent State,” something I do now an again as part of my social media research. Google returned several pages of results, most of them focusing on a colleague in the History Department — a person I’ve never met.
As it turns out, I was late on the uptake. Kent State had already received over 100 phone calls, and the MSM were all over the story. For the morning-after read, check here and here, and you’ll see a classic lesson how a single online story — backed by not much evidence at this point — can explode in your face within hours when fanned by the blogosphere.
Is your office ready for this? You’d better be.
At Kent State, the stir over Dr. Julio Pino and his alleged ties to the blog Global War should have surprised no one. A convert to Islam and outspoken supporter of Palestine, he’s been posting some pretty inflammatory thoughts, on paper and online, for a few years now. Most controversial of his comments, at least on campus, was column in our student paper praising an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber.
Speech and academic freedom aside, that’s not the kind of talk that wins friends here in the Heartland. It IS the kind of talk that creates serious PR problems for your employer.
From a PR standpoint, KSU has responded to the allegations, responses you can read at the links I supplied. KSU has distanced itself from the jihadist rhetoric and pointed out that nothing on the Global War site ties back to Dr. Pino. But since Pino has admitted to making contributions to the site, you can bet that bloggers and reporters around the globe are digging for more evidence.
So this story may have some legs. We’ll see. Whatever happens, I don’t see a lot of positive outcomes for the university or for Dr. Pino. But I’ll bet the university starts paying closer attention to what employees say in their online forums.
As an insider, I know that the tenets of academic freedom and the policies of tenure may limit, to some degree, the actions our administration can take against Pino. But the average Joe, whose taxes support this institution, isn’t going to understand. And even Edward Bernays himself wouldn’t be able to convince him otherwise.
You see, when emotion takes over a story, as it has here, you can toss logic out the window. Turn on your AM radio this morning if you want evidence of this — but I’ll warn you, it’s ugly.
In Cleveland, conservative yakker Bob Frantz is doing what talk shows do — stirring up a frenzy. Based on the statements of conservative websites, Frantz already has called for Pino’s arrest on charges of treason, and his deportation to Cuba. He’s even accused Kent State of supporting terrorism.
See what I mean? So much for due process.
I’m not taking sides in this fight. I don’t have enough information to condemn or defend Dr. Pino at this point. I do hope that my employer handles it responsibly. I believe they will, but the damage may already be done.
I’ll try to keep you posted, even though the dude on the talk show said he “smells a gag order” by the KSU administration. Hmm. Better publish this before my boss tells me I can’t.
I hesitate to add this, but there is a comical aside on this story that tells me that my university hasn’t quite come to grips with the social media. As reported in the Plain Dealer today:
Kent officials issued a cease and desist order to blogs and other sources that are “writing or disseminating information that associates Kent State with these opinions of this Web site.”
Update: Spent about an hour tonight checking sites that turn up in the search: Kent State + Julio Pino. Some serious nutballs out there, I tell ya — and they have guns! Glad I do, too.
What my search hasn’t turned up is proof that the Global War blog is — or was — Pino’s site. The rants I’ve encountered (and they’re all ranting) just seem to assume the site is Pino’s, with most citing Mike Adams of the conservative blog townhall.com. Adams, say MSM reports, is the one who touched off this firestorm.
An interesting sidelight. The link to Global War now reverts to a pro-military site called Defend America. Film at 11.