[Marxism] Grinnell student faces 5 years for online rant
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Mar 29 09:12:08 MST 2005
Terrorism or Stupidity?
Grinnell College, a respected liberal arts college in rural Iowa, might not
seem a prime target for a terrorist attack. But a Grinnell student is in
jail facing felony charges of threatening a terrorist act of violence at
Those who know him say that the student isnt a terrorist or even someone
capable of a violent act. Experts on higher education liability say thats
beside the point. These days, a student who posts a violent comment in a
chat room needs to assume that the comment will make its way to the police,
and that the student could end up behind bars.
Paul Wainright, the student at Grinnell, apparently posted the message on
Plans, an online discussion area frequented by students at the college.
Prior to spring break, some students on the site were complaining about
recent drug arrests on the campus. A message attributed to Wainwright urged
students as follows (punctuation and capitalization per the posting):
Please come back to school armed with whatever lethal weapon you have
access too. If we cant 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. That means KILL THE
MOTHERFUCKING POLICE THAT YOU SEE ON CAMPUS AND KILL THE MOTHERFUCKING
NARCS WHO ARE GETTING YOUR FRIENDS ARRESTED. RUBY RIDGE MOTHER FUCKERS. LET
THE STREETS RUN RED.
Jody Matherly, chief of police for the town of Grinnell, Iowa, said that
his department received several complaints from people about a threatening
communication in which others were urged to join the author in acts of
violence against the college and police officers. An investigation led to
Wainright, who was on spring break at his home in Wisconsin, and was
arrested there. Matherly did not release the posting, but Grinnell students
The charge Wainright faces carries a possible sentence of five years in prison.
Matherly said that he had advised the college to heighten security on the
Mickey Munley, vice president for communications at Grinnell, emphasized
that the site where the posting was made is not a site that the college
owns or operates or manages, but he said that the posting came to the
attention of the college, and the police took the investigation from there.
He stressed that police officials made the judgment on what to do.
Hindsight is always 20/20, he said, but even if some think that there was
no real threat at Grinnell, people who have not acted on clues abut
possible violence have been a contributing factor to a lot of tragic
circumstances in our country in the last few years, very horrific and sad
One Grinnell student, who said that he knows Wainright but doesnt consider
himself a close friend, said that in online discussions, some students said
they were upset by Wainrights posting, but many others knew it was in
jest and are now more angry about his arrest. It would be hard to know
from the outside looking in at the site what you are seeing, and I assume
the person who flagged this was an administrator, said the student.
The student let Inside Higher Ed look at the site with his password, and
indeed the site is hard to make sense of as an outsider. Because Grinnell
is a small college, its clear that many students make postings that assume
a lot of knowledge on the part of readers, and the postings range from
serious to silly with many appearing to be the kind of thing a college
student might write after a beer or three.
Another Grinnell student sent an e-mail message saying: The post looks
very bad when read out of context, but it was all written with tongue
firmly very firmly in cheek, and no one who knew him at all well
doubted that it was a joke. Unfortunately, someone with no sense of
proportion or context (probably an administrator, although no one has
claimed responsibility for the atrocity) contacted the police about it, and
Paul was arrested. Apparently at no point during the process did anyone
step back and consider, for instance, whether a student at left-liberal
Grinnell would ever refer to Ruby Ridge any way but ironically. From many
Grinnell students perspectives the matter is not about our physical
security, but about the threat posed to our civil liberties by overzealous
and unreflective administrators and police.
Chief Matherly, however, said it would be irresponsible for authorities to
dismiss any violent statement as campus hijinks. Any threat of terrorism
is a serious threat of terrorism, he said. There are no pranks. There are
no jokes. Its one thing to stand out in a field when no one is around and
talk about things, but once you put it into an arena when people fear for
their lives and safety, thats different.
While some students are criticizing the college and the police for acting,
a post on Plans (that could not be independently verified) from Wainrights
mother was understanding.
Of course we who know and love Paul, know that what was posted was said
tongue-in-cheek with no malicious intent, she wrote. Unfortunately, in
the current climate such sleep-deprived rants will be taken seriously by
some. It is totally appropriate for authorities to check it out. As a
parent I would want to be assured that this was being looked into. If I
were an administrator, I may be terrified that someone might actually carry
out any violence toward me.
Sheldon E. Steinbach, general counsel and vice president of the American
Council on Education, said Grinnell had no choice but to act upon reading
the post. Once a post is out there in such a visible way, it requires the
college to act.
In another day, someone would have called the kid, and the kid would have
said, I wrote that when I was drunk, and it would never have gone this
far, Steinbach said. But college students need to remember that after
9/11, they just need to exercise better judgment.
Steinbach said it was beside the point that the student is viewed by many
as nonviolent, especially since the posting urged others to join in
violence. What if a student had taken him seriously and an incident had
occurred? The institution would have had a tragedy and been subject to
ridicule and lawsuits.
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