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Instapundit Cleared in Tweet Investigation

The University of Tennessee has made the right call in its “investigation” of University of Tennessee law professor and prolific blogger Glenn Reynolds. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports:

The University of Tennessee College of Law Dean Melanie D. Wilson said Tuesday that no disciplinary action will be taken against one of its law professors and contributing columnist for USA TODAY and the News Sentinel who urged motorists to run over demonstrators blocking traffic in Charlotte, N.C.

“The tweet was an exercise of his First Amendment rights,” Wilson wrote in a post on the law school’s website.

In an email to the law school, Reynolds explained the offending tweet in more detail:

I was following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence, which seemed to be getting worse. Then I retweeted a report of mobs “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles” with the comment “run them down.”

Those words can be taken as encouragement of drivers going out of their way to run down protesters. I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed to many that I did. What I meant was that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. I remember Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was beaten nearly to death by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. My tweet should have said, “Keep driving,” or “Don’t stop.” I was upset, and it was a bad tweet. I do not support violence except in cases of clear self-defense.

This whole episode is a (likely futile) reminder that our discourse would be well-served if people on both sides of the political divide were more charitable in interpreting each others’ expression. That’s as true when a black athlete takes a knee during the national anthem as when a white law professor tweets in haste.

Despite the passive-aggressive tone of the UT dean’s statement—at one point, she suggests melodramatically that faculty and students must now “try to rebuild our law school community”—it’s refreshing to see a law school make it clear that it will not punish a professor. Many academic bureaucracies claim “respect for diversity” as their raison d’être but exhibit a punitive narrow-mindedness that is incompatible with the freedom of thought and expression that universities should defend at all costs.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the violence in Charlotte was not only not justifiable in terms of civil disobedience but also on the facts. Sadly, thanks to the current administration’s acceptance of unjustified racial violence, it’s only going to get worse. Quite a legacy!

  • Beauceron

    ” reminder that our discourse would be well-served if people on both sides of the political divide were more charitable in interpreting each others’ expression”

    Sometimes I am pretty sure we live on different planets. Leftists professors can pretty much say whatever they want. There are lines, but they are fewer and not as bright. If you are one of the few remaining conservative professors, you have to step very carefully.

    • Jim__L

      I’m not sure it’s fair when we get on WRM’s case about virtue-signalling for (absurd) trendy causes and we conclude that he’s simply trying to keep getting invited to cocktail parties.

      I suspect more that he’s trying to stay in a position (what I call a “low-traction situation”) where his comments are still listened to by the Left. His willingness to critique the Obama administration, and to remain sane on many (but not all) hot-button issues, has won him the attention of Conservatives; if he didn’t pronounce some Shibboleths correctly, he would lose the attention of the other half of the discourse.

      You can imagine being one of the “few remaining conservative professors.” I can imagine (can’t you?) that being one of the few remaining aspiring peacemakers, WRM could be an even more precarious position. It’s certainly a position that earns him some jeers from the Comments section of his own blog.

      I hope (for his sake) that he either has a thick skin, or enjoys being in the thick of it. Or some cheerful combination of the two. =)

  • Fat_Man

    My guess would be that Reynold’s website brings in more money than his professorial gig, and that he gives the school more value in PR than he costs in leftist hate.

    In other words, they need him more than he needs them, and they know it.

    Another lesson is that Twitter is not just stupid, it is hazardous to your health. I don’t know why anybody participates.

  • QET

    Anyone who believes that the people who “objected” to Reynolds’ tweet did so from a good faith misunderstanding of his meaning is an imbecile. It’s too bad Reynolds blinked and apologized, but at the same time it would have been foolish to keep baiting the Left bear. The Left psyche does not go beyond impulse; it is pure stimulus-response.

  • markterribile

    I think Reynold’s ‘apology’ was reasonable … but realize that the only reason he was given the chance to be heard was his immense prestige and influence in multiple communities.
    The rest of us wouldn’t have stood a chance.

    • Jim__L

      To be fair, it was very easy to misconstrue a comment like that. I’m glad things turned out the way they did.

      Although it might take a little time for Deans to figure out how to deal with this situation with some panache. Still, she gets full points for getting the decision right, which is the vast majority of the victory. =)

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