Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Anti-Semitism and Misogyny in the Boston College Community

In a series of recent postings at online forums and a discussion group, fans of Boston College athletics have repeatedly used anti-semitic and misogynistic language directly at a Brighton resident and community activist. The language has also included the suggestion of violence towards her.

The victim has not, to date, filed a formal complaint with the police against the posters, nor has she pursued a restraining order against them.

The forums, Eagle Insider and Eagle Action, are popular among students, staff, and alumni of Boston College. The posters have also targetted a discussion group run by Brighton neighborhood activists working on the issue of BC expansion.

In addition to the language and threats, the victim's home address and that of another community activist have been posted, along with sophomoric suggestions for property damage or pranks.

Why have these community activists been targetted by some fans of BC athletics who frequent these websites? The obvious answer is that BC has proposed a substantial expansion of their athletic facilities as part of their institutional master plan; there are many neighborhood residents who oppose some or all of BC's proposals. These particular activists appear as the visible representatives of the neighborhood, regardless of whether or not they oppose the new athletic facilities.

Words of caution to readers of this blog: the language used is offensive and, in a number of cases, in my opinion, appears to qualify as hate speech.###


Anti-Semitism and Misogyny Amongst Some BC Sports Fans

Many fans of BC athletics visit two websites for regular information about their teams: Eagle Insider (mbd.scout.com) and Eagle Action (bcrivals.com). From the nature of many postings, most of the posters at the discussion groups appear to be alumni and/or students, although some unaffiliated fans of BC sports -- or also BC employees -- are no doubt also readers and posters.

The language on the discussion boards can be crude and crass, but is mostly focused on athletics.

Since May 2007, these two discussion boards have included direct references to four community activists -- three men (including myself), and one woman. At times the comments are harmless, while others are crude, obnoxious, or sophomoric.

Recently, however, the references at Eagle Insider have taken on a sinister, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic tone when discussing one of these activists.

Anti-Semitism. At Eagle Insider, bumpers wrote: "Then ask her whether her relatives at Dachau were too terribly upset with discrimination." That was preceded by a post by carolinaEagle08 stating that "someone should euthanize this bitch." Another user, eaglemaniac95, followed up with a reference to the wife of Adolph Hitler: "Clearly her name was Eva Braun before she changed it."

Other, more disturbing postings have already been deleted recently at Eagle Insider, according to one person who viewed the material earlier in the week.

The Jewish references were present in a more general form back in June 2007. Regarding neighborhood opposition for dormitories in the land purchased from St. John's Seminary, AlexFowler wrote at Eagle Action of (Jewish) Brandeis University: "If it was Brandeis looking to move into this neighborhood, we wouldn't be having this discussion." Another user, vellnueve, responded: "Perhaps referring to the high Jewish content of the non-student houses bordering the property?"

The comments are not limited to the discussion board, but a number of them have been sent to a Brighton neighborhood discussion group. A person with email address btg1204@gmail.com sent a posting to these neighborhood activists -- but clearly directed at the victim -- that read, in part, "Honestly you feminazi, BC couldn't care less about what you have to say." Normally, the comment "feminazi" might be dismissed as an anti-feminist comment that is found periodically among the modern lexicon. But its context amongst all these other comments shows that the term was also being used in an anti-Semitic manner.

All these remarks use Nazi history and imagery to paint a mean and nasty image of the victim. Not only are the remarks crude, they are truly offensive.

What makes the comments even more offensive is that the victim is a European immigrant who said that four of her direct relatives died in concentration camps at the hands of the Nazis in World War II.

The victim's maternal grandfather was sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria (then occupied by Nazi Germany); her grandmother only learned after the end of the war that he had died there. Her great aunt, great uncle, and their child died at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The victim was raised a Catholic in Europe before immigrating to the U.S.

The posters may not have known of the victim's personal, tragic history related to the genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany, but that really doesn't matter. The language used is anti-Semitic, and uses Nazi imagery in a casual and offensive manner directed at an individual.

Misogyny. Additional comments about the victim use a series of four- and five-letter words referencing sexual organs, as well as another, shorter term that got Don Imus in trouble. Other comments were about her hypothesized sexual activity, as well as one comment suggesting to engage in sexual activity with her. The "feminazi" posting described above is a reference to someone being a feminist; in the context of all the other, repeated sexual language, its misogynistic intention is also apparent.

None of the male community activists who have been mentioned on the two discussion boards had any such sexual language directed at them.

Sophomoric Antics. Sophomoric antics are clearly also popular amongst these posters. One suggests leaving a "deuce" (feces, or "number two") on her doorstep, and another poster seconds the idea. A photograph taken by freak1, with his face partially obscured, was taken in front of the victim's house while holding a sign suggesting a tail-gating party be held there.

Intimidation. Two activists home addresses were given on the boards (including mine), and comments on the board indicate that board posters have visited both houses. The streets of two other activists were given on the boards, although without specific address numbers.

On the Eagle Action board in June 2007, vellnueve suggested that my house be egged, although this never occurred. Residents of Lake Street in Brighton have long complained that their cars and other property have been routinely damaged by students whenever there is a town-gown issue arising where the neighbors are butting heads with BC. A threat to egg a house may seem minor, but it gains greater concern when you realize how many Lake Street residents have suffered far worse property damage.

Far more sinister suggestions were made at Eagle Action by pepperlick, who recalled techniques common amongst organized crime in silencing snitches: "There could be some mysterious fires and some roughing up in the neighborhood. Old school style. Horseheads and fishes in newspapers. Puppies in mailboxes. Fat Tony style."

These last comments were made in direct response to a comment about one of BC's proposed buildings in their institutional master plan. The context makes it clear that the intent of identifying neighborhood activists is to intimidate them into not opposing BC's expansion plans.


Boston College Responds

While these two discussion boards are frequented by members of the BC community, both are third-party sites with no known, direct affiliation with BC.

At a public meeting of the BC Task Force Wednesday night, BC Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs Tom Keady, Jr., responded to the series of postings at the Eagle Insider discussion board. "Yesterday, I was given a copy of that website," he said. "BC has nothing to do with that website."

"We don't tolerate this kind of language," he continued. "It is deplorable. On behalf of BC, I would like to apologize for that language."

Keady indicated that he has met with BC's in-house legal counsel and the chief of police. The nature of the actions BC officials appear to be considering are related to pointing out to the owners of mbd.scout.com how certain users have violated the terms of use for the site.

I asked Keady if BC will consider blocking on-campus access to the websites. He gave a qualified yes, adding that he would have to contact BC's information technology group to explore this option.

I note that the option to block a website is one that is rarely taken lightly by institutions of higher education. The comments involved in these postings, however, appear to constitute hate speech of a nature that most universities would at least consider banning from their campus computer network.

Keady made no mention on what actions BC would take if they were to identify any of the posters at the websites as current students or employees at BC.


Is This Behavior Unique to the Boston College Community?

Online discussion boards on sports themes, such as Eagle Insider and Eagle Action, often include crude language and banter amongst the posters.

What makes these series of incidents unique, however, is that the posters have targetted an outside community activist with their anti-semitic and misogynistic comments. They have also published home addresses, advocated infliction of (minor) property damage, and engaged in what appears to be intimidation.

Viewing the language as a whole, it is hard to avoid the characterization of it as potentially an incitement to violence. The "euthanize" comment is an appalling example of that.

As BC is expanding into Brighton, Harvard University is also expanding into Allston. I asked Harry Mattison -- editor of the Allston-Brighton Community Blog ("allston02134") and moderator of two google groups ("AB2006" and "Allston-Brighton North Neighbors Forum") -- if he has seen any behavior remotely like this from the Harvard community.

Mattison said that there had been nothing direct at him personally, just a few "moronic" comments posted onto his blog. As a reader of Mattison's google groups, I can also verify that I don't ever remember seeing vitriolic or offensive comments on those discussion groups coming from students and/or alumni of Harvard.  Members of the Harvard community clearly don't harass the neighbors in any way even remotely similar to these incidents.

The question has to be asked: Why is it that some members of the Boston College community engage in anti-Semitic and misogynistic language directed at neighborhood activists, while members of the Harvard community do not?

Casual inspection of postings at these two BC sports discussion boards indicates that they appear to be popular and widely-read among BC students, alumni, and presumably also staff -- yet none of the readers seem to be voicing offense at the language or tactics of the posters, demanding that they stop, or asking that they be banned from the websites. One comment at Eagle Insider indicated that nobody is ever banned from that website.

A second question needs to be asked, then, too: Where is the outrage among BC sports fans at this behavior?



### I cringe at including these sort of anti-Semitic and misogynistic comments on this blog. I believe, however, that it is crucial to see the specific comments made in order to grasp fully their nature. It may also be important as an enduring record: several other postings at Eagle Insider have already been deleted since the victim made it clear that she was aware of the site.


UPDATE (1/17/08): While I strongly discourage readers from searching these two discussion boards for the various comments posted there, for those who do so a caveat is necessary. Several neighborhood residents' names have been adopted as monikers (handles) by other people posting at Eagle Insider. The postings under those names are not those of the individual, but rather they are a further example of the activity going on at that board targetted at members of the Brighton community.

25 comments:

Michael said...

I'm not surprised. I've lived close to BC for 9 years and these students are some of the worst with regards to not respecting their neighbors and acting like they own the world. I don't know what it is about that school but it really seems to attract the worst of the upper middle class.

pepperlick said...

Hello hello. Do you read my posts? Probably not because you would see that my post there was in response to the ridiculous discussion on the board and had nothing to do about "silencing snitches" so there was nothing sinister about it. Also Fat Tony is a cartoon character from the Simpsons so since you did not pick up on that you probably did not get that the whole thing was ridiculous.

Rob said...

As a recent alumnus, I only know one fellow alumnus that reads either of those sites. I think it's a serious stretch to say they are well read by the BC community. It's unfortunate and pretty gross that a couple idiots would make comments like that. If I posted on those sites, I would have told them they are idiots. I am going to guess it's more likely that most posters just ignored them.

Additionally, your comparison to Harvard is pretty thin. I am pretty put off by an implication that because a couple idiots who neither of us know anything about personally made moronic comments, that means BC has lower community standards than Harvard or that these kind of comments are shared by a significant portion of the BC community. I know almost no one associated with the university that would ever say something like that.

In a community that large unfortunately there are going to always be some people that don't know how to disagree while still being agreeable. I would go so far to say there are some A-B neighbors that do not understand that either frankly. Regardless, this is not some symptom on BC's campus or pervasive in the community. If anyone really thinks that, they are letting their agenda cloud common sense.

amartin said...

in no way defending the comments, but certain A-B activists have made their addressess and phone numbers public knowledge on their own forum. its free for anyone to see by the poster's own choice

concerned bc parent said...

As a BC parent, I'm very concerned with these posts!! Unfortunately, this isn’t the only form of racist’s remarks we’ve seen. My daughter attended a local, "city" high school that was notably diverse and was accepted at BC on a scholarship. Her first few months at BC were very difficult and she thought of transferring more then once because she was astounded at all the discrimination that just seemed to breed at BC. It was defiantly an eye-opener for her; she didn’t realize there were still so many racist, ignorant people, especially at her age. It amazed her that if you weren’t rich, white, upper middle-class, and from the suburbs, you didn’t belong there and people had some comment to say about you. Happy to say, instead of transferring, she’s decided to stay at BC with hopes of educating these “poor little rich children!” Also, Michael, not ALL students that attend BC are the worst of the upper middle class… my daughter is a prime example. Thank you.

Brian said...

Like amartin, I am in NO way defending the comments written. They were posted by a few bad apples and as a BC alumni I am saddened that a few of us have resorted to this speech.

In my opinion, both sides on this issue need to work together to reach some common ground. From what I have read, within both camps there has been little to no willingness to have an open discussion on the issues. A-B activities have gone so far to suggest that Boston College cease all educational operations.

Can we not reach some sort of middle ground? We are all intelligent people. Why can't we engage in open, civil conversation instead of name calling and threats (from both sides of the issue, sadly. Do not think that A-B activitists have not also resorted to name calling against BC supporters.)

Thank you.

bceagle08 said...

"Unique to the Boston College Community?"
Are you kidding me? First, Harvard athletics is on a different playing field (because they lack scholarships) and as a result their rivals/scout websites simply have less traffic, attracting less of the fringe lunatics who post this stuff.

Second, I urge you to check out the blog communities of some other schools before you make such an accusation. I promise you will find far more offensive material from large southern schools.

As usual, this blog is making unfair generalizations about the BC community.

J said...

As a not-as-recent alumnus, I would second the comment by "rob," above: I am deeply involved in alumni and athletics 'booster' activities, and I don't know anyone who reads or posts on these message boards. Clearly these are deplorable statements, particularly when taken out of their original context, but ascribing these comments to the "Boston College Community" is irresponsible. Any complaints should be directed to the private companies that host these sites, and not treated as though they are representative of Boston College or its students and alumni.

I would also observe, without meaning more than this says on its face, that people tend to see racism, sexism, etc., where they want to see it, particularly when it reinforces something they have already decided.

pepperlick said...

The majority of BC students/fans/alumni are very nice and certainly not anti-semetic or racist at all in any way at all. BC is very liberal and the Jesuit tradition makes sure that BC will always be the most humble, tolerant and liberal as possible. The theme of BC, while I was there anyway was of social justice and human rights and that includes everyone.
BC is often critized as being "too liberal" by some in the Catholic Church. But anyway, there are many kids at BC, many kids on financial aid, and many kids there who are not tool rich kid jerks. BC has good kids. There is no such thing as bad kids, just kids with bad haircuts. So I say go to BC and see for yourself. Go to a sporting event, to the museum or a guest speaker and walk around campus. People there are very nice.

Eagle in Brighton said...

Way to completely blow out of proportion the source and magnitude of these comments.

At the end of the day, these are simply anonymous comments on a sports message board. No affiliation with the school is needed to post on any of these sites; no connection to the current or former student body is necessary; no screening process is enforced.

Obscene statements are commonplace in forums such as this, simply to get a rise out of other readers.

Were these comments uncalled for and inappropriate? Yes.

Were these comments Boston College’s responsibility, or an indictment of their character? No.

To somehow construe these comments as if from the Boston College community (which they were not) is intellectually deceitful and slanderous. Your targeting of “alumni and/or students” is misdirected.

You should be ashamed of yourself Brighton Centered for perpetuating such fallacies. Your issue is with the forum moderator, not the University.

But hey, if you want to erroneously continue conjuring local animosity for your own ulterior motives (ie blocking BC expansion), be my guest. It’s your own integrity your threatening.

amartin said...

you realize that some of those posts were referring to cartoon characters? and that they may be, lets see, hyperbole or jokes? somehow i think the comments about recreating great naval battles on the resevoir and bombing residences in Brighton were merely jokes.

Some of the very personal posts are over the top, but you're badly mischaracterizing what is posted on those boards and also by referencing the BC Community when referring to them. its really about 10-20 people. many of whom have openly stated many times that they did not go to BC.

Calling on BC to ban/block websites? Don't you think that's a little over the top? What else would you like to prevent BC students from accessing?

thesouthender said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
eagle1331 said...

I have largely avoided posting on this site since I first found it due to one key issue in your writing: it is simply impossible to ignore your clear bias and ulterior motives. In this article alone you do not mention that the sites have no BC affiliation until near the end, nor do you site the anything regarding the amount of posts on the site regarding other issues, the number of posters saying negative things, the number of users on the sites, etc. While I am extremely against what these posters have said, and as a BC student/fan apologize for it, I must pose this question to you: Since you cannot dispute the fact that you portray BC and its students, whom you lump together and completely generalize, in such a negative way, how could you expect them to respect you and your role in the community? To get into your position, you earned the respect of your peers. Earned being the key word. By constantly degrading, publishing negative, biased articles, and putting people down, you will simply never earn that respect from the community here. In my many jobs and internships I have learned that respect is not something given, but earned. Unfortunately, your journalism has dug you into such a hole with this community that I do not think you could get out, and for that you should be apologizing to us. I in no way am endorsing anything the referenced posters said, but you need to look in the mirror. Treat the students a little nicer, give them a chance, and perhaps then things will fall into place.

Moreover, as you don't see BC fans writing back on these posts against what has been said, I do not see A-B residents who have lived next to a student, rented to a student or encountered a student posting their good things to say. I have known many students that have lived on lake and foster streets that have befriended their neighbors, helped them around the house and even gone to children's birthday parties. Let's face it, you are seeing what you want to see, writing what you want to write and that is it. You are not helping promote a better community with BC involved by writing these posts.

One last thing; a suggestion. If your problem is with the BC students, does it make sense to go to the police and administration right away, every time. Instead of putting yourself in a position where you have people writing negative things about you because how you approach situations, perhaps change your approach. Meet with BC students, talk to the kids that walk past your house. I am sure you were a kid once, in fact, I'm positve of it. Think of how you would want to be approached in this situation. If students are your problem, go to the students, not their watchdogs.

Finally, I am a regular visitor of both of those sites because I am an avid fan; I do not, however, post on them. I use them to follow recruiting, to size up our team and our competition, and just general sports information. If the school were to block them, I assure you, there would be a great deal of complaints on campus.

eagle1331 said...

Also, I'd just like to thank you for approving thesouthender's post. This simply goes to prove that people on your side of the fence write things that are just as negative, instigative and derogatory. And you supported it, in your forum. Sounds like a website or two you wrote about....

ATL_eagle said...

Pahre, how is what the thesouthender wrote in your comments different from the stuff that posted on the message boards? He is anon and indirectly speaking on behalf of a group ("as a...). This internet hot air is a slippery slope and should not be used as a distraction from realistic solutions for the Brighton campus.

amartin said...

I spent 7 years at BC, four undergrad and 3 law, and I don't recall hearing a single anti-semitic comment my entire time there. nor anti-black. anti-gay comments were heard from time to time.

especially at BC law school. students there are from institutions from all across the country. BC Law is hardly provincial. Interesting how you post on here to cmoomplain about anti-semitic remark but go on to make an anti-Catholic slur.

Michael Pahre said...

Since this blog posting has been receiving such intense interest, I have been trying to allow as many comments through as possible. Fortunately, there have only been a few so far that have required rejection.

While the process that has ensued may appear ugly at times, discussing openly the highly-charged issues of anti-Semitism, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry is important.

Several commenters have expressed outrage at "thesouthender"'s posted comment. It was published because it expressed a Jewish individual's personal experiences over three years of anti-Semitism on BC's campus, which is directly related to the topic of this blog posting. "amartin" provides an experience at odds with "thesouthender"'s experience. Both experiences should be stated and discussed.

Whether or not "thesouthender"'s comments also constitute an anti-Catholic bigotry is certainly a fair topic to raise here.

Bigotry is appalling, but the only way to address it is by bringing it out in the open for a frank discussion.

ChrisB said...

I am a graduate of BC and BC Law, and I neither heard nor heard of any instances of any such comments being made regarding Jewish individuals.

I really have to wonder why is there all of this vitriol against BC? Other universities, namely Harvard, BU and NU have completed huge expansions with nary a peep from the community, and they plan more for the future. Is it the Catholic Church connection? Are BC students any worse behaved than NU or BU students? Is university development worse than other private development?
Please note that no part of BC's 10year plan envisions an expansion of enrollment.

Rob said...

Thesouthender's comment is so hypocritical that it deserves to stand alone for all to see. BC is far from the exclusive and bigoted institution he/she portrays. In fact, I remember numerous instances where a majority of students stood up for people who do not fit the stereotype so often perpetuated of a student body solely made up of white male, upper class Catholic suburbanites. Particularly, the strong student support for adding homosexuality to the school's non-discrimination clause sticks out in my mind.

Beyond thesouthender's seriously misguided comment, I find myself in agreement with many of the points made by Eagle1331. That is really a thoughtful analysis on the current situation. As I see it, what has developed is a situation with a vocal few on both sides continuously adding fuel to a fire that would otherwise not burn with anywhere near this intensity. It's a position that makes compromise very difficult.

live_and_let_live said...

"amartin" wrote in an earlier posting here: "in no way defending the comments, but certain A-B activists have made their addresses and phone numbers public knowledge on their own forum".

As if that is supposed to make trumpeting someone's home addresses on a thread discussing how this person could be harmed any less obnoxious.

Including someone's address on scout.com had the specific purpose of encouraging pro-BC guys to go and make the Brighton person's life miserable. There was a photo posted of a pro-BC jerk (sorry, no better word for such a person) holding a sign in front of a private home calling on other BC people to tailgate there.

The EagleInsider guys were entertaining themselves with explicit sexually demeaning comments. Sure, it was not all over the website, but it was a part of it. Where was the moderator? Was he one of the posters himself?

When the proverbial shit hit the fan, they removed all those nasty messages instantly so they no longer can be seen. Now their BC defenders are saying that Brighton people are blowing things out of proportion. Sure.

They would like everyone to believe that since a cartoon character was referenced, the calls to physically harm someone were not serious. Oh, really? What's exactly the difference between referencing a real gangster and an imaginary one if you want to scare and intimidate someone into silence? (and "amartin" who does not see the difference says he went to BC Law!)

In a later comment he wrote "its really about 10-20 people". How would he know if he was not one of them?

amartin said...

Well its very easy to determine that it was only 10-20 people just by reading the website, which I do. I read them both. But the BC community is thousands and thousands of people. so these people are hardly representative of the BC Community.

Eagle in Brighton said...

Negative. Negative. Negative.

Never will you read a positive story about Boston College's student body from "community leader" Michael Pahre.

Consequently, not surprised by this thin-skinned ramble.

This over-dramatized "Anti-Semitism and Misogyny in the Boston College Community" is sensationalized and over-exaggerated, reeking of a FoxNews headline more than a rational observation.

Tim said...

I have a hard time believing that thesouthender's comment is in any way based in fact. Not only because in my four years at BC I can't recall hearing one anti-semitic comment, but thesouthender must be an incredibly tolerant individual to have endured this barrage of anti-everyone-who-isn't-a-white-catholic-male vitriol for three years and not....I don't know, transfer?

It is unfortunate that the discourse in these town vs. gown conversations rarely rises to the level of intelligent. I would think that it goes without saying that the postings cited here are terrible. It should also go without saying that there are hateful morons posting on message boards everywhere on the internet. To take a couple of morons and make them representative of "the Boston College community" is irresponsible and intellectually bankrupt.

JonT said...

Since when is calling someone a nazi anti-semitic? Sure, it's a very nasty way of saying that someone is being overly authoritarian, but anti-semitic?
See also Godwin's Law.

I tend to think that the people who posted that garbage are a bunch of jerks who are mostly not worth paying any attention to, the possible exception being the guy who took a picture of himself in front of the house.

In response to ChrisB, who wrote "Other universities, namely Harvard, BU and NU have completed huge expansions with nary a peep from the community", I have to ask: what planet are you living on? Harvard's struggles with the Allston community have made headlines in all the local papers. Suffolk University had to change plans to build a dorm on land they had bought in Beacon Hill, due to local outcry. BU, NU, Emerson and Berklee have all had issues with their expansion plans.

Michael Pahre said...

Another death threat has been directed this morning at a Brighton community activist. This behavior is absolutely idiotic.

While I understand that many people would like continued comment back-and-forth here on general town-gown relations or BC master plan details, threats of violence have no place in the discourse.

So I am locking down comments on this blog post.

I hope the gentle readers of this blog will understand the necessity of this action based on the increasingly vitriolic comments that continue to be posted here and elsewhere.