MSNBC hosts Mika ​Brezinski and Joe Scarborough

MSNBC hosts Mika Brezinski and Joe Scarborough of "Morning Joe" during a broadcast on April 29, 2024.

(Photo: Screengrab/MSNBC)

Joe Scarborough’s Condescending, Irresponsible, and Ignorant Rant on Students Protesting Gaza War

The characterizations by politicians and cable TV personalities of the so-labeled pro-Palestinian protests by college students are over the top—and dangerous.

Sometimes in the morning with a cup of coffee I watch some of Morning Joe on MSNBC. I did on Monday (April 29) hearing Joe Scarborough’s condescending rant on college protests. On those today opposing Israel’s actions in the Gaza war, and on those earlier opposing the Vietnam war.

“Where are the adults!?” Scarborough asked after saying “it makes as much sense in 2024 having 18- and 19-year-olds running college campuses as in 1968, which is to say it doesn’t make any sense at all.” Any 18- and 19-year-olds protesting in 1968 and 2024 are not “adults” according to Scarborough, even though in 1968 they could be killed in Vietnam.

'Where are the adults?' Joe on continuing campus protests

Scarborough went on in his diatribe characterizing all so-labeled pro-Palestinian protestors as Jew-haters. His own brand of fearmongering as he blamed college administrators for, and I quote:

...letting their students and outside agitators run across the campus, shut down debate, scream whenever anybody tries to talk, reason to them, shout genocidal chants, hold up signs pointing to Jews saying Hamas’s next victims. Holding up signs talking about the “Final Solution.” Chanting constantly: “From the river to the sea”…Most of the students chanting it don’t understand that they are chanting genocidal comments.

Clearly Scarborough hasn’t read, or ignored, the article the day before in the Sunday Washington Post (available even earlier online) describing the experience of college students, in their own words, regarding today’s protests.

A 24-year-old Jewish student who talked to The Post reporters supported the protest at his school, UC-Berkeley, but with juggling two part-time jobs and coursework hadn’t joined the protest encampment there. But he said, his words, “things need to change in this drastic way to keep our eyes from averting away from what’s going on in Gaza” adding the “best way to do that is to mess up the status quo.” He rejected being a Jew meant automatic support for Israel’s war in Gaza. Of course, he doesn’t “want people to be hostages, either,” those taken by Hamas militants on October 7. But the children in Gaza also “don’t have any say in the fight,” so he has donated to funds supporting these Palestinian children.

As it is, Scarborough attributed antisemitism the dominant motive across today’s protest. His evidence? The fact protesters haven’t appeared concerned with known atrocities in other countries, mimicking Bill Maher’s related punchlines on Maher’s HBO show on April 26, Scarborough even showing a video clip where Maher asks why those protesting civilian deaths and starvation in Gaza today, in his words,

care so much about this particular cause? North Korea starves its people. China puts them in concentration camps. Myanmar brutalizes the Rohingya. Boko Haram kidnaps whole villages of women. The president of Burundi says Gays should be stoned to death because they, quote, ‘deserve it.’

On CNN’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria on April 28, Columbia University professor Bruce Robbins had an answer for Maher (and Scarborough), saying:

I don't think that people think that Israel is unique example of evil in the world. I think what's special about it is it couldn't do what it's doing without the support of the United States. So students in the United States think we have a responsibility…I mean, the United States is not supporting North Korea…not supporting Syria...What's being done [in Gaza] is being done in my name as an American and…as a Jew.

Professor Robbins also said this about the phrase “From the river to the sea”:

So as I understand “From the river to the sea,” it means equal rights for all the people living between the river and the sea.

The role of the U.S. underlies protests today on the Gaza war as it motivated protests on the Vietnam war we participated in over 50 years ago. It was the U.S. engaged in the Vietnam carnage and drafting 18-year-old men to die there for a cause even their presidents knew privately was a losing cause. To needlessly die in Vietnam as civilians are needlessly dying in Gaza from bombings and starvation.

Here's how Professor Robbins characterized earlier pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia University in the discussion on CNN:

[Students] at Columbia, they have not shouted out slogans, chanted slogans in support of Hamas or the wanton destruction of civilian lives on October 7th…It's a little upsetting I think to everybody at Columbia that the mainstream media, as well as the politicians, have confused things that are chanted outside Columbia's gates with things that the Columbia protesters are saying…I haven't heard anything even remotely like that…that are being chanted outside the gates.

In her statement on April 29, Columbia University president Nemat “Minouche ”Shafik also said this: “External actors have contributed to creating a hostile environment…especially around our gates, that is unsafe for everyone.” Even Scarborough in his rant mentioned “outside agitators.”

In Vietnam anti-war protests there were isolated incidents of violence, but those didn’t represent the vast majority of protests. Similarly, in pro-Palestinian protests there may have been incidents of antisemitic remarks, and even occupying an administrative building as protestors did April 30 at Columbia University, but it’s an exaggeration (unfortunately, often purposefully so) to paint the majority of these protestors with that same brush.

Hyperbole concluding antisemitism is THE defining characteristic of students in pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Now, on the other hand, antisemitism was quite evident in Charlottesville in 2017 when white supremacists shouted “Jews will not replace us.“

Perhaps President Joe Biden could help end the pro-Palestinian demonstrations if he took a firmer stand against the genocidal conduct of the war in Gaza under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s direction. Stopping delivery of U.S. military aid to Israel until Netanyahu changes course, for instance.

Instead of conditioning military aid, House Speaker Mike Johnson in his speech at Columbia University April 24, aside from speciously attributing all protesting students antisemitic, said if the protests could not be “contained quickly…there is an appropriate time for the National Guard…to bring order to these campuses.”

Remember Kent State? When National Guard killed four students on May 4, 1970 as students gathered to protest President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, expanding the Vietnam war. Kent State University’s professors Jerry Lewis and Thomas Hensley provide a detailed account of events leading up to, during, and after the Guard opened fire with life rounds. Here is a segment of their account:

Four Kent State students died as a result of the firing by the Guard. The closest student was Jeffrey Miller, who was shot in the mouth while standing in an access road leading into the Prentice Hall parking lot, a distance of approximately 270 feet from the Guard. Allison Krause was in the Prentice Hall parking lot; she was 330 feet from the Guardsmen and was shot in the left side of her body. William Schroeder was 390 feet from the Guard in the Prentice Hall parking lot when he was shot in the left side of his back. Sandra Scheuer was also about 390 feet from the Guard in the Prentice Hall parking lot when a bullet pierced the left front side of her neck.

You’re reading right. The Guard killed students more than a football field away.

After Kent State, demonstrations exploded across campuses leading to hundreds of colleges to temporary close.

Now think about the Guard being called in to break up the crowded close quarters of encampments pro-Palestinian protesters constructed on campuses across the country. What could possibly go wrong? A lot.

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