Racists, please don't smear your shitty opinions on bathroom walls. That would be great.
Spurred by accounts of black students, professors and alumni who'd experienced years of racist incidents
on the University of Missouri's Columbia campus, President Tim Wolfe's resignation Monday resulted in predictable resistance from conservatives. Mirroring the remarks of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder
, some right-wing reporters and pundits groused that the flagship university had embraced the incoherent whims of political correctness and given in to mob rule.
But a different line of criticism, published Tuesday in The Federalist, posited a theory that sought to expose the protest movement — arguing that it wasn't just wrong-headed, but based on a lie. After all, one of the catalysts for the recent protests had been a swastika made of human feces, yet even in this age of Instagram, no one seemed to have a photo of it. Where was this "poopstika"? Was the whole thing a giant deception, designed to paint black students as victims?
The only problem with the theory? It's a crock of shit.
Here's how it went down.
Writing under the headline "Was The Poop Swastika Incident At Mizzou A Giant Hoax?"
, Federalist co-founder Sean Davis questioned whether the swastika supposedly drawn in poop on a dorm bathroom wall on October 24 ever really happened at all. "Did this incident occur as reported, or was it an immaculate defecation that formed the foundation of an unimaginable deception?" wrote Davis.
Later in the piece, Davis suggested that without eye-witnesses or other evidence corroborating the incident, it was only fair to wonder if the poop swastika was actually "promulgated as a public relations stunt meant to tar the university for failing to provide an environment free of racist invective."
Davis' article mobilized
others in the conservative media sphere, including Breitbart
, the Daily Caller
and the venerable National Review
magazine. These poop truthers suggested the entire movement at Mizzou might be built on a made-up story.
Putting aside for a moment the fact that protesters were fighting what they describe as myriad incidences of racism
at Mizzou, Davis actually didn't invent the conspiracy theory from thin air. He laid out his reporting process in detail, noting that initial news coverage of the poop swastika appeared to be based largely on the testimony of Billy Donley, the Residence Halls Association president, who never personally saw the the poop-smeared vandalism. Davis also described how he was refused comment by university officials and others who had previously spoken about the vandalism. And Davis' requests for police reports of the incident were referred to the school's custodian of public records, but that too turned out to be a dead end.
But experienced reporters know never to confuse institutional ineptitude with grand deception. Late yesterday the poop swastika incident was confirmed by Slate
and The Daily Caller after their reporters obtained the official police report detailing the incident. According to the report, a residential life staff member contacted the University of Missouri Police Department at around 2 a.m. on October 24.
Upon entering the restroom, the officer wrote that he encountered “a swastika drawn on the wall by someone using feces."
A screengrab of the police report.
To Davis' credit, he quickly published an update
confirming the existence of the police report. But the damage has already been done. Davis' previous reporting — including a Wednesday piece
where Davis suggested that Donley may have fabricated the whole incident — are still bouncing around social media and other conservative blogs
The poopstika incident is still under investigation, and we still don't know what specifically motivated the racist defecator to defile the university bathroom.
As for Davis, we can only hope that he uses his trove of poop puns
to debunk the viral misinformation he's created. But if the 9/11 truthers are any indication, don't expect the truth to have much of an impact. Conspiracy theories are so much more fun.
Update, 5 p.m.:
It's finally come to this. The Federalists' Davis got his hands on the damning evidence he's been clamoring for all week — genuine photographs of the poop swastika. Spoiler warning: The photos are super gross
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com