UC Berkeley Defends, Minimizes Instructor Who Said Rural Americans Made ‘Bad Life Decisions’
UC Berkeley graduate student and instructor Jackson Kernion recently caused an online firestorm when he called for the widespread shaming of rural Americans. “I unironically [sic] embrace the bashing of rural Americans. they, [sic] as a group, are bad people who have made bad life decisions. Some, I assume, are good people. But this nostalgia for some imagined pastoral way of life is stupid and we should shame people who aren’t pro-city.”
His distasteful comments brought swift and scathing responses of such magnitude that he issued a watered-down statement in which he almost-promised to maybe-reflect on his words.
“Pretty sure I did a bad tweet here. Gonna delete it. I’ll want to reflect on it more later, but my tone is way crasser and meaner than I like to think I am,” read Kernion’s now-deleted follow up tweet.
In the aftermath of Kernion’s comments, countless individuals and rural interest groups have posted intelligent, logical refutations of his statements. Some of these have gone viral, and all contribute to advancing the positive public image of rural Americans.
But UC Berkeley doesn’t feel Kernion’s comments were offensive enough to even merit a press release, despite the incident’s coverage by mainstream media heavyweights like Fox News, The Blaze, and McGill Media. Berkeley’s Public Affairs Officer Dan Mogulof said only four or five journalists, including this one, have called him concerning Kernion’s comments. Kernion deleted the offensive tweets, his entire Twitter account, and his email address is not listed on either his personal website or UC Berkeley’s online directory. He will continue as a graduate student and philosophy instructor at Berkeley.
People have gotten fired for much less than publishing an outright call for shaming a specific demographic on social media. Two male attendees at a tech conference last year shared a private joke that involved the words “dongles” and “forking.” They were overheard by female attendee Adria Richards, who then tweeted a picture of the two men to her 9,000 Twitter followers. One man’s employer got wind of the tweet and fired him. Richards then became the subject of such intense media backlash that she, too, was fired.
Let that sink in. Someone lost his job because of what a noninvolved bystander overheard. Kernion publicly shamed an entire group of Americans on the internet, and his employer is protecting his job.
“Hate speech is fully protected by the First Amendment,” said Mugulof during a phone call. “University employees have the same right and responsibilities as every other American citizen. The university has no legal ability to sanction employees based on their beliefs. His employment status persists. We have no recourse, and there is no legal recourse.”
Mugulof then seemed to remember that his comments would be printed in the media.
“But, at the same time, no individual employee speaks for or represents the positions of the university, and that is certainly the case in this instance. UC Berkeley does not and will never judge people based on where or how they live,” he said.
Kernion has taught at least 11 courses at UC Berkeley, including Introduction to Logic. He will continue to influence students with his anti-rural, pro-shaming beliefs. And that, folks, is how bigotry remains alive in the public school system.
Editor’s note: The hypocrisy at Berkeley is horrific.