Fresno State English Professor Calls Barbara Bush ‘Racist’ and Wishes Rest of Family Would Die Soon

Randa Jarrar was classless and contemptible, which is protected by the First Amendment. As a tenured state employee so is her job.

Fresno Bee (“Fresno State professor stirs outrage, calls Barbara Bush an ‘amazing racist’“):

A Fresno State professor called former first lady Barbara Bush an “amazing racist” who raised a “war criminal,” and expressed no concern that she could be fired or reprimanded for her outspokenness on social media.

Randa Jarrar, a professor in Fresno State’s Department of English, expressed her displeasure with the Bush family within an hour after the official announcement that Mrs. Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92.

“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal,” Jarrar wrote on Twitter. “F— outta here with your nice words.”

Jarrar’s tweet generated more than 2,000 replies back to her, with many upset at her and tagging Fresno State and University President Joseph Castro in their comments.

Jarrar, who in her Twitter messages describes herself as an Arab-American and a Muslim-American woman, goes on to maintain that she is a tenured professor and makes $100,000 a year.

“I will never be fired,” Jarrar tweeted.

In a separate tweet, she wrote: “If you’d like to know what it’s like to be an Arab American Muslim American woman with some clout online expressing an opinion, look at the racists going crazy in my mentions right now.”

Jarrar even encouraged those of Twitter to reach out to Fresno State and to Castro, offering up their Twitter handles.

“What I love about being an American professor is my right to free speech, and what I love about Fresno State is that I always feel protected and at home here,” Jarrar wrote. “GO BULLDOGS!”

By around 10:21 p.m., Jarrar made her Twitter account private. The Fresno Bee took screen shots of her tweets when the account was public.

Jarrar also changed her Twitter bio, removing the titles of her books and instead writing, “Currently on leave from Fresno State. This is my private account and represents my opinions.”

The university confirmed Jarrar has been on leave all semester.


Fresno State, roughly three hours after Jarrar’s initial tweet about Bush, sent out a statement by Castro that addressed the outspoken professor.

“On behalf of Fresno State, I extend my deepest condolences to the Bush family on the loss of our former First Lady, Barbara Bush,” Castro says in the statement. “We share the deep concerns expressed by others over the personal comments made today by professor Randa Jarrar, a professor in the English department at Fresno State.

“Her statements were made as a private citizen, not as a representative at Fresno State.”

Castro also added: “Professor Jarrar’s expressed personal views and commentary are obviously contrary to the core values of our University, which include respect and empathy for individuals with divergent points of view, and a sincere commitment to mutual understanding and progress.

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)’s Adam Steinbaugh explains why “Fresno State University won’t — and cannot — punish professor for Barbara Bush tweets.

Fresno State correctly acknowledges that Jarrar’s tweets were made as a private citizen. As such, and because they touched upon a matter of public concern, Jarrar’s tweets are unquestionably protected speech under the First Amendment and Fresno State has no power to censor, punish, or terminate Jarrar for them.

It’s often said that the First Amendment doesn’t protect a speaker from the consequences of his words. That’s true to a certain extent. One who says something that offends others will often face consequences of some sort, whether it’s caustic criticism from people he offended, loss of private sector job opportunities, loss of membership in voluntary associations, and so on. But the First Amendment places limits on what consequences a government actor may impose in response to speech.

As we’ve explained in response to another professor terminated for her public commentary, public universities are government actors bound by the First Amendment:

The law is well-established that employees of government institutions like [a public university] retain a First Amendment right to speak as private citizens on matters of public concern and may not be disciplined or retaliated against for their constitutionally protected expression unless the government employer demonstrates that the expression hindered “the effective and efficient fulfillment of its responsibilities to the public.” Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138, 150 (1983)Pickering v. Bd. of Ed., 391 U.S. 563 (1968).

Jarrar spoke on her personal Twitter account about a matter of public interest. That her speech offended some or many is not a lawful basis to penalize its expression. Speech cannot be restricted because of its offensive nature. Nor does the expression of hope that another person dies rise to the level of unprotected speech. (See, e.g., Rankin v. McPherson (1987), wherein the Supreme Court observed that the First Amendment protected a police department employee who, upon hearing that President Reagan had been shot, criticized Reagan’s welfare policies and said, “shoot, if they go for him again, I hope they get him.”)

Similarly, a public university cannot punish such expression because it led to a deluge of complaints or angry correspondence directed at the school. Otherwise, the law of public employee speech would institutionalize the heckler’s veto; all it would take to remove a professor’s expression from constitutional protection is enough outrage. Clearly the First Amendment does not permit this result, and courts have so held. Rejecting a college’s argument that intervention by a local civil rights activist after an adjunct instructor used gendered and racial slurs as part of a classroom discussion posed an actionable risk of disruption to the school’s operations, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit wrote:

Only after Reverend Coleman voiced his opposition to the classroom discussion did Green and Besser become interested in the subject matter of Hardy’s lecture. Just like the school officials in Tinker, Green and Besser were concerned with “avoiding the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany” a controversial subject. On balance, Hardy’s rights to free speech and academic freedom outweigh the College’s interest in limiting that speech.

Fresno State’s Faculty Handbook, last updated for the 2004-2005 academic year, spells out its policies on Academic Freedom on page 4. It begins,

Students and faculty must be free to pursue truth as well as personal and intellectual development. A necessary condition for such pursuit is an acceptance of the spirit of inquiry and an appreciation for diverse ideas, viewpoints, cultures, and life-styles. This condition must exist in both the classroom and the overall campus environment.

While the university gives great weight to the responsibility of preserving academic freedom, it does so within the context of respect for law and the reasoned consideration of others. Academic freedom and freedom of speech are intended to protect expression and exploration of ideas; they do not protect conduct that is unlawful or in violation of Trustee or university policies, disruptive of the classroom environment, or disruptive of the university itself.

There’s an argument to be made that Jarrar’s tweets were not in the “spirit of inquiry,” much less reflective of an “appreciation for diverse ideas,” much less “reasoned consideration of others.” It’s also quite possible that they violate “Trustee or university policies” (I simply have no idea what those might be) and are “disruptive of the university itself.” The university may well be within its rights to censure her for mean-spirited remarks that reflect poorly on the institution.

Furthermore, the 1940 “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure” from the American Association of University Professors, the gold standard on the subject—and quoted in Fresno State’s handbook, declares:

College and university teachers are citizens, members of a learned profession, and officers of an educational institution. When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their utterances. Hence they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

I would argue she failed in both “appropriate restraint” and “show[ing] respect for the opinions of others.” More crucially, she failed in her duty to indicate she was speaking in a personal capacity until after the damage was done.

But Steinbaugh’s arguments as to Jarrar’s job security are persuasive. As loathsome as using a woman’s death to rant about the policies her son pursued as President might be, they’re surely protected speech. Further, while I find her tweets classless and contemptible, they’re within her ambit as a novelist who comments on Arab affairs. (She is, as best I can determine, part of the practitioner faculty in the Master of Fine Arts program rather than a traditional academic; if she has a doctoral degree, she lists it on neither her faculty nor personal website.)

Further, hateful as her remarks were, they’re in the spirit of the “pursuit of truth” at the heart of not only academic freedom but the academy itself. While the timing was disrespectful, that was her whole point. In the midst of a stream of “nice words” about a kindly matriarch, she wanted to present a counter-narrative. Haven hidden her tweeter feed from public view, I have only the handful of tweets that made the newspaper to go on. There was apparently some five hours of narrative. Hopefully, some of it was more reflective of an award-winning author.

UPDATE: I see this is Jarrar’s second 15 minutes of infamy. Her first came four years ago with an essay arguing white women should not be allowed to belly dance because it’s cultural appropriation.

UPDATE 2: The University president is keeping this going:

All options are on the table in dealing with the Fresno State professor who called Barbara Bush “an amazing racist” shortly after the former first lady died, university president Joseph Castro said Wednesday.

“A professor with tenure does not have blanket protection to say and do what they wish,” he said. “We are all held accountable for our actions.”

Castro declined to comment specifically on how the university may handle Randa Jarrar’s case, citing personnel matters. But he did say the next steps for the university include reviewing all the facts, as well as the faculty’s collective bargaining agreement.


Castro said he shares the shock and horror many people expressed after Jarrar, an associate professor in the English department, tweeted about Bush.

“This was beyond free speech. This was disrespectful,” Castro said.

Those are not mutually exclusive.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. teve tory says:

    Her comments were extremely tacky and classless but if she’s punished in her job for them it’ll be a sad day for academic freedom. The whole purpose of tenure is to free scholars from political pressure.

  2. teve tory says:
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Another tasteless person says something stupid and asinine in a desperate grab at attention. I could have gone my entire life never knowing of the existence of Randa Jarrar. Now I do, which by the way is exactly why she said this. Job well done, James.

    ETA thankfully my short term memory is not what it used to be and I will be blissfully ignorant of her once again in just a few short days, maybe only hours.

  4. de stijl says:

    Our current President has essentially said the same thing.

    Can we fire him?

  5. Guarneri says:

    No, she shouldn’t be fired. But why is Fresno State hiring and granting tenure to de facto 17 year olds?

  6. Joe says:

    I am exercising my free speech rights and not reading any of this. Your headline is sufficient fair warning that I can use my time better than engaging with Ms. Jarrar on any level.

  7. Modulo Myself says:

    The only reason people are outraged is because it’s probably true. Like is there any possibility that a 92 year old WASP wasn’t a racist? Do you think she was really upset when her husband ran those Willie Horton ads? Please. It’s insulting to Barbara Bush, as a real person, to doubt it. That’s who these people were.

    And for the record, he’s a war criminal and a painter.

    Anyway, saying bad but accurate things about the privileged dead is one of the joys of free speech. Wait until Kissinger kicks it.

  8. CSK says:

    What she said was appallingly tasteless and nasty, but she had a perfect right to say it.

  9. drj says:

    I’m not going to defend Jarrar, because blaming parents for the actions of their adult children is almost always just silly.

    Still, I think her words speak to a larger issue, namely that we tend to have no emotional sense whatsoever of what GWB has been responsible for during his presidency. We may know it rationally, but we don’t feel it.

    Nobody knows how many Iraqis died as a result of “Operation Iraq Freedom,” but 1,000,000+ is not an unreasonable estimate. That’s a LOT of people.

    And, of course, it was all based on a lie.

    Considering her background, maybe Jarrar not only knows what GWB is responsible for, but also feels it.

    If so, I can imagine, unreasonable as it might be, that she would lash out at other members of the Bush clan.

  10. JKB says:

    Lose her job, or don’t lose her job? Doesn’t really matter. The utility of her statement has been realized. That is the further erosion of the, undeserved in recent decades, regard afforded university faculty. She sought public revelation and has revealed herself, as yet another, uneducated university professor. Uneducated in fundamental definition of “education” as discipline of intellect, regulation of the heart, and establishment of principles, not in credentials.

    The more these professors, and administrators, reveal themselves to prospective students, and their parents, the better. Already, many are realizing if there are any adult role models at the university they would be among the custodial staff and certainly not faculty or administrators.

  11. Hal_10000 says:

    I agree she should not be punished for her speech. Her intentional spamming of a mental health hotline afterward is another matter, though.

  12. barbintheboonies says:

    I ‘ll bet if she said these things about Michelle Obama she would have been out the door and fast. The riots would commence and the media would have had a field day. It would have been the circuit circus. She would have been the most hated individual of the moment.

  13. barbintheboonies says:

    @CSK: She has the right yes, but she also has an obligation to her school to appear a good and moral person. She showed none and she should be fired. There are consequences for being nasty.

  14. george says:

    @teve tory:

    Obama has class; that’s long been established. The prof in question doesn’t – she just proved that. But that isn’t a reason to fire her. Note that goes both ways; conservative profs should be fired for saying stupid things either.

  15. de stijl says:


    What she said was appallingly tasteless and nasty, but she had a perfect right to say it.

    It was tasteless and nasty because Barbara Bush had little impact on the bend of history. She was merely history adjacent.

    But what Randa Jarrar said was not untrue. Not about her husband (who was a decent President) with a seemingly good heart despite the Iran-Contra complicity. Her son was the worst President ever until 2016.

    None of that is on Mrs. Bush.

    What is on her is just generational shame. Both of my parents were astonishingly racist in retrospect. She was larger than most because of family. Her age does absolve her, nor does it my mom and dad.

    But Jarrar is flat-out wrong. Being mother of Bush43 does not make you racist. It doesn’t make you anything.

    And her taunting about firing-proof tenure is just stupid. Like reaaallly effing stupid.

    And it is cat-nip for a Conservative media freak-out. Which is basically why this a story at all.

    In my mind, Ms. Bush was a better person than Ms. Jarrar. By a a factor of ten.

  16. george says:


    Kennedy and Johnston started the Vietnam war, which caused more death and destruction than the Iraq war. People still found it possible to be classy about their deaths.

  17. george says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    Every American president since WW2 has been a war criminal (to quote Chomsky). If you think Bush is special in that regard you haven’t been paying attention. Name the post-WW2 president, and I’ll provide a list of war crimes they committed.

    Being a war criminal seems to come with the job of running a superpower. Probably even in the job description. Of course Bush, like Kennedy and Johnson, went the extra mile in the war criminal department, but its only a difference in degree, not of kind.

  18. Slugger says:

    I reject and renounce her comments. They are obviously stupid and tasteless.
    Hillary got more than 65 million votes. This means that there are around 52 million liberals in the country. If one in a million is prone to being stupid and tasteless, then we can expect some dumb thing once a week. In order to preserve our outrage muscles, I suggest that we only get excited when the dumb stuff is done by somebody with a position of some power not a professor at a non Division 1 school.

  19. george says:

    @de stijl:

    Her son was the worst President ever until 2016.

    Read up about Andrew Jackson and the trail of tears; Bush Jr was a saint in comparison to the self-proclaimed “Indian killer”.

  20. PJ says:


    There are consequences for being nasty.

    Being elected President?

  21. SKI says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The only reason people are outraged is because it’s probably true. Like is there any possibility that a 92 year old WASP wasn’t a racist? Do you think she was really upset when her husband ran those Willie Horton ads? Please. It’s insulting to Barbara Bush, as a real person, to doubt it. That’s who these people were.

    Actually, she had a demonstrated record on civil rights including refusing to stay at establishments that were segregated in the late 1950s and pushing GHWB to appoint Dr. Sullivan as Head of HHS. She knew Dr. Sullivan as she served on the board of Morehouse College. Civil Rights and literacy were her two primary causes for most of her life.

  22. Dave Schuler says:

    Providing the phone number of suicide hotline/crisis prevention center as her contact information is more likely to get her into trouble than her remarks about the late Mrs. Bush.

  23. Gavrilo says:

    No, she shouldn’t be fired for exercising her 1st Amendment rights. The University Administration should force her to pay exhorbitant costs for her security whenever she’s on campus. Just like they do when conservative speakers try to exercise their 1st Amendment rights.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    Given what Roger Stone has said about Barbara Bush, I take he should be treated similarly?

    After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  25. James Pearce says:


    I reject and renounce her comments.

    Why do you even need to reject and renounce them? I mean….I read them.

    And that’s about all I’m going to do, because really….everyone’s got an opinion.

  26. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Well…Mrs. Bush did, in fact, raise a war criminal. Was she racist? Don’t know enough about her to say.

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @george: But should they?

  28. Terrye Cravens says:

    Roger Stone said that Barbara Bush was a nasty drunk and that if she were cremated the fire would burn for 3 days thanks to all that alcohol. This is not about the politics of the person in question, but their lack of common decency. In this case, right and left meet and shame on them for it.

  29. the Q says:

    Hey wingnuts, as soon as you are done with the carcass of Jarrar, I hope all you petition the same English department to remove one Victor Davis Hansen from the faculty who has stated many more vile things about liberals and Obama than has this Professor about the Bushes.

    And I am sure if I took the time to research past comments by some of you unhinged right wing loons, I am sure you wrote in supporting liberals who demanded Hansen be fired for his insensitive remarks.

    Be honest schite twizzlers, you only want removed the liberals and not the wingnuts who agree with your demented world view.

  30. Terrye Cravens says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: George Bush was not a criminal. One of the reasons so many former Republicans such as myself have a hard time voting for Democrats is their ridiculous claims about all Republicans. Everywhere forever. I am surprised that they have not called Lincoln a war criminal. After all, look how many people died in the Civil War.

    BTW, Bill Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act which made the removal from power of Saddam Hussein our national policy.

  31. Tyrell says:

    @barbintheboonies: No doubt about that. Or if she made some sort of comments supporting Trump.
    No doubt that she has the right to do
    that . I wonder if she is doing this as a sort of test of academic freedom. I also am glad the school is not trying to silence her or set up some safe zones.
    I have some suggestions: a challenge from someone to debate her (Carlson? Scarborough?). Or some sort of wrestling match. She does seem pretty tough, devil may care.
    A conservative professor should test the administration and give some sort of Don Imus or Alex Jones type of statements.

  32. Terrye Cravens says:

    @the Q: I am sick of both of them. I am sick of Lock Her Up and Everyone born before 1992 is a racist. It is stifling and stupid. I don’t agree with everything
    VDH says, not at all…but as a general rule he does not go out of his way to attack the character of dead people just for the sake of being outspoken. She wanted attention and she got it.

  33. Rick Zhang says:

    That’s quite an assumption. Bottom line is many people, particularly in conservative media, have said negative things about Michelle Obama and they are doing fine. It’s the nature of being in politics to be criticized.

    You posts make me feel that you have a victim complex. There really is no affirmative action liberal bias going on.

  34. de stijl says:


    Who killed more people? Bush? Or Jackson?

    Granted Andrew Jackson was a true bastard.

    And Bush killed them because of daddy issues and personal pique and not naked racism (maybe). Well maybe most of it is on Cheney, but Bush signed off on it.

    Again, not undercutting your Jackson, thing, but Bush 43 invaded and deposed a government that had zero to do with 9/11 and killed ~1,000,000 people because it was a strong foreign policy message. He actively created a regional power vacuum in the Middle-East. His actions guaranteed that Iran would “win” the Iraq War. He was a torturer; not in the 19th century, but in the 21st. His actions created insurgents, terror-supporting groups, and internal sectarian violence and terror, for the next few dozen years.

    ISIS exists because of Bush. Just like Al Queda in Iraq existed because of Bush. The Yemeni war exists to this day because of Bush. The Syrian situation is happening because of Bush’s actions.

    Yeah, all of that is justly on Cheney, not Bush, but still; his name is first one you see when the credits scroll.

    And all of that thrashing about for nothing. A million dead and a trillion in debts because of anxiety / daddy issues. The longest war in our illustrious martial history.

    Thanks, Babs!

  35. Franklin says:

    Any solid evidence presented that Mrs. Bush was a racist? Almost everybody is racist to some degree, intentionally or not, so it has to be qualified. The story about her refusing to stay at a hotel because some blacks traveling with them weren’t allowed there suggests she was at least moderately decent.

    My point is that if you’re going to say something outrageous for attention like this professor did, you need to back it up or the media should just ignore you. (Oh, and furthermore, I disagree with the professor on cultural appropriation.)

  36. de stijl says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    George Bush was not a criminal.

    Ya sure? Especial stress on the *war* part of war criminal?

    @Terrye Cravens:

    Yet, you know who VDH is, his full name, who he writes for, and what he writes, and his political orientation.

    @Terrye Cravens:

    I am sick of Lock Her Up and Everyone born before 1992 is a racist. It is stifling and stupid. I don’t agree with everything

    I’m not sure what this all means, but I’m fairly certain that the “Everyone born before 1992 is a racist” is directed at my earlier comment. Is that correct?

  37. de stijl says:


    The riots would commence

    That’s a risible statement. Are you prepared for follow-on response?

  38. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    I said this:

    Again, not undercutting your Jackson, thing, but Bush 43…

    I meant this:

    Again, not undercutting your Jackson thing, but Bush 43…


    The first usage essentially called you a “thing” because of my stupidly placed comma. That was a major eff up on my part. Apologies. Obviously not intentional, but still…

    george, you are not a “thing.” You are a human being! Pinkie swear! Promise!

  39. Tyrell says:

    @de stijl: Jackson: the hero of New Orleans, defeating the powerful British in a stunning victory.
    “In 1814 we took a little trip along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip’
    Well, we fired once more and they began a runnin’, right down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico” (Horton, one of the most requested songs in radio history)

  40. Facebones says:

    It’s tacky to kick Barbara Bush just after she died, and there are certainly better forums than twitter to have a nuanced argument, but I can see the germ of the point Jarrar is making.

    I’m not about to claim that she was any more or less prejudiced than anyone else of her generation, but has everyone forgotten about how she said the Katrina refugees living in the Astrodome were now “better off?”

    And considering the incredible whitewashing of W in his post-presidency (“I’m jes’ a simple man painting my pictures.”) I can see the impulse to not let people erase what the Bush family has done.

  41. Andy says:


    Just curious what would happen to you if you tweeted that or something equivalent given your position as a federal employee and an academic at a military staff college.

  42. Andy says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    The only reason people are outraged is because it’s probably true. Like is there any possibility that a 92 year old WASP wasn’t a racist?

    It’s pretty ironic that you make conclusions about her based only on age, skin color and religion instead of actual facts or knowledge.

  43. de stijl says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    Roger Stone said that Barbara Bush was a nasty drunk

    Nasty is one thing, and if true, it’s all on her, but drunk is totally okay in my book.

    Her body, her choice.

    The drinky-poo thing – if true, just decent booze choice, please!

    92 years old. She had a good, long (possibly drunky) life. Good on her.

  44. de stijl says:


    Jackson: the hero of New Orleans, defeating the powerful British in a stunning victory.

    Bush: the idiot of the Middle East, losing to the powerful Persians in a stunning defeat.

  45. Electroman says:

    No, she shouldn’t have said that. No, she shouldn’t be fired for it. Even in states where “tenure” is not a legal concept at all – like Indiana – a professor wouldn’t be fired from a public university for this. Get real, folks.

    And as to her not having a doctorate – what is required is a “terminal degree”, which need not be a doctorate. An MFA is a terminal degree, and a lot of fine art faculty have one, and no doctorate. An old friend of mine is a (full) professor of Theater at a Big Ten university, and her only graduate degree is an MFA.

  46. de stijl says:

    Not that there is anything wrong with the Iranians pursuing their best interests while we were busy screwing the Iraq pooch.

    Iranians have their own self interest and their own internal audiences to placate.

  47. the Q says:

    You wrote, “ I am surprised that they have not called Lincoln a war criminal….” Why should liberals call Lincoln a war criminal when the wingnuts have been spouting that nonsense for decades?

  48. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    George Bush was not a criminal.

    George Bush tortured people. He broke our laws, and the Geneva Conventions.

  49. michael reynolds says:

    48 comments involving Fresno? Really? Have any of you ever been to Fresno? It’s one of many places it’s safe to ignore.

  50. Scott says:

    This is why I’m beginning to hate the internet. Yes, I ‘m a slow learner. With the internet, you can always find someone saying stupid vile things. This is part of the stupid, vile comment of the day club and everybody has to respond.
    I used to read Rod Dreher at TAC but everyday it seems he finds his own stupid, vile anti-Christian comment to rail against. So tiresome.

  51. John430 says:

    Update: The university’s provost Lynnette Zelezny condemned Jarrar’s comments Wednesday during a news conference, calling them “disrespectful” and noting that the school was taking the incident “very seriously.”

    Zelezny also commented on Jarrar’s tweet bragging that she can’t be fired.

    “We understand the concern from the community and we are taking this very seriously,” Zelezny said. “To answer the technical question: Can she not be fired? The answer is no.”

  52. george says:

    @de stijl:

    Wiki has most sources of Iraq war deaths at 500,000, a huge number. But the estimates for Vietnam are double that (and for a war just as ludicrously pointless as the Iraq war), so if its purely about number killed then its Kennedy with assists from Johnson and Nixon.

    The number of civilian deaths is greater in WW2, many from American bombers on directly civilian targets, which suggests FDR might claim the prize of worst ever, but I couldn’t find an estimate of deaths by American bombers.

  53. the Q says:

    “Have any of you ever been to Fresno? It’s one of many places it’s safe to ignore.” Spoken like a true Bakersfieldian.

  54. george says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Interesting question. I suppose the main reason we say nice things about people who’ve just died is out of a kind of shared humanity; ie two groups of people may hate each other’s politics, but find at least a small common ground in temporarily saying nice things about the newly deceased. That stops at a certain level – no one was saying nice things about Hitler or Stalin (though some did about Mao interestingly enough despite the 10’s of millions he killed).

    Did Barbara Bush rise to that level of evil in your opinion? Or is the whole idea of saying nice things about people who just died simply wrong?

    For instance, is: “Your grandma just died? Good, she was a bastard.” the right thing to say if she was, indeed, a bastard?

  55. de stijl says:

    @the Q:

    Bakersfield has a good to great Rockabilly scene. And fantastic bars.

    I’ve never been through, but never to Fresno. Should I?

  56. Andy says:


    no one was saying nice things about Hitler or Stalin (though some did about Mao interestingly enough despite the 10’s of millions he killed).

    Did Barbara Bush rise to that level of evil in your opinion?

    If we’re going to make this kind of comparison (and I don’t think we should), it shouldn’t be between Barbara Bush and Hitler or Stalin – it should be between Barbara Bush and Eva Braun or Nadezhda Alliluyeva; or even better, Ekaterine Geladze or Klara Hitler.

  57. gVOR08 says:

    Nut picking. Irrelevant trivia.

  58. Andy says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s not about Fresno, it’s about the outrage-du-jour. Don’t worry, this will be completely forgotten in a week – probably sooner.

  59. de stijl says:


    Agreed. This is the 2018 version of nutpicking.

  60. de stijl says:


    Dude! You stole my word! By eleven minutes!

    I suck at life.

  61. michael reynolds says:

    Social media incentivizes outrageous stupidity. It’s one big Dunning-Kruger machine, convincing millions of idiots they’ve got something vitally important to say. Preferably with emojis. Because that’s what Shakespeare would have used to write his sonnets if only they’d been invented.

  62. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Meant to say “I’ve been through Fresno, but never to Fresno” Rest stands.

  63. michael reynolds says:

    @the Q:

    Spoken like a true Bakersfieldian.

    Never! Though there was a dark few months of my life spent in Modesto frying chicken for Foster Farms in their ill-fated restaurant chain.

  64. Dave Schuler says:


    De mortuis nihil nisi bonum (“speak no ill of the dead”) is a common mortuary phrase going back two millennia. The implication is that if you say bad things about dead people they’ll come after you.

  65. de stijl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Shakespeare was pretty low-brow in his day. Not utterably dismissable, but sketchy. He wrote the bits that were the equivalent to modern-day WWE monologues.

    Splashy, flashy, and entertaining AF, but sketchy.

    Not exactly low-brow, but Damon Runyon-esque.

    BTW, there is a pretty great bar in Minneapolis called Runyon’s. Solid recommend.

  66. Modulo Myself says:

    Hagiography is the tool of diminished subordinates. Barbara Bush was born into a class which excluded everybody who was not from the right clubs and schools. Her set handled a black housekeeper with more sanguine than a Jewish coworker. Her husband was a serial adulterer in the best way. One of her sons was a white-collar criminal, another was a reformed cokehead who dodged the draft, hated his dad for a bit, invaded a country for no reason, and then destroyed what remained after he invaded it. One of the others merely was humiliated as a man by Donald Trump. The political party she was associated with devoted itself to attracting people who loathed civil rights. Her husband involved himself to a foreign policy which enjoyed genocide in Central America and mass perjury, and had no problem with playing on racist fears. Neither were idiots. They were both smart and clever and probably fun to be around in the right circles, but they weren’t individualists, or even remarkable in any way. It’s not even damning to say this. They were just products of their time.

  67. de stijl says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    That is a bit different than the modern day interpretation.

    Boiled down, it is essentially thus, pay absolute obedience to the rules we’ve established around this person.

    If we dismiss them from the current movement, we can criticize their life work, but you, heretic, cannot.

    And no backsies! We get to slag your fallen hero / heroine without consequence because “public figure”, but our fallen comrades are obvi in that special public adoration place where no criticism shall be brooked because “PROPIETY.”

  68. de stijl says:

    Really wish that I spelled that last word correctly. Bothers me more than I am comfortable sharing.

    For lack of an “R” the kingdom was lost.

  69. de stijl says:
  70. de stijl says:


    I ‘ll bet…

    I’ve missed your crazy backwards apostrophes. In an odd way they are sort of a touchstone.

    We’re never going to agree on, well, basically anything, but welcome back anyway.

  71. James Joyner says:

    @Slugger: Fresno State is in fact a Division I school. Not that it has much to do with anything.

    @grumpy realist: I hadn’t heard Stone’s remarks when posting this but wouldn’t have posted about him, regardless. This is interesting to me because she’s a rather prominent academic and the free speech/academic freedom issues are of interest to me.

    @the Q: I’m not sure what comparable things Hansen has said but he’s an Emeritus professor. That is, he doesn’t actually work there.

    @Andy: It’s not as clear. I don’t enjoy tenure protections. Theoretically, it would be hard to fire me during the term of my three-year contract—but that’s academic since I’m up for renewal in August. (That’s in progress and they would have had to tell me last August if I weren’t being renewed.) But they really don’t have to have a reason to not re-hire me.

  72. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Terrye Cravens: Authorized torture of prisoners captured in an armed conflict is not a war crime? Huh. The things I learn here.

  73. teve tory says:

    Not exactly low-brow, but Damon Runyon-esque.

    Who the fuq was Damon Runyon? This isn’t Fox News. Everybody here isn’t 150 years old.

  74. de stijl says:

    @teve tory:

    Do I need to hand-hold you through the whole “How To Google” process? 😉

    It is amusing that we’ve had a Ring Lardner thread a few days back and now Damon Runyon. It’s old-timey newspaper guy week here at OTB.

  75. george says:


    You’re forgetting Lyndon Johnson’s and JFK’s wives and mothers – Vietnam caused more needless deaths than the Iraq War.

    And the directly ordered civilian bombing in WW2, which served no military purpose? FDR and Truman are right up there too.

    The point being, US Presidents since WW2 have been, without exception, war criminals. It comes with the job.

  76. george says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Yup. As Chomsky said, every US President since WW2 has been a war criminal. That clearly includes Bush (both of them).

  77. george says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Or at least karma – almost no one has lived such a pure life that nasty (and true) things can’t be said about them in return. And I suspect I could leave out the qualifier ‘almost’. One reason people don’t say bad things about the dead is they don’t want the inevitable bad things said about them in return.

    It also tends to cause family feuds (within families and between families), since emotions are pretty raw when a loved one dies. And the anger and hatred over the bad things lasts long after the raw emotions from the death have settled.

    Basically, waiting a few weeks or months after the death allows the same truths to be said without causing long term hatred.