Bill McEwen

Don’t buy victim act from Fresno State professor who tweeted ‘Trump must hang’

A headline on an April 8 Breitbart News article singles out a Fresno State professor for a comment made on Twitter about President Donald Trump.
A headline on an April 8 Breitbart News article singles out a Fresno State professor for a comment made on Twitter about President Donald Trump.

Fresno State history professor Lars Maischak – author of the now infamous “Trump must hang” tweet – is portraying himself as a victim. I’m not buying it, and here’s why.

Maischak is old enough and presumably educated enough to know that you talk politics (or religion or sports) on social media and blogs at your own risk.

Twitter and Facebook and the rest are not places to have nuanced discussions about policies, morality or leaders – whether the subjects are abortion, Ayn Rand, Pope Francis or President Donald Trump.

There’s a reason Mom told you to never talk politics and religion at the dinner table or a party. No good can come up of it, and you could end up with a broken nose.

The same rules apply to social media. Upset certain people and on a good day, they will merely attack you and call you names. On a bad day, they might decide to embark on a years-long quest to ruin your life.

Maischak is more than naive if he thought he could post “to save American democracy, Trump must hang. The sooner and the higher, the better” and have those words disappear into the ether.

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I don’t care what your politics are, you don’t talk about killing a president – even in the abstract. Maischak’s complaint that his words were taken out of context doesn’t wash because there is no other context to words suggesting that America benefits from assassination. Such words cross the line and can’t be spun into something else.

Furthermore, other Maischak tweets establish that he’s no shrinking violet who made one mistake. People commenting on The Bee’s first story about Maischalk’s tweet being the subject of a Breitbart News article pointed to other inflammatory tweets. Among them:

▪  #TheResistance #ethniccleansing Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant.

▪ #TheResistance Has anyone started soliciting money and design drafts for a monument honoring the Trump assassin, yet?

Perhaps a comedian can get away with saying such things. I say “perhaps” because any comic giving voice to what Maischak tweeted will suffer all kinds of grief, including boycotts and trouble getting gigs.

But there’s no way a college professor – especially one whose salary is paid for by taxpayers – can write these things, whether soberly or in jest, and not expect serious repercussions.

I suspect that Maischak enjoyed this back and forth with like-minded friends and fancied himself an audacious truth-teller. But social media is the Great Wide Open, where comments can fly under the radar for days or even years, and then come back to bite you.

When you’re stuck in a hole, the first rule is stop digging. Maischak either doesn’t know the rule or is ignoring it. He has said that he is the victim of “character assassination.” And he has blamed Breitbart News for his troubles.

“The function of articles like the one produced by Breitbart and affiliates is to whip up a digital lynch-mob of people sending threats and insults to my email and Twitter accounts, with the ultimate goal of silencing dissenters,” he told The Bee’s Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado.

I’m no fan of Breitbart, which provides clickbait for right-wingers. Neither am I a fan of websites that provide clickbait for the far left. They exist because people other than me like them.

But Maischak needs to own his words. Breitbart simply knocked out of the park what he had teed up.

If Maischak had stuck to analyzing Trump’s actions in a thoughtful way, perhaps providing a historical perspective on the early days of the Trump presidency, his email box wouldn’t be filled with angry missives.

And Maischak’s attempt to again play the victim card by saying Fresno State President Joseph Castro sold him out reveals the history professor’s lack of accountability.

In case you missed it, Maischak accused Castro of “allowing himself to be instrumentalized for a right-wing smear campaign” in an interview with The Bee’s Mackenzie Mays.

Castro’s sin, in the eyes of the professor?

The university president had issued the following statement:

“The review of these and any other statements (by Maischak) will be conducted in the context of rights of free expression, but also for potential direct threats of violence that may violate the law. The university is taking this matter seriously and handling it in accordance with applicable law and policy, as well as our traditions of academic freedom and the requirements of the faculty collective bargaining unit agreement.”

Since Maischak is big on context, I will add some here.

Joseph Castro might be the best president Fresno State has ever had. He’s successfully fought in Sacramento for funding that has enabled the university to add more tenure-track professors. His administration has raised graduation rates; it’s working hard to shorten the time that students take to graduate, thus reducing their college debt load.

He networks with donors to bring in private money for new buildings and programs. And, from day one, he has stood tall for kids born in poverty and everyone else hungry to succeed.

Maischak’s claim rings hollow. It’s nothing more than desperate nonsense from a man seeking to extricate himself from a mess that he alone created.

The professor should apologize and try to move on. Absent that, the hole he’s in only gets deeper.