- Kaitlin Bennett, known on the internet as the Kent State Gun Girl, was met by crowds of protesters on Monday when she went to Ohio Unversity’s campus to make a video.
- Students chanted at her to leave and threw toilet paper at her.
- According to campus police, water was splashed at her but no arrests were made and no violence broke out. Bennett, however, claims hot coffee was poured on her and said her colleague’s car was vandalized.
- Bennett eventually left campus but vows to come back. The situation started a large conversation online, with some defending protesters, and some accusing them of bullying.
Bennett Goes to Ohio University
Kaitlin Bennet, known to many on the Internet as the Kent State Gun Girl, was met by crowds of student protesters on Monday when she arrived at Ohio University’s campus.
Bennett, a well-known conservative gun-rights activist, came to the school with the intent to film a video asking students trivia questions about President’s Day. In protest of her presence at the school, students chanted for her to leave and threw toilet paper at her.
Since her graduation photos depicting her holding a rifle on Kent State University’s campus went viral in 2018, Bennett has been a contentious figure online. She currently makes videos for Liberty Hangout, a controversial Libertarian media outlet. In them, she asks people on the street about hot-button issues like abortion, gender-inclusive bathrooms, and gun rights. With the viral attention these videos often receive also comes criticism and mockery from Twitter users.
Videos shared online of her arrival at Ohio University show students yelling things like “no one likes you” and “where’s your diaper.” The latter is a reference to a likely false online rumor that Bennett once soiled herself at a party.
Many students surrounded Bennett, phones in hand, as she made her way through the school. Bennett posted a video that she took from the inside of a car as she was leaving. In it, students are throwing liquids at the vehicle and blocking it from moving.
“This is what happens when a Trump supporter goes to a college campus,” she wrote before accusing the students of starting a riot, and suggesting that President Donald Trump revoke public funding from the school.
Statements by Bennett and Ohio University Police
According to a statement from Ohio University’s Police Department, no arrests were made and no one was asked to leave the scene aside from moving people to clear public paths. They wrote that Bennett “engaged in Constitutionally protected activity.”
“She drew a large crowd of people, many with opposing viewpoints, who also chose to exercise their first amendment rights,” the statement added.
According to the statement, Bennett did not notify them of her visit. While this is not mandatory, they say it would have helped their staffing levels. The police also rejected her claim that a “riot” took place.
“Contrary to allegations circulating on social media, the incident did not rise to the level of a riot,” the school’s police wrote. “There was strong language, and allegations of some unknown person[s] in the crowd splashed water, but there were no reported injuries or violence and no one was arrested during the event.”
Bennett, however, was not pleased with the police’s response and claimed hot coffee was dumped on her and that her colleague’s car was vandalized.
She vowed to return to the school at a later date with “an army of gun owners for an open carry walk through campus.”
On Tuesday, she claimed there were high-level credible threats against her.
The incident sparked a large conversation online, with some appalled by the behavior of the protesters at Ohio University. One alumnus said it made them “sick.”
Blaze TV correspondent Elijah Schaffer said fighting against people who disagree with you politically is not the answer.
Conservative actor and producer James Woods called it a display of mob mentality from Democrats.
Some also encouraged Bennett to still raise her voice, even if people were standing against her.
On the other side, some thought these protests were exactly what Bennett expected and perhaps even hoped for. One Ohio University student told Athens News that it felt like Bennett “just came here to get this reaction.”
One Twitter user said that “this is the attention [Bennett] ordered.”
Others pointed to her past transphobic and homophobic comments, as well as controversial stances made in the past by Liberty Hangout. They believed these ideas should be met with dissent.
Others believed that it was hypocritical for conservatives to be upset that Bennett was being bullied because Trump is accused of bullying on a regular basis.
Bennett trended on Twitter Tuesday morning, with many posting memes and jokes about the situation. Some responded to this trend by noting that while they do not see eye to eye with Bennett, attacking her only fuels the fire for her.
Others thought something should be done about the tweets making fun of her, as it could be seen as a violation of Twitter’s policy.
Bennett’s name was still a top trending topic by Tuesday afternoon. She has not announced a specific date for her potential return to the Ohio school.
See what others are saying: (Athens News) (USA Today) (Cleveland.com)
Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan
The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”
Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify
A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast.
Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts.
Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”
“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”
Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation
Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.
“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote.
“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”
Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”
“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”
Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)
Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.
In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.
New Cases Flattening
After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.
Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days.
New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.
Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.
Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.
According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.
In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.
Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit.
While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country.
Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)
COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open
While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.
Schools Respond to Omicron Surge
U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.
According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.
That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.
Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.
In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.
Teachers Protest In-Person Learning
Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.
One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).
Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.
On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.
Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”
Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.
On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.