What Would You Have Them Do?



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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57 Responses

  1. Avatar Zac says:


    Seriously, though, Kazzy, you already know the answer to this: they’d prefer that black folks accept their subordinate position in society and quit being so uppity about it. I mean, they won’t come out and say that, because that would be gauche. But their prior condemnations speak volumes.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:


      I don’t know of any major free speech issues to speak of in the Missouri protests. It’s not like at Yale or Amherst, where they’re retaliating for speech which is offensive only in the sense that it doesn’t toe the line on Social “Justice” dogmata.

      But I’m having a lot of trouble seeing any real issue in their grievances. Based on Concerned Student 1950’s own statements, they seem to be the following:

      1. Payton Head claimed to have had racial slurs yelled at him by people driving by in a truck. The individuals have not been identified, and AFAIK no other witnesses have come forward. Payton Head is the one who tweeted that there had been confirmed sightings of the KKK on campus and that he was “working with the MUPD, the state trooper[s], and the National Guard,” only to have to walk it back after the MUPD publicly denied the presence of the KKK and asked him not to spread rumors. It’s possible that he gave too much credence to rumors, but this does not make him look particularly credible. Even if he’s telling the truth, all this means is that a handful of people who may or may not have been students were jerks to him. It’s not clear what he expected the administration to do about it.

      2. A drunk student interrupted a rehearsal they were having, and became belligerent and used racial slurs when they tried to remove him. The student was put through some disciplinary proceedings, though as is typical in such cases, the results were not publicized. Of the four incidents they chose to emphasize, this is the only confirmed case where black students were mistreated on account of their race, and as far as we know it was handled appropriately.

      3. The scheisstika. Who did it and why, only the creator knows, and he or she isn’t talking. In any case, it’s not clear what they expect the administration to do. Check the footage from the security camera in the bathroom?

      4. They were unhappy with the other students’ reactions when they interrupted homecoming for a presentation on the history of racism at the University of Missouri. And then again at the reception they received when they blocked traffic and (in their own words) “allowed themselves to be hit” by the president’s car while the driver was trying to go around them.

      We all know that exaggerating the extent to which one is oppressed, or even making it up out of whole cloth, is a real thing that people do all the time. For example: The war on Christmas. I’m sure you have some relatives or acquaintances who do this on a personal level, too. You think only white people do this?

      Right now, I just don’t see a lot of evidence that this is anything other than a bunch of drama queens playing the martyr. I would be more sympathetic to them if they could produce some. Honestly, a priori I expected that black students at a university in a former slave state would have bigger problems than this. I’m pleasantly surprised that their grievances are so trivial.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Genuine question… What is a “scheisstika”?Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        So…Kazzy posted the OP twelve hours ago. I responded to your comment one hour ago. You posted your comment more than nine hours before mine. So Kazzy’s post had been up for…what? Two hours, when you rendered a verdict of “crickets, therefore racism?”Report

        • Avatar Zac says:

          Yeah, your response systematically dismissing the grievances of the black students doesn’t exactly do a whole lot to dissuade me from my original thesis. Especially coming from the guy who a couple weeks ago was defending the idea of black people being less intelligent than white people.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            In the unlikely event that at some point you should grow up and learn that baseless accusations of racism are not a substitute for an actual argument, let me know.Report

  2. Avatar j r says:

    Maybe we should take a step back and first decide if we are comfortable calling the University of Missouri a “racist institution” and what exactly that means in this context.

    ps – I’m also not sure that the absence of an attractive alternative ever makes rioting legitimate.Report

    • Avatar notme says:

      It must be since the uni president didn’t apologize for his white privilege.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I’m not arguing the merits, I’m discussing the methods.

      And if rioting is never acceptable, is not the same true of war? What is the difference? Words have failed or been abandoned, take to arms.

      If you are okay with the students protesting — even if disagreeing with what they are protesting — my question isn’t really aimed at you.Report

      • Avatar Will H. says:

        Personally, I’m ok with students protesting.
        Also, in the isolated instance of Baltimore, I’m ok with the rioting.

        What I’m not ok with is pretending that rioting and war are even close.Report

          • Avatar Will H. says:

            That is just so wrong on so many levels, I don’t know where to begin.

            First, there is a false equivalence of established foreign policy being equivalent to a threadbare minority holding.
            There is the aspect of “military discipline” being regarded the same as a completely anarchy.
            It confuses the borders of nations with ephemeral disengagement.
            On and on.
            It just seems so obvious.
            I am truly dumbfounded.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              I made the comparison because both represent a use of force to achieve an end. Many argue that use of force is never justified, unless all other options were exhausted (and sometimes even then). So to those who hold that opinion, do they hold the same contempt for wars of choice as they do for rioting?

              Sometimes things aren’t so obvious…Report

              • Avatar j r says:

                The problem with rioting is not the use of force. It is the use of force against third parties who either are not implicated or only marginally implicated through absurd arguments (see that terrible Jacobin piece arguing that burning down local businesses is OK because of capitalism).

                As I said during the Ferguson protests, if a bunch of people burned down the police situation, you would hear no great outcry from me. But when people loot and burn small businesses within an already relatively poor community, there is nothing justifiable about that, which is why there were any number of protestors actively trying to keep that from happening.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I have no argument with this position, JR.Report

              • Avatar Will H. says:

                Sure, what’s the difference between an arrest by a law enforcement officer and a strong-arm robbery?
                They’re always better when they happen to someone else.

                What’s the difference between Laguna Beach and me taking a piss on the floor?
                They’re both water you wouldn’t want to drink.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        The term war can mean lots of different things, from two groups of ar!ed combatants meeting in a battle to carpet bombing a city full of civilians. The comparison begs the question of whether any given instance of rioting is more like the former or the latter.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        It seems like the merits of the grievances and the methods for addressing them are closely related. If the University of Missouri was operating secret death camps, that would probably justify armed insurrection. If the complaint is that they’re not happy with the food, then building IEDs may be premature.

        I don’t really know what’s legitimate here. The complaints aren’t particularly concrete, and the demands don’t seem to be a particularly good way of addressing the problems that are concrete, so I think that keeping the escalation pretty limited would be a good thing. Protesting loudly all over campus seems fine. Anything that could be described as a “riot” seems to be not so fine. Annexing the public square and kicking out anybody who isn’t on your team seems pretty antisocial. Demanding the right to engage in a disruptive public protest while simultaneously staying out of the public eye seems downright weird.Report

  3. Avatar aarondavid says:

    How did Ganhdi or MLK achieve change?

    If you want to change the status quo, you have to look at how your actions affect those whose status is quo’d. In their eyes and it the eyes of others.Report

    • Avatar Alan Scott says:

      MLK changed thing by being aggressively confrontational. By highlighting complaints about the treatment of Black Americans that many White Americans considered trivial. By, in an era where Black Americans were being physically injured and killed by police and vigilante mobs, choosing to focus on their treatment by bus drivers and restaurant owners. By criticizing the leadership of politicians he felt weren’t sufficiently responsive to his cause, even though those leaders expressed support for the civil rights movement. By channeling the righteous outrage of America’s youth, black and white, against the indifference of the previous generation and the cruelty of their own peers.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        Not to mention – they didn’t do it alone. MLK did not achieve what he did without the Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam, he was an important leader in an overall movement that also included those groups.

        We give MLK all the credit now, because we don’t like to admit that actually the peaceful mass-membership side of the movement might not have gotten nearly the same traction if there hadn’t been other aspects of the movement.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      So will we stop calling Obama “divisive” for talking about race? Stop dismissing leading voices as “hate mongers” and “playing the race card”?

      Are the Mizzou students to be faulted for not being Ghandi or MLK?

      More importantly, will we only change in response to a Ghandi or an MLK? Cuz HOLY SHIT that is a high hurdle to clear!Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        That is a pretty unwarranted use of the word “we.” This is not a matter of collective guilt, which directly relates to a good deal of what is wrong with this particular spate of college protests.

        What I am seeing on this thread and around this issue is a purposeful strategy of compacting a whole range of thoughts and criticisms about these protests and placing them all under the category of The Reactionary Response.

        Tell me what exactly “we” ought to change in response to the Missouri or the Yale protests? This is not Jim Crow or the Vietnam War or police shooting an unarmed. These protests are almost all about isolated incidences of individuals doing racist things or localized campus grievances.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “How did Ganhdi or MLK achieve change?”

      They had the foresight to put white liberals in charge of the government, and conduct their activities in a country with a free and independent press.

      Gandhi wouldn’t have got very far in Soviet Russia.Report

  4. Avatar Glyph says:

    I admit I haven’t followed all the Missouri threads, but I thought the only (debatable) free speech issue was when that prof tried to exclude that reporter from the quad, and I’m pretty sure that one has been resolved. Who else is complaining that the Missouri protests are an affront to free speech, and why?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      Now, the press may be overselling the “free speech” issues because the protestors are trying to keep them at bay and control their message, but still… it is framing the narrative and permeating the conversation.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I clicked a few of the items on the first page that came up (the Newsweek one wouldn’t open in my browser for some reason) but they are mostly all reporting that same single incident (Click vs. the student reporter); and one article is that the Missouri Governor is signing a law that should, in theory, expand students free speech on campus (by saying that they can’t restrict it to only the “Free Speech Zones”):

        SCS/SB 93 – This act creates the “Campus Free Expression Act” to protect free expression on the campuses of public institutions of higher education.

        This act designates the outdoor areas of campuses of public institutions of higher education to be traditional public forums. Public institutions of higher education may maintain and enforce reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions in service of a significant institutional interest only when such restrictions employ clear, published, content and viewpoint-neutral criteria, and provide for ample alternative means of expression.

        Any person may freely engage in noncommercial expressive activity so long as the person’s conduct is not unlawful and does not materially and substantially disrupt the institution’s functioning. Examples of protected expressive activities are described in the act.

        This act may be enforced in a court of competent jurisdiction by the attorney general or any person whose expressive rights were violated under this act. A person may recover compensatory damages, reasonable court costs, and attorney fees. If a court finds a violation of this act, it must award no less than five hundred dollars for the initial violation, plus fifty dollars for each day the violation continues. A suit for violation of this section must be brought within one year of the day the cause of action accrues, as described in the act.

        This act is similar to HB 408 (2015) and HB 436 (2015).

        (Now, my worry would of course be that much like the “free speech zones” themselves, which I think started off with pretty good intentions but in practice are often used to “corral off” and isolate undesirable speakers, this law might be misused somehow; but at least as I read it, it seems like a good thing).

        You might be correct that some are framing it this way (the media does tend to get agitated when it’s one of theirs, though I don’t think they were wrong to say that excluding a student reporter from a public space/protest was not only anti-free-speech, but counterproductive), but by and large I don’t see people complaining that the Missouri protests are anti-free speech (though they may feel they are incoherent or misguided speech).Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Also, re: “framing the narrative and permeating the conversation” – not only do the media get agitated when it’s one of their own (understandably, I think) – but less justifiably, putting “Free Speech” in your headline is a great hook. Even if the article itself is much more measured and balanced than that, the writers don’t usually choose the headlines.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            So if the objection is, “The kids are wrong,” then we can engage the substance of their arguments and that is what I hope we do.

            If the objection is, “Protesting is wrong because free speech,” then, well, it seems we’re saying Black folks lack speech rights and have denied them agency (again).

            If the objection is, “These kids are oversensitive,” and this was arrived at without an honest discussion of the substantive issue and this position is reserved for those protesting oppression, it seems we’re back to leaving people no options.

            Lots of ifs, obviously. I just see so little discussion of the ACTUAL actual issues and so much vilifying of the protestors than we quickly run the risk of saying, “There is just no legitimate way of making your voices heard.” And that would be a DAMN shameful affront to free speech.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              “Protesting is wrong because free speech”

              This would only rarely make any sense at all as an argument. It might occasionally make sense in the case of the “heckler’s veto” – that can be a bit of a grey area, if the specific form the protest takes is intentionally-overwhelming someone else’s right to free speech.

              But generally speaking, people should be free to protest about whatever they want (and other people should be free to tell them those protests are baseless, and the first group should be able to respond “are not”, and so on, ad infinitum).Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              If the objection is, “These kids are oversensitive,” and this was arrived at without an honest discussion of the substantive issue

              See Zac’s 9:43 response for the results of attempting an honest discussion of the substantive issues.

              Edit: To be fair, you don’t do this. But my experience has been that when it comes to racial activism, behavior like Zac’s is very much the norm, and yours the exception.Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:

      The focus has been on the prof (a “communications” prof, no less!) because she was the person who most of all should have known best that the medium is the message. But it’s not like she was alone, there was a small crowd of people blocking the reporter. Still a small faction of the protesters as a whole, but not just one person.

      The thing that gets me about that whole absurd scene is – what did they think they were trying to achieve? Isn’t the point of holding a protest, to draw attention to one’s cause? When journalists show up to cover the protests, that’s a major accomplishment – as long as you don’t totally fish it up by trying to drive the reporter away, yelling in their face and shoving them.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        The thing that gets me about that whole absurd scene is – what did they think they were trying to achieve? Isn’t the point of holding a protest, to draw attention to one’s cause? When journalists show up to cover the protests, that’s a major accomplishment – as long as you don’t totally fish it up by trying to drive the reporter away, yelling in their face and shoving them.

        Yeah, I didn’t get this either. Holding a protest that no media shows up to report, is pretty depressing.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          The communications professor knew better than anybody that journalists are dishonest hacks and the student journalist was only going to find someone who didn’t know what was going on but merely saw a protest and figured “hey, I’ll join in!” and then quote this person as if they were representative of the group as a whole.

          Of course, in doing so, she became the person who is now representative of the group according to dishonest journalists.

          Irony aside, she did a major disservice to the students protesting.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Depends on the protest.
        Sometimes the point is simply to get banned. Then get people to report THAT.

        And, when people with more brains than bits get together, sometimes the entire point of the protest is inside the bongo drums.Report

  5. Avatar Stillwater says:

    So if “rioting’ is off the table and peaceful protests are off the table… how should Black folks make their grievances with racist institutions known?

    I think the answer is buried in the question: folks who think neither of those two methods is justified (or legitimate, etc), think that the reasons for the action aren’t justified (legitimate…). In other words, a protest or a riot is justified (if ever!) only when the reasons motivating that action make sense within our (us judgers) moral calculus and understanding of the way the world works. Lots of people object to emotionally motivated action that sorta cannot, in principle, result in changes that remedy the grievance, and I think that’s one line of thought regarding Mizzou.

    The standard criticism of what the kids there are doing, it seems to me, is that they’re incorrectly viewing dickish behavior as evidence of institutional oppression, which theoretically could be remedied, but not by the types of changes they’re advocating. And personally, I gotta say I’m not at all unsympathetic to that view, mostly because the list of demands doesn’t reference, even indirectly, any instances of university-based oppression of minorities. It reads to me more like an affirmative-action action. Which isn’t to say that there weren’t some really egregious problems regarding race at Mizzou, of course. It’s more to say that kids haven’t explicitly outlined what those problems actually are.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    many of the same folks who now condemn the peaceful protests at Mizzou as an affront to free speech.

    The protests are not an affront to free speech.
    The forcible removal of journalists is the affront to free speech.

    If you’d like to make a comparison, this is like when the police said “no journalist helicopters flying over the protesters”.

    Which, from what I recall, there *WAS* a stink over.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      But it strikes me that many people — not all, but many — are saying that the students shouldn’t be protesting in the first place, because of free speech or some other reason. So, to THOSE people (and if you aren’t one of those people, I understand that this question isn’t aimed at you), my question still stands: if protesting is out as a tactic and rioting is out as a tactic, what tactics remain?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Well, there are plenty of ways to say “those kids shouldn’t be protesting!”

        One way is to shake one’s head and compare what the students are doing to masturbation. “It feels good, sure… but it doesn’t produce life! They should be doing something worthwhile!”

        Another way is to say “they need to send in the authorities, break up the groups of students with truncheons, and get everybody back to going to class.”

        The former is a fairly harmless way of saying that the students shouldn’t be protesting. The latter is a fairly effed up way of saying that the students shouldn’t be protesting.

        Before I address your question, I’d like to ask if the criticisms of the students protesting are more like the former or more like the latter (or if there are other categories, for that matter).Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          As I note to Glyph above, if folks look at the protestors and say, “Man… they couldn’t be more wrong about the issues they are protesting,” I think that’d be *great* because then we can discuss the merits of their claims. Wahoo!

          If folks look at the protestors and say, “Man… they’re just a bunch of whiney babies,” I think that’s *awful* because it does not actually engage their points and essentially amounts to, “They shouldn’t be protesting because they shouldn’t be protesting,” which, to me, reads as, “They just need to shut up and take it,” which sounds an awful lot like, “You don’t get to react.”Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Well, at that point, it becomes fairly important to be able to list what the arguments are. From what I can tell, the concerns of the students are a lot closer to “we have the following problems with the administration and with the culture on campus” than they are to “free Mumia/Leonard Peltier”.

            Responding to the students as if their concerns amounted to the latter rather than to the former is dishonest and the people who are treating the students like that are wrong to do so.

            But that’s a completely different issue than whether people who assume that the students are asking for better Perrier in the student center are opposed to free speech when they say “those kids shouldn’t be protesting”.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “If folks look at the protestors and say, “Man… they’re just a bunch of whiney babies,”…it does not actually engage their points and essentially amounts to, “They shouldn’t be protesting because they shouldn’t be protesting,”…”

            That’s a pretty self-serving misinterpretation. If someone says “they’re whiny babies” then inherent to that statement is an assumption that their stated grievances are not valid. Engagement with (and dismissal of) their points is taken as so trivial that it doesn’t even need to be said.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              How can you dismiss something without engaging with it?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Like I said. So trivial that it doesn’t even need to be discussed. Prima facie invalid.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “This institution is racist!”

                Yep… that seems willing to give Black folks agency.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “This institution is racist!”

                What’s the argument that I’m supposed to engage with, there?

                Why does a flat statement deserve more than another flat statement in response?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                You could say, “Why do you think that?”

                And given that the Mizzou group offered a list of grievances, you were provided far more than a flat statement.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC says:

                …and it’ll never be not racist either, no matter how pious your emails about appropriate Halloween dress are. It’s original sin.

                A concrete demand can be satisfied. A series of nebulous grievances based on arguments to authority centering on feelings strike many as pretense for a series of open-ended shakedowns. When all those initiatives and all that new bureaucracy get implemented and it shockingly fails to stop a truck full of townies from shouting epithets, it’s another round of sensitivity training and more middle management.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                If only they offered a list of what they wanted done.

                Oh… Wait…

                And, yes, there are issues with the list. But the Mizzou students are attempting to engage and still get the same response: sit down, shut up, you’re doing it wrong.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        But it strikes me that many people — not all, but many — are saying that the students shouldn’t be protesting in the first place, because of free speech or some other reason.

        Yeah, I think that fits neatly into a lazy but useful narrative adopted by lots of folks that universities are dens of Marzist thought policers intent on imposing liberal fascism. (Hey, I’m not the one who mixed the metaphors.) So the reflexive impulse is to discount the legitimacy of what kids are protesting as, ultimately, yet another attempt by left-wing-radicals to impose tyranny on Freedom Loving Patriots Peoples.Report

  7. Avatar Michelle says:

    I’m not sure what I’d do, but when they start protesting over hurt feelings and demanding apologies and resignations because of said hurt feelings, as they’ve done at Yale and Claremont McKenna College, then they lose my sympathy. You can really debate or reason with them because, as that one Yale student put it, she didn’t want to debate, she just wanted to talk about her feelings.Report

  8. Avatar LTL FTC says:

    Of course any tactics will be more accepted fighting a more severe evil, but when would that not be the case? More people will support a die-in in the middle of a Cape Town street to protest apartheid than to demand the installation of a stop sign in your leafy suburb.

    But I think that what’s getting under the skin of many on the left is that these protests elevate the heckler’s veto to an unassailable good depending on who is doing it. Over and over again, we get the same shaky cellphone videos of activists demanding unquestioning compliance from administrators and then shouting over them when they attempt an answer. Picture yourself as a well-meaning administrator caught up in a copycat protest. You can’t promise to meet all demands – many of which are directed at the wrong people – but you’d like to be helpful where you can be. It really doesn’t seem to matter.

    That, combined with aggressive no-platforming of fellow left-wing apostates in other parts of the identity politics-o-sphere, makes people afraid that not only could they be next, but that there is no way to reason with or even join in the mob if it sets your target on you. Even if you aren’t in academia and you keep your head down online, even if you agree that college campuses have not met their responsibilities to students of color, the scattershot spasms of rage in the service of ill-defined goals seems ripe for hijacking and backlash.Report

  9. Avatar j r says:

    Something occurs to me as I read the comments here. There is a pretty big disconnect between what some people are taking these protests to be and what many of them actually are. A lot of people want to pitch this as the story of underprivileged and/or minority students finding themselves plunged into some alien world of white privilege where they have no choice but to protest to be heard. From what I can tell, the core of the Missouri situation actually involves racist incidents and the administration’s failure to act accordingly (and the proximity to Ferguson lends a not insignificant connection to a larger civil rights struggle). However, what’s going on at Yale and Claremont McKenna and Amherst and wherever else just does not appear to conform to that narrative (I say “appear” as a recognition that I may be wrong).

    Today’s colleges are much more PCU than they are some 80s movie where James Spader and Billy Zabka are plotting to keep the scholarship kids out of their social club. And the overwhelming majority of students attending elite colleges and universities, even the minority students, are privileged in just about every sense of the word. It is the nature of college admissions these days that the kids who get into these schools tend to come from certain kinds of households. And even kids from less affluent households were likely identified as being the high-achieving type very early in life and pulled into special programs and special schools and particular types of extracurricular activities.

    Outside of Missouri, every time I look at one of these lists of student demands it strikes me that they are couched in the language of civil rights and social justice, but that the specific complaints are actually much more about personal dissatisfaction with some element of their college experience. And I think these complaints have much more to do with the fact that these kids grew up under a certain style of helicopter parenting and zero-tolerance/risk averse schooling. Now, they are quasi on their own and having to negotiate complex social interactions outside of constant oversight by parents and other authority figures. And they’re freaking out. Incidentally, I think that they are right to freak out. They just haven’t gained the self-awareness to freak out in the right direction yet.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      It is certainly true most of the schools we have seen protests at will have students who are likely to be pretty darn privileged. Part of that is those are the kids who feel secure enough to stand out and have less to risk. Most kids at less privileged schools have less of a safety net if they got in deep doo. The privileged students aren’t going to be homeless or, even if something big happened like they were expelled, not be able to go to another school.Report

      • Avatar j r says:

        You are missing the point of my comment. My guess is that you think I am making some form of the “these kids are privileged, therefore hypocrites, therefore I don’t have to pay attention them” argument. I am not saying that at all.

        I am saying that you should pay close attention to them and close attention to what they are asking for, which should make it fairly clear that these kids are just not who you think they are.Report

        • Avatar greginak says:

          No i don’t think you are calling them hypocrites. Well to do kids can be victims of prejudice and if they are fighting that good for them. I know helo parenting and risk aversion are things but i’m seeing how they are leading to this. It seems more like they protests are related, if anything, to the BLM movement and the general dissatisfaction of many minorities with how they are treated. The kids may be weanies in many ways and some of the groups seem lost without a clue but i think there is some real and important grievance.Report