Ask the Sophist: Cold campus controversy

Indignity Vol. 4, No. 66

Ask the Sophist: Cold campus controversy


Ask the Sophist: Can I Punish the College Newspaper Columnist Who Used to Get on My Nerves?

Dear The Sophist:I went to undergrad at a university that has also launched a good number of people into the broader News Media Ecosystem. There is one person who has built a thriving career and a small-to-medium following on social media that I track with interest. Today, they appear to be well-connected in New York media, if not recognizable to the general public, and their work has appeared in multiple prominent publications. 

Back when we were in undergrad more than 20 years ago, they published breathtakingly racist opinion essays in our student newspaper. The actual pieces are no longer online, not even in the Wayback Machine (which has some of my cringey letters to the editor), but responses to the columns do exist, confirming they are not the product of my imagination. Moreover, I'm certain if I visited our university library, I could pull up copies of the student newspaper from those days with those columns.

As far as I can tell, this person has never addressed this history. I cannot tell if the person still holds those abhorrent beliefs or denounces those positions now, because they largely do not post about explicitly political issues. Since I am not in those circles, I also cannot tell if this person's history as a racist columnist is an open secret that's forgiven as youthful indiscretion or if the person has privately repented or whatever.

Because I do not see this person being publicly racist anymore, I'm inclined not to say anything about it or dig up the old columns, but it keeps nagging at me that they should be made to answer for their behavior—at the least, they should explain how they've changed. Because at the time, it was extremely hurtful and people expended incredible energy countering this person's pronouncements in the pages of the student newspaper, and that they remain in a position to have their voice heard seems like a decent reason to have them explain why they won't use it to hurt people again.

Is this worth pursuing in any fashion, or is it something that's best left as "college lore" for the people who might remember?

Past Outrage

Dear Under-Grudge-uate:
The Sophist's main response to reading about your old schoolmate's situation was relief. Given the incentives in our current discourse economy, it was welcome news that there's still at least one former edgelord out there who has seemingly tried to put that behavior behind them, rather than enlarging on it to draw an audience. 

Still, they did write those terrible takes, and bad takes cry out for punishment, don't they? What kind of world would we live in if people could just advocate the invasion of Iraq or dismiss Donald Trump's plans to steal the 2020 election or cheerlead the bombardment of Gaza and face no consequences for their wrongheadedness? Oh, hmm. Right. Well!

Yet as you acknowledge, this was all a long time ago and at an age when everyone was embarrassing. You cringe at your own letters to the editor, even though you believe that justice was on your side. Naturally, you feel that this other person ought to be cringing even more, for having been genuinely in the wrong. 

Instead, they're out there, uh...posting on social media and getting some pieces published? The Sophist here ruefully notes that it's possible you're overlooking the extremely large distance in this industry between "visible" and "influential." Before you take action to prevent this person from possibly using their power to subtly poison the world around them with their never-repented bigotry, you might want to make sure they have any power.

Except: you aren't really trying to take action, are you? It's not as if you came to The Sophist with a dossier of phone-camera jpegs of the goods. If you went to the campus library, you could pull up the columns, but you didn't and you haven't. You're not asking what to do about the columns; you're asking about what to do about your memory of the columns. 

In a world with so many racists running around doing horrible things, you don't want to feel responsible for your failure to have stopped this particular maybe-still-a-racist. Why didn't you strangle Baby Sort-of-Hitler in the crib when you had the chance? The thought experiment is rattling around your head. 

First of all, though: what if you did? What if this person feels just as chagrined about those letters to the school newspaper as you do, only for the opposite reason—because they seemed true and valid, and showed them the error of their ways? Maybe you already wrought the change you wanted, after all! 

Or not. You don't think your letters were all that persuasive. So now you are whispering your concerns into a hollow tree, in the hopes the universe will carry them away. 

Possibly it will, and even deliver them somewhere. The Sophist's hollow tree does have a few thousand readers, many of whom have a taste for media gossip. It could be that someone else has been fuming about the same person's columns all these years, and your letter inspires them to do the digging you don't want to do. It could be that your ex-columnist hears about this and decides to make amends. It could be that you inspire a guessing game that accidentally blows up some entirely different undergraduate racist, instead. Every school has one, generally speaking. Now that you've put the thought out there, who knows where it might go? 

Enjoy the reunion,
The Sophist

upload in progress, 0


A nice blue sky with a few wispy white clouds and a bigger one in the lower corner of the image

New York City, April 15, 2024

★★★★ Cumulus in blurry pale gray below piles of scintillating white reared over the already warm morning. Sparks of green glowed where the sun backlit the still-emerging leaves. A whiff of weed smoke was on the morning air on Central Park West, and the Park had become a thin but cohesive mass of green. By the edge of the pond in Morningside Park, turtles gleamed like bronze. Geese stalked along the halfcourt line of the basketball court. Flowers were in every stage of blossom and collapse. Down by Columbus Circle a young woman in a flounced pink dress twirled in a crosswalk for a friend holding a phone. The day had achieved the coolest possible level of being hot, but then increasing clouds and growing shadows pushed it down again. A tiny rain shower threw a few streaks of drops on the front windows, as the late light came in anyway. In the deep blue of night, the moon and stars shone about as brightly as could reasonably be asked for the city and the season. 

upload in progress, 0


This first rectangle, below, is the podcast file right here on GHOST. If you are reading this in your web browser, you can just stay right here and click that sideways black triangle and listen to five minutes and 16 seconds of podcast. HOWEVER, we have learned that if you are enjoying this post in an email, when you click on the triangle you will be taken to the web version of this post, and then you can find and click on the triangle and it will play. Let us know!

Here is today's Indignity Morning Podcast! April 16, 2024

This next rectangle delivers you to the mighty and all the episodes of INDIGNITY MORNING PODCAST. It works!

INDIGNITY MORNING PODCAST Episode 255: Indignity Morning Podcast No. 255: A brilliantly fatuous and ponderous Times subhead.

Visit for the RSS thing and Apple stuff, and the podcast is now also working in Spotify:

Let us know at if you encounter difficulties with the links. We're still trying to see what works! Thank you for trying to listen! Podcast!


WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS in aid of the assembly of sandwiches from New Presentation of Cooking with Timed Recipes, by Auguste Gay with the collaboration of Anne Page. Published in 1924, and now in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

For each sandwich
2 slices of buttered bread
1 slice of cold boiled ham
2 eggs
1 teaspoon butter
salt and pepper to taste

Scramble the eggs*. Chop the slice of ham not too fine and mix with the eggs. Spread on both slices of bread, put together, and press lightly.

For each sandwich
2 slices of buttered bread
1 tablespoon crab meat, chopped
1 tablespoon lobster, chopped
1 tablespoon chili sauce

Mix together all ingredients. Spread on both slices of bread, put together, and press lightly.

1st Method.
Break eggs (3) into a bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Beat with a fork until the eggs do not stick to the fork. Put 2 teaspoons of butter to melt in a small stew pan. Pour in the eggs. Cook over a slow fire, stirring all the time until the eggs thicken.

2nd Method. Put 2 teaspoons of butter to melt in a frying pan. Drop in the frying pan 3 eggs. Cook over a slow fire, and as the eggs thicken stir until cooked. Season to taste.

In scrambling eggs with other food material, this food material should always be mixed and beaten with the eggs before cooking.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, be sure to send a picture to 


The second printing of 19 FOLK TALES is now available for gift-giving and personal perusal! Sit in the strengthening sunshine with a breezy collection of stories, each of which is concise enough to read before the damp ground seeps through your blanket.

HMM WEEKLY MINI-ZINE, Subject: GAME SHOW, Joe MacLeod’s account of his Total Experience of a Journey Into Television, expanded from the original published account found here at Hmm DailyThe special MINI ZINE features other viewpoints related to an appearance on, at, and inside the teevee game show Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, available for purchase at SHOPULA.

upload in progress, 0