We’re always puzzled to find someone who teaches “communications” at the college level but who seems to have had very little professional experience in the field. David Parry received a B.A. at the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. at the University of Albany, taught at the University of Texas at Dallas from 2007 to 2013, and since then has been an Associate Professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he is chair of the Communications Department. “His work,” according to the university’s website, “focuses on understanding the complex social and cultural transformations brought about by the development of the digital network. He is particularly interested in understanding how the internet transforms political power and democracy. He also researches and is an advocate for Open Access Research.”
It is interesting to know what Parry’s “work” focuses on. But we’ve searched up and down the Internet and found almost nothing that would fall under the category of Parry’s “work.” To be specific, we found exactly one item: a revealing article entitled “Organizing information for ease of retrieval.”
One thing it revealed is that Parry is weak on punctuation. (In particular, he seems to be allergic to commas – so much so that it can be hard to follow some of his sentences.) More important, however, it revealed that he is a world-class master of the obvious.
“I have been teaching ‘digital stuff’ for about eight years now,” he writes, “and in those eight years I have noted a rather significant shift. While it used to be the case that when we would discuss the internet, social media, and the digital network, students would approach it with a certain lack of familiarity — ‘What is this strange object before us?’ Now they simply take it in stride.” No kidding! “When Facebook has 350 million plus active users,” he writes, “it is no longer a cultural outlier, it is the norm.” Wow! And here’s his conclusion: “These ‘new media’ aren’t new; they are central and a fundamental part of our cultural, legal, and social institutions. It is time we started treating them as such.”
St. Joseph’s University, then, has quite a superstar on its hands. But until the other day, Parry was a total unknown. That changed when a rant he delivered in front of his class was recorded by one of his students and ended up being posted online and shared at several popular websites. “As somebody who fights for liberal values,” said Parry, “I am not sympathetic to the white voters who make over $50,000 a year and said that we are going to vote for Trump….If you are a person of color in this room, if you are a woman in this room, you do not have to open your heart to them. They told you you are not a person….It is okay to deal with it any way you want, because that normalization should not…” At this point his voice trails off; he is unable to complete his sentence. (Great communications skills!)
After expressing concern that he will “not be able to get it all together here,” Parry goes on to say that “there are two…two…two…two…two groups of people in this room. All right? There are white dudes like me who have power, and then there are other people in this room. So I’m going to divide what I’m saying here.” His message to the powerless: “I’m not gonna tell you how to feel and how to be. I’m just going to invite you to feel and be anyway you want and to hopefully communicate to me what we can do to make this situation better. Um, because let’s be clear. This is violence. People are going to die because of what happened.” He raises the spectre of people dying because of indirect “state violence” in the form of a rewrite of Obamacare, the spectre of “direct state violence” in the form of intervention in “non-white communities.” He claims to have seen swastikas and to have heard kids in York, Pennsylvania, where he lives, shouting “white power.” “That is not my democracy,” he states. The tape ends there.
After his rant went public, Jesse Watters of Fox News tried to get an interview with Parry. But the chair of the Department of Communications didn’t feel like communicating:
Needless to say, Parry is entitled to his political opinions. But to force those opinions on his students when he’s being paid to teach communications is a totally inappropriate move. To tell his students that some of them are powerful solely by virtue of their gender and sex and that some of them are powerless for the same reason is reprehensible. And to tell those students that it’s legitimate for them to respond to Trump’s election victory in “any way [they] want” is to condone the very violence that Parry claims to be so terrified of.
Parry claims to believe in liberal democracy, but this is not how teachers in a liberal democracy are supposed to speak to their students. By the way, what kind of an example does it set for his communications students that, when confronted by the nation’s most-watched news network about his classroom conduct, he was apparently incapable of doing so?
[UPDATE, March 23, 2017: The video of Parry’s rant, which earlier was available on You Tube and linked to here, has now disappeared down the memory hole.]