Graphic credit: Reason Magazine
by James A. Bacon
When Emma Camp was a student at the University of Virginia in 2020, she heard the tale of Morgan Bettinger, another UVa student, who was said to have approached left-wing protesters in downtown Charlottesville and threatened to make “speed bumps” of them.
The story, says Camp, was repeatedly endlessly on social media — group chats, Instagram posts, and viral tweets — and then leaped to local television and print media. Bettinger was criticized, ostracized, made to fear for her safety, and ultimately punished by UVa’s student judiciary committee.
After graduating, Camp became an assistant editor of Reason magazine. In that capacity, she has written an in-depth article in the June 2023 issue demonstrating that the story she’d heard at UVa was a fabrication– the outgrowth of social-media rumor mongering run amok.
The article. “How an Ill-Informed Internet Mob Ruined a UVA Student’s Life,” does a brilliant job of tracing the trajectory of that lie from the actual events through the social-media postings by militant UVa activist Zyahna Bryan, to the amplification of the charges by other local activist groups, local journalists and even UVa faculty.
“This is the story of a rumor mill that rushed to collective judgment, a pervasive climate of anger and outrage, a weak campus administration, and a unique higher-ed justice system that faltered just when it was most needed,” Camp writes. “It’s the story of a woman who was informally ostracized and formally sanctioned for a story that seemingly everyone on campus had heard and believed, but which was never proven.” Continue reading