The Daily
The Daily
Oct 2, 2022
The Sunday Read: ‘The Safe Space That Became a Viral Nightmare’
Play • 1 hr 7 min

In September 2021, a group of female minority students at Arizona State University confronted two white male students who were studying in the library’s multicultural center.

The women were upset with what they saw as blatant antagonism: One of the men sported a “Didn’t Vote for Biden” shirt, the other had a “Police Lives Matter” laptop sticker. The women felt they had chosen the multicultural center in order to rile them. A heated row between both parties erupted, a video of which quickly went viral, threatening to upend the lives of all involved.

For The New York Times, Sarah Viren, a journalist and essayist, explored the incident in the context of “the widening gyre of the culture wars.” The row at Arizona State was, she explained, “a symbolic fight,” one that raised questions of “wokeism” and “free speech,” the perils of viral videos, and the purpose of “safe spaces.”

“It was a brief drama that was also a metaphor,” Ms. Viren wrote. “But watching and rewatching that drama unfold from my computer, I kept asking myself: a metaphor for what?”

This story was written by Sarah Viren and recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

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