“I work too hard, I care too much, and sometimes I can be too invested in my job,” Michael Scott, Steve Carell’s character on The Office, tells his boss, describing his supposed weaknesses. And his strengths? “My weaknesses are actually strengths.”

This is, essentially, how mainstream political reporters are approaching the challenge of campus pro-Hamas protesters. “Why is the simplest explanation of campus protests so hard to accept?” asks the headline on a Philip Bump column for the Washington Post. That simplest explanation? That young people just care so darn much about the Palestinians. “Why is that ignored?”

There are an array of answers to Bump’s question but we can start with the simplest: Reporters asked the protesters why they were there, and the protesters didn’t know. Literally. As I wrote recently:

Here is the response of an NYU protester when asked what the main goal of the protest is: “I think the goal is just showing our support for Palestine and demanding that NYU stops—I honestly don’t know all of what NYU’s doing.”

She then turns for help to a fellow protester and asks “Do you know what NYU’s doing?”

“About what?” responds Protester 2.

“About Israel,” says Protester 1. “Why are we protesting?”

To which Protester 2 says: “I wish I was more educated.”

When students were polled on the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” fewer than half of those who said they support the phrase could name the river and the sea.

Recently, Peggy Noonan asked one of the campers at the protest for her perspective, and the young lady responded: “I’m not trained.” Thus ensued a chorus of progressive pundits insisting that the student’s admitted ignorance of the talking points surrounding her protest was a stroke of brilliance, because such passionate demonstrators should always defer to trained public-relations professionals when asked if they know why they are standing where they are standing.

It’s easy to laugh at this spin, and in fact it is important to laugh at this spin, because it is hilarious. But the idea that cogs should defer to the media arm of their movement suggests it’s not really a spontaneous protest by people who, per Michael Scott and Philip Bump, simply care too much. What they are describing is a professional organization atop a warm body of lemmings.

Which brings us to another answer for Bump: that’s exactly what they are, as Tablet’s Park MacDougald lays out, noting the network of dark-money Democratic donors pouring fuel on the fire.

That doesn’t mean the demonstrators are necessarily paid to be there or know much if anything about the organizing. In fact, as we’ve already established, most of the demonstrators can accurately be described as knowing nothing about anything. That’s not such a problem, because the student protests are only partially student protests; the campers just import radicals who know the talking points and how to violently occupy other people’s property. A quarter of the Columbia University activists arrested for doing just that had no affiliation at all with the university. More than half of those arrested at the City College of New York were unaffiliated with the school. Other schools found similar numbers.

One of those arrested at Columbia was serial anarchist troublemaker James Carlson, a man-child of privilege who for two decades has roused the rabble at whatever protest movement is hot at the moment. Lisa Fithian, a “protest consultant” who also shows up to help organize any progressive cause in need—isn’t the free market great?—was also at the Columbia demonstration. Planning for the encampments appears to have begun back in November, with the aid of Students for a Democratic Society.

As Jonathan Schanzer points out, it couldn’t have hurt to have the wife of Sami al-Arian, who was deported after pleading guilty to his involvement with the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad, on hand for the Columbia protesters. Same goes for the encampment participation of American Muslims for Palestine director Osama Abu Irshaid, who “figured prominently on the Hamas military wing’s website in 2014 during the 51-day war with Israel.”

It’s safe to bet that Osama Abu Irshaid cares deeply for the Palestinians. Unfortunately for Bump, Irshaid doesn’t exactly fit the bill as a student overcome by his sympathy for Gaza.

The one debatable aspect here is what it means to care for Gaza, or have sympathy for the Palestinians. The encampments are vocally pro-Hamas and against a two-state solution, so if you’re a supporter of Palestinian self-determination these protesters are trying to stand in your way. These demonstrations also want Hamas left in power in Gaza. I am not a Palestinian in Gaza, and I do not assume to speak for them, but it is certainly the case that many Palestinians there have expressed their deep opposition to living under Hamas’s totalitarian thumb. Sympathy for such Palestinians is not a motivating factor in the formation of these encampments.

Then of course there’s the fact that many of these demonstrators are consumed by anti-Semitism to the exclusion of pretty much anything else. They are chanting and marching against the Jews—not Israel, but the Jews—because they hate Jews.

“Sympathy for the Palestinians,” it turns out, is among the least-likely reasons one might find themselves at the tentifada.

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