It rocketed across the Internet a week ago, a startling newspaper report that agents from the US Department of Homeland Security had visited a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth at his New Bedford home simply because he had tried to borrow Mao Tse-Tung's ''Little Red Book" for a history seminar on totalitarian goverments. . . .
But yesterday, the student confessed that he had made it up after being confronted by the professor who had repeated the story to a Standard-Times reporter.
The professor, Brian Glyn Williams, said he went to his former student's house and asked about inconsistencies in his story. The 22-year-old student admitted it was a hoax, Williams said.
''I made it up," the professor recalled him saying. ''I'm sorry. . . . I'm so relieved that it's over."
The student was not identified in any reports. The Globe interviewed him Thursday but decided not to write a story about his assertion, because of doubts about its veracity. The student could not be reached yesterday.
Williams said the student gave no explanation. But Williams, who praised the student as hard-working and likeable, said he was shaken by the deception.
''I feel as if I was lied to, and I have no idea why," said Williams, an associate professor of Islamic history. He said the possibility the government was scrutinizing books borrowed by his students ''disturbed me tremendously."
I'm disturbed tremendously that such a suspicious story was accepted so uncritically by alleged critical thinkers -- and I'm a bit surprised that the student's identity is still being protected. Why shouldn't we know who's behind this?
UPDATE: Tim Blair: "Molly Ivins and James Carville lied to the American people! Well, not really, but they did repeat information that was later shown to be false—which is the same thing, if you’re one of them Bush-hatin’ folks, yessir (must ... stop ... channelling ... Ivins)."