Controversy has erupted at Brigham Young University (BYU) after a popular social media activist group on campus falsely accused a fellow student of “harassment” and “stalking.”
A group of students on BYU’s campus known as the “Black Menaces” have gone viral online for their man-on-the-street interviews posted primarily on Instagram and TikTok. The group, which is unaffiliated with the university, conducts on-campus interviews with BYU students that center primarily around race, culture, and religion.
The incident began when Sebastian Stewart-Johnson, a member of the Black Menaces, posted multiple videos alleging harassment on campus while recording an interview. He explained that a BYU staff member and fellow student approached him and instructed him to stop filming. When Stewart-Johnson continued his filming, the student, Jacob Christensen, followed him and at times quietly stood in front of the camera. Stewart-Johnson then accused Christensen of “terrorizing” him for this behavior.
In a series of videos published afterward, Stewart-Johnson described this behavior as harassment and even referred to it as “stalking.” However, it was later revealed that the behavior of the Black Menaces was in direct violation of the campus’ video recording policy.
As a private university, BYU has specific rules regarding filming on campus. The policy grants the university the right to determine access to campus property and how it is used for filming and photography. According to the university, individuals cannot film on campus and use the footage for purposes such as “promotional, marketing, commercial, advocacy, or similar purposes.” In essence, filming for monetization or political advocacy is prohibited.
The Black Menaces have asserted that they do not monetize their content, but this claim has come under scrutiny. Christensen is the editor-in-chief of The Cougar Chronicle, a conservative alternative to the campus’ left-leaning newspaper. In a response posted on Instagram, The Cougar Chronicle unpacked multiple false claims that the Black Menaces have made regarding their filming.
Stewart-Johnson has claimed that the group does not monetize off the content they post from filming on BYU’s campus. However, this is not the case. The group has posted a video on campus promoting their merchandise. Their social media accounts also have links for viewers to purchase merchandise and make donations. Stewart-Johnson argues that he does not make any money from ad revenue on the Black Menaces’ video. However, members of The Cougar Chronicle are skeptical about whether or not this is true.
Additionally, Stewart-Johnson claims that his group does not engage in political advocacy. When viewing the videos posted by the Black Menaces, it is clear that their videos often present a clear narrative of political activism. The group’s Instagram bio also reads, “The revolution will be televised.”
The Black Menaces have a clear motive to portray white students at BYU as being ignorant and naive. The group will also ask specific questions designed to mock the students for being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). Christensen has also claimed that some students featured in the Black Menaces’ videos did not provide consent to having their conversations posted online.
Comments on the Black Menaces’ videos have included calls for violence against students featured in the videos. Even more troubling, the group has liked a handful of these comments, including one that stated Christensen deserves a “swift hit to the jaw.”
According to Christensen, a BYU police officer has stated that he has not seen anything online to indicate Stewart-Johnson was harassed. Christensen has also informed TPUSA that numerous students have begun filing complaints with the university regarding the actions of the Black Menaces, and it appears that these complaints will be taken seriously by the administration.
Researched and edited by Hayden Cunningham
This piece first appeared at TPUSA.