Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Weirdest Campus Censorship Case Yet!

... and it happened this semester, in a philosophy department right here in Wisconsin. It makes me proud to be a cheesehead.

A graduate student at Marquette University posted this quote from Dave Barry on his office door:

"As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government."

The department chair, one James South, summarily removed it, explaining after the fact that he had received "several complaints" about it and that it is "patently offensive."

Sheesh! What the heck am I missing? Why is this patently (which I believe means obviously) offensive? After all, it is very close to being literally true! It barely even counts as satire, which requires that the truth be exaggerated. I guess some people, including this Professor South (damn, there's got to be a pun there somewhere), literally worship the state as a god.

Clearly, there is simply no telling when someone, somewhere is going to be offended. If you are thinking of spending your life trying not to offend anyone, give up! That's one battle you can only lose!

By the way, South's email justifying his action, which you can find at the above link, is a remarkable document. It is effusive about how he's in favor of academic freedom and free speech -- but he adds that the halls of the philosophy department are not "a free speech zone." In other words: I'm all for free speech, but you don't have it here!

This is something that will never cease to amaze me: in our culture, censorship rules and acts of censorship are generally clothed in endorsements of free speech and denials that we are censoring anything. If you want to know whether someone is for freedom, pay no attention to what they say about it. Look at what they do. If you know how to read their actions, they will tell you the whole story.

No comments: