Friday, April 21, 2006

'Free speech' cries ring hollow on college campuses and beyond

By Nat Hentoff
Wed Apr 19, 6:56 AM ET

Oliver Wendell Holmes: "If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought - not free thought for those who agree with us, but freedom for the thought that we hate."

Karen Murdock is an adjunct professor of geography and earth science at Century College, a two-year community college in White Bear Lake, Minn.

She often posts news articles and blank comment sheets on a faculty bulletin board that she says she hopes students read and argue about - and thereby think beyond White Bear Lake into the world.

In February, she posted an array of the inflammatory cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that offended not only Muslim students but also college administrators. Murdock's exercise of free speech was eventually silenced, yet her cause echoes well beyond White Bear Lake.

While the most embattled cartoons in the history of that genre have receded from the front pages, the fallout lives on. Just last week, the animated and often-controversial South Park television show took on the issue and was rebuffed when its creators tried to depict the prophet in a scene.

Instead, a black screen appeared with the words, "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

It's more of the same in academia. New York University, for example, states that it is "committed to maintaining an environment where open, vigorous debate and speech can occur." But late last month, the Objectivist Club, a student group that supports the philosophy of Ayn Rand, discovered that the NYU policy is more situational than firm.

The club wanted to have a panel discussion, "Free Speech and the Danish Cartoons," but after protests from Muslim groups, the NYU administration insisted that the controversy could be discussed without showing the cartoons. When the club disagreed, NYU then imposed such limiting conditions on the club - including who could attend the discussion - that the club finally "chose" not to show them. ("Chose" is the administration's interpretation of the decision.)



JustinOther said...

Why is it that, although fobidden in Islam, those who are not adherents to Islam cannot show an image of Muhammed? Do Christians riot when Muslims call Jesus a false prophet (or at least not the last one)?

I feel bad for those who would "give up freedom for safety" thereby deserving neither. I had actually considered posting the cartoon on my blog, but decided against it only because it got so much coverage elsewhere. I almost feel like posting it as an expression of my right to free speech.

If groups like the KKK can exist in this country and spread hatred of blacks, Jews, etc., then why is it so heinous to show an image of Muhammed?

I know, I know...religion is untouchable.

Stardust said...

It seems that many people here are most concerned with giving Islam special treatment...out of fear and intimidation? Is the threat of suicide bombers working? I know I have sort of fallen into that thinking..."don't provoke them and maybe they will just go away"...

We make fun of Jeebus all the time...Monty Python made whole movies spoofing Xianity. Cartoonists satirize xianity all the time. There are no riots in the streets or killings. Maybe that is the other religions have retaliated with such hate and violence in our time. How are we to handle this? Seems like they are getting their way and interferring with our basic freedoms in OUR OWN LANDS.

JustinOther said...

Are you saying that terrorism is working? I'd agree with that assessment. Don't forget your plastic sheeting and duct tape!!


Stardust said...

I think a lot of people are fearful and the terrorist tactics seem to be affecting many people psychologically.

Evan Taylor said...

I think a lot of people are fearful and the terrorist tactics seem to be affecting many people psychologically.

Shh! Don't give the Xians any ideas!

Jason H. Bowden said...

In the same episode, South Park showed an image of Jesus defecating on George Bush and the American flag. I don't believe in Jesus, and I am not GW's #1 fan, but even I can tell there's a huuuuuuuuuuge double standard in the media.

But as long as religious fundamentalists of the Islamic variety remain the left's new adopted proletariat, the double standard will continue. I wish the left would join conservatives and support secular arabs like Dr. Wafa Sultan, but I guess an educated secular woman isn't as cool as bloodthirsty killers from an authentic, "interesting tradition."

Stardust said...

Jason - That's a great article. I think I am going to do a post about it. People don't hear about "secular" arabs very often in the media.

Marcguyver said...

I have to say that I for one am not intimidated by any 'fruity' terrorist threatening me or anyone else for showing pictures of Muhammed; hence the reason I posted and commented about it on my site.

Anyway; the only reason bullies, thugs, and punks exist, is because the rest of us 'victims' let them. That's why I love 'Cop' work. I can't stand abusers and bullys; they're a bunch of cowards!

That's what terrorism is: COWARDICE. They aren't man enough to face off with the enemy; and will only operate in ways where they hide their faces and make sure they're not outnumbered. Just like a school bully; as soon as he is confronted with someone who is willing to stand up to him/her (especially if they are bigger), they run away and hide.

Bottom line for me....someone has to make 'em stop and show them that only the weak are going to be willing to put up with their crap!