Thursday, December 29, 2016
Speech ferment in Oklahoma
Last November 14, a professor from the History of Science Department found two racist posters in university buildings. The posters were titled "Why White Women Shouldn't Date Black Men" and "Race and Intelligence: the Facts." The professor photographed these flyers, posted the images on Twitter, and then took them down. Ironically, by publicly posting images of the posters the good professor succeeded in publicizing their message. What might have been viewed by only a handful of people was instead seen by thousands.
Removing the posters set a terrible example for students. The implied lesson was that you don't have to defeat ideas you disagree with by reasoned argument -- you are entitled to suppress them by force. Subsequently the Faculty Senate declared that toleration of hate speech was antithetical to "the pursuit of learning [and] the creation of art and knowledge." Members of the OU community were advised to report incidents of hate speech to the OU Police Department. Collectively, the OU Faculty Senate has the intelligence of a flock of turkeys. But to assert that intolerance is essential to teaching and research plumbs a new low.
Attempts to suppress hate speech are extremely troublesome. For starters, there is no objective or legal definition of hate speech. In practice, hate speech can be anything people find offensive. On the OU campus, if you say something as innocuous as 'I support Trump," a number of people would consider this to be hate speech. Hate speech is also protected by the First Amendment. People do not have a right to make specific and credible threats or incite violence, but they do have a right to express personal opinions that are both wrong and offensive. Pity the poor police officer who receives a report of alleged hate speech. How is he or she to respond? Not only is there no statute outlawing hate speech, it's a crime to deprive individuals of their First Amendment rights under color of authority.
Not only is the University of Oklahoma campus a hotbed of racial hysteria, it's also home to the dreaded scourge of Islamophobia. According to a report in the OU Daily, on November 15, an unidentified person handed a Chick Tract titled "Camel's In the Tent" to a female professor from Lebanon. A Chick Tract is a short evangelical Christian pamphlet. Distributing Chick Tracts is a common form of Christian proselytizing. Over the last fifty years, approximately 800 million Chick Tracts have been printed and distributed. They are very common.
Evidently the professor who received a copy of "Camel's In the Tent" had never seen a Chick Tract before. Because the content of the pamphlet made her feel "uncomfortable," she reported the incident to the OU Police. Irony coated the professor's account like two inches of freezing rain in an Oklahoma winter storm. She professed that she "came to this country because I believe in American values," and then preached "we need to reach out [to people] and listen to their fears."
But she didn't reach out and listen to fears about Islam or Islamic terrorism. She called the police! The professor also failed to grasp that freedom of religion and speech are core American values. In the United States of America we don't call the police on people who are engaged in Christian proselytizing. That's what they do in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
It gets worse. In October of 2015 a monument recognizing the Ten Commandments was removed from the grounds of the Oklahoma State Capitol because Section II-5 of the Oklahoma Constitution states that "no public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion." But this has not stopped the University of Oklahoma from setting aside a room in their Bizzell Library dedicated to Muslim prayer. Although the room is described as a "reflection room" open to everyone, it's sectarian nature is indicated unambiguously by the fact that it's stocked with copies of the Koran and pamphlets on Islam.
While conservatives view leftists as people with bad ideas, leftists don't look upon conservatives as people who even have ideas -- they're just bad people who must be rooted out, suppressed, and excluded. This quest has now superseded any pretense to education. The OU Campus is in the grip of a moral frenzy, the very definition of a witch hunt.