Dateline: Wisconsin. At the University of Wisconsin-Stout, theater professor James Miller put up a poster on his door with an image of Nathan Fillion in the character of Captain Malcolm Reynolds with one of Mal's better lines: "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed."
In a better world, nothing would happen — except perhaps Firefly fans would geek out and people who roll their eyes at geek culture references would roll their eyes.
But this is modern America. In modern America, the Browncoats are people who like to use vigorous figurative language to speak their mind, and they are often outnumbered and outgunned by the Alliance, made up of silly, professionally frightened moral and intellectual weaklings who see expressions of dissent (particularly dissent rendered in vivid figurative terms) as upsetting and potentially all terroristy.
So naturally the campus police at University of Wisconsin-Stout went all Mrs.-Grundy-With-A-Gun-And-A-Badge on Professor Miller. They threatened Prof. Miller with criminal charges for disorderly conduct, taking a page from the cops at Sam Houston state. They also took the poster down. The redoubtable FIRE has the story and has sent the necessary letter asking the University to grow the fuck up and pull its shit together. (That might be kind of a paraphrase by me.)
FIRE describes how the UWS cops and administration, confronted with their idiocy, doubled down in classic fashion:
Later on September 16, Miller placed a new poster on his office door in response to Walter's censorship. The poster read "Warning: Fascism" and included a cartoon image of a silhouetted police officer striking a civilian. The poster mocked, "Fascism can cause blunt head trauma and/or violent death. Keep fascism away from children and pets."
Astoundingly, Walter escalated the absurdity. On September 20, Walter emailed Miller again, stating that her office had removed the poster because it "depicts violence and mentions violence and death." She added that UWS's "threat assessment team," in consultation with the university general counsel's office, had decided to have the poster removed, and that this poster was reasonably expected to "cause a material and/or substantial disruption of school activities and/or be constituted as a threat." College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Interim Dean Raymond Hayes has scheduled a meeting with Miller about "the concerns raised by the campus threat assessment team" for this Friday.
My days of taking UWS Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter seriously are certainly coming to a middle. Strike that, they've gone past the middle. She's too ignorant of fundamental American rights and too mindlessly thuggish to have a badge or a gun. If Dean Raymond Hayes' meeting with Professor Miller consists of anything other than Hayes buying Miller a beer and saying "Christ, I'm sorry, that cop's a lunatic," then I'll have no respect for Hayes either.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017
- I write letters - June 1st, 2017