Friday, November 02, 2007

Free Speech

Well this is the serious rant I was going to do yesterday. Two things in the news this week that I thought were good for some unpopular but critical thinking.

First off something that received very little air play except amongst the talking heads of the far-right. A question as to the University of Delaware attempting to enforce pc thinking upon students. Because most of the news I first saw was on highly biased sources I somewhat dismissed it. Then I saw reports elsewhere and finally reports of denial on the part of UD that made me sure there was some truth to it.

UD's residence-hall educational program came under fire this week from the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a civil-liberties advocacy group that monitors freedom of speech issues on campuses nationally. Some parents and Jan Blits, a professor in UD's freshman honors program and president of the Delaware Association of Scholars, brought the program to FIRE's attention. Blits called for the university to abandon its "illegal attempt to change the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of students."

The program, which is about 4 years old, includes one-on-one meetings between students and resident assistants as well as group sessions, where a wide range of topics including race relations and sexual identity are discussed.
In a letter to FIRE posted on UD's Web site, Michael Gilbert, vice president for student life, said the program was misrepresented by FIRE and that some objections were based on statements taken out of context from an August training session for resident assistants. But Gilbert also acknowledged that some approaches used by staff members were "missteps" and some language -- including references to student response to "treatment" -- could be misunderstood.
Aldrich said other exercises made many students feel uncomfortable. In one, she said, students were asked if they approved of such things as affirmative action or gay marriage. If they did, they would join students on one side of the room. If they didn't, they would join students on the other side of the room. They were not permitted to explain their reasons or to answer "I don't know," she said.

"We had a strong urge to debate back and forth, tell each other why we chose this and sort out each other's views," she said. "But at the end, we were told the exercise was designed so that we could not have debate, that a lot of times in life you don't have the opportunity to express your opinion. There was a lot of pent-up tension from that."

I'm amazed when seemingly liberal intelligent people attempt to label the opinions of others as wrong and then try to censor them. If you're a real believer in what you say then let the opposition speak, surely your arguments can stand up. Universities have become some of the worst offenders oddly enough. Places that once claimed to be the bastions of free speech have run amok. But it's just as much a rightwing tactic too. Our elected official no long face the wrath of protesters. Their handlers manage to create the Orwellian 'Free Speech Zone', a fenced in area located away from the adoring supporters. It's for their safety you know.

The most troubling story however was the $11 million dollar judgment against Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church.

There is no way for me to express my total and complete disdain for this scum. He's a nut job. His opinions are abhorred by practically everyone no matter what your political leanings may be.

But the judgment handed down this week is wrong. It's all feel good. It will probably get overturned. It's a free speech issue that even when almost everyone is opposed to you you still have the right to be a fool. I know there are lots who will argue with me that it's hate speech and that isn't free speech. Oh, and who will decide that? Government? Please, that's exactly how you lose those rights.
There are ways to combat idiots.

That's The Patriot Guard. A group of bikers (many veterans) who turn out to counter Phelps and shield the families from him.

BTW Veterans Day comes up on the 11th of this month. In spite of what you may think of war or the military in general, individual soldiers deserve our respect. Most of them are just the grunts doing the work, risking their lives and far too often dieing for the rest of us.



Blogger laura linger said...

The Patriot Guard were at my brother's funeral in May. They were really cool guys...the only aspect of the whole thing that I could really stomach. TPG also shielded the families from the media, if we asked them to do so, and there were times when we did.

7:38 AM, November 05, 2007  

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