Sunday, October 26, 2008

Censorship, guns, and Lone Star College Tomball

Lone Star College Tomball, a small college in Texas, is at the center of criticism by various right-wing groups for perceived censorship. The college's branch of Young Conservatives of Texas distributed a "satirical" "gun-safety flier" for which they are now in trouble. The branch may be put under probation at the school and the students may face disciplinary action. While this has received some attention in right-wing blogs, so far the go to source is from that bastion of fair and balanced news World Net Daily.

I am normally strongly against anything resembling censorship, but in this case the circumstances are not clear cut. The list of safety tips included "Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, such as at a Hippy or a Communist". Now, I'm not going to discuss the fact that this sounds like it was from 1965 other than to speculate that possibly Tomball is so isolated that the upheaval of the 60s is just starting to reach there. I'm not going to discuss that the Cold War is over. (And Emily, if you are reading this- as far as I'm concerned I still think that communism in most of its variations a threat to basic liberties and to humanity and all remarks about what to do when at war still apply. My views on this are absolutely unchanged. Don't think otherwise). I don't need to discuss the abject stupidity of the remark because it is far from what constitutes reasonable political discourse. You don't make jokes about how segments of society are ok to shoot. In this case, it amounts to a borderline threat. This line by itself is simply appalling.

Moreover, I'm disturbed that none of the right-wing groups commenting on this matter have had the good graces to say something like "well, we think this is within free-speech rights but we understand how you would be offended or threatened." These people are joking about how it is ok if students who they don't like get shot. If there is anything that pushes the bounds of acceptable speech, this is it. And I haven't even discussed how the list also included "Don't load your gun unless you are ready to shoot something or are just feeling generally angry." It doesn't take much effort to put these together.

Frankly, I hope that the college does not punish the Young Conservatives. The speech is arguably on the ok side of the border and we should be careful not to impinge on speech even when it is idiotic. But I also have a selfish reason for wanting the college to leave them alone. I really want to see what their next piece is that passes for "humor."


emily said...

what does this have to do with me? did I use terms like "equality" or "social justice" at such formative age that you now associate any words stemming from the latin "equus,equa, equum" or "socius socia socium" with me?

Joshua said...

No the connection is merely to the discussion from 8th grade about the morality/ethics of how to deal with agents of communist powers. If you recall, in the original context of in The Things They Carried in which O'Brien kills the Viet-Cong soldier who doesn't even know they are there. Since this came up again at reunion again it relevant.

Teo said...

Wow, this thread makes me wish I had been at reunion! I still remember the study hall with no proctor which resembled more of a talk show than anything else, haha.