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No Gun Jokes at Lone Star College-Tomball:

The Young Conservatives of Texas printed a "jocular" flyer of "Top 10 Gun Safety Tips":

Top Ten Gun Safety Tips

10. Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, such as at a Hippy or a Communist.

9. Dumb children might get a hold of your guns and shoot each other. If your children are dumb, put them up for adoption to protect your guns.

8. No matter how responsible he seems, never give your gun to a monkey.

7. If guns make you nervous, drink a bottle of whiskey before heading to the range.

6. While unholstering your weapon, it's customary to say "Excuse me while I whip this out."

5. Don't load your gun unless you are ready to shoot something or are just feeling generally angry.

4. If your gun misfires, never look down the barrel to inspect it.

3. Never us your gun to pistol whip someone. That could mar the finish.

2. No matter how excited you are about buying your first gun, do not run around yelling "I have a gun! I have a gun!"

1. And the most important rule of gun safety: Don't piss me off.

The response was predictable (even for Texas)--hysteria. According to FIRE:

According to YCT Chairman Robert Comer, Program Manager for Student Activities Shannon Marino told him that the flyer was inappropriate and confiscated the flyers. Comer appealed to Dean of Student Development E. Edward Albracht, but Albracht also said the flyer was inappropriate and invoked last year's shootings at Virginia Tech. In response, Comer made new flyers without the "Top Ten" theme and distributed them for the remainder of the club rush.

The college's efforts to censor YCT's expression did not end there. On September 11, Marino informed Comer that the school's legal department would be reviewing the flyers and that afterward, the school might disband YCT or put the group on probation for the year—simply because of the recruitment flyer.

FIRE wrote Lone Star College--Tomball President Raymond Hawkins on September 26, reminding him of the college's constitutional obligation not to subject YCT to prosecution and censorship. FIRE noted that as a public college, Lone Star College--Tomball is required to respect the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and to acknowledge that the flyer's contents constitute protected speech. FIRE asked President Hawkins to respond by October 10.

On October 14, FIRE received an e-mail from Brian S. Nelson, General Counsel for the Lone Star College System. Nelson stated that any "mention of firearms and weapons" is inherently a "material interference with the operation of the school or the rights of others" because such language "brings fear and concern to students, faculty and staff." Nelson also stated that "the tragedy of Virginia Tech cannot be underestimated when it comes to speech relating to firearms—however 'satirical and humorous' the speech may be perceived by some."

So because of "the tragedy of Virginia Tech" we now have a new exception to the First Amendment for "speech relating to firearms"? There is no serious argument here that the Young Conservatives were threatening anybody, so this really is nothing more than "speech relatinig to firearms."

And do we really believe that Lone Star's policy is that any "mention" of firearms "brings fear and concern" to the university campus? What about the e-mail from General Counsel Nelson--doesn't that "mention" firearms? What about any rules or regulations that the college has that governs bringing guns on campus--do those "mention" firearms? Are we now in the world of the Knights Who Say "Nee" such that any mention of the the word "firearm" creates pain and anguish for the entire university community?

And what about student speech that advocates stricter gun control laws or stricter gun policies at Lone Star--is that banned under the rule? Stricter regulation of guns would make me nervous about my safety. Or is it only speech that could be perceived as being supportive of gun rights? What else do they think they can do--create an exception to the 4th Amendment to engage in random (or non-random) strip searches of students to make sure they aren't carrying concealed weapons?

If I follow this logic, then "because of the tragedy of 9/11" Lone Star could restrict any "speech related to Islam." Or because of "the tragedy of 9/11" we could create an exception to the 4th Amendment or the 6th Amendment or the 8th Amendment.

If we are dealing with a bona fide threat, that of course is one thing. But c'mon, jokes about giving guns to monkeys and "don't look into the barrel of your gun to inspect it" could lead to disciplinary action against these kids? Absurd.

More generally, this is the sort of thing that I suspect we'll see more of in coming years--overzealous college administrators invoking the Virginia Tech tragedy to try to shut down any pro-gun speech on campus.

Update:

Patent Lawyer suggests an important admendment to the original post that I am happy to accept:

The better Monty Python reference is to "Life of Brian", where the guy is stoned for blasphemy for saying, "That fish was good enough for Jehovah." And then the official overseeing the stoning gets stoned himself for saying the word "Jehovah".

jpe (mail):
I believe the preferred spelling is "hippie," not "hippy."
10.20.2008 12:49pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Whatever works.

I have a question about this stuff. Either the moronadministrator feels strongly about this stuff--and why would an adult be so stupid except for being a college admnistrator--or he is reacting to a group on campus which sees an opportunity to stifle the free speech of a group they don't like and whines to the administrator.
Who knows that conservative groups don't make nearly as much fuss as radiclibs, in part because nobody on campus or in the local media sympathizes with conservatives so the conservative effort would be endothermic (metaphor alert) rather than exothermic.
Which was it in this case?
10.20.2008 12:55pm
cboldt (mail):
Reminds me of a joke. What's red and orange and looks good on a hippie?
.
Fire.
.
It's one of those assault-jokes, having a substitutable butt. E.g., replace "hippies" with "overzealous college administrators" and recycle. Democrats can substitute "Republicans" or "right-wing Christian zealots."
10.20.2008 12:55pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
cboldt.
Yeah. Try complaining to a moronadministrator if one of your last two suggestions were taken.
10.20.2008 12:58pm
Federal Dog:
"Are we now in the world of the Knights Who Say "Nee" such that any mention of the the word "firearm" creates pain and anguish for the entire university community?"


Yes. And it's been that way for a long while.
10.20.2008 1:02pm
George Lyon (mail):
I can only quote Bugs Bunny, "What a moroon."
10.20.2008 1:04pm
DangerMouse:
More liberals trying to censor people. Does this surprise anyone anymore?
10.20.2008 1:09pm
Patent Lawyer:
While I agree with everything in the post, 2 references are a little off:

1. "Excuse me while I whip this out" actually involved whipping out a piece of paper, not a firearm (from "Blazing Saddles")--and the original joke was far dirtier (and better.)

2. The better Monty Python reference is to "Life of Brian", where the guy is stoned for blasphemy for saying, "That fish was good enough for Jehovah." And then the official overseeing the stoning gets stoned himself for saying the word "Jehovah".
10.20.2008 1:10pm
Nony Mouse (mail):
There's only one person I can think of who has a really good case against publishing this: Frank J, the original author of that list. I don't know if they got permission, but I certainly didn't see any attribution. Plagiarism is the only problem I see.
And since they're from Texas, they might remind Mr. Nelson that during the University of Texas sniper attacks, it was armed civilians who fought back that greatly limited the damage done, and also supported the police. If Virginia Tech had had armed civilians in place, how many fewer casualties would there have been?
10.20.2008 1:16pm
cboldt (mail):
-- More liberals trying to censor people. --
.
It's not censorship of people. If it was censorship, it would be censorship of a message. But it can't be censorship if it's mission is to influence policy. Viola, legitimacy to the administrator's edict, all for the chillun'.
.
A note for the impaired readers: those comments are meant to be taken as bitter sarcasm, and a not subtle criticism of the intolerant gun-phobic left.
10.20.2008 1:16pm
Deoxy (mail):
Are we now in the world of the Knights Who Say "Nee" such that any mention of the the word "firearm" creates pain and anguish for the entire university community?

Yes. And it's been that way for a long while.


QFT. Petty left-ist tyrants, wishing for more power.
10.20.2008 1:22pm
John (mail):
I often wonder why FIRE doesn't seek to have these institutions placed in receivership. But at least they are on the case, so we can expect that the right outcome will, eventually, be realized.
10.20.2008 1:25pm
Houston Lawyer:
I like the list.

I used to hang a silhouette target through which I had shot a particularly tight group over the glass on the back door of my townhome. That would make a nice dorm-room window covering at this hayseed institution.
10.20.2008 1:31pm
DangerMouse:
I often wonder why FIRE doesn't seek to have these institutions placed in receivership. But at least they are on the case, so we can expect that the right outcome will, eventually, be realized.

FIRE must think that these problems are best resolved peacefully, as opposed to litigation. Given the liberal bent of the Courts, it's probably a good strategy to avoid placing your case before a liberal judge willing to create an illegal exception to the 1st Amendment regarding guns. You'd have to be stupid to plead such a case before the judges these days. Still, I wish that these administrators suffered some personal hardship for trampling on people's rights so often.
10.20.2008 1:34pm
Calculated Risk:
Well, first off all, I want to say that out of the VC bloggers, I like Toddy Zywicki the least. He strikes me as a particular irritating defender of unethical practices by credit card companies. Given his generally extreme and nonsensical nature of his views, I am naturally inclined to disagree with him.

This case brings up mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I could understand how a poster saying that it is okay to point a gun at a Hippy or a Communist might make someone who falls into one of those categories very uncomfortable, even threatened. I can even imagine scenarios where students feel intimidated and do not express views that might be interpreted by some to fall into these categories. How exactly does the probably unintentional intimidation resulting from these fliers advance education? Shouldn't people feel safe when expressing non-mainstream views, such as those associated with Hippies or Communists?

On the other hand, it seems likely that there is no threat intended.

So, the question arises. When your actions could be interpreted as a threat by sensitive members of the community, but you do not intend it to be a threat, should that language be subject to curtailment?

Well, before we get to an answer to that question, I think it is important to consider the university in a historical context. It used to be that universities much more tightly regulated student behavior, including and especially on issues having to do with morals. Back in the day, the university would serve as a substitute parent in the absence of the real thing. Even public universities were a little heavy-handed. For some reason, this was not seen as a huge First Amendment problem. Is there really a First Amendment problem with universities regulating morals from an originalist perspective? I do not know the answer to that question, but I suspect the answer is no. Universities like Harvard and Columbia used to be publicly supported, and I bet at the time of the founding they were quite paternalistic towards their students. On the other hand, this is before incorporation, so how much help does that give us? It seems likely, however, that the founders probably would never have imagined that the First Amendment would be used to prevent universities from regulating morals in the absence of parents.

Before talking further about universities, lets think about the high school environment. Should a high school be able to restrict such speech? What if a student, say they are more sensitive than average, felt intimidated by speech like this. So much so that it threatened their ability to concentrate? Surely a high school, public or not, has a right to curtail speech that is disruptive to education. You can't just say "F*ck you" to the teacher. Nor can you threaten other students. Even students who are more sensitive than average have a right to an education. To that extent, it seems to me that high schools should be able to curtail not only speech that the average high school student would find threatening, but also speech that the high school student who was more sensitive than average would find threatening. That said, you clearly have to draw the line somewhere. Speech that would make only the most hypersensitive student feel threatened should not be allowed to be curtailed. But, I do not think that speech that suggests it is okay to point a gun at people with a certain set of beliefs would be that which would threaten only the most hypersensitive people. I think that people who are merely a bit more sensitive than average might be threatened as well.

Well, clearly, the context changes a bit at the university level. University students are kind of sort of adults. (Not really, but lets go with it.) So, perhaps the university should, as a matter of policy allow more emotionally upsetting speech, even if this speech does interfere with the ability of some sensitive students studying. At some point, these sensitive students are just going to have to "get over it" and be able to deal. Nonetheless, in my view, the right and duty of the university to maintain an environment where students can study successfully still exists, and as such, it should be able to curtail speech that a student that is a bit more sensitive than average might find threatening. Now, I should say, as a historical matter, 100 years ago, this would not have been a close question. It would be obvious that the university has the right to curtail offensive student speech. Like I said, universities used to be much more paternalistic before all those "hippies" in the 60s came along and changed the system. It is, whatever else you may think, ironic that these immature conservative college students are using the social transformation caused by the left in order to shield themselves from discipline when they joke about about pointing guns at other students.

Well, this for me is a close case. As such, I am going to have to let a factor that would not usually matter decide the case. Todd Zywicki is defending these threatening jokes. He is not a very sensible person. In particular, I find his views that credit card companies should be able to unilaterally change interest rates on consumers to be absurd. Given that, I am going to have to take the opposite position that he does out of spite.

But, besides having spite on my side, I also have a theory. And this is what it is. These students are in Texas. They do not need to be protected in their conservative speech. They are not a political minority in Texas. If will it to the conservatives in Texas to determine whether they want their universities to discipline these students for these sorts of statements or not. Courts do not need to step in when the political branch is perfectly able to address any problems.

In contrast, if these very same acts were to occur in a university in California, where conservatives are a political minority, I would support a court stepping in to protect these students from discipline. In California, it is at least plausible that adequate protection for conservative speech would be less forthcoming. But, that really doesn't strike me as a plausible claim in Texas.

Overall, the speech that should get the most protection in Texas is liberal speech. And the speech that should get the most protection in California is conservative speech. (To simplify, actually, any speech coming from a minority political perspective should get more protection.) It strikes me as slightly absurd that we have to worry about protecting conservative speech in Texas of all places!
10.20.2008 1:35pm
Lesser Ajax:
Fuck the Draft
10.20.2008 1:37pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
That's not funny
10.20.2008 1:38pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):

On the one hand, I could understand how a poster saying that it is okay to point a gun at a Hippy or a Communist might make someone who falls into one of those categories very uncomfortable, even threatened. I can even imagine scenarios where students feel intimidated and do not express views that might be interpreted by some to fall into these categories. How exactly does the probably unintentional intimidation resulting from these fliers advance education? Shouldn't people feel safe when expressing non-mainstream views, such as those associated with Hippies or Communists? On the other hand, it seems likely that there is no threat intended.


This is exactly right. This is clearly protected free speech (it doesn't fall within the very narrow category of the "true threat").

However, I do think some of the commenters here are minimizing the fact that when you make jokes about how funny it is to shoot people, that's the sort of thing that attracts attention. The most obvious example of this is that the Secret Service will often inquire when someone makes a joke about shooting the President-- even though it's protected speech if it is not a true threat, you can certainly understand why people are a little sensitive and jumpy about this subject.

Well, there are plenty of left of center professors on college campuses (a point that conservatives actually make all the time), and some of them may very well be more than a little uncomfortable when someone makes a joke about shooting leftists on their campus.

In other words, this kind of thing is protected speech, but it isn't to be celebrated.
10.20.2008 1:40pm
CherkyB:
Hah! Ripping off FrankJ from IMAO. I have the T-shirt. It has proven very popular.
10.20.2008 1:45pm
Toby:
I protest George Lyons casual use of an old-time slur against immigrants from San Marino!
10.20.2008 1:47pm
Sarcastro (www):
Won't someone think of the monkeys!
10.20.2008 1:52pm
Frank J. (mail) (www):
Just for the record, I made that top ten list for a t-shirt.

http://www.thoseshirts.com/imaogun.html

Buy it and support free speech!
10.20.2008 1:55pm
Obvious (mail):
Dilan: "even though it's protected speech if it is not a true threat, you can certainly understand why people are a little sensitive and jumpy about this subject."

IANAL, but it doesn't seem too much to expect students (to say nothing of administrators) on COLLEGE CAMPUSES to have sufficient reading skills as to distinguish an OBVIOUS joke from a true threat, even if they don't find the joke funny or appealing.

Would any lawyer here favor admission to law school of anyone so obtuse or emotionally "sensitive" as to be unable to distinguish this writing from a true threat?

Does anyone seriously think if this list were read out in a comedy club the result would be a serious crush of people running for the exists rather than laughter?

It's nice for FIRE to defend, but to stop this sort of thing shouldn't people be suing for personal damages to their reputation and future earnings from being slandered and libeled by college administrators with the associated risks to finishing their education?
10.20.2008 1:59pm
Seamus (mail):

Reminds me of a joke. What's red and orange and looks good on a hippie?
.
Fire.



What's black and tan and looks great on a college administrator?

A doberman.
10.20.2008 2:04pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Obvious:

I have a pretty thick skin, and tend to say "get over it" with respect to a lot of aspects of political correctness. But then, I don't have a lot of experience with people making jokes about shooting me either.

Again, I don't deny that this is protected speech and that this was a joke. But I also don't see why it is that so many commenters here don't understand why people get jumpy (and sometimes go too far to suppress speech) when folks start telling jokes about shooting people.

Do you think the Secret Service shouldn't investigate incidents involving people joking about shooting the President? Do you think the TSA shouldn't investigate jokes made about bombing or hijacking airplanes made at airport security checkpoints?

This is the world we live in. While I am all for the principle that this is protected speech, you folks need to be a lot more realistic about the reaction to jokes about shooting people.
10.20.2008 2:10pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
I believe the preferred spelling is "hippie," not "hippy."
Depends on whether the individual in question has long hair or is overweight.
The most obvious example of this is that the Secret Service will often inquire when someone makes a joke about shooting the President...
Secret Service inquiries don't usually involve confiscating material or threats to disband an organization.

I point out that Lone Star College-Montgomery organization list includes the Second Amendment Academy. (Scroll down)
10.20.2008 2:10pm
Calculated Risk:

IANAL, but it doesn't seem too much to expect students (to say nothing of administrators) on COLLEGE CAMPUSES to have sufficient reading skills as to distinguish an OBVIOUS joke from a true threat, even if they don't find the joke funny or appealing.


I think the problem I have with this is that you fail to recognize that something can both be a joke and a true threat simultaneously. These are not mutually exclusive categories.

Do you think that any Southerners in the bad old days didn't tell jokes about what they were going to do to a black person or what was okay to do to black people right before they actually did such a thing?

I think that a reasonable person could in fact be threatened by a joke, especially when it is directed at a despised or detested group that is viewed as an "other."

Could a Jewish person feel reasonably threatened by jokes about the Holocaust? I think the answer is yes. That something is a joke doesn't mean it isn't also a threat.

Often, the best jokes are those that contain a kernel of truth. Why is this joke about pointing guns at a Hippy or a Communist funny? Would it be funny to tell a joke about pointing a gun at a little old lady or a small child? No, not even to these conservatives. Why? Because it is just mean to talk about pointing guns at little old ladies or small children. And, typically, conservatives do not feel any hostility towards little old ladies and small children. But, the joke about pointing a gun at the Hippy or the Communist IS funny to them, because it reflects a true hostility that they feel towards people with those beliefs.

I agree that college students can be expected to recognize that these are jokes. But the fact is that jokes can also be threats, especially since jokes that are funny are typically funny only when they contain a kernel of truth about something in the world. (Not necessarily a truth about the thing that is being joked about, but a truth about how one feels about that thing.)
10.20.2008 2:13pm
rbj:
I protest this list! My monkey is very responsible with my firearms. Usually. At least when he's not drinking.
10.20.2008 2:14pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
LarryA:

You, like many others, are missing the point of my comment. I know that free speech rights were violated here. I agree that this is protected speech.

What I am objecting to is the celebratory nature of some of the comments above, and the lack of any sort of sensitivity to the fact that people really, truly do get nervous (and for good reason) when you start telling jokes about shooting people.

This is protected speech; but that doesn't mean that it's a great thing that they are telling jokes about shooting people or that people have no right to get nervous about it.
10.20.2008 2:15pm
wfjag:
Bring back the Fairness Doctrine. It's working so well in College Speech Codes.

Same Shannon Marino:


New Mascot Trevor to Meet Students

Lone Star College--Tomball finally has a mascot. Students will the get the opportunity to meet Trevor the Timberwolf Thursday, August 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Lone Star College--Tomball Commons. Shannon Marino, the Lone Star College--Tomball Student Activities Program Manager has known the college needed a mascot since she arrived. "I started working at Tomball College in August of '05," Marino said "At that point TC didn't have a mascot or anything that really inspired school spirit." Marino worked with the Student Government Association and everyone loved the idea but the task of selecting a mascot was initially delayed.
http://tomball.lonestar.edu/119380/
Maybe her next project with the Student Government Association can be holding a Civics class -- one that starts with reading the US Constitution.
10.20.2008 2:15pm
Calculated Risk:

Secret Service inquiries don't usually involve confiscating material or threats to disband an organization.


The Secret Service does not have the same relationship towards individuals as the University has towards its students. In particular, the Secret Service does not have as part of its mission fostering a community or creating a suitable educational environment.
10.20.2008 2:15pm
Fub:
On October 14, FIRE received an e-mail from Brian S. Nelson, General Counsel for the Lone Star College System. Nelson stated that any "mention of firearms and weapons" is inherently a "material interference with the operation of the school or the rights of others" because such language "brings fear and concern to students, faculty and staff."
Maybe Mr. Nelson made an important discovery as a youth -- that running off to join the circus wasn't nearly as rewarding as joining a government institution. The circus requires its clowns to be at least sufficiently skilled to recognize a really bad joke.
10.20.2008 2:18pm
krs:
Sarcastro, if you'd ever been shot by a monkey who seemed really responsible and then turned out to be a little reckless, then you'd understand where the T-shirt designer was coming from.
10.20.2008 2:18pm
DangerMouse:
Given that, I am going to have to take the opposite position that he does out of spite.

Wow. A liberal openly acknowledging his childish nature. Gotta love it.

They do not need to be protected in their conservative speech. They are not a political minority in Texas.

The wages of liberalism is stupididy. Since when do you have to be a minority to have your fundamental rights upheld? What's this, the "rich, white conservative" exception to the Constitution? That only minorities should be protected, while all other non-minorities have their rights routinely violated until they get to vote in new people?

This is what I mean when I say that liberals want their thumb on the scales of justice. They actually believe it's ok to violate rights of people they don't agree with, merely because such people are disfavored by liberals. They don't want blind justice, they want justice for their favored classes.

I said last week that liberalism doesn't believe in equality before the law. Calculated Risk's post is clearly evidence of that.

Courts do not need to step in when the political branch is perfectly able to address any problems.

I'll remember that the next time someone sues the EPA for failure to regulate. Or someone sues the government for anything wishing to promote their pet projects. Lots of liberal lawsuits would get tossed.

In contrast, if these very same acts were to occur in a university in California, where conservatives are a political minority, I would support a court stepping in to protect these students from discipline.

Yeah, sure you'd support it. Right after you're done making a factual finding that Texas conservatives don't get to have their constitutional rights upheld. Not to intentionally cause you a headache, but have you REALLLLLY thought through how you'd implement your "Constitutional Rights only apply to minorities" idea? Wouldn't the judge have to make a factual finding that such a person deserves the protection of the Constitution (as opposed to applying it across the board?) What would be the nature of those findings? Wouldn't the Supreme Court have to decide when a certain class can be protected by the Constitution, and others cannot? This isn't just strict scrutiny. This is denial of rights to certain types of people.

Liberalism - trying to take Constitutional protections away from people they think don't need it.

There's a winning bumper sticker for the Obama campaign.

Overall, the speech that should get the most protection in Texas is liberal speech. And the speech that should get the most protection in California is conservative speech.

That this comment wasn't immediately laughed off this blog shows how bad things are.
10.20.2008 2:22pm
Dudley Sharp (mail):
Thank the Lord that stupid speach is protected, otherwise the presidential debates would be banned.
10.20.2008 2:22pm
Sarcastro (www):
krs just because you're a poor judge of monkey character, doesn't mean you should take it out on a monkey's natural right to overthrow the monkey government when it ceases to serve his monkey needs.
10.20.2008 2:23pm
A.C.:
Most of the things that test the limits of free speech aren't exactly things I would encourage. I generally favor gun rights and oppose the antics of college administrators, but I just don't find the list funny. Or particularly useful as a political statement.

However, I will defend the rights of college students to behave like dingbats if they are so inclined. I will not do the same for college administrators with itchy censorship fingers.
10.20.2008 2:25pm
Obvious (mail):
Dilan, I think the issue here is the OBVIOUSNESS of the joke. It is a TOP TEN list, which in itself after decades of Letterman tells us it's a joke. We're not talking here about some "loner" with obvious lack of social skills muttering under his breath about the President "I'm gonna get him" and later saying "Hey! I was joking!!".

Calculated Risk. Again, IANAL, but I have studied logic. You are simply wrong to say a statement can be both a true threat and a joke. In the sense "joke" is used here, that is simply not true. The same evidence to demonstrate it was a true threat would also prove it wasn't a joke. BTW, I *am* Jewish, but I can hear someone saying "A German guard and a Jew are on a trip to Auschwitz in a miserable storm. The Jew complains about the bad weather. The guard responds, 'Hey. Don't complain. I have to put up with this in BOTH directions!'", and realize this is not some threat to my life.

To summarize my thoughts here: I don't truly believe most people are so grossly unattuned to hearing and understanding jokes. I believe, rather, that many people are strategically posturing in order to gain the social/political/legal advance of victim.
10.20.2008 2:29pm
Obvious (mail):
Please change "advance" in the last line to "advantage". Sorry.
10.20.2008 2:32pm
Calculated Risk:
Dilan,

You are making a good point. Whether you think this speech should be protected or not, it certainly is not the sort of speech that should be celebrated.

Jokes about pointing guns at groups of people you do not like is not cool. (Unless it is terrorists! But that is not because of what they believe, but rather what they do.)
10.20.2008 2:36pm
Sarcastro (www):
[I honestly am surprised at hoe many people are condemning dark humor about people getting shot, etc. I think this was not only protected, but amusing.

I doubt it will lead to anyone get shot.
Or that it trivializes any recent hippy/Communist massacres.
Or that it somehow coarsens our culture any.]
10.20.2008 2:41pm
Zywicki (mail):
Now that I think of it, maybe the real plan here is to disarm the monkeys and other non-human primates so that they don't take over and impose the "Planet of the Apes."
10.20.2008 2:43pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Sez Dangermouse: "The wages of liberalism is stupididy".

No further comment.

Anyone have any actual information about Ms. Marino's, or Misters Hawkins and Nelson's actual political views on any issues? We seem to have here, not surprisingly, a bunch of ad hominem attacks on "librulls", and I'm not necessarily sold on the idea that they're plentiful at Lone Star College Tomball.


I gotta say, the level of discourse here on political subjects generally, and the election in particular, has now descended to a dismayingly low level of snarky-ness; apparently, the Right-Republican commenters, who are, pretty much, the majority here, can no longer even get through a thread without someone's referring to Obama by something other than that name. That, which is roughly at the level of referring to your opponent as "Doo-doo Head", is a far cry from what I found here three or four years ago, when I started reading.

Is it possible that CONSERVATIVES, when they're losing turn out to be the whiners they accuse liberals of being?

I note over at Winds of Change, which used to be less, hmmmm..., cloistered than VC, the following, last week:

In a spirit of community, I offer notice of a kind of ideal for contribution here.

The following, written by Marshal Festus, has been added by Marshal Nort to the Winds Comments Policy.

For the record, here is a Disagreement Hierarchy from Paul Graham's March 2008 essay How to Disagree --

* DH0. Name-calling.
* DH1. Ad Hominem.
* DH2. Responding to Tone.
* DH3. Contradiction.
* DH4. Counterargument.
* DH5. Refutation.
* DH6. Refuting the Central Point.

Read the Whole Thing.

As it pertains to comments at Winds of Change, Resolved:
Higher on the Disagreement Hierarchy is Better.

Head over to the comments policy post if you care to comment on this.

Nonsubstative or OT comments there will be pruned.
10.20.2008 2:46pm
cboldt (mail):
-- Jokes about pointing guns at groups of people you do not like is not cool. (Unless it is terrorists! But that is not because of what they believe, but rather what they do.) --
.
To some people, especially those who engage in resisting communism, there is a thin line between "terrorist" and "communist."
.
The "hippie" line is just plain funny. I know plenty of gun totin' ex-hippies, and I doubt they'd be either intimidated or offended by the line. Oh, they were gun totin' hippies back in the day, and would have had the same reaction.
.
But I hear ya. In your world, hostility to communism is BAD.
10.20.2008 2:46pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
@JFrank

Just for the record, I made that top ten list for a t-shirt.

http://www.thoseshirts.com/imaogun.html

Buy it and support free speech!


Or don't buy it and also support free speech!

Just to be clear, we have the right to disagree with the message or even to call the messenger a psychotic freak or a sick bastard (no offense meant to his mother). I find nothing amusing or socially appropriate in either the message or in the college reaction to it. But that's because we have a different view of ethics and morality and a very different sense of humor. Still, we can agree that the administration crossed the line while the students did not.
10.20.2008 2:48pm
DangerMouse:
That's right, Gouldy. A typo is the same thing as an idiotic legal theory that allows the government to deny people their fundamental constitutional rights. Clearly, your post was the thread-winner. Congrats!
10.20.2008 2:50pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
"Are we now in the world of the Knights Who Say "Nee" such that any mention of the the word "firearm" creates pain and anguish for the entire university community?"


Yes?
10.20.2008 2:53pm
Sarcastro (www):

A typo is the same thing as an idiotic legal theory


ruh-ro.
10.20.2008 2:54pm
Joe Schmoe:
We've lived through what, seven years of the Patriot Act, and I have yet to have even an inkling that my constitutional rights have been violated.

But Obama hasn't even won a presidential election yet and I have serious, palpable worries about my constitutional rights being upheld on several fronts, including the freedoms of speech and religion and the right to bear arms. Maybe the reason the left has been so vocal about us needing to be afraid of having our constitutional rights violated is to prepare us for what they are about to do. Kind of like a courtesy warning.
10.20.2008 2:54pm
Aultimer:

DangerMouse:
More liberals trying to censor people.

Obviously. Zero chance this is an ordinary guy who didn't think through the constitutional side of an issue. Let's check the facts:

Nelson comes to LSCS from the University of Houston System as executive director and associate general counsel. In his previous position Nelson was responsible for a variety of legal services including the management of ongoing litigation with respect to campus development, real property and transactional related matters, as well as preparation of legal advice and approval of transactional matters.

His expertise and focus lies on issues pertaining to employment, student affairs, organizational governance, contract compliance, intellectual property and fundraising. Nelson's experience also includes employment with an engineering group as corporate counsel and a construction management firm as chief corporate counsel and legal officer.

Nelson received his legal education at Michigan State University College of Law and undergraduate work at the University of Utah. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, Utah State Bar, State Bar of Michigan and former steering committee member of the Corporate Counsel Division/ABA Construction Forum.

Nelson is active in both church and community service and has earned the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Award. He is married with four children and one granddaughter.

If that isn't a textbook pinko resume, I don't know what is. Guilty as MickeytrollDangermouse charged.
10.20.2008 2:57pm
James Ellis (mail):
I think that this whole thing is great and that, if anything, we need to foster these kinds of dust-ups. Seriously, in terms of recruiting for conservative organizations, a doofy top ten list is unlikely to generate a lot of interest. But combine that with heavy-handed administrative overreaction, holier-than-though paternalistic preaching ("we must be sensitive to the Va Tech families") and outright censorship, and this could become a very effective recruiting tool after all.

Let's get working on some more top ten lists!
10.20.2008 3:02pm
wfjag:
Sarcastro:
Is that a New World Monkey or an Old World Monkey we're supposed to think about? Do they seem equally responsible when handling firearms?
10.20.2008 3:10pm
roy:
As for the claim that a political branch should provide protection instead of the courts: yes they should. They apparently haven't done so. It's probably true that conservatives in Texas are less likely to need protection by the courts since their views are popular. It doesn't follow that they shouldn't get protection when they do need it.
10.20.2008 3:20pm
Hoosier:
It was funny. Especially the monkey part.

Cope.
10.20.2008 3:28pm
Hoosier:
wfjag:
Sarcastro:
Is that a New World Monkey or an Old World Monkey we're supposed to think about?


Are you suggesting that monkeys migrate?
10.20.2008 3:29pm
Kate 2008 (mail) (www):
I think school officials acted within their authority given how much Tinker has been eroded over the years. Compared with random drug tests and locker searches, censoring YCT seems mild.
10.20.2008 3:33pm
R Gould-Saltman (mail):
Eh, Mousey:

If the strongest argument you can muster, under a pseudonym, is "Boy, them liberuls sure are stupid, aren't they? Heh, heh..." then, at least, you should proof-read it.
10.20.2008 3:35pm
Hoosier:
R Gould-Saltman
Eh, Mousey:

If the strongest argument you can muster, under a pseudonym, is "Boy, them liberuls sure are stupid, aren't they? Heh, heh..." then, at least, you should proof-read it.


You think it be "ain't they"?
10.20.2008 3:43pm
David Warner:
I'm as big a fan of the Bill of Rights as anyone, and especially the 2nd amendment which gives the other teeth, but this list makes "Bong Hits for Jesus" look like brown nosing. I think the University is well within its rights to take corrective action in this case for any number of reasons. Incitement to violence not the least.
10.20.2008 3:44pm
Calculated Risk:

Wow. A liberal openly acknowledging his childish nature. Gotta love it.


It was a joke. If you do not realize that, the Obvious does not think you should have been allowed to go to college.
10.20.2008 3:47pm
Sarcastro (www):
Hoosier

Especially the monkey part

Hoosier's insensitivity against monkey rights makes me pretty unsurprised about his ignorance about monkey migration habits.
10.20.2008 3:50pm
Patent Lawyer:
Hey, my comment made it to the front! Thanks, Todd.
10.20.2008 3:58pm
ehrlichman:
Now there is a report that the University of Nebraska has cancelled a speaking engagement by William Ayers on education due to "safety concerns." The invitation was condemned by Nebraska's Republican governor. No one has a monopoly on attacking free speech.
10.20.2008 4:00pm
Federal Dog:
"I think the University is well within its rights to take corrective action in this case for any number of reasons. Incitement to violence not the least."


Given prevailing university intelligence and culture, number four is rather dangerous.
10.20.2008 4:09pm
DangerMouse:
If the strongest argument you can muster, under a pseudonym, is "Boy, them liberuls sure are stupid, aren't they? Heh, heh..." then, at least, you should proof-read it.

Of course, that wasn't the strongest argument. The argument I made was that Constitutional rights should apply equally to everyone, and that leftists like Calculated Risk want fundamental constitutional rights only to apply to their favored groups, which is an inherently antidemocratic idea.

It was a joke.

So was the flyer. Does that mean the government can oppress you, or do you have to be a favored minority or other group in order to be able to speak your mind? Would you mind listing all types of groups that get to continue to be protected by the Constitution under your view, and those that aren't? Who's rights are you going to trample on first?
10.20.2008 4:15pm
Floridan:
cboldt: "To some people, especially those who engage in resisting communism . . ."

Dangerous work nowadays, but we're glad your on top of it.
10.20.2008 4:19pm
Brett:
But I also don't see why it is that so many commenters here don't understand why people get jumpy (and sometimes go too far to suppress speech) when folks start telling jokes about shooting people.

Probably because many of the commenters here aren't willfully oblivious to the sins of the political left, and therefore recall liberal indifference toward the last eight years of leftist assassination fantasies towards conservatives generally and the president in particular.

Turnabout, and all that.
10.20.2008 4:26pm
Melancton Smith:
Cue Colbert's Monkey on the Lam video.


krs just because you're a poor judge of monkey character, doesn't mean you should take it out on a monkey's natural right to overthrow the monkey government when it ceases to serve his monkey needs.


I seem to recall a few movies about the Monkey dominated world (ok ok, Ape dominated) and it wasn't so friendly to civil rights!



Is that a New World Monkey or an Old World Monkey we're supposed to think about? Do they seem equally responsible when handling firearms?


We all know that 'old world Monkey' means African and is racist code for black Monkey!

By the way, I fully support the right to keep and bear arms by Monkeys. Now, how about Lemurs? Apes?
10.20.2008 4:30pm
DG:
Of course, the sensible approach would be for the dean to say "you know guys, this is in really poor taste. I can't make you take it down, but it really reflects badly on your organization and I think you should reconsider it. Responsible gun ownership is important to conservatives, isn't it?"

That would be what they call a "teachable moment" and would be appropriate for an educator. For some reason, University student affairs officers don't seem to have any clue that they have the opportunity to be educators, rather than a slightly hopped up version of the High School Dean of Students. Instead, they churn out meaningless and identical letters of disciple or probation, screwing up when there is a tough call to make.
10.20.2008 4:30pm
Bill McGonigle (www):
Dilan: what's the success rate of stopping crimes where a joke was made? How many people joking about shooting the president were actually found to be planning to do so? How many people joking about planning to take over an airplane were found to have the means to do so? How many peoples' rights have been abridged in these cases? I'm guessing it's running close to 0%:100%. That's not a good metric for well-dispensed justice.

Rather, I suggest an alternate security approach: no actual terrorist is going to joke about such a thing in a TSA line - he's going to maintain as low a profile as possible. A stern glance is probably far more effective in these situations.

I think the jokes were pretty lame, BTW - reminds me of some of the tripe the Dartmouth Review used to produce when I was an undergrad. Somehow young so-called conservatives like to print obnoxious crap. Fortunately for them, the first amendment makes no provision for taste.
10.20.2008 4:58pm
wfjag:

Hoosier's insensitivity against monkey rights makes me pretty unsurprised about his ignorance about monkey migration habits.

Not true. Hoosier is A Man who wears a Yellow Hat. (Well, actually a Green and Yellow hat -- N.D. alum).
10.20.2008 5:00pm
David Warner:
FederalDog,

"Given prevailing university intelligence and culture, number four is rather dangerous."

This particular list isn't exactly the most effective bloody shirt for those concerned about that culture to wave.
10.20.2008 5:03pm
Yankev (mail):
sorry, while I can agree that #10 is in bad tastem, I still don't see it as an encouragement of violence -- only an encouragement of poor safety practices. How is this worse than what Sen. Feinstein got away with when she actually did point an AK-47 at a room full of journalists and whoever else happened to be in the audience? That was action, not speech, but she never suffered any consequences for it.
10.20.2008 5:05pm
ginsocal (mail):
Is William Ayers a Communist, or a hippie? Or would he be a gun totin' hippie?

The fact that society would be better off with fewer hippies and communists seems lost on a few people here.
10.20.2008 5:17pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Dilan: what's the success rate of stopping crimes where a joke was made?

I don't know. Ask a cop or a criminologist.

I am not commenting on the efficacy of this or that law enforcement technique. Nor am I denying that this is protected speech.

I am saying something else, which a lot of people on this thread don't seem to get-- many people will reasonably and inevitably be concerned and distressed with jokes about killing people. The fact that this doesn't justify the school's actions here (and it doesn't) doesn't mean that we should celebrate these sorts of jokes or pretend that nobody should ever get upset at this sort of humor.
10.20.2008 5:18pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Probably because many of the commenters here aren't willfully oblivious to the sins of the political left, and therefore recall liberal indifference toward the last eight years of leftist assassination fantasies towards conservatives generally and the president in particular. Turnabout, and all that.

Brett, this is a great example of an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind. Establishing that your critics might be hypocrites is not the same thing as establishing that they are wrong.

And on the merits of this, these sorts of jokes are both wrong and are likely to give rise to a reaction, especially from people who fear being the target as well as administrators, supervisors, and bosses. "The left does it" is no excuse whatsoever.
10.20.2008 5:23pm
NickM (mail) (www):
8. No matter how responsible he seems, never give your gun to a school administrator.

There. Fixed it.

Nick
10.20.2008 5:24pm
Dave N (mail):
Nelson received his legal education at Michigan State University College of Law and undergraduate work at the University of Utah. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas, Utah State Bar, State Bar of Michigan and former steering committee member of the Corporate Counsel Division/ABA Construction Forum.

Nelson is active in both church and community service and has earned the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout Award. He is married with four children and one granddaughter.
I realize that Aultimer made this point because Nelson's biography implies right-wing Republican Mormon.

Perhaps Nelson is. I honestly don't know. I say this as a former Utah resident who is not nor has ever been Mormon, who knows of a local very liberal activist in my community who is also an Eagle Scout, and who knew some fairly politically liberal Mormons in Utah who were Eagle Scouts.

That said, Nelson's bio probably reflects what Aultimer suggests--but I do hate stereotyping.

Oh, I also agree that the flyer was mostly stupid and unfunny, though also constitutionally protected. Dilan Esper expressed my views fairly well on that.
10.20.2008 5:25pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"However, I do think some of the commenters here are minimizing the fact that when you make jokes about how funny it is to shoot people, that's the sort of thing that attracts attention."

It attracts attention? So what? That means someone notices. Think of all the things we notice in a day. Think of all the things we do that are noticed.
10.20.2008 5:38pm
MadHatChemist:
Back in college, I remember having flyers that said "Liberalism must be eliminated, by any means necissary" with the famous vietnam war snubnoe-to-the-head photo.

Of course, I added a disclaimer that this was meant humerously and that I wasn't actually advocating killing liberlals -- though I did want them to make a big stink about it to that I could get free press.
10.20.2008 5:38pm
one of many:
First with regards to monkeys and firearms, even the most pan-simianist 2nd amendment person must admit that giving your firearm to a monkey is a bad idea. Well, I could give your firearm to a monkey and it would be no worse an idea that you giving my firearm to a monkey, but you giving a monkey your firearm is a really bad idea.

Second what does the personal background of the general counsel for the school have to do with liberals or conservatives? M. Nelson is a gosh darn lawyer, his liberalness or conservativeness has nothing to do with the political inclinations of the administrator(s) who are trying to enforce a particular policy. Liberal/conservative make an argument if you must, but don't bring the personal history of the school's GC gratuitously into the debate since a good GC will support liberal views as strenuously as conservative ones regardless of the GC's own viewpoint.

Third, must be my age, but I was actually surprised by the school's reaction. This sort of thing actually makes me want to disagree with EV about there not being a golden age of free speech. Back in the dawn of time when I was in college the most offensive similar list would have been met with a "put it away" admonition usually and at the extreme a verbal notification that "this seems a frivolous use of funds for a student organization". The "101 uses for a ..." lists didn't draw any sort of similar reaction and those could actually be somewhat threatening.
10.20.2008 5:44pm
wfjag:

Is William Ayers a Communist, or a hippie? Or would he be a gun totin' hippie?

By its terms, Rule 10 does not apply to Ayers:


10. Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction, such as at a Hippy or a Communist.


Ayers is (was?) a small "c" communist and an "ie" Hippie (if he counts as a "Hippie" at all -- As I recall the slogans for the Summer of Love were along the lines of "Give Peace a Chance", "Peace, Love, Dope", and "Drugs, Sex &Rock and Roll". I don't recall anything about bombs.

I suppose you could add a Rule 10.A:


10.A. Don't build a bomb based on a design by Bill Ayers.
10.20.2008 5:50pm
cboldt (mail):
-- these sorts of jokes are both wrong and are likely to give rise to a reaction, especially from people who fear being the target --
.
You are implying that hippies and communists would read the list, notice being named on #10, and as a result, they would apprehend a threat.
.
I give hippies and commies more credit for intelligence than that. But I see your argument - because some hippies and communists would be put in fear by the list, the speech should be obliterated as a matter of good taste and sensitivity, but not as a matter of being illegal speech.
.
Or are you saying that the commies and hippies might lash out with physical violence, having been provoked by words, and being unable to control their rage?
10.20.2008 5:59pm
LM (mail):
What's wrong with this list is the same thing that makes every failed attempt at humor objectionable: it isn't funny. When someone makes me laugh at an idea I'd otherwise think was offensive, I may (half-seriously) feel guilty, but I won't criticize the joke teller. If it's funny enough to make me laugh, you win. Now it's my problem I found it funny.(*)

But trying unsuccessfully to make light of something controversial naturally invites questions about the subject matter and what you were really trying to say. That's an unavoidable pitfall of humor. As I said on my deathbed, "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard."(**)

-------------------------------

(*) In the 80's and 90's Howard Stern had a couple of low budget TV shows -- you can imagine the material. One episode, "Homeless Howie-wood Squares," satired the game show, "Hollywood Squares." The "celebrities" were drawn from Stern's usual roster of the outrageous and mentally ill, and the contestants were two homeless women and a homeless man. The prizes? A shopping cart filled with aluminum cans and a refrigerator box. It was terribly cruel. Anyone who would laugh at anything so insensitive should be ashamed.

What can I say? It was very, very funny. And having thought so, how could I possibly criticize Stern? But if I just hadn't happened to have found it funny, I probably wouldn't have hesitated to excoriate him for for such mean-spiritedness. Does that make me a hypocrite? I guess so. Am I alone? I can't say, but I have my suspicions.

(**) This quote has been attributed to so many people (Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Donald Wolfit, Edmund Gwenn, Edmund King, Edward Kean, Edwin Booth (brother of John Wilkes Booth), David Garrick, Groucho Marx, Marcel Marceau, Richard Burbage, etc.), that after 10 or 15 minutes on Google, I'm officially giving up trying to track it down. If I had to bet on the source, I'd say Wolfit, but until I see proof one way or the other I'm claiming it as my own.
10.20.2008 6:25pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
I give hippies and commies more credit for intelligence than that. But I see your argument - because some hippies and communists would be put in fear by the list, the speech should be obliterated as a matter of good taste and sensitivity, but not as a matter of being illegal speech

I don't want to "obliterate" anyone's speech. I do think, however, that making jokes in public about how you would like to kill people because of their political beliefs is something to be condemned, for the reasons stated above. If someone decides that it isn't such a good idea to put this stuff out, that would be a good thing. But since it's not a true threat, nobody has or should have the power to stop them if they want to act like insensitive idiots and joke about shooting people.
10.20.2008 6:41pm
theobromophile (www):
Wow. So speech that relates to one Constitutionally-protected right is not, despite the First Amendment, protected under the Constitution? This is just as insane as forbidding speech about quartering soldiers.
10.20.2008 6:45pm
Obvious (mail):
Calculated Risk: "It was a joke. If you do not realize that, the [sic] Obvious does not think you should have been allowed to go to college."

Gee, reading carefully just must not be stressed as much as when I went to school. Where to begin...?

1) I didn't say college, I said law school. Law school reasonably has more rigorous acceptance requirements, no?

2) I never spoke of allowing or not allowing anyone entrance, merely asked what people on this blog (many lawyers who've gone to law school, I understand) thought of granting admission to people who think litigation or prohibition are appropriate responses to an obvious joke list. Compare: Should a person who thinks shooting someone who yells that them is an appropriate and measured response be allowed into law school? And in any case, it was a rhetorical, not substantive, point.

3) My reference was not to people who didn't get the joke, obvious as it was, but to people who felt a legal or regulatory sanction against speaking or publishing a joke they don't get is appropriate.

IANAL, Calculated Risk. Are you? If you are, why aren't these distinctions evident to you on their face?
10.20.2008 6:46pm
cboldt (mail):
-- I don't want to "obliterate" anyone's speech. I do think, however, that making jokes in public about how you would like to kill people because of their political beliefs is something to be condemned, for the reasons stated above. --
.
Fair enough. Substitute "stifled" for "obliterated." You prefer them to self-stifle their speech. If they don't self stifle, you'll level the charge that the speech is condemnable.
.
I still think your justification for condemnation boils down to stifling the speech out of a hyper-sensitivity concern. At least one of your stated reasons, "these sorts of jokes are ... likely to give rise to a reaction, especially from people who fear being the target as well as administrators," flows from an assumption that some member of the hippie and/or commie community will apprehend a threat. My point of view is that if this "Top 10" list instills fear (that wasn't already there), that the person has an unreasonable and insufficient basis for fear.
.
Condemn away. The school administrator did. I think the condemnation is ridiculous.
10.20.2008 7:02pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Fair enough. Substitute "stifled" for "obliterated." You prefer them to self-stifle their speech. If they don't self stifle, you'll level the charge that the speech is condemnable.

So your attitude is that all constitutionally protected rhetoric is equal and under no circumstances should rhetoric ever be condemned as irresponsible, hurtful, or stupid? Somehow I doubt this is your actual across-the-board position.

I don't want to obliterate or to stifle. I want the person who is about to put something like that out to realize how idiotic and juvenile and irresponsible it is to publically fantasize about shooting one's political opponents, even in a joking manner.

That's not stifling. That's people reasoning when they are about to act like an imbecile.

I still think your justification for condemnation boils down to stifling the speech out of a hyper-sensitivity concern. At least one of your stated reasons, "these sorts of jokes are ... likely to give rise to a reaction, especially from people who fear being the target as well as administrators," flows from an assumption that some member of the hippie and/or commie community will apprehend a threat.

Absolutely. The "true threat" doctrine is very, very narrow (and for good reason). There are many things that people may apprehend as a threat and which may cause concern or distress even though they are constitutionally protected because they are not a "true threat".

Again, the First Amendment protects everyone's right to act like a jackass. But that doesn't change the fact that putting out this flyer did, indeed, constitute acting like a jackass.
10.20.2008 7:13pm
NickW:
Up next: Supreme Court extends Morse v. Frederick.
10.20.2008 7:28pm
cboldt (mail):
-- So your attitude is that all constitutionally protected rhetoric is equal and under no circumstances should rhetoric ever be condemned as irresponsible, hurtful, or stupid? Somehow I doubt this is your actual across-the-board position. --
.
My comments have all been in the context of the Top 10 list that appears at the top of the post. You and the school administrator condemn it, and I find that condemnation to be ridiculous in this case.
.
I also reject your contention that apprehension of a threat and feeling fear, from reading this list, is reasonable. It's not.
10.20.2008 7:34pm
therut (mail):
Do students at this University have to omit the 2nd amendment when reciting the Constitution????? Can they read and discuss Heller? Are all University overseers ignorant asses???
10.20.2008 7:44pm
benjamin g:
Lone Star really needs to get itself a new General Counsel; this idiot is gonna get them all sued.
10.20.2008 8:10pm
NotMyRealName:

threatened their ability to concentrate


Oh, give me a break. An amusing flyer someone stapled on a wall threatened the ability of students on campus to concentrate on their studies? That's ridiculous. What next - ban The Onion? If you want to talk about a threat to concentration, have you seen the outfits that some college coeds have been known to wear these days?

Good grief.
10.20.2008 8:14pm
benjamin g:
The end of the General Counsel's email reads "Please let me know if addition questions can be answered.

Hmm. I don't know. Do you think he's better at math than he is at constitutional law?
10.20.2008 8:15pm
Jmaie (mail):
I believe the question should be, "Are you suggesting that monkeys are migratory?" Long i, accent on the second syllable, long a.
10.20.2008 11:17pm
Jmaie (mail):
But I also don't see why it is that so many commenters here don't understand why people get jumpy (and sometimes go too far to suppress speech) when folks start telling jokes about shooting people.

If you don't already know, I can't explain it.


Do you think that any Southerners in the bad old days didn't tell jokes about what they were going to do to a black person or what was okay to do to black people right before they actually did such a thing?

Are you conflating this flyer with a lynching? Seriously?
10.20.2008 11:27pm
Hoosier:
"wfjag:

Hoosier's insensitivity against monkey rights makes me pretty unsurprised about his ignorance about monkey migration habits.

Not true. Hoosier is A Man who wears a Yellow Hat. (Well, actually a Green and Yellow hat -- N.D. alum)."

Blue and Gold, wf. Like the sky on a sort of blue and gold-type day. Or something.

The best line from the most recent Curious George movie: Guy looks at the Man with the Yellow Hat, and says: "That's a lot of yellow for one man!"

And George is clearly NOT a monkey. He's a bonobo, or else a standard-issue chimp. But H. A. Ray was not much of a naturalist. He thought that giraffes and zebras lived in jungles. And the triple-canopy forests of Africa were full of palm trees. So whatcha gonna do?
10.21.2008 12:20am
David Warner:
I think that FIRE would do well to consider their own reputation the next time they decide to defend this sort of speech. I know, the KKK defended Voltaire's right to burn the Tri-color in Skokie and all, but I'd rather not see FIRE relegated to Horowitzland. And the speechcoders know just how to make it happen.
10.21.2008 12:27am
Buck Turgidson (mail):
@David Warner:

FIRE is not defending "this sort of speech". They are defending freedom of expression without regard to the particular "sort". Defending the right to express oneself as an idiot does not mean condoning being an idiot--in fact, it may be beneficial to a society to let the idiots stand up and identify themselves.
10.21.2008 4:27am
Tracy W (mail):
Dilan Esper I am saying something else, which a lot of people on this thread don't seem to get-- many people will reasonably and inevitably be concerned and distressed with jokes about killing people. The fact that this doesn't justify the school's actions here (and it doesn't) doesn't mean that we should celebrate these sorts of jokes or pretend that nobody should ever get upset at this sort of humor.

If we only laughed at things that didn't offend anyone anywhere, we wouldn't have much to laugh at. Humour works by breaching boundaries and transgressing. Yes, some people will be inevitably concerned and distressed with jokes about killing people - that's *why* those sorts of statements are jokes. Some people are concerned and distressed by references to sex - which is why we can joke about it. Some people are concerned and distressed by references to particular groups of people being stupid - which is why we can joke about it.

I do think, however, that making jokes in public about how you would like to kill people because of their political beliefs is something to be condemned, for the reasons stated above.

Unless of course the joke is a good one. In which case it should be celebrated.

Look, the more offended society thinks we should be by the joke, the funnier it becomes for people who don't have the deep emotional reaction. Your arguments here if they are picked up by the wider culture, would make jokes about shooting people funnier, because they would be more transgressive. If you really don't want people to tell jokes about shooting people for their political beliefs, you should be telling so many jokes about that topic that it stops becoming funny due to boredom.

Of course, making serious threats in public about how you would like to kill someone is different.
10.21.2008 5:54am
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
Tracy:

1. If you want to get into a discussion of whether this was a good joke, I tend to think it was very stupid and juvenile and not particularly funny. But I certainly take your point that it is POSSIBLE to tell a good joke about killing people.

2. Nonetheless, even if a joke is funny, it can still get people very nervous about whether the animus behind the joke may lead to actual violence. This is why the Secret Service investigates jokes about killing the President-- even if they are funny ones.

The fact is that this comments thread is very revealing that there is a certain type of person who thinks there is nothing at all wrong with flippantly threatening in jest to shoot one's political opponents. (Judging by some comments, it may arise out of the gun culture.) Well, you can think that, but I would suggest that you shouldn't be surprised that there are a lot of other people who don't feel that way at all.
10.21.2008 2:55pm
David Warner:
Buck,

"FIRE is not defending "this sort of speech". They are defending freedom of expression without regard to the particular "sort". Defending the right to express oneself as an idiot does not mean condoning being an idiot--in fact, it may be beneficial to a society to let the idiots stand up and identify themselves."

Tell it to the judge. In this case that's the potential for public shame FIRE relies upon to deter the thousands of institutions they don't directly fight from restricting speech. They lose their credibility, fairly or unfairly, they lose that wider threat.
10.21.2008 3:05pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
@David Warner

FIRE is not likely to loose credibility over this--I've seen some more disappointing cases they've defended, but the issue is not the quality of speech but the proportionality of the reaction.

In this case, there is really no indication of political motive, because both the students and the administrator are actually conservative.

While it is unfortunate that FIRE appears to have a right-leaning bias, appearances can be deceiving. In fact, the bias appears to be from the kind of cases that rise through the universities. When the case goes the other way, that is, a college appears to stifle left-leaning expression, FIRE does not hesitate to jump into the fray.

Another unfortunate appearance is that ideologues--particularly the smug dumb ones--interpret the conflicts as those between conservative martyrs and evil liberal administrators. Nothing can be further from the truth--administrators behave in a particular way irrespectively from their own ideological biases--their biases are bureaucratic. Their goal is not to achieve some sort of ideological conclusion but to avoid troublesome situations for themselves. That's why they invent zero-tolerance rules, treat every conflict as if it is potential harassment and issue speech-restrictive proclamations.

What they have to be shown--and this is what FIRE does so well--is that violations of freedom of expressions will have more troublesome consequences for them than what their protection schemes are trying to prevent. If, as a result, we allow some idiots to express themselves freely--and, perhaps, fully inappropriately in polite company--that's a small price to pay.
10.21.2008 4:44pm
Tracy W (mail):
Dilan Esper - I am not at all surprised that there are some people who think there is something wrong with telling obvious jokes about shooting other people who are their political opponents. I strongly suspect that if, say, one of my brothers was a hippie or a communist and had been accidentally shot by a idiot waving a gun around randomly, I would not find line 10 funny. My point was though that a lot of humour derives its force from transgression of important taboos (eg don't shoot people). The more seriously society generally takes a taboo about talking about shooting people, the funnier the jokes about those sorts of situations will be for those of us who don't have some deep emotional objection caused by some personal reason, because of the transgression effect.

(I am a bit surprised that this comments thread is apparently the first time you have encountered those of us who don't find anything wrong with obvious jests about shooting political opponents - it makes me wonder how old you are).
10.22.2008 5:00am
Mikee (mail):
A few minor points:
1. The humor of this list is enhanced when read in the context of the material on the blog, imao.us, on which Frank J first posted this list. Start with his mini-essay "Nuke the Moon" (and buy the T-shirt) and work your way down past the ninjas and pirates and monkeys to his many top-ten lists. Frank J is a long-time foe of hippies, commies, monkeys, and the Instapundit, lawyer Glenn Reynolds.
2. The feelings of those reading a missive are explicitly NOT a reason to ban the missive, or the message it contains. Speech is only free when it CAN offend.
3. There is a threat exemption to free speech, but the threat needs to be actual, realizable, and perhaps imminent to stop the speech. An example: a drunk in a bar says to Luke Skywalker, "My friend doesn't like you." This is perfectly legal speech. However, the conversation leads to the threat of death, imminentized with the production of a blaster. Lightsaber come into play to eliminate the arm holding the blaster. The threat of death is not protected speech.
3.
10.22.2008 9:46am