Science Fiction

FIRE's Firefly Victory

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A new video from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) tells the story of James Miller, the University of Wisconsin at Stout theater professor whose Firefly poster (right) was removed from his office door by campus police on the grounds that it constituted a threat of violence. Miller protested with a satirical poster warning that "fascism can cause blunt trauma and/or violent death," which was removed under the same pretext. The two incidents, which marked Miller as a threat to campus safety, threatened his career as well as his freedom of speech.

Amazingly, university administrators backed the school's police chief, Lisa A. Walter, even after FIRE intervened on Miller's behalf, pointing out how absurd her reading of First Amendment law was. They did not relent until word of the school's ham-handed censorship triggered a storm of negative publicity, including widely seen tweets by British novelist Neil Gaiman and Firefly stars Nathan Fillion (who was pictured in the poster) and Adam Baldwin. The story provoked a flurry of angry letters from Firefly (and First Amendment) fans.

In the FIRE video, Gaiman identifies several groups of "people you do not want to upset": "The politically disenfranchised, who feel that they have nothing to lose, those who feel the time has come for revolution. Then out on the edges, beyond any of those, are science fiction and fantasy fans whose favorite show has been canceled in an untimely way." No doubt Walter would view that remark as a censorable threat as well.

NEXT: On Christa Wolf, Havel, and the Much-Overused Word Dissident

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  1. Amazingly, university administrators backed the school’s police chief, Lisa A. Walter

    Uh, not so amazing at all, really. More like “predictably.”

    1. Stupid people in positions of authority. God how I hate that!

    2. MORE likely, they were behind it in the first plac.

  2. University of Wisconsin – Stout.

    Makes me want a beer, preferably an Oskar Blue’s Ten Fidy… mmmmmm…. stout….

    1. My hat is off to people who can actually drink that shit. I like their beers, especially Old Chub, but that fucking gooey motor oil makes me vomit.

  3. They done fired up Jayne Cobb? Nothing in the ‘verse can stop that man. Well, except maybe Mal.

      1. Jayne, the man they call Jayne

        He robbed from the rich
        And he gave to the poor
        Stood up to the man
        And gave him what for
        Our love for him now
        Ain’t hard to explain
        The hero of Canton
        The man they call Jayne

        Our Jayne saw the mudders’ backs breakin’
        He saw the mudders’ lament
        And he saw the magistrate takin’
        Every dollar and leavin’ five cents
        So he said “you can’t do that to my people”
        He said “you can’t crush them under your heel”
        So Jayne strapped on his hat
        And in 5 seconds flat
        Stole everythin’ Boss Higgins had to steal

        He robbed from the rich
        And he gave to the poor
        Stood up to the man
        And gave him what for
        Our love for him now
        Ain’t hard to explain
        The hero of Canton
        The man they call Jayne

        Now here is what separates heroes
        From common folk like you and I
        The man they call Jayne
        He turned ’round his plane
        And let that money hit sky
        He dropped it onto our houses
        He dropped it into our yards
        The man they called Jayne
        He stole away our pain
        And headed out for the stars

        He robbed from the rich
        And he gave to the poor
        Stood up to the man
        And gave him what for
        Our love for him now
        Ain’t hard to explain
        The hero of Canton
        The man they call Jayne.

        1. This must be what going mad feels like.

          1. One of my favorite Firefly moments.

    1. Jayne is a girl’s name.

      1. Well Jayne ain’t a girl. She starts on that “girl’s name” thing, I’m a show her good an’ all I got man parts.

      2. You wanna go little man?

  4. Inara Serra: The war’s over, Mal.
    Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: You tellin’ me that cause you think I don’t know!
    Inara Serra: I’ve just seen so many sides of you, I wanna make sure I know who I’m dealing with.
    Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: I start fightin’ a war, I guarantee, you’ll see somethin’ new.

  5. I don’t even fuck with geeks.
    Steve is my new God

  6. So is Lisa A. Walter the newest womyn-martyr amongst the Jezebel crowd?

  7. Gaiman identifies several groups of “people you do not want to upset”: “The politically disenfranchised, who feel that they have nothing to lose, those who feel the time has come for revolution. Then out on the edges, beyond any of those, are science fiction and fantasy fans whose favorite show has been canceled in an untimely way.”

    It is sad how true this is. Burn George Washington in effigy, no problem. Mandatory takedown of a Firefly poster, everybody rallies. Which is my fight with the EFF guys. Touch their internets and they’re on the barricades. Limit their freedom IRL, they’ll be out explaining why this is a good thing for society.

    FIRE was certainly in the right, I just hate to hell that this is what gets people riled up.

    /rant.

    1. People get more upset about suppression of speech they like in general, but, to be fair, I think FIRE would be there if the poster was about loving Nazis.

      1. Yeah. I didn’t mean to imply that FIRE isn’t doing heroic work on their particular part of the issue. And I agree completely with your assessment. Again, I just hate that this is the sort of stuff that FIRE raises donations on and not many of the hundreds of frankly higher impact cases they’ve done good work on.

    2. Speaking of the brilliance of Gaiman’s comment there – anybody know anything about his work? Worth reading?

      1. American Gods will be an HBO miniseries soon.

      2. Sandman was a pretty good series.

      3. I’ve read two. American Gods, great. Neverwhere, great. You can tear through the latter pretty quickly if you want a taster.

      4. I find him meteoric. There’s no doubting his talent, but some I enjoyed more than others. Spencer above me mentioned American Gods, which was an awesome idea that didn’t quite resonate with me. Others rave about it. Probably worth reading his stuff if you like sf/f.

      5. Over the last few years, I’ve lost almost all of my taste for fantasy. Tried to pick American Gods up again a short time ago, didn’t do it for me.

        Currently reading Vinge, Across Real Time.

        1. Mmm. Vinge is great. Except for the latest one. I get that it’s the bridge for a trilogy, but I’d rather see a spider sequel instead.

      6. I liked all his stuff. “Anansi Boys”, “Stardust”, and my favorite may be “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”. Very damn funny.

        He has a great way of casually writing about very weird crap. I hope Gaiman is a Libertarian.

    3. And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m probably the one libertarian who doesn’t get everybody else’s obsession with science fiction.

      1. Gaiman is more fantasy than science fiction

  8. Just turned on the local news for the weather forecast. They ran a story on cop fatalities. Whatever police union flunky they were talking to blamed it on ‘anti government rhetoric being so commonplace.’ Yep, they live in fear of the first amendment.

    1. By ‘it’, I mean in rise in fatality numbers.

      1. which of course does not logically follow

  9. Anyone try posting a comment to their Youtube site? Its moderated. So much for “free speech” for these bozos.

    1. Please go look up the meaning of free speech. It does not mean what you think it does.

      1. Please, I’ve been in these parts for thirty five years. Its still ironic.

  10. BTW, I’m definitely a browncoat!

    1. yer coat is kinda a brownish color

  11. As we wait the evening links, an entertaining bit of news. Sinead O’Connor on why her latest marriage lasted only sisteen days:

    O’Conner insisted that she still loved drugs counsellor Barry Herridge.
    But she admitted their marriage got off to a turbulent start when she nearly bought crack on a wild hunt for (marijuana) on their wedding night.
    She said: “We ended up in a cab in some place that was quite dangerous. I wasn’t scared ? but he’s a drugs counsellor. What was I thinking? Then I was handed a load of crack. Barry was very frightened ? that kind of messed everything up a bit really.

    1. She get married again, by the the time the evening links show up.

      1. Time for you single guys to work on those abs. Don’t wait for News Years because Katy Perry is gonna need a date!

        http://www.wwtdd.com/2011/12/k…..st-single/

    2. Actually, it lasted seven hours and fifteen days. 🙂

  12. “I see a man walking down the street in a hat like that, I say to myself, ‘There goes a man who ain’t afraid of nuthin’.”

    1. Nobody fucks with a guy wearing suede gloves either.

      1. Something about suede says badass and effeminate at the same time.

  13. Firefly is a good show ruined by virginal fans.

    1. I read that as, ‘Firefly is a good show ruined by vaginal farts.’ Thought it might have been a clever in joke. Dissapointed.

      My bro got theDVD set for me a few Christmas passed. Please don’t tell anyone this, but I didn’t like it. Kind of the same thing every episode I watched. Too much speechifying.

      1. “Our Mrs. Reynolds” never gets old.

    2. Firefly is a good show ruined by virginal fans.

      I use to comment on a fan site when the show was still on air.

      yeah they are the worse fucking poeple ever.

      The worst of the lot were foaming at the mouth Buffy fans as well…which accounted for like 90% of them.

      Horrible horrible horrible people.

  14. Summer Glau is still hot.

    http://collider.com/summer-gla…..ew/132535/

    1. That’s some controversial ground you are staking there, buddy.

  15. About that Mal Reynold’s quote…

    Was it him or Jayne that kicked an UNarmed, bound prisoner into a jet engine?

    I remember it was fun and made sense at the time. It just doesn’t square with his declared sense of honor in that poster above.

    1. Was it him or Jayne that kicked an UNarmed, bound prisoner into a jet engine?

      It was Mal.

    2. Them was special circumstances.

      1. Like how the War on Terror is a special circumstance to the constitution?

  16. I think reavers have the same problem that zombies do.

    If they are mindless killing machines why would they ever work together in the common goal of killing others when they could simply kill each other?

    Luckily Firefly is not about Reavers, zombie stories on the other hand are always ruined by this incongruity.

  17. This has nothing to do with the first amendment; the professor was not being coerced or threatened with coercion in any way.

    If this were a private university Reason would be silent, and it is vomitous that Reason thinks public employees have extra constitutional rights that the rest of us don’t.

    1. The Constitution is a restraint on GOVERNMENT and its agencies. So yes, under the Constitution, public employees do have more rights against their employer, government, than private sector employees have against their respective employers. Which is more unfair? That government, acting as employer, must also abide by the Constitution, or that government is acting as an employer in a sector that private business has long proven more than competent to handle?

      1. The first amendment restricts COERCIVE activity by govt, ie its activity as government, not as employer. To assume otherwise leads to all sorts of absurd conclusions like that govt employees have a right to a jury trial before being fired, etc.

    2. It amazes me how many times I keep hearing that “Reason would be silent…” But yet here they are again, not being silent.

      And how is the act of campus police removing your property because its very existence represents a that of violence not a form of coercion? Are you saying that the good professor could have told the camps police to fuck themselves sideways, grabbed the poster out of their grubby little hands, and the campus popo would have merely slunked off, tails between their legs?

      1. That’s a minor point of the story. Yes, they probably should have given him the opportunity to get the poster back, though you should note that a private property owner to whose property you attach an unauthorized piece of paper has no obligation to seek you out and return the paper.

  18. Did anyone else notice that all the students had identical backpacks? What’s that all about?

  19. A couple of people have said that the university gives new students all the same backpack.

  20. Amazingly, university administrators backed the school’s police chief, Lisa A.

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