When the drama surrounding the showing of a movie is more intense than the drama in the movie itself, something has gone wrong. Especially when a university of all places is involved.
Yesterday, Reason reported that the University of Michigan pulled a planned showing of the Oscar-winning movie American Sniper after students protested that the Clint Eastwood flick "not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim…rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer."
Michigian administrators responded by spiking the movie and replacing it with, no shit, Paddington. Then they semi-relented and announced
plans to show "American Sniper" in a separate location from the UMix program, in what it said would be "a forum that provides an appropriate space for dialogue and reflection."
Now comes news that, no, no, the university—generally regarded as one an outstanding academic institution—will now show American Sniper as planned. Via Foxnews.com:
University Vice President for Student Life E. Royster Harper called the decision to cancel the Friday night showing a "mistake" in a statement.
"The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters," Harper said. "The movie will be shown at the originally scheduled time and location."
And for all the students who wanted to see Paddington? They too will be made whole:
Harper added that the university will also screen the family-friendly film "Paddington" as an alternative.
All's well that ends well, I suppose, but with each turn of the outrage wheel, something beyond useless energy gets expended. At a certain point, these predictable and preventable cycles wear down even the most stalwart of defenders of open discourse and expression, giving way to exhaustion. Universities have always been generally craven when it comes to defending the very values upon which they flourish. But in an era of trigger warnings and micro-aggressions, there comes to a time when, to paraphrase American Sniper director Clint Eastwood in a very different context, an institution's got to know its limitations and start standing up for free speech and open intellectual inquiry.
Hat tip: Hit & Run reader Aaron Lanning.