Islam

University of Minnesota Cracks Down on Charlie Hebdo Posters: The 'Powerless' Offended Have Veto Power on Campuses

Outrage privilege: Too many universities would rather censor speech than offend fanatics

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University of Mnnesota
Tony Webster / Flickr

One of the most bitterly-contested points in my Bloggingheads.tv debate with City University of New York Professor Angus Johnston was my assertion that certain progressive sects—including activist Muslims—have gained tremendous influence and power on public university campuses. My opponent believes that administrators are often indifferent—if not outright hostile—to the demands of the left. We're talking about a lot of campuses and a lot of students, so Johnston is undoubtedly going to be right some of the time. And yet…

The University of Minnesota held a panel discussion titled "Can One Laugh at Everything? Satire and Free Speech After Charlie," that addressed the Charlie Hebdo massacre, historical perspectives on depicting the prophet Muhammad, and free speech law. The panel took place weeks ago, but is back in the news because of reported complaints made against posters advertising the event, according to The College Fix. The flyers, which were posted on bulletin boards around campus, used the famous Charlie Hebdo Muhammad cover to advertise the panel.

That drew an outcry from Muslim students and faculty who considered the flyers "blasphemous" for depicting the prophet, which is prohibited under Islamic tradition. Some 260 Muslims (all but 45 of them affiliated with the university) signed a petition asking the University's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action to intervene, and at least eight people called the office to get the posters taken down for violating rules against religious discrimination, according to The Minnesota Daily. This prompted EOAA to investigate.

Thankfully, the university conceded that posters depicting a historical person and advertising a free speech event did not constitute harassment against Muslim students. Nevertheless, administrators recommended that Liberal Arts Dean John Coleman "communicate the college's disapproval of the flyer," according to Inside Higher Ed. Some faculty involved with the panel reported that they were then instructed to take down the flyers—and heavily redacted emails support their contention:

 The email includes a link to the digital flyer, noting that the free speech event "took place several weeks ago." It continues: "Due to complaints about the image contained in the link, [the equal opportunity office] has requested that the image be removed from any [college] communication in all forms. If your unit still has active links to this page, or image, please remove the image. Please remove any posters on your unit bulletin boards or any other hard copies of flyers that may be still around."

Coleman reversed this order, according to The Washington Post. Good for him—that was the right thing to do. Even so, you can imagine the enormous confusion—to say nothing of job pressure—to kill the flyers that UM faculty must have been feeling. And for what? Campus outrage stories often contain a kernel of legitimately offensive content, but there is nothing objectively offensive about these flyers—which are highly relevant to the event they advertise—except from the standpoint of Muslim theology. To take down the flyers would be an act of religiously-motivated censorship of constitutionally protected speech, in the truest sense.

Ironically, this is the very principle that Charlie Hebdo's staff was massacred trying to defend: freedom from the kind of censorship imposed by religious fanatics.

American public universities might be the last place one would expect to find religious fanaticism triumphing over Enlightenment liberal values. Indeed, I can't imagine the university bending over backwards to accommodate the views of students who subscribe to other religions. What if the flyers had depicted two men kissing, and were instead being used to advertise an LGBTQ meetup, and it was fundamentalist Christian students lodging the complaints? Administrators would probably tell those students not to trample their peers' free speech rights. (At least, I hope they would.) Liberals would cheer. Why then do universities cater to the silly protestations of a different fundamentalist sect?

Underlying the disturbingly common notion that Muslims' views are exempt from criticism in a way others' views are not is the idea that insulting the followers of the prophet is akin to "punching down." Indeed, Minnesota's EOAA noted this dichotomy in its report on why the flyers should be condemned:

However, the office said in its summary for the dean, the poster had "significant negative repercussions." And given the "large-scale" global protests against the image in question, "the organizers knew or should have known" that their decision to reprint the image "would offend, insult and alienate some not-insignificant proportion of the university's Muslim community on the basis of their religious identity," the office added. It said the hurt was heightened by the fact that the insulting speech came from those with "positional power" at Minnesota.

The implication is that Muslim students are a powerless minority; as such, their feelings must be handled with care. Frankly, this is bullshit. Muslim students—particularly those in the perpetually offended camp—have plenty of social capital at a great many university campuses. Could a powerless minority partly convince the University of Michigan and fully convince the University of Maryland not to screen one of the most significant films of the year? Could a powerless minority persuade the leadership of Brandeis University—a private, Jewish institution named after a famed First Amendment jurist—to rescind a speaking invitation to a critic of that minority's beliefs?

The reality is that students who claim to be oppressed—or triggered, or microaggressed, or offended, or invalidated—are among the least oppressed people on the planet. They have found shelter at just about the only institution in existence that will break its own promises (and the law) to protect their feelings: higher education. And keep in mind that—broadly speaking—university faculty and administrators share these students' views: they, too, are politically and socially liberal, and yet risk-averse and reluctant to permit actual dissent. This deadly combination of biases makes them much more sympathetic to, say, a Muslim student group, than to the Young Republicans.

I don't mean to impugn all Muslim students—most of whom don't impose their views on everyone—or to suggest that Muslim students should refrain from defending their beliefs and criticizing their opponents. Free speech includes the right to attack other people's speech, of course. But universities—particularly public ones, like UM—are bound by a code that requires them to permit the maximum amount of speech, whether that speech is troublesome to the most powerful groups on campus, or the least. If every instance of insensitive speech toward Muslims warrants complaints, investigations, and formal condemnations, no matter how factually merited or obviously constitutionally protected, how can it be said that any university campus is a safe place for a free mind?

More from Reason on Charlie Hebdo here.

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  1. Others posters that must be taken down.

  2. “American public universities might be the last place one would expect to find religious fanaticism triumphing over Enlightenment liberal values.”

    There comes a time, after 1,000 mentions of this “in a university, of all places!!!” meme, that it gets silly.

    By this time, the whole world knows that free speech has no more privileged status at a university than in a park, or in the break room of a large employer. It may even be worse.

    1. It is certainly a lot worse. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire case at:

      http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      The case seems to have grown out of a dispute between “religious” academics at NYU and elsewhere, and the son of a “secular” academic teaching at the University of Chicago. The defendant posted blogs attacking the “faith-based” nature of Dead Sea Scroll museum exhibits controlled by the “religious” party, and as the controversy heated up he ended up sending out inappropriately deadpan Gmail parodies mocking one of his key Orthodox opponents. Given our American respect for every conceivable manifestation of religion, especially on university campuses, I think we all understand that this type of conduct is not only unacceptable, but criminal in nature, and that religious groups should actively collaborate with law enforcement officials in securing proper punishment for the villain behind these insidious blogs and emails.

  3. When you say “the prophet…” shouldn’t you also say “our lord and savior…”? This really grinds my gears.

    1. Maybe you can’t handle the clutching of pearls.

    2. Not really. “Prophet” is an objective description of Muhammad. He is the prophet of Islam. Prophets are the crazy people who make up religious texts. That’s what Muhammad was (assuming he is an actual historical figure). Referring to Jesus as “Our lord and savior” makes specific religious claims.

      1. This is the first definition for prophet in the dictionary

        “a person who speaks for God or a deity, or by divine inspiration.”

        Kind of seems like a religious claim to me.

      2. “Prophet” is an objective description of Muhammad. He is the prophet of Islam.

        Nope. “Prophet” is a claim that he received information from an imaginary being. There is not god, there are no prophets, QED.

        -jcr

  4. That drew an outcry from Muslim students and faculty who considered the flyers “blasphemous” for depicting the prophet, which is prohibited under Islamic tradition

    And yet here we are, in the United States of America in the year 2015, which is not an Islamic country and is thus not bound by “Islamic tradition” or law. If the Muslims don’t like it they can always go back to Goatfuckistan where such expressions of free speech are frowned up.

    Isn’t it delightfully simple?

    1. You seem racist, but I do admit I’m having trouble understanding why certain people have trouble understanding that the tenets of their faith do not apply to me because it is not my faith.

      1. Hardly. There is nothing inherently inferior about Muslims or whatever ethnicity they come from.

        Just as I am against anyone using bullshit laws to forbid mosque building or for the purpose of harassing Muslim business owners I am also against Muslims using government to impose their beliefs on other people. There are too many countries in the world that do that.

      2. Muslims aren’t a race.

        1. Wrong !!!!!111 Ben Affleck said Muzlims were a race and he knows shit and stuff !!!!!11

        2. And races aren’t real things.

          1. Well DNA might argue otherwise – if it had a voice.

      3. Oh they do understand. Did you pay your jizya? If you did, then all is well. If not, well, they can’t be blamed if you don’t understand.

      4. The whole “kill people who insult the prophet” thing isn’t limited to Muslims, unlike the injunction against creating representations of him

        1. The whole “kill people who insult the prophet” thing isn’t limited to Muslims,

          Examples of people killed for insulting a non-Muslim prophet, pls?

          1. You misunderstand. Muhammed was happy to order non-Muslims killed for insulting him.

            1. Gotcha. Misread it as misguided moral equivalence.

  5. Thankfully, the university conceded that posters depicting a historical person and advertising a free speech event did not constitute harassment against Muslim students.

    Angus 1, Rico 0

    Nevertheless, administrators recommended that Liberal Arts Dean John Coleman “communicate the college’s disapproval of the flyer,” according to Inside Higher Ed. Some faculty involved with the panel reported that they were then instructed to take down the flyers…

    Angus 0, Rico 1

    Coleman reversed this order…

    Angus 1, Rico 0

    1. Fair enough, but I don’t this is quite accurate. Sure, after a lengthy investigation and a lot of misinformation, the posters were technically found to be okay. But this has to have a significant chilling effect anyway. If I were a university professor, I wouldn’t want this diversity office looking into my activities, so I might well decide that for the sake of job security, next time I’ll just resort to absolute non-offense.

      1. I think we both know that as a professor you would make it your business to challenge diversity officers every chance, but your point is taken.

        In this case, the university appears to have waffled a lot more than I would have thought, so I give them props for not knee-jerking it to the default anti-speech position. I personally didn’t think there were many not of the opinion that the outrage-loving left has, in fact, “gained tremendous influence and power on public university campuses.”

  6. …how can it be said that any university campus is a safe place for a free mind?

    That’s an easy one, Robby. It can’t.

    Good on the Dean for doing the right thing, though. A small skirmish in a huge battle, but I’m happy to see not everyone cowering.

  7. http://www.theguardian.com/pol…..ere-doomed

    Guardian worries that small children are too supportive of the Tories.

    Serious. Business.

    1. “Try giving a kid a biscuit and explaining that, since it’s already eaten so many biscuits, it has to give 40% of that biscuit to someone else. There’d be a riot. But this is what kids are like. They’re all Conservatives.”

      The author left out the part where the kid was the one who made all the biscuits in the first place and then was forced to give 40% of them away.

      1. As usual it is always projection with these people. Try explaining to a kid that their parents have to pay the electricity bill and that resources and nice thing come at a price. You might not see a riot but you will certainly get a lot of uncomprehending looks. Children are leftists who haven’t yet grasps that there is no such thing as a free lunch if they are anything

        1. Exactly right. And adult leftists are just children who never grew up intellectually or emotionally.

        2. Children are children, the end. They are dependent on their parents. That’s how it works. Let’s just be happy that there is a stage of life where you don’t get sucked into political bullshit.

      2. The author left out the part where the kid was the one who made all the biscuits in the first place and then was forced to give 40% of them away.

        Look, did the kid go out and work for the money? Did he buy the ingredients?

        No, he did not build that.

        1. Ungrateful sprog should be happy he got 60%. We could have taken it all.

      3. Try giving a kid a biscuit and explaining that, since it’s already eaten so many biscuits, it has to give 40% of that biscuit to someone else.

        This is actually indicative of the author’s mindest – wherein all the stuff is *given* to you.

        A more accurate scenario would be coming up on a kid with a COOKIE and telling him that since he’s already had one we’re going to take half and give it to someone else and if he doesn’t like it he’ll get a punch in the nose.

    2. From the article:

      Try giving a kid a biscuit and explaining that, since it’s already eaten so many biscuits, it has to give 40% of that biscuit to someone else. There’d be a riot.

      Yeah, can’t possibly understand why kids might not line up behind people who refer to them as “it”.

      1. Language Log or some other blog recently had a bunch of examples going back to at least Shakespeare of writing which introduced a subject with a singular noun, then referenced that same subject with “they”, “them”, “their”, or some other plural version. It was apparenly common and expected to use the plural as a singular, precisely to avoid the “he or she” silliness.

        1. And that’s fine. But, “it”?

        2. since [the kid] had already eaten so many biscuits, [the kid] has to give 40% of that biscuit to someone else

  8. Someone asked me on here the other day whether I would put my name on a billboard that said “All Muslims are savages”. I said no because I don’t believe all Muslims are savages and would not put name on something I didn’t think was true. So, I responded that the better question is would I put my name on a bill board that said “Mohammad is a False Prophet”. That would not be a lie. I think that is true.

    My inclination is to say no because I don’t think it is a good idea to go out of your way to fuck with people’s religious beliefs. Just because I don’t share them doesn’t mean I have some kind of duty to go out of my way to tell them that or attack their views. I should leave them alone just like they should me.

    Then I see things like this and I am starting to conclude that everyone who cares about freedom has a duty to put their name on that billboard or put up the Charlie Hebdo poster. Yeah, I understand the impoliteness of going out of your way to insult someone’s beliefs. The problem is that the radical Muslims and their fascists toadies on the Left have drawn a line and made doing this about freedom. Posting these images really has nothing to do with Islam at this point. It is about whether these assholes can tell us what to think and say. You put up the poster or put your name on a billboard not because you have any beef with Muslims. You do so because if you don’t and allow the fascists to win on this point, you will lose the power to say anything.

    1. I’ve been saying this for weeks. When people try to censor and stifle and attack people who put up posters they don’t like, it actually becomes something of a moral duty to continue doing it specifically because you cannot allow them to control the bounds of free speech.

      I also think there’s a serious problem when you start letting people unilaterally decide what offends them and then everyone is required to avoid giving whatever offense some minority group just invented. There is nothing innately offensive about a picture of Mohammad and there have been many Muslims throughout history who have drawn such pictures. What’s happened is that Sunni Muslims at some point just decided picturing Mohammad is offensive and they’re trying to force their idea of offensiveness onto the rest of us, some through violence and a lot more through social opprobrium or ‘anti-hate speech’ laws and codes.

      That’s unacceptable and so long as they do it it’s imperative that we push back.

      1. I have no problem with Muslims. The have every right to believe whatever they like. But God damn it I am not going to allow certain kinds of speech to be off limits. I don’t have any desire to specifically go out and offend Muslims. I do,however, have every desire and the duty to go out and make sure that everyone retains the freedom to say what they want. If affirming that right means offending Muslims, well that sucks but it is the way it goes. If Muslims’ don’t like it, they should take it up with the Left and their fellow Muslims who have decided to make their religion into a weapon against freedom.

        1. I have no problem with Muslims who behave themselves.

          Pretty much like I don’t have a problem with anybody who behaves themselves. I have little interest in people’s religious beliefs, sexual hobbies, or ethnic background I am mostly interested in what they do, not who they think they are.

          1. I totally misread that as “behead themselves”

            1. Would the Islamofascists PLEASE behead themselves? Important caveat… WITHOUT taking innocent lives with them? Actually, I think suicide is some sort of ultimate evil, even EVIL… If you cannot even love yourself enough to preserve your own life, you are so far divorced from this ultimate GOOD goal of LOVE, that you are so hopeless, I do not even WANT to understand you… Because to understand, I have to BE suicidal… And that is the LAST thing I want to be! So no, really, I do NOT want to understand, actually. …. Islamofascists do NOT have an exclusive corner on this evil. How about that them thar EVIL bastard of a German pilot who deliberately and with forethought, took, what , 187 or so lives with him? Just because he was pissed at God, hated himself, hated the universe, who knows what? I do ***NOT*** want to understand, because to TRULY understand, I have to BE!! I do not want to BE one who doesn’t wanna BE… I wanna BE, period! To be or not to be?!?! I come down squarely on the side of, to BE! And sure as hell, I do NOT want to un-be. and un-be a bunch of innocents, in my act of un-being! Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise!

          2. Ok, I was all set to agree with you, but then I realized what a liar you are. I’ve seen your other posts about sexual hobbies and from what I recall you were interested in subscribing to their magazine.

        2. I have long toyed with my own ideas for a constitution, and one of my pet peeves is the definition of treason and the idea of national heroes. Treason, to me, is not betrying the government bureaucracy, or even betraying military secrets. It is betraying the principles upon which the country was founded. Similarly, national heroes are not (just?) soldiers, but primarily whistleblowers whoe xpose those who would betray the founding principles.

          One of my pet fantasy ideas was to award life time pensions to those whistleblowers who expose the corrupt betrayal of individual freedom, confiscated from those they expose. But I would never put it into practice, even if I were dictator for a day; it puts too much incentive in the wrong place.

          1. I think the definition of treason is fine. That’s what it has always been. It’s a crime against the state.

            Defining treason the way you suggest would be pointless or dangerous as it depends on people with the right beliefs about what principles the country was founded on being in charge.

            I don’t want national heroes at all. Why the fuck do we have politicians on all our money?

  9. I was watching People’s Court yesterday, and there was this fat Molly in the Harvey Levin “man on the street” segment that runs before and after commercial breaks. One of the litigants had sent a text to the other litigant saying “you’re trying to Jew me down”.

    The fat Molly-on-the-street lisped “Thaths a microaggrethion” then put on the shit-eatingest fucking scumbag holier-than-thou grin you can imagine. Crazy thing is, that text was not a microaggression – it was full-on bigotry. She thought she was so goddamn smart with her PC SJW words, and she didn’t even know WTF she was talking about.

    I need a clip of that.

      1. My rage meter just went through the roof.

    1. People actually use terms like “microaggression” in the wild and not just in controlled environments with like-minded shitheads like Jezebel?

      At least spellcheck doesn’t recognize the word. Yet…

    2. I refer to the application of their beliefs as the Social Justice Principle (like the NAP for progs). The acronym thus becomes SJP.

  10. Just leave the posters up and issue Kevlar vests to faculty and students.

  11. “The reality is that students who claim to be oppressed?or triggered, or microaggressed, or offended, or invalidated?are among the least oppressed people on the planet. ”

    SOOO much this^^
    i couldn’t agree more. its hard to seem powerless when you can influence another persons actions or inaction just by claiming to be offended

    1. If there is a more privileged group of people than wealthy Western college students, I am unaware who that would be. These little bastards have had everything they have ever wanted handed to them. It just goes to show that generosity gets you nowhere because no amount of free shit is ever enough.

    2. “The reality is that students who claim to be oppressed?or triggered, or microaggressed, or offended, or invalidated?are among the least oppressed people on the planet.”

      The defining privilege of the privileged has always been social sanction against insult. If you can’t be insulted, you are the privileged class.

  12. That drew an outcry from Muslim students and faculty who considered the flyers “blasphemous” for depicting the prophet,

    Oh, they ain’t seen nothing yet. Just wait for “piss Quran”, “bobblehead Mohammed”, and depictions of Allah engaged in all sorts of lurid acts.

    which is prohibited under Islamic tradition.

    Yes, prohibited for Muslims. The rest of us can have as much fun with Mohammed as we want to.

    1. your last sentence says it all and best, its only wrong for those who believe.

    2. Bobblehead Mohammed. I sense a business opportunity!

      1. I googled it. Looks like there used to be one for sale, but not anymore. Huh.

    3. I’ll say this about every picture/depiction I’ve ever seen of Mohammed, he sure has a pretty mouth.

  13. “insulting the followers of the prophet is akin to “punching down.””

    1) they’re called Muslims, and 2) “Punching down” is even stupider than “Rape Culture”

    Please don’t give psychotic social-justice activists any credit by actually using their theory-laden bullshit terminology, as though it has any legitimate basis in reality.

    1. It is actually dumber than rape culture. If head hunters showed up in New York and started attacking and beheading upper East Side Yuppies, would condemning the practice not be allowed because it is “punching down”? It is so racist and patronizing. It just shows that these people don’t consider Muslims to be human beings.

    2. See, I was going to go with “since they tend to react by ‘shooting up’, ‘punching down’ seems like a pretty restrained reaction, really.”

      1. My problem with the term is that it presumes the actual existence of “victim” and “oppressor”-classes.

        It insists on the assumption of fundamentally stupid, baseless concepts. It forces you to accept that there’s somehow an actual moral difference between this stuff and Carlie Hebdo. Because of “who says it”

        its also based in the same mindless, juvenile identity-politics view of the universe which leads people to say things like, “As a bisexual person of color, I think _________”

        …as though your “thoughts” or “attitudes” are a nothing except a vocalized extension of your material being, and not any actual reasoned view that requires justification.

        Its fucking retarded and people should be embarrassed for using terms like that.

  14. If your unit still has active links to this page, or image, please remove the image. Please remove any posters on your unit bulletin boards or any other hard copies of flyers that may be still around.

    Down the Memory Hole.

  15. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

  16. It’s amazing how accommodating folks can be if they believe you are willing to kill them for offending you.

  17. My mom makes $70 every hour on the computer . She has been fired from work for 9 months but last month her pay was $18079 just working on the computer for a few hours.
    See here. ?? ????????? http://www.jobsfish.com

  18. My opponent believes that administrators are often indifferent?if not outright hostile?to the demands of the left.

    If he truly believes that–and I suspect it’s just a contrarian position, because college campuses are essentially inbred leftist hive-minds at this point– then it’s more likely because administrators aren’t openly declaring colleges as soviet socialist republics.

    Nuke academia today.

  19. The fun question would be what happens if a group of Muslims objects to a homoerotic poster advertising some sort of homosexual get-together. Racial victimization (which is how liberals think of Islam) trumps sexual victimization, but sexual license is the basis of the liberal religious cult.

    1. There are departments funded, and degrees to be had, “studying” “intersectionality”, which is proggy code for the hierarchy of dominance amongst identity groups.

      1. Clicked too soon.

        No idea who wins in the hierarchy of dominance between gays and Muslims. I’d like to say gays would, but on the other hand, the Muslims have that whole “we’ll kill you” thing, which has always been useful in establishing dominance.

  20. Please stop referring to him as “the prophet”.

    That sack of shit is no more a prophet than my dog is for the religion of “All Dogs Go To Heaven”.

    1. Right suggestion, wrong reason.

      Whether Mo is or isn’t a ‘prophet’ isn’t anyone’s prerogative other than adherents of a faith.

      The reason to avoid the term was the “The Prophet” part. (as in, “The” Ohio State)

      which suggests that he’s pandering to the Muslim insistence that the other ones (e.g. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, etc) were all subsequently null and voided. Hence, why its generally preferable for journalists to stay out of the whole messenger-of-God-certification-business, and just call them “moozies”, muslims, Mohommedans, whatever

      1. “The” Ohio State

        And what the hell is that “The” about anyway?

  21. The only people with “positional authority” are the staff. To say students opposed to violent Muslims have such a position is absurd as they have no authority. Fuckwits.

  22. One of the true wars raging in this country is the war on free speech. It is so bad that now even prominent people on the left are pointing it out. These groups do not believe in any speech they do not approve, especially the militant Muslims taking over US colleges and universities. We are headed toward a major battle over whether we continue to hold onto one of our most important civil rights or we surrender to Muslims who, regardless of what they claim. seek to impose Sharia law, their law, on the US and the world. You may think the idea is paranoia, but if you step back and listen, really listen to what they say, their goal is clear. I am not advocating anything more than stepping back and objectively and intently listening to what is said instead of what you think is being said or what you THINK they mean.

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