Campus Free Speech

American University Is Censoring a Statue Because It Offended the FBI

Fragile snowflake much?


Cheriss May/ZUMA Press/Newscom

A university is once again resorting to censorship in order to safeguard the delicate feelings of a bunch of fragile little snowflakes—who just happen to work at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

American University is removing a statue of Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of murdering two FBI agents, because the FBI Agents Association considers it offensive. Supporters of Peltier contend that he was wrongly convicted and believe the federal government should grant him clemency. The statue, which sits outside AU's Katzen Arts Center, was intended to raise political awareness about Peltier's situation.

In a press release, FBIAA President Thomas O'Connor wrote that his organization supports free speech, but:

With that right comes a responsibility to consider the consequences of speech. AU should not use its property to celebrate the man convicted of murdering FBI Special Agents Coler and Williams, nor should AU have announced the display of the statute by disseminating misleading propaganda from activists supporting Peltier.

University officials don't need much of an excuse to take action against troublesome political expression, and so they caved almost immediately.

"The nature and location of the piece called into question our ability to honor our responsibilities to ensure the security of the art and the safety of our community," said an AU spokesperson, according to NBC.

No one's safety is actually threatened by the statute, of course—it's a statue. When university administrators talk about safety, they actually mean comfort. It no doubt irks some people that a statue of a convicted killer is allowed to stand on outdoor property, but then again, it irks some other people that a man they believe is innocent has languished behind bars for decades.

I know absolutely nothing about the Peltier case (though the debate over whether he was wrongly convicted seems legitimate). But I do know that free expression is supposed to be hallmark value of a university campus. If political advocacy is only permitted to the extent that no one is offended by it, then all students' basic free speech rights are in danger.

Lastly, I presume the students who wanted the Peltier display installed in the first place are left-leaning. There's an irony here, given that left-leaning students at universities around the country are often the ones demanding that administrators censor speakers, works of art, and—very particularly—statues of people with problematic pasts. Live by the campaign to remove Thomas Jefferson's likeness from outdoor spaces, die by the campaign to remove Thomas Jefferson's likeness from public spaces.

But this irony should not detract from a larger point: It's troubling to see a university rushing to protect the feelings of FBI agents, to the detriment of free expression on campus.


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  1. The world is going to shit since Diane Rehm had her last show.

    1. That’s funny, I thought it got better.

      Never could stand that idiot.

      1. (the connection here is that she used to broadcast from American University in DC)

      2. I only listen to that network in my car, and when DR comes on, I switch to a soft rock station.
        I could not stand to hear her and her guests continually try to get any and all Non-Leftist Guests agree with her beliefs and opinions by weasel-wording questions at them.
        Not even subtle, but the snowflakes that idolize her just seem to love it.

    2. I read that too quickly, thought it said Diane Rehm was a shit show…on second thought maybe I wasn’t so far off…

    3. What’s really offensive is that the FBI and native american’s were mentioned without any reference to Thunderheart.

  2. and in other news, scientists discover that water is wet…

  3. We must erase history.

  4. Ahhh, my alma mater.

    When I was there, we had protests in favor of Iraq War I.

    1. I graduated from AU as well. 1990. You?

      1. SIS ’94 muthafukka!

        Which school for you?

        1. You’re smarter than me. CAS. I studied “theater.”

        2. I tried posting this once, but the squirrels…

          Alexander Dub?ek was our commencement speaker with Arnost Lustig providing the translation.

          1. That’s a good one! We shared our commencement with the Communications school, and it was their turn to invite the speaker, so we got some VP from CSPAN.

            You were there during the Berendzen years. Our class had protests when the Board wanted to pay him off (to the tune of $1 million or so) to leave. We wanted him to stay. Can you imagine any student body nowadays fighting for an admitted pervert to keep his tenure? But he was an asset to the school and seems to have lived a circumspect life since then.

            1. I’d take Berendzen over Ladner any day. (SPA ’98)

  5. This has to be fake news. Bureaucrats don’t have feelings.

    1. But…they do have agendas.

  6. OT: Gollum Ted Cruz introduced an amendment for Congressional term limits. YAS. (doubt it will go anywhere but the circular file)

    1. Nice. I do think it’d be a good idea to limit only consecutive terms. That way there’d always be the threat to the current incumbent of having the previous one come back 1 term later and take back the seat, if they fucked up badly enough.

  7. Does YAL have a presence on campus? THey might have a First Amendment case, since the strongarming was done by Federal employees. Law enforcement Federal employees. With guns.

  8. No one’s safety is actually threatened by the statute, of course?it’s a statue.

    While technically true, you miss the point, Robby. The statue *causes* people to commit violence against others.

  9. “FBIAA President Thomas O’Connor wrote that his organization supports free speech, but…With that right comes a responsibility to consider the consequences of speech.”

    Within the ‘consequences of speech’ one will discover the sole fucking reason why humanity hasn’t governed itself out of existence yet, you risible clammy motherfucker.

    1. Like Trumps populistic parts of his issues, and like Rand Pauls various bits and pieces of the Repub buffet of issues, part of the U Pres decision to toss the statue is just to appeal to a mass audience. The U Pres understands that the article author was wrong, and that the “hero” of the statue is a cop killer (a couple of FBI agents).

      Given a strong authoritative opponent and an issue that would grow opposition as long as the fight went on, it was wise of the U Pres to chose battles and drop this one. The “delicate cupcake” students will survive just fine, if they even remember the issue tomorrow.

  10. With that right comes a responsibility to consider the consequences of speech.

    “I’m from the Ministry of Truth, and we approve this message.”

  11. Ray Harryhausen made the best statues.

    1. +1 Cyclops

  12. it’s troubling to see a public university

    Private university affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

    1. Ah – missed that part of the article.

      Yeah, it’s a private school. But it was government employees putting the screws to the administration.

      1. True. But, generally, there’s more latitude around here for private institutions curtailing speech than for public. Not saying that’s a good thing of course.

  13. “The nature and location of the piece called into question our ability to honor our responsibilities to ensure the security of the art and the safety of our community,” said an AU spokesperson, according to NBC.

    “Nice Univoisity youse gots heah. Sure would be a shame if sumpthin wuz ta happen to it.”

  14. I applaud the FBI agent association for using their free speech, although I would have preferred the University told them “fuck off”.

    Police (or even god forbid.. the Fan Belt Inspector Union) unions have the same right to advocate positions and criticize speech/art as any other individual or group – whether it’s people whinging about Piss Christ, or whatever.

    I, too, have no idea if Peltier got a fair trial or if he’s guilty. .. unlike Mumia, who I know got a fair trial, is guilty as fuck, and is lucky he got his death penalty

    I realize it’s just a story title, but the FBI agent association isn’t really the FBI, any more than the union of auto workers at General Motors is general motors.

    they may (and often do) have an entirely different position than the director of the FBI, for instance.

    In the case of the decision not to indict Hillary, for instance, not sure if the agents association took a stance but it was widely reported the agents nearly unanimously thought it was fucked up that they didn’t charge her – and it was since they had ample PC she committed the crime, the mens rea standard of which was only gross negligence

    LEOs, and even the Famous But Incompetent can speechify all they want

    good for them

  15. And to think that all that nastiness could probably have been avoided if the feds had just thought of something like buying him off with a casino license much sooner.

  16. When I was there, we had protests in favor of Iraq War I.

    “Don’t pull out until you’ve finished!”?

  17. Yeah… actually I find the statue offensive too. Because it seems like he’s either saying, “Hi I’m the only guy ever wrongly convicted” or “Hi I’m one of many guys wrongly convicted so remember me but let’s not extend the same courtesy to the FBI agents who got killed.”

  18. Over pine ridge to wounded knee
    There’s blood on the ground as far as you see

  19. I’d love to see what the FBI would do if American University ignored them. Or, they should move it one inch and say, “Now we’ve met your demand that we move the statue.”

  20. That’s fine, they should just replace it with a statue of J. Edgar Hoover in a dress and a chiseled copy of that letter the FBI sent MLK encouraging him to kill himself.

    1. +1 good hill to die on

    2. Or a statue commemorating the heroic agents who murdered the Weavers and the Branch Davidians.

      1. A statue of FBI assassin Lon Horouchi

  21. If you really want to piss off the FBI put up a statue of Baby Face Nelson

    1. George Nelson… not Baby Face!!

      *holds back tears, fires solitary shot from Thompson, shuffles out of bank*

      1. Oh, brother…

  22. I know absolutely nothing about the Peltier case (though the debate over whether he was wrongly convicted seems legitimate).

    Amnesty USA says he was wrongly convicted and that’s good enough for Robby? Isn’t that like believing everything the SPLC says?

    1. Tangential:

      Do the participants here ever find that they are in incongruent with ACLU stances?

    2. not sure how you can know absolutely nothing and then draw such a conclusion.

  23. Based on the small version of the image, I was thinking that it was a statue of Ron Jeremy.

  24. Why did they have a statue of that turd, anyway?

  25. I think it was mentioned above, but surely this violates the letter of some sort of non lobbying law.

  26. Let’s talk about dozens of cases of the FBI murdering citizens, starting with the horrific murder of Gordon Kahl:

    1. You better watch yourself pal, I’m the FBI round here. Full blooded Indian.

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  28. ” his organization supports free speech, but:”

    Let me just stop you right there.

  29. A statue…of propaganda:
    Mark Potter: “Did you fire at those agents, Coler and Williams?
    Peltier: “I shot in their direction, yes.”
    CNN, Oct ’99. Peltier later admits he stood over the bodies moments after they were shot in the head.
    “?I can’t tell the system I was shooting at their police officers that were trying to arrest me. They’ll hold that against me.”
    Peltier interview admitting he mistakenly believed the agents were there to arrest him when he opened fire on their FBI cars, apparently recognizing them from the day before when they had visited the same compound.
    “When all is said and done…the casing introduced into evidence in fact had been extracted from the Wichita AR-15.”
    Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, Feb 1986, finding of fact that a shell casing found at the murder scene was ejected from the AR-15 assault rifle carried by Leonard Peltier. Over a hundred shell casings, all matched to Peltier’s weapon, were found in the area and over a hundred bullet holes were found in the FBI cars.
    “The motherf—er was begging for his life but I shot him anyway.”
    Sworn testimony attributed to Leonard Peltier, boasting in the Marlon Brando motor home about shooting Ronald Williams, as heard by Dennis Banks, Ka-Mook Banks, Bernie Lafferty, and (soon-to-be-murdered) Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. According to the autopsy report, Ronald Williams died with his right hand held up in front of his face; there were powder burns on his fingers.

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