Tuesday, April 24, 2018
All of This Because Bad Theater Went Viral?
All too often anymore, college and university students, faculty and administration seem to have forgotten that nobody has a constitutional right NOT to be offended. Offensive speech, images, thoughts -- all of that has a place in our society, and should somebody be offended either once or perpetually, the best responses involve either avoiding or ignoring what offends, or speaking out against that which offends, offering reasons and evidence where appropriate.
Instead, students and fellow sympathizing flash mobs take to the streets, insistent upon shouting down or chasing away those with views opposing their own. Free speech is just fine with such people, as long as the speech caters to their own whims, biases and concepts of decency.
A wonderful example of the worst among such instances currently sweeps across the national media as it erupts on the campus of Syracuse University, where an entire fraternity was just banned "forever" because of videos coming to light which show frat members performing amateurish scenes where racism, homophobia, the mentally challenged, anti-Semitism and religion in general are played up outrageously for laughs in order to leave almost nobody un-offended. Apparently, these fraternity boys never received the message condemning "hate speech," a rather nebulous term which, nevertheless, can and will get you ostracized, extracted and destroyed merely for expressing disturbing thoughts via voice or video. How dare one demonstrate tastelessness on camera!
We forwarded to the Syracuse University chancellor's office last week our opinion that drastic measures administering severe punishment, despite one's guaranteed First Amendment rights, were the wrong way to go. Instead, we would have preferred, now that the videos are "out there" for all to see and, presumably, names of all students involved are available, to simply let the system work and allow students of opposing viewpoints confront the "offenders" so that everybody can talk it all out.
If we have this right, the problem isn't freedom of speech so much as it is student "conduct," according to the chancellor's office. Whaaaa. . .?
Syracuse U. is known for a great drama department, and we dare suggest that a fraternity's offensive, disgusting and just plain vile videos -- depending upon whom one consults -- would have been seen as little more than bad and poorly advised theater, had they been performed on the Syracuse U. stage with the same non-actor actors performing similar antics.
We hold no particular love for fraternities, but because all of this occurred in the rough it was only a matter of time before mobs of "protestors" hit the streets, invigorated with a reason to show up and hate in their own way in the name of "justice" -- and perhaps with a dark agenda of their own -- and the fact that this fraternity seems to have been composed, for the most part, of white guys, all the better for those desirous of playing the race game to go on the attack. We ponder whether a good share of Syracuse University's -- interesting -- street protestors would also volunteer to lower the hammer on Black Lives Matter in mass demonstrations for its kill-the-police attitude.
We, in fact, further wonder whether student protests have more do with their role as "snowflakes" unable to handle the rough edges of society than with the alleged issues with video recordings.
What did the frat videos really show? A cornucopia of young people acting like fools in their own way. That the acting out in playtime theater proved deplorable to the few or the many is the smaller issue. The street mobs attired in messages of socialism and no tolerance, infinitely more dangerous to First Amendment rights than fraternity boys with a camera, would prefer censorship, extreme punishment and, as we now see time and again in institutions of supposedly higher learning across the country, banishment of speech offenders to distant prison-like places from which they shall never return.
Familiar with film director and author John Waters, still in the public eye? Not only has Waters spoken at Syracuse U. on at least a couple of occasions way back (and I have written about and corresponded minimally with him in the distant past), he is also the proud creator -- particularly in his early years of the sixties and seventies -- of what some have termed the filthiest movies ever made, using extreme humor and even nudity to poke satirical and absurd barbs at society's cherished, damned and misery-laden people, situations and beliefs. Over the years, through his cinematic magic, books and public appearances (again, hellooooooo Syracuse University), Waters has established himself as an icon of the intellect -- a strange icon to some, indeed, but an iconic figure nevertheless.
Less cultured and certainly uncouth in terms of telling picture tales for reasons best known to themselves, the S.U. fraternity guys walked a similar path, adulterated unfortunately with something akin to youthful fart jokes, and it's more than obvious that they never considered the effects their efforts would have on a society poised to be offended at the drop of a hat. However, as Syracuse and national media share a field day in grinding this story out in colorful, glorious pieces of condemnation day after day, what's the big deal? A bunch of students expressed something without benefit of settings in an officially sanctioned university drama class and the crowd went wild.
Some may wonder, what takes more brainpower -- a gaggle of student morons producing amateur videos, or university marketers enticing people to buy tickets for the privilege of watching peculiarly-garbed people direct a ball into a hole (the latter a talent, by the way, enjoyed routinely by every dog with which I ever shared my life)?
It is a profound disappointment to watch Syracuse University fall in line with proliferating gangs of student pod-people, undermining the very concept of traditionally protected and expressed observations sans consequences on U.S. campuses.
Rejoice! The thought police are alive and well and enjoying free reign in colleges throughout the land. Will no one deny them a watchtower?