How Firefly Fans Made One University's Campus Safe For Free Speech

from the that-coat-is-brown dept

Back in September, we wrote about a situation at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, where campus police couldn’t be bothered to actually read the text on a post put up by professor James Miller, which referenced a quote in the pilot episode of Firefly, with a picture of Nathan Fillion, the actor who played the character who spoke the line.

The quote was one about fairness, but the campus police interpreted it as a threat, took it down, and threatened the professor. In response, Miller put up a second poster, mocking the takedown of the first poster:
Once again, the university police got involved, taking down the poster and claiming that it “depicts violence and mentions violence and death.” And saying that the “campus threat assessment team” had determined that the poster would “cause a material and/or substantial disruption of school activities and/or be constituted as a threat.” That seems like an interesting (i.e., “wrong”) interpretation of the First Amendment (remember, this is a state school), and the group FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) got involved, sending a letter on behalf of Miller. Amazingly, the University doubled down on this form of censorship, standing by the original takedowns.

We hadn’t followed the story since then, but thanks to JJ for passing along that FIRE recently put up a video detailing the full story, with an appearance by Neil Gaiman, whose tweets about the story first alerted us (and, as it turns out, tons of others) to the story.

As he notes, you should never, ever upset science fiction fans who feel their favorite show has been cancelled in an untimely way.

Of course, as FIRE’s director notes, this story ended up with the University backing down, but only because of the widespread outrage from Firefly fans. It’s too bad that these kinds of issues often only get attention when they have a hook like that. Hopefully more people recognize that free speech issues are free speech issues even if they don’t involve a particular TV show…

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Comments on “How Firefly Fans Made One University's Campus Safe For Free Speech”

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el_segfaulto (profile) says:

Re: Govt Centric Behavior

On a site constantly trolled by some of the most misinformed misanthropes on teh intarwebs your comment is the dumbest one I’ve read in a very long time. I’m not sure if I should be impressed, or saddened on behalf of our collective gene pool.

P.S. that doesn’t imply that our gene pool is socialist in nature, although if it gets people like you (who have corrupted that word to mean anything that you disagree with) out of the gene pool we, as a society will be happy to oblige.

Machin Shin says:

Re: Re:

I am kind of confused on how you got from firefly fans to rednecks. Most “rednecks” are not really scifi fans.

As for the rest of the comment. Well, yes the south lost the war but if you look back at what really happened you will find it was not how you seem to think. Most importantly it was not so much about slaves as it was taxes.

Really though, just about everyone who likes to randomly bring that war up like you have tend to be racist. They are rednecks living in trailers and thinking we should still have slaves or they are the ones who somehow think that African Americans are entitled to special treatment because their ancestors were slaves.

Well, big news flash, no one alive today had anything to do with American slavery. So get over it and stop pretending that the civil war has anything to do with today. Most still waving flags from that war are just a disgrace and I bet most of the men who fought and died in that war would be disgusted to see how their flags are used today.

Doug D (profile) says:

Re: Re: FireFly

You think that the “Browncoat” fans of Firefly are equated to the South in the civil war? Really?

The Browncoats were fighting for their independence from an overbearing government that wanted to control how they live. I can see some vague connection to how people view the civil war, but only if you don’t actually understand the impetus behind it. Associating them to the Tea Party might fly on some level, but still make you look like a damned fool none the less.

c0c0c0 (profile) says:

Aren’t there books and other required reading that would be as if not more violent than those quotes have been misrepresented to state? What if the quote was written from (well known required reading material) or from a lesser known quote from Firefly? Does the school now have a responsibility to go through all the reading material and either censor it or remove it from the required reading material all together???

Ban censorship!

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