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...