More on Campus Anti-Speech Activism

Since I raised the “Stonewall” movie fracas in the post below on transgender activism, I’m bumping up the following, which I had added to an earlier post on the progressive campus anti-speech movement.

Robby Soave writes at, citing Colorado College’s student newspaper, The Catalyst, that LGBT student activists at the college declared that the movie “Stonewall” was too offensive to be shown on campus by the college’s Film and Media Studies Department, which wanted to moderate a discussion about the controversy. Instead, the students demanded that the administration cancel the upcoming screening.

“I think Colorado College should cancel the screening because the safety and well-being of queer and trans students surpasses the importance of a critical discussion,” one student told The Catalyst. Said another: “If CC is really as dedicated to diversity and inclusion, they would never have agreed to screen a film that queer students have repeatedly stated is a threat to our identity and our safety. … It is fallacious to equate the rights of students to view a movie with the rights of students to exist free of violence.”

Soave comments regarding the students’ response to the film, directed by openly gay filmmaker Roland Emmerich, which positively depicts gay people fighting for equality in 1969:

That’s right: the film isn’t merely offensive to gay and trans students (despite having a truly gay-affirming message), it’s actively dangerous to their physical well-being…. This is a complaint emotionally-coddled students often make: that some kind of expression is so triggering that allowing it to proceed constitutes an act of violence. Such complaints are usually pure hyperbole, but hyperbole doesn’t even begin to cover the opinions of Colorado College’s precious snowflakes.

Also, here’s a link to James Kirchick’s piece on the Yale insanity:

If the administration is truly committed to equipping young people for the real world and not a chimerical fantasyland where they never have to hear something disagreeable, the best thing it could do, both for their sake and Yale’s sacred mission, is tell them to grow up.

And another fine piece by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic, The New Intolerance of Student Activism:

They see anything short of a confession of wrongdoing as unacceptable. In their view, one respects students by validating their subjective feelings. Notice that the student position allows no room for civil disagreement. Given this set of assumptions, perhaps it is no surprise that the students behave like bullies even as they see themselves as victims.


Crybullies are everything they claim to abhor. They are narcissists who complain about selfishness. Completely incapable of human empathy, they whine that no one cares about their feelings. They are prone to cowardly acts of violence, but demand safe spaces. They are bullies who say they’re bullied.

The crybully embodies the left. He is an oppressed oppressor. An abusive victim. A self-righteous hypocrite. A loudmouth censor. A civil rights activist who wants to take everyone’s rights away.

Much of that description also fits the heroes of progressivism who use the power of the state to force small, religiously conservative business owners to provide services to same-sex weddings, and destroy their businesses if they refuse (and threaten them with financial ruin, and jail). It’s all of a piece.

More. The Vice President of the University of Missouri Student Association, via MSNBC: “I personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment.”

Progressive students are flooding out of the closet—as the authoritarians we’ve always known them to be. Their older mentors should be as honest about their intentions.

Fortunately, some students get it. Via the Harvard Law Record: Fascism at Yale. Yes, let’s call the progressive students’ political beliefs by its right name.

Proving the point: Amherst Activists Demand Re-Education for Students Who Celebrated Free Speech. A coalition of campus progressive groups declared that a poster celebrating the First Amendment was “racially insensitive” and requires “extensive training for racial and cultural competency.”

The list of signatories at Amherst includes Purple Pride, Pride Alliance, Queer Resource Center, and TransActive. Because, you know, what has free speech ever done for gay people.

Finally, Walter Olson’s Campus expression roundup for the week, at

31 Comments for “More on Campus Anti-Speech Activism”

  1. posted by Kosh III on

    ” that some kind of expression is so triggering that allowing it to proceed constitutes an act of violence.”
    You mean like “Kill A Queer for Christ?”

  2. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    I guess my reaction is similar to my response to “The Progessive [sic] Campus Anti-Speech Movement”, Stephen H. Miller, IGF, October 24, 2015, so I won’t bother to repeat it all. Students will be students, and students will display a lack of intellectual maturity more often than not, and it is up to colleges and universities to grow them up, intellectually. It isn’t a major problem, although it is problematic.

    Soave comments regarding the students’ response to the film, directed by openly gay filmmaker Roland Emmerich, which positively depicts gay people fighting for equality in 1969 …

    A side note (and a small note, to be sure) but I wonder why conservatives continue to use the qualifier “openly gay”, as if the qualifier continued to be relevant to assessing a person’s worth. True, conservative Christians and their allies use the term “openly homosexual”) to destroy a person’s credibility, and it wasn’t all that long ago when an “openly gay” person gained credibility points within the LGBT community because being “openly gay” took a measure of courage.

    But is that necessarily the case any longer? Does Ronald Emmerich’s openness about his sexuality add or detract anything from the film itself?

    I recognize that being closeted makes a difference in politics, still, in the sense that we have long suffered under the heel of closeted politicians who lead the anti-gay bandwagon, as often as not, to affirm their “heterosexuality”. And I recognize that being closeted for political purposes is still the norm in conservative circles, so perhaps celebrating men like Richard Tisei and Dan Innes as “openly gay” still makes sense for homocons.

    But aside from the dangers of closeted politicians and the need to turn the Republican Party away from the “anti-gay, every day” kick they’ve been on for a long time, isn’t it time to set the “openly gay” qualifier to rest? What if Richard Emmerich were straight? Or closeted? Would it change anything?

    As I noted, this is a side note. Stephen and I, both pushing 70, came up in a period when being “openly gay” made a real difference. Both of us are probably just showing our age, and not much more than that.

  3. posted by JohnInCA on

    Call me when it’s not a private university.

    I’m at the point where I expect the students of a private university, whether it’s Yale or Brigham young, to be neurotic and have strange notions of how the university caters to them. And maybe it’s deserved. Goodness knows those private universities aren’t cheap.

    But I also don’t care, because those are the students that the private universities are *choosing*.

    Freedom of association and speech, ya know?

    So yeah. Call me when it’s a public school. ’cause until then, I’m always gonna compare it to Brigham Young. And being kicked out (and having your transcripts withheld making it a bitch to transfer) for being a non-celibate gay is always gonna look a lot more “authoritarian” then a couple of students protesting a movie.

  4. posted by Jorge on

    A side note (and a small note, to be sure) but I wonder why conservatives continue to use the qualifier “openly gay”, as if the qualifier continued to be relevant to assessing a person’s worth.

    The label “openly gay” is shortest and least intrusive way to give the disclaimer that the writer or speaker is not outing someone who is either closeted or doesn’t want to talk about being gay. I (and I suspect a growing number of gays) would prefer it be acknowledged in passing when it’s unavoidable or relevant.

    I do think it’s relevant that the a gay person is involved in a movie about LGBT history. Same as a black director being involved in a movie about black history.

    • posted by Tom Scharbach on

      I do think it’s relevant that the a gay person is involved in a movie about LGBT history. Same as a black director being involved in a movie about black history.

      Why? Do you think that there would have been any more or less controversy had the movie be directed by a straight guy?

      • posted by Jorge on

        It lends a certain element of credibility, a sense of communities telling their own stories rather than a privileged elite group telling a slanted history.

        I think I just fell into a trap.

      • posted by Tom Scharbach on

        I wonder, and I want to raise the question in the context of Brokeback Mountain, a 2006 film that most of us have seen.

        I read Annie Proulx’s book, The Shipping News, in the 1990’s, liked it, and that led me to look for other things she’d written.
        I came across Wyoming Stories, which included a short story, “Brokeback Mountain”. The story, which ending in terrible, mute loss, poleaxed me, because it spoke to my own experience with the death at twenty. My first lover was the light of my life, my soulmate, and to my eyes, the world revolved around him. And them, in an a moment, he was killed in a car crash. I spent the next summer — the next year, really — in mute and profound grief, with no one to talk to about him, no one to share the loss. I remember that summer as one where I worked the farm, staying as far away from anyone else as possible, lost. Vietnam came as welcome a relief, a change and a chance to move on, and dragged me back into life. I’ve had a rich and wonderful life, but I still miss Bill, and I have had a photo of him on my desk for close to fifty years now.

        Proulx had no “qualifications” to write the story — the story of the pervasive silence and marginalization of the 1950’s and 1960’s, of hidden love and mute loss — so profoundly. She’s female. She’s straight. She’s urban. She’s articulate. And yet she did, and did so with power and authenticity.

        As we all know, the story was made into a movie. The screenplay was written by Larry McMurtry, directed by Ang Lee, acted by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, all straight. None had any more qualifications than Proulx. And yet the movie, remarkably true to the original story in both content and feel, was as powerful as the story itself.

        The movie was marketed as a gay love story, and hyped as a bridge between straights and gays. But it was, at the time and subsequently, also the cause of distress to many, because for all the marketing and hype, Brokeback Mountain is a story of loss.

        Proulx told the Paris Review in December 2014 that she wished that she hadn’t written the story because fans can’t come to grips with the story line and the ending: “They can’t bear the way it ends – they just can’t stand it. So they rewrite the story, including all kinds of boyfriends and new lovers and so forth after Jack is killed. And it just drives me wild. They can’t understand that the story isn’t about Jack and Ennis. It’s about homophobia; it’s about a social situation; it’s about a place and a particular mindset and morality. They just don’t get it.

        Yes, it is. And it is, in that context, a deep and moving story about a particular form of the gay experience of the time.

        So what about the story? What about Proulx? It seems to me that what counts, looking back over the two decades since the story was written, was Proulx’s craft, her ability as a writer, not the fact that she’s an “openly straight” woman. Her craft shows up in other stories she’s written about other times, places and people, few of which tell stories from her personal experience.

        And what about the movie? What about McMurtry, Lee, Ledger and Gyllenhaal? Again, it seems to me that what counts is their ability as writers, directors and actors, not the fact that all of them are “openly straight”.

        Turning now to Stonewall. The screenplay was written by Jon Robin Baitz and directed by Roland Emmerich. Both are gay.

        Stonewall has been panned because the directing and acting is clunky, because it sanitizes the Christopher Street culture of the time, and because it trivializes the Stonewall story as a bland coming-out story, told through the device of a young hick from Indiana. As Roland Emmerich put it in an interview: “It’s about these crazy kids in New York, and a country bumpkin who gets into their gang, and at the end they start this riot and change the world.” Whatever else might be said about Stonewall, it is not a history. It is a coming-out, coming-of-age story, half-baked and, if film critics are to be believed, poorly done.

        But because Stonewall uses the Stonewall Riots as a vehicle, and because it is not history but is confused as such, it has reignited a controversy, a controversy which is a continuation of a long sniper war about the spark that ignited the riots, and what happened in the early hours of the riots. Stonewall did not create the controversy, but instead bumbled into it.

        But let me ask you this: Because two key players in the movie’s development — the screen writer and the director — are gay, wouldn’t we expect a better job of it to have been done if your thesis is correct?

        It seems to me that either Baitz and Emmerich intended to take a side in the sniper war, or Baitz and Emmerich did not, stumbling into the controversy from ineptitude. Or perhaps both were so clueless that they had no conception about the trouble they’d get into by casting an iconic moment in LGBT history as a coming-out, coming-of-age story about some kid from Indiana, of all places.

        I don’t know. But I do know this: If we are counting on gays and lesbians for “authenticity” in telling our story, we had better look to competent gays and lesbians. I say that because to my mind, Brokeback powerfully and accurately depicts a particular time and place in American gay history because all of the major players where competent in their respective crafts, not because (or perhaps despite) they were “openly straight”, and Stonewall falls flat on its ass because it was not done competently, and that has nothing to do with the fact that Emmerich and Baitz are “openly gay”.

        So let me get to your comment: “It lends a certain element of credibility, a sense of communities telling their own stories rather than a privileged elite group telling a slanted history.

        Well, maybe. But sometimes “credibility” is misused, as I think that it is in this case.

        Without “openly gay” Emmerich and (the unmentioned) Baitz, Stonewall would be seen as nothing much, yet another coming-of-age story indistinguishable from the seemingly endless stream of two-star coming-of-age movies distributed by TLA and Strand.

        But because “openly gay” has a history within the LGBT community, dating back to a time when being out did add credibility within LGBT circles, Stonewall has become “significant” and “important”. Supposed “credibility” has bootstrapped the movie out of the obscurity it so richly deserves.

        • posted by Houndentenor on

          Shortly after the Proulx’s story was first published in the New Yorker, photocopies of it began circulating. Someone gave me one which I never quite got around to reading until the movie was announced. It had a huge impact on people a bit older than me who had lost half their friends in the decade and a half prior.

          I do think there’s something to be said for people telling their own stories. Obviously if we insist on some sort of cultural purity Hollywood and other media conglomerates will ignore us. It’s going to be a mix of big budget media and small independent. Frankly, I prefer Bid Eden to Brokeback Mountain. I like my romances to have happy or at least bittersweet endings. I think we’re past the point when all gay stories have to end in tragedy. We get happy endings now just like everyone else.

        • posted by Jorge on

          Proulx had no “qualifications” to write the story — the story of the pervasive silence and marginalization of the 1950’s and 1960’s, of hidden love and mute loss — so profoundly. She’s female. She’s straight. She’s urban. She’s articulate. And yet she did, and did so with power and authenticity.

          When a white person and a black person play the same sorrowful piece on the violin, do they play it differently?

          What about when a white conservative Justice and a black conservative Justice make the same decision for the same reason about a case in which the Ku Klux Klan is one of the parties? Does their race make a difference?

          Sandra Day O’Connor wrote of the Constitution something to the effect of that it does not change, but like a work of Picasso or Rembrandt each generation may develop new understandings, see different subtleties.

          The same is surely just as true of the artist’s relation to a subject as it is one’s experience of a work of art.

          To be perfectly frank, I think your post shows that Anne Proulx’s demographics influence the craft of her story. I remember reading only one interview of hers, around the time the movie came out, in which she said her original story was “an old, old story. We’ve heard the story a million times, we just haven’t quite heard it with this cast,” and that “It was just another story when I was writing it.” She will take a set of events that may happen to a gay couple in love and set it against a certain prototype, a certain set of truths she holds, adding a certain spice to the long note she draws out (is such a thing possible in music?).

          “This is a love story.”

          Well, maybe. But sometimes “credibility” is misused, as I think that it is in this case.

          [“Orcs, for example, cannot carry a tune, (although they can shout very loudly).”–The Magic Candle II manual]

          Misused credibility indeed.

        • posted by Jorge on

          By the way, “just another story” is pretty much what my impression of the movie (which I was mandated to watch) was.

          Which is, come to think of it, among the most generous things I usually say about fictional movies involving gay male subjects. Most of the ones I’ve seen have been so contrived.

  5. posted by Mike in Houston on

    Substitute “campus anti-speech” with “religious liberty / anti-Christian” and you get crickets from the homocons.

  6. posted by tom jefferson 3rd on

    {sigh} I am not sure how good or bad the new film about Stonewall Inn riots actually is.

    Students like to protest stuff (good time to meet new people, have a party and being outraged at what the adults running things, “old folks”, are doing)….
    and they dont always have alot of tact or civility or good debate skills.

    Their were some student protests about 50 Shades Of Grey ( alas, not because it is poorly written, Twilight fan fiction)

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      Lost on Stephen’s post is that the “openly gay” director also said that he didn’t view his portrayal of the Stonewall Riots as historically accurate but as a tale about LGBT homelessness…

  7. posted by Tom Jefferson 3rd on

    The amount of interest a Hollywood director or a writer has in being historically accurate, is generally somewhere between box office and bubkis.

    Robert Altman did put a lot of effort/time/research into Gosford Park (in terms of the class system and the duties of the down stairs employees). He was not necessarily the “norm”.

    Sometimes history is deemed too dull, complicated or depressing. Sometimes, the history is just a background to help tell a story, sometimes their ain’t the resources or foresight to hire good consultants.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      I just watched The Woman in Gold. I thought it was great but there are numerous complaints about historical inaccuracies. Dramas make changes because the real story is often dull and tedious if you don’t rearrange the timeline a bit, combine characters and events, etc. I realize that’s a problem if you are one of the people misrepresented but if people just want the facts they should read a news account not expect a theatrical dramatization to do that.

  8. posted by Mike in Houston on

    I think that this is a bit more insidious infringement…

    Missouri Lawmaker Wants To Block Student’s Research On Abortion Law

    “Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R) has launched an effort to stop a University of Missouri graduate student from studying the impacts of a state law mandating a 72-hour abortion waiting period passed last year.”

  9. posted by Jorge on

    He accused the university of breaking a state law that prohibits the use of state funds to “encourage or counsel a woman to have an abortion not necessary to save her life,” the Columbia Tribune reported last week.

    That’s a little like accusing someone of murder when they’re buying a gun.

    But what infringement are you talking about? The university ignored him. I don’t see anyone but this one idiot trying to advance this change. He is entitled to his opinion. It is the university’s responsibility to man up and ignore it. The fact that it chooses to ignore him in this situation, which is in fact a dispute of an existing state law, but not in a situation which is merely a dispute of politics and personal style, is in my view hypocritical. Worse, the racial situation involved actual sabotage and damage to the university’s institutions, as half of the players of a football team refused to play and their own coach permitted the walkout without imposing discipline. The University would have been well within its right and responsibility to fire the coach and demand the striking players’ ouster. Instead, it was the rulebreakers who were rewarded. It shows that the university is willing to buckle under to blackmail and mob tactics rather than display an interest in following and enforcing the rules.

  10. posted by Tom Scharbach on

    Much of that description also fits …

    … African-Americans, women, disabled people and others who enforce their rights under state and federal public accommodation, employment and other non-discrimination laws. The only exemptions are conservative Christians, who are just and righteous in all things.

    It’s all of a piece.


    • posted by Jorge on

      Hey, Tom! My Regnerus is an Academic Whore file came in handy!

      A Utah judge reversed his own decision removing a child from two lesbian foster parents based on “studies” that children do better with straight couples. Theoretically an inquiry into such studies is an entirely defensible line of inquiry in the absence of strict scrutiny protection. The Regnerus is an Academic Whore file helped me explain why the sudden reversal was mandatory, as the DeBoer v. Snyder case was appealed to and consolidated in the US Supreme Court.

      “The Supreme Court has upheld the only decision in which testimony was offered on any study purporting to show that children do better when raised by straight parents than with gay study. In that district court case, the judge ruled that the testimony of the study’s lead author was entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.

      An appeal of the present family court judge’s ruling was therefore extremely likely to call into question the key fact underlying his justification.

      Your side had its chance to present evidence in court to support the notion that children do better with gay families than with straight families. The evidence that was presented was found to be entirely unbelievable and not worthy of serious consideration.”

      Any day I can present evidence to the rabid progressives that the rabid right is wrong for moderate reasons is a good day for me.

      • posted by Jorge on

        “Your side had its chance to present evidence in court to support the notion that…”

        And someone just pointed out that I reversed the sentence X(

  11. posted by Houndentenor on

    I am a free speech advocate but I draw the line at a swastika drawn in feces. That’s not speech worth defending by anyone.

    • posted by craig123 on

      Another hoax – police found no evidence of this. Fake hate crime after fake hate crime, all to serve the narrative.

  12. posted by tom jefferson 3rd on

    {hmm} Freedom of speech does not preclude criticism and it does not mean that their cannont be time, manner and place regulations

    Sometimes folks seem to think that the First Amendment means that you can say anything, do anything and no one can do anything about it.

    Basically, some people think that they live in an Family Guy cartoon.

  13. posted by Mike in Houston on

    When Stephen starts calling out the same tactics that call ‘free speech’ Christian persecution, ‘gaystapo’, ‘homofacists’, etc. , then I’ll bite.

    Frankly, I’m not surprised he hasn’t somehow blamed Paris on us as well.

    • posted by Jorge on

      Gestapo persecution of religious she-monks probably is the reason ISIS has France as its number 1 target, so you’re not that far off.

  14. posted by Mike in Houston on

    I ran across this on Atrios’ blog, and it pretty much sums things up for me:

    Back before evil censoring leftists took control of college campuses and took away all of the free speech, it was common for my various faculty acquaintances and friends in the humanities to have to try to accommodate the various delicate sensibilities of conservative religious students who believed that their religion did not allow them to read certain books and (especially) see certain films. While the degree to which any particular accommodation is “reasonable” in these circumstances is debatable, they were a regular, if not extremely frequent, type of request that faculty members had to deal with. None of this ever made the news or inspired a billion frothing think pieces about how college students were censoring us all, or about how the delicate little flowers needed their safe spaces because the kids today are weaklings. But the substance of the requests was the same: warn me about the material, let me decide what I can and can’t read/watch, and find alternative assignments for me if I ask for them.

    Those who bleat loudest about trigger warnings (which, whatever their merits in any particular context, have not actually taken over college syllabi, though it’s fun to pretend they have) would probably be leading the charge to demonize the faculty who were teaching their precious little darlings using some of the materials they are actually using. Faculty sometimes teach using violent and pornographic films and novels, including sexual violence. And gay stuff! Lots and lots of gays stuff. Some of this would horrify those horrified by trigger warnings which they imagine are regularly applied to The Great Novels they probably never read but know are truly great because white male canon. Those also include sex and violence, but the right kind.

    Remember: it’s okay if you’re a certain kind of Christian to try and ban books or refuse assignments because it would “compromise” your beliefs, because: religious freedum… in no way should that get in the way of the liberal = fascist speech controller narrative.

  15. posted by tom jefferson 3rd on

    Agan, I think some people want to “have their cake, and eat it to.”

    Thus, “religious freedom” becomes a magic word for some people of certain denominations can say, “hey, you cant make do what i dont want to do, and if you say or do otherwise, theb you are a fascist.”

    Trust me. If we actually lived in a fascist state, we probably would not be having a debate about what a bunch of “glazed and oversexed” students complain about.

  16. posted by JohnInCA on

    So vaguely related, Lake Lure Classical Academy, a K-12 charter school in North Carolina, faced with the possibility of a “newly formed LGBT club” decided to suspend *all* clubs while they lawyered up.

    Say what you want about student activists, outside of the isolated violent incidents, their only power is their ability to persuade people. School boards, faculty and so-on? They have real power over other people.

    • posted by Mike in Houston on

      Come on!

      How dare you equate Stephen’s unexplurgated support of poor conservatives confronted with ideas that threaten their world views with reality?

      When it’s in Stephen’s interest, you need to accept it – when he objects, the POV is statist fascism.

    • posted by Tom Jefferson III on

      Interestingly. Their have been a handful of cases where a school board/district has tried to get out of having to recognize a LGBT student club, by banning all clubs and organizations.

  17. posted by Tom Jefferson 3rd on

    Bias motivated violence is certainly a serious problem. I am not sure that the Stonewall Inn film can be seen in the same hateful context as say, Cruising in 1981.

    Now, some University students (left and right, gay and straight) just like to protest stuff and its because they got lots of energy, idealism and, yes, its a great way to get laid.

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