December 13, 2012

"Strangles"?

Really? Where's the strangling? Calling speech offensive is more speech, not censorship.

Via Instapundit, who quotes the headline that contains what I say is a deceptive metaphor: "Harvard, Legendary Home Of Harvard Lampoon, Strangles Campus Satire."

If the authorities are offended and express outrage and demand more circumspect speech, satire is not murdered. It is the opposite of murdered. It is given fertile ground in which to grow and prosper. What better foil for comedy than a bunch of dour, repressive authority figures? Since when is satire ruined when the superiors don't think it's funny? Seems to me their outrage makes it funnier.

If you don't have enough courage with your humor to keep moving forward, you were never very funny in the first place.

47 comments:

MadisonMan said...

College students can say and do things that are remarkably tone deaf. I don't quite understood why such things generate such OUTRAGE!!!! instead of, say, an eyeroll. From the flyer at Harvard to that picture at Penn State.

For the Administration of the College to get involved in these kerfuffles says only one thing: We don't trust you trod-upon people being made fun of to have the wherewithal to defend yourself. Think of us as your benevolent overlords, and, oh, by the way, we're raising tuition next year.

EDH said...

Really? Where's the strangling?

From the Crimson link:

The mock invitations distributed at Harvard drew a swift response from College administrators, who summoned at least one student organization leader on Friday as they began investigating the incident.

wyo sis said...

The perils of being mainstream.
How will the outlaws of yesterday handle the outlaws of today? The same way the establishment always handles it.
How the anti-establishment becomes the irrelevant. Those stuffy former hippies are just too funny. And they don't have heroism, service to country, morality or hard work to point to, to make them relevant ie the Greatest Generation.

Shouting Thomas said...

Getting called to the principal's office and forced to apologize for one thing or another was strictly high school back when I was a kid. Happened all the time. I had to do it once myself. Of course, the apology is always completely phony.

Extended adolescence has promoted this goofy ritual to the college level.

So, I think the answer here is that college is what high school used to be.

"Strangled" seems like the right word to me. When you've got two hands around your neck, it's difficult to speak.

Ann Althouse said...

@EDH Yeah, I saw that, but I can't see any threat of discipline of any kind there. Someone was asked to come in for conversation about it and he went. I know the words "summon" and "investigation" seem threatening, but I don't see any substance beyond the expression of concern that the authorities are doing. They care about climate and comfort on campus and they're doing their theater of concern. Where's the harm to the speakers other than the effect of more speech?

Shouting Thomas said...

BTW, I was in the right (or somewhat in the right) when I was called to the principal's office for my dressing down. I had been warming up on my trumpet before band rehearsal, when this fat girl who had a crush on me tried to get my attention by hitting me repeatedly upside the head with rolled up music manuscripts.

I got pissed off and yelled "Fuck off!"

There's a moral in here, which is that women are always the victim in any altercation with men. This is, to a large extent, the explanation for the gay political hysteria. Women like gay men, and seem to assume that they are helpless and effeminate like women, and thus deserving to be in on the scam.

Disciplining the fat girl for hitting me upside the head never seemed to occur to anybody.

MayBee said...

If you don't have enough courage with your humor to keep moving forward, you were never very funny in the first place.

Or you wisely realize the humor can wait if your future is on the line.

Ann Althouse said...

"Getting called to the principal's office and forced to apologize for one thing or another was strictly high school back when I was a kid..."

Nothing about forced apologies or any other compelled speech in that Harvard Crimson article (unless I missed it).

The people who were offended have the right to speak to.

If you think speaking in the form of satire requires others to shut up and accept the ribbing, you've got to explain why. I don't see it.

I see more speech, the traditional free-speech remedy for speech you don't like.

Matthew Sablan said...

I think they may be implying that those sorts of call-ins and talks might have a chilling effect.

Chris Lopes said...

Ann Althouse said...
@EDH Yeah, I saw that, but I can't see any threat of discipline of any kind there.

The word you left out is "yet". When a school official orders you to explain yourself (in a formal setting where they are in complete control), he/she is giving you a warning: continue in this vain and harsher actions will follow.

edutcher said...

I would assume the powers that are at Haavahd do have the option of tossing the offenders out of school.

That, to me, would pretty effectively strangle their efforts.

Shouting Thomas said...

BTW, I was in the right (or somewhat in the right) when I was called to the principal's office for my dressing down. I had been warming up on my trumpet before band rehearsal, when this fat girl who had a crush on me tried to get my attention by hitting me repeatedly upside the head with rolled up music manuscripts.

I got pissed off and yelled "Fuck off!"


A simple, "Will you stop?" (what I use on The Blonde occasionally), will also work.

MayBee said...

Yeah, I don't think people who are complaining need to stop complaining.


But the thing about not moving forward means you were never funny really doesn't work.
This was funny. If the person never does another thing, this was still funny.

Matthew Sablan said...

Then again, the invitations -were- kind of stupid, so really, lose-lose here.

damikesc said...

Given the treatment of unpopular speech on campus...they have a reason to be concerned.

Former "Free Speech Movement" adherents are horrendous about protecting speech.

Mitchell the Bat said...

Mandatory school uniforms is the answer.

Oh, and those strangle-collar things from Star Trek.

See? They really work.

MayBee said...

I am trying to remember a story Althouse brought to our attention.....maybe a private email sent by a Harvard student that resulted in her being dismissed by the university?

Haven't women at Yale been pushing for men who participated in a satire to be punished because they were creating an anti-women environment?

It isn't as if getting in trouble because someone else is offended is just completely unthinkable these days.

Once you feel threatened, it's often hard to know when the threat has been lifted.

Shouting Thomas said...

A simple, "Will you stop?" (what I use on The Blonde occasionally), will also work.

I took my warming up very seriously.

Still do.

edutcher said...

I take what I'm doing seriously, too, but I get my point across.

Chris Lopes said...

Matthew Sablan said...
Then again, the invitations -were- kind of stupid, so really, lose-lose here.

Yes they were. It wasn't funny at all, and the students who were offended had every right to be. Having administrators involved though, sounds like an official reprimand.

campy said...

The people who were offended have the right to speak to. [sic]

AND they have the right to call the offenders in and force them to listen! Even more freedom!

Don't you wingnutz like freedom?

Patrick said...

The people who were offended have the right to speak to.

Absolutely.

I think the University's reaction was highly predictable. I wouldn't be surprised if the authors of this prank held a contest among themselves to see who could most closely approximate the inevitable press release in advance!

MayBee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MayBee said...

It's not like these students have tenure. It takes a little more courage to keep pushing if you have something to lose.

Come on, you guys. The "semi-bro" dress code was worth a chuckle.

EDH said...

"Laugh now... you clowns"

Double-Secret Probation

Ann Althouse said...

By they way, the satire was in the form of sealed envelopes, anonymously slipped under students' doors, which could be rather scary for people. It's not the best way to do vigorous satire.

MadisonMan said...

Having administrators involved though, sounds like an official reprimand.

But don't you understand? If the Associate Dean in charge of Diversity doesn't get involved, she won't be able to justify her 6-figure salary!

(Let's all predict the major of the Administrator who is calling these students in for a meeting. I say contains the word Studies).

Ann Althouse said...

"AND they have the right to call the offenders in and force them to listen."

Show me where it says anyone was forced?

Matthew Sablan said...

The more I think about it, I think the school is right to at least A) Confirm this is a joke [we all guess it is, but crazier things have happened] and B) Make it clear that This Is Not Acceptable.

People can still -do it,- but the school is perfectly right to make clear the level of satire they are willing to accept without doling out consequences.

Chip S. said...

By they way, the satire was in the form of sealed envelopes, anonymously slipped under students' doors, which could be rather scary for people. It's not the best way to do vigorous satire.

Just think of it as a kind of prank phone call. Then you'll see the humor in it.

Chip S. said...

This seems like a pretty transparent prank. I mean, the specified location for the event was a Harvard Square froyo shop.

It'll be interesting to see the administration's response if it turns out that the perp was a Jewish student whose intent was to induce anti-Semites to reveal themselves.

And as much as I hate to say it, props to the Crimson in this case.

ricpic said...

Obama is only a dour, repressive authority figure to bitter clingers; to all others he's a bro.

Ann Althouse said...

"I think they may be implying that those sorts of call-ins and talks might have a chilling effect."

But you could just as well say that racial satire slipped under doors has a chilling effect. Everyone's always silencing everyone. That's why "more speech" IS a remedy.

Disapproval works.

DADvocate said...

How about "Squeezing?" Such as squeezing the meaning you want out of a subject. Obviously, the Harvard administrators are attempting to strangle satire. Calling someone to "the office" is a threat. If you don't understand that, you're out of touch.

If you don't have enough courage with your humor to keep moving forward, you were never very funny in the first place.

I don't see the link at all.

Ann Althouse said...

In First Amendment law, the words "chilling effect" usually refer to the way people who are not themselves subjected to penalty feel inhibited by penalties imposed on others. It's not a general reason not to express disapproval. That wouldn't make sense. It would be internally contradictory.

Ann Althouse said...

"I don't see the link at all."

These timid souls are not going to be the great comedians. You have to have some nerve.

Chip S. said...

But you could just as well say that racial satire slipped under doors has a chilling effect.

What are you talking about?

It's a mortal lock that if they find out who did it, (s)he's gonna be called before the Ad Board.

Ann Althouse said...

"What are you talking about?"

What are you talking about?

I'm just trying to read the Harvard Crimson and see what happened in this case and why it should or shouldn't be called "strangling."

If you have material on that point, quote it.

Chip S. said...

If you read the Crimson article, then you ought to be able to figure out what's going on.

You seem to think that all that's happened is that the Dean of the College expressed her dismay at the tastelessness of the flier after having been asked for a comment by the media.

What she actually did was to summon the prez of the Lampoon as a prime suspect. There's your "chilling effect". But she has no idea who did it, so that's all she can do right now.

Just wait to see what happens if they find the perp.

Howard said...

More teabagger chickenhawks playing the victim card.

Rabel said...

This story highlights modern society's desperate need for a formalized, universally accepted sarcasm symbol. I would use it here if I knew what it was.

Chip S. said...

@Rabel, Apparently it's "Howard".

MayBee said...

These timid souls are not going to be the great comedians. You have to have some nerve.

Timid? What has you believing they are timid?
Because they don't want to get kicked out of school?

I honestly think you've been on the tenured faculty side of things too long. You don't fear losing your job because of something you've said.


Alan Hale said...

Very good point -- in general, official expressions of outrage about anonymous critical speech such as this mostly backfire on the officials. Obviously this was a biting and fairly effective anonymous attack on Harvard's decades of tolerating anti-Semitic finals clubs, yet few would ever have heard of it absent the complaints by the Harvard administration and the usual "victim" groups.

Harvard's harsh treatment of this matter is hardly unique -- Harvard routinely does its best to undermine anonymous speech attacking its institutional practices, sometimes more successfully than in this instance.

Earlier this year, for example, Harvard law students protested Harvard's renaming of the law school's old student center. The Harkness Commons had long been named for Harvard's most generous contributor ever, but for a relatively paltry sum (compared to Harkness's contribution), Harvard renamed it for a businessman (Finn Caspersen) who had committed suicide as the IRS closed in on him for allegedly cheating on his taxes, for perhaps as much as $100 million. The students' posters were ripped down, and Harvard used a bogus DCMA copyright claim to get WordPress to delete their blog, so that apparently virtually no one heard about the protest at the time.

The students then created a new blog, and launched a second poster campaign, targeting the law school's decision to invite Attorney General Eric Holder to speak at campus despite being under a massive ethical cloud (in contrast to the last sitting AG to have visited while under a cloud, a conservative who was harassed and even stalked). Yet again, the students' posters were ripped down, and the law school used another bogus DCMA claim to get WordPress to delete this second blog.

In the end, these censorship efforts backfired, but it took outside help to make that happen. Fortunately, law professors Glenn Reynolds and William Jacobson publicized Harvard's suppression techniques, and encouraged the students to persevere. They did, and since then have done a couple more protests. You can read all about it on the students' THIRD blog, "Harvard Law School is Bogus," here:
http://harvardlawschoolisbogus.wordpress.com.

Fred Drinkwater said...

I would never commit such satire at my place of employment; or if I did, I would not gripe about being sanctioned by my employer.
What the Crimson students seem not to realize, is that they are functionally employees of Harvard, and as such, contractually bound not to disparage the Harvard brand.
It probably actually says that in black-and-white, SOMEWHERE in the fine print they signed before being admitted.
(Do I need to append that mysterious universal symbol mentioned upstream?)

rcocean said...
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rcocean said...

"It'll be interesting to see the administration's response if it turns out that the perp was a Jewish student whose intent was to induce anti-Semites to reveal themselves."

What kind of weird universe do you live it? "revel themselves"????

Yes, I'm sure Harvard is full of Neo-Nazi's who need to be 'exposed' by clever satire.

Chip S. said...

No, of course you're right.

There are no anti-Semites in any final club at Harvard. Nor are there any students rejected by a final club who might put out a flier like this.

Nope. Utterly divorced from reality.

Whatever you say; you obviously have the edge in real-world expertise here.