It may not be quite Jonathan Swift, Ambrose Bierce or Terry Southern (all of whom are probably in the Colorado College library) but this parody flyer of this flyer from that college's Feminist and Gender Studies program is not only "protected" speech but pretty much what lively debate is supposed to be about, right?
Not according to CC's speech code.
From a Fire press release:
"Two students at Colorado College were found guilty of violating the school's conduct code regarding "violence" after they distributed a satirical flyer mocking a publication of the Feminist and Gender Studies program. As part of their punishment, student Chris Robinson and a second student have been required to hold a campus forum discussing issues brought up by their satirical publication. The students have turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help."
In early 2008, Colorado College's "Feminist and Gender Studies Interns" distributed a flyer called The Monthly Rag The flyer included a reference to "male castration," an announcement about a lecture on "feminist porn" by a "world-famous prostitute and porn star," an explanation of "packing" (pretending to have a phallus), and a quotation from The Bitch Manifesto.
As a parody of "The Monthly Rag," Robinson and a second student, who wishes to remain nameless, distributed a flyer in February called "The Monthly Bag" under the pseudonym "The Coalition of Some Dudes." The flyer included references to "chainsaw etiquette," the shooting range of a sniper rifle, a quotation regarding a sexual position from the website menshealth.com, and a quotation about "female violence and abuse" of men from the website batteredmen.com.
Shortly thereafter, Colorado College President Richard F. Celeste sent out a campus-wide email about "The Monthly Bag," stating that "The flyers include threatening and demeaning content, which is categorically unacceptable in this community... Anonymous acts meant to demean and intimidate others are not [welcome]." The e-mail asked the authors of "The Monthly Bag" to come forward. When they did less than an hour later, they were charged with violating the college's values of respect and integrity.
From Chris Robinson, the author's, op-ed about the incident.
The college opens for business at 8 am. By 8:30 am on the day of publication, I observed security forces tearing down our satire. Wow. Who would have the power and zeal to initiate such a crackdown? I'm not sure, but all I can say is the Chinese Communist Party would be proud.
Having offered myself up to "the authorities" immediately after receipt of a mass email of denunciation by the President of our College, I was then informed that we would face charges in the Student Conduct Committee. I'd love to tell you more about that proceeding, but I'm not at liberty to do so. I will tell you this, though: it was deadly serious. It was an open-ended procedure which could have led to any punishment up to expulsion. It was a corrupt and biased proceeding which inspired in me a terror I've not felt for many years, and constituted a cruel and unusual punishment in and of itself, which I suspect was its intent.
I had two options. The first: to act especially contrite and affirm the school's authoritarian response in the hope of leniency. The second: to take a stand on principle. I chose the latter. You may wonder why I would take such a risk. I remember walking around campus during the week before my "trial" and getting long-faced looks of sympathy and concern from acquaintances. Comments like "you're in big trouble" came my way. It became clear that the people who would utter such nonsense had already been beaten into submission by the fascist culture I was up against. This only hardened my resolve.
Why do I use the word "fascism" to describe the culture of politically correct censorship? Because it is just that. In Azar Nafisi's novel, Reading Lolita in Tehran, she tells the story of a reading group she led in post-revolutionary Tehran in which she covertly taught banned western literature to young women. The justification offered by the Ayatollahs for banning these books was that their content hurt the feelings of the good Muslims of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Hyper-sensitivity in service to a purported greater good became the justification for an authoritarian lock-down on speech. It's the same logic every time: the state comes down hard on behalf of "community." Changing the rhetorical justification only masks the tyranny. The effect of this on citizens, in the words of John Adams, is "reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity."