Some hecklers are more equal than others

This might be a few news cycles behind…   the planned re-enactment of a Black Mass at Harvard was moved off-campus after sufficient complaints, mostly those of the Catholic Church.  Good for them, and the political clout they retain in that part of the country and in those circles.  I can’t help but wonder how similar objections from Mormons or Evangelicals would have been treated…

Earlier Harvard President Drew Faust had affirmed the University’s commitment to free expression:

But even as we permit expression of the widest range of ideas, we must also take responsibility for debating and challenging expression with which we profoundly disagree. The ‘black mass’ had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the Church and beyond. The decision by a student club to sponsor an enactment of this ritual is abhorrent; it represents a fundamental affront to the values of inclusion, belonging and mutual respect that must define our community. It is deeply regrettable that the organizers of this event, well aware of the offense they are causing so many others, have chosen to proceed with a form of expression that is so flagrantly disrespectful and inflammatory.  Nevertheless, consistent with the University’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs.

The events provided an entertaining peek into today’s Ivy college environment, one in which some people are expected to walk on eggshells in a futile attempt to avoid being accused of so-called microaggressions by cultural Marxists, while others are given a wide berth to assault the sensibilities of the majority of people.

Here are two student quotes, then a statement released by Harvard’s Cultural Studies Club:

“It’s kind of troubling especially to Christians, but at the same time if they’re doing it for academic inquiry. This should be a safe place,” said Misan Oteri, student.

“Educational purposes definitely give you a reason to look into anything,” student Laureen Brady said.

The performance is designed to be educational and is preceded by a lecture that provides the history, context, and origin of the Black Mass. While a piece of bread is used in the reenactment, the performance unequivocally does not include a consecrated host. Our purpose is not to denigrate any religion or faith, which would be repugnant to our educational purposes, but instead to learn and experience the history of different cultural practices. This performance is part of a larger effort to explore religious facets that continue to influence contemporary culture.

What else might the spirit of academic inquiry explore?  How about an imaginary after-party?

Afterwards, a number of the professors will fornicate with goats, in the spirit of educational inquiry.  “Educational purposes definitely give you a reason to look into anything,” student Laureen Brady said. 

The Harvard Cannibalism Society will be serving refreshments after the Forced Euthanasia seminar.  Student leaders plan to disinter a number of graves and perform a re-animation ceremony.  A few Harvard professors were skeptical that this would succeed, but agreed that, for educational purposes, it definitely needed to be tried. 

The Crimson Society for the Promotion of Incest, after initially protesting its exclusion from the event, was given a prominent area for what is described as “a demonstration, for educational purposes.” 

Local police expressed concern about rumored plans to abduct student-attendees and pimp them out, but University officials were quick to point out a number of ways in which this served educational purposes.  But facilities were not available for the proposed involuntary transgendering station: “This is a tragedy; we know so little about this area, and for educational purposes we really need to get started.”  Chelsea Manning was not available for comment.

“The Yog-Sothoth Society immediately announced that the facilities would instead be used to host a ceremony to raise Cthulhu from R’lyeh.  Harvard President Drew Faust was expected to attend, but it was not clear at publication whether she would also contribute her own blood.”

Back to a more serious critiques of the intellectual environment found on many college campuses:

Here’s Jonah Goldberg in Two Cheers – But Only Two – for Harvard:

College campuses love to invoke their love of free speech when the speech is tolerable to the left. I have sincere doubts the school would permit a cross burning or some other KKK-style idiocy. Ridiculing religion, particularly Catholicism, is considered edgy and brave on many campuses. And as a result we get the familiar rhetoric about balancing this and that in the spirit of openness and blah blah blah.

I’m not a free-speech absolutist, even for universities. I think the recent spate of thought-crime crackdowns on college campuses are horrible, but not simply because they fail some maximalist free-speech principle. They’re horrible because the speech they want to close down is utterly reasonable and within the normal bounds of a decent open-minded society. Condoleezza Rice, Charles Murray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali et al. have things to say that students at a liberal arts college should hear. The problem is that “hate speech” is defined first and foremost as speech that the Left doesn’t want to hear. I’d have no problem with Harvard banning a black mass or a Klavern meeting or a Nuremburg reenactment. It’s great to have an open mind, but it needn’t be so open that your brain falls out.

That said, given a choice between free-speech absolutism and letting a bunch of tenured left-wing activists and hormonally charged student radicals have a heckler’s veto, I’ll take free-speech absolutism. But I’d much rather have sanity, decency and intellectual courage rule.

And Ruth R. Wisse in The Closing of the Collegiate Mind:

Females and members of visible minorities are given handicaps (as in golf). Courses are devised to inculcate in students the core lesson that (in the words of one recent graduate, writing online at the Huffington Post) “harmful structural inequalities persist on the basis of class, race, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the U.S.” On too many campuses, as in a funhouse mirror, ideological commitment to diversity has brought about its opposite: ideological hegemony, which is much more harmful to the life of the mind than the alleged structural inequalities that social engineering set out to correct.

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One Response to Some hecklers are more equal than others

  1. Thanks for continuing to track these important developments. Who cares about what news cycle it comes from?

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