I am frequently impressed by the level of creativity people show in justifying their desire to quell criticism of themselves. This one deserves some kind of Rationalization of the Year award. Essentially, what Walter is saying is this: “I’ve chosen to understand your poster implying that my actions were reminiscent of evil governments that in the past have killed people to mean that you have announced your plan to kill people, as that interpretation works out well for me.”
These days, people are quick to uncritically evaluate any claim that someone else might be a threat for some reason and give leeway to the authorities accordingly. Those who read my writing already know of the case of Hayden Barnes, but here is an oldie but goodie on the abuse of “threat” rationales on campus. This rush to judgment is a bad habit, and here it’s easy to dismiss.
No one was threatened by the Firefly poster, and no reasonable person would understand the second poster to be anything other than a rebuke of Walter’s heavy-handed action in the first place. The university overreacted to a poster and then decided to double down rather than admit error when the professor decided to make fun of that overreaction.
Professor Miller has twice been censored in a way that the Constitution would never allow, he has been threatened with punishment, and he’s being investigated by the university’s threat assessment team. My organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has written to protest, but so far UW-Stout has refused to back down. Miller faces a meeting on Friday with the dean to discuss the threat assessment team’s “concerns.”
I therefore call on the teeming masses of Firefly fans to stand up for free speech on campus, for Professor Miller, and for Mal Reynolds’s right to eternally kick ass according to his own code of honor. We Firefly fans are a passionate and tenacious bunch and there is nothing we can’t do together. Well, except get the series un-canceled. But here’s our chance to redeem ourselves! As Patrick Henry once more or less said: “Give Mal liberty or give me death!” Which would have, of course, made him guilty of disorderly conduct at UW-Stout.
Greg Lukianoff is an attorney and the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.