Emory Update: University President James Wagner Vows To Punish Perpetrators Of “Trump 2016” Grafitti, And Reason Whiffs On Why That’s Wrong

Nice equivocating, Reason.

Nice equivocating, Reason.

To avoid burying the lede, let us understand right off that this is known as “chilling free speech,” and is un-American and wrong.

Following the revelation that Emory chief James Wagner ratified the complaints of ideology-disabled students that the expression of support for a major party political candidate was an unacceptable assault on student “safety,” Reason now informs us that Wagner is reviewing security tapes so the students can be subjected to the “conduct violation process.” Although the University has not demonstrated similar verve when chalk-scrawled messages contained more popular content, it is making the disingenuous argument that the manhunt is only about policies requiring prior approval of such chalk campaigns, and that prohibit chalk graffiti that won’t be washed away by rain like the itsy-bitsy spider.

The problem with swallowing that malarkey is that mere chalking has never prompted security camera footage examinations or presidential concern before. This is about condemning and squelching mainstream political speech that the prevailing majority of the campus doesn’t like.  This wasn’t swastikas or “hate speech.” “Trump 2016” at Emory is no different from “LBJ 1968” at Berkeley.

Being gentle and oh so careful to avoid sounding too much like he doesn’t sympathize with Trump-despisers,  Reason reporter Robby Soave writes,

“[I]f it’s inappropriate to write “Trump 2016″ on the sidewalk of a university, surely it must be inappropriate to write the name of any candidate or major politician. And if that’s the case, the simple fact must be that political expression is discouraged at Emory. If Emory’s administration wants to run a university where political activism is prohibited, it has that right. But that seems like a difficult rule to defend. Shouldn’t college students be encouraged to engage in political advocacy? Isn’t that educational?”

Let me sharpen that a bit, since it is dangerously flabby. Prohibition of political expression at a university is also discouraging free speech, which is essential to higher education.  “It has that right” makes dragnets for non-conforming student advocates sound like a legitimate and ethical ethical education approach: it can’t be. That seems like a difficult rule to defend? It is per se indefensible.

But Soave’s whole paragraph ducks the real issue. Would this be happening if the non-conforming graffiti was “Sanders  2016” or “Hope and Change” in 2008?  You know the answer, so do I, and so does Soave. Why play this game? Why is a libertarian publication equivocating and being so delicate with speech censors?

The writer concludes:

“Look, there’s a good chance Donald Trump becomes the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. There’s some chance he becomes president of the United States. That prospect horrifies me as much as the next freedom-loving person, but I can’t deny that it’s possible. Is Emory really doing an adequate job preparing its students to confront that possibility by protecting them from even the most straightforwardly non-offensive pro-Trump displays? We all wish we could live in a Trump-free world, but I don’t think it does Emory students much good to entertain such a delusion.”

Let me get this straight: the problem with threatening students who express unpopular opinions is that it is bad for the horrified weenies and student speech censors who need to get used to  Trump supporters and the existence of Donald Trump? The problem with threatening students who express unpopular opinions is that this nation is founded on the principle that Free Speech Matters, and nobody, not the government, not Emory, not Reason, not anybody, should seek to muzzle a free citizen’s ability to express an unpopular opinion, because unpopular opinions not only have value, often they are better than the popular ones, as the existence of the United States vividly demonstrates.

Bias makes us stupid, and in this case, anti-Trump bias caused Reason to botch analysis that should be as easy as falling off a chair.

20 thoughts on “Emory Update: University President James Wagner Vows To Punish Perpetrators Of “Trump 2016” Grafitti, And Reason Whiffs On Why That’s Wrong

  1. If it makes you feel better, the commenters mostly seem to feel the same. Robby was bending over backwards to accommodate the opinion of Jeffrey Tucker apparently, but he shouldn’t have. Even if it’s legitimately treated as vandalism (I think chalk on sidewalks technically qualifies, but isn’t worth doing anything about unless it becomes excessive) it’s still an insane overreaction. The fact that it was widely taken as racism is irrelevant, which Tucker didn’t seem to get.

    Since Emory is a private institution, it’s in character for Reason to say they technically have the right to do something but that they really shouldn’t. I’m at little sympathetic, but lack any respect for the delicate snowflakes in the student body who complained about it.

    • Would it surprise you that the insane over-reactions by people I despise has made me honestly consider voting for Trump? I think he would be an awful president for the most part, and have decided not to, but I have found myself with a visceral desire to stick it to the people who have turned college campuses into repositories of delicate snowflakes who can’t stand disagreement.

      Too bad they wouldn’t be the only ones affected, and ‘They have it coming’ is just a rationalization.

      Slightly off topic, I found a blog post on SlateStarCodex that I think helped me understand Trump better at least. You may find it interesting.

      • Phlinn, thanks for that link. It helped me to see more clearly how Trump is a self-appointing Wizard of Oz (much like how Barack Obama got away with posing himself as a kind of Santa Claus). Maybe…a successful real estate developer is more suited to the job of POTUS than any of us would like to admit: A Master Liar, coordinating the deceptions and orchestrating the deceptiveness of other skilled liars toward some vaguely or incidentally common objective. I still think Trump would be far out of his league to be effective as POTUS, and expect that he would be impeached, then tried and convicted outside the Congress of some heinous crimes. But, for as long as he might last in office, he just might be the best-suited utilitarian to preside over a house of cards (I never watched the show, honestly), for as long as that house (I mean, Ameri-la-la-la-la-la-rica) continues to last.

        I just can’t get past cognitive dissonance to think of Trump as a “leader.”

  2. This is one of the reasons why it’s necessary to begin evaluation of any perspective law by first asking if it’s worth the expansion of arbitrary state (or administration) power. All laws will be enforced selectively, so a new law better be darned useful to justify the damage it does at the back end.

    I can imagine a school that enforced a no – politics zone within its borders, but that would be sufficiently unusual that it really should be stated in the catalogue.

  3. Gawker (Which will soon be shuttering once their Hulk Hogan appeal fails to absolve them of a 140 million dollar problem. Frabjous day!) has recently allowed one of their writers to comment on the situation in a… get this… negative way.

    Holy shit.

    We found the bridge too far!

    http://gawker.com/word-trump-written-in-chalk-terrifies-harms-emory-st-1766477207

    The comments are what I really find encouraging:

    “And how fucking depressing is it that these kids are being lumped in with the left? This is where “libtard” comes from, as well as “PC””

    “They’re being lumped in with “the left” because they come from the left. It annoys the hell out of me too, but it’s factual.”

  4. “The Conduct Violation Process!” Oh no, not the comfy chair?

    Just when you least expect it, there’s the Spanish Inquisition!

  5. To be fair to Soave, I read “it has that right” as a statement of law rather than ethics. As a private institution, Emory can indeed legally squelch free speech on its premises. They’re idiots for doing so, but that’s a different matter.

    • I read it that way too, but their right needs to be viewed through the prism of their mission and function. Does a school have a right to charge for tuition and then make policies that unquestionably undermine education? I guess, but what a useless concept “right” is in such a context.

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