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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Monday, November 11, 2002
10:57 PM

Speech codes are the topic of a brief column in the Sunday magazine by Jay Mathews. It's generally pleasing, because he objects to the codes and highlights an "upstart" organization, FIRE, which actually has been around for awhile now but has been discovered by Mathews.

The FIRE staffers are of both the left and the right. They campaign against speech codes and harassment rules that seem ready to stomp into the carpet any pimply freshman who causes distress by quoting Ayn Rand or Mao Zedong or Henry Miller or the Playboy philosophy.

What Mathews doesn't quite spell out is that the vast majority of speech codes bar conservatives and religious Christians from speaking their mind without being intimidated. Most students at most schools can pitch Mao all they want; it's Bush or the American flag that gets you into trouble.

FIRE criticized Central Michigan University dormitory supervisors for telling student Don Pasco to remove what they said were offensive decorations after the September 11 attacks. Pasco was, naturally, a freshman who had not spent enough time on campus to realize that the flag, the eagle and the Miami Herald editorial on his door might be considered too political and controversial for public display.

FIRE, according to InstaMan, has taken on early efforts to adopt a supposedly anti-racist speech code at the University of Tennessee, some whose students are examining ways to bar speech that is "technically' in violation of First Amendment guarantees.

My short list of the useless qualifier "technical":

Technically barring free speech
Technically being pregnant
Being, you know, dead, technically

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