Huffington Post has published an article by Tyler Kingkade with the headline: “Tennessee Lawmakers Consider Bill That Could Chill Free Speech.”
It is not an especially shocking headline because we have now become very used to the reality that the Far Right sees no hypocrisy in defining unlimited corporate political contributions as the exercise of free speech while denouncing the exercise of free speech by actual citizens.
Nonetheless the tease under the headline did get my attention: “Republicans hate the idea of students organizing ‘Sex Week’ so much, they’re threatening to withhold funding that already doesn’t exist.”
Yes, it turns out that the students themselves are funding this week of events—that neither the state government nor even the University of Tennessee are providing funding. So, as Kingkade points out in his article, the outrage over what is characterized as an inappropriate use of tax dollars has no actual basis in reality—and the lawmakers who are making these claims know this more than anyone else because in 2013 they pressured the university administration into eliminating its funding of the event.
So what they are doing now is pressuring the university to suppress student free-speech rights very directly.
The hypocrisy is as blatant as the logic is tortured. Consider the ending of Kingkade’s article:
“One of the co-sponsors on Van Huss’ bill, state Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville), introduced legislation this year attempting to further enshrine free speech rights on college campuses. During debate in the legislature on the bill, he said free speech was so important that even Islamic State recruiters should be protected, which prompted House leadership to table the bill.
“After the ISIS comment, Daniel released a statement that read in part: ‘The unavoidable fact is that the First Amendment guarantees us the right to express any opinion, including opinions that most of us find repugnant and fundamentally wrong, so long as they don’t cause an imminent risk of harm. To make it clear, there’s a big difference between saying that someone has a right to speak, and agreeing or disagreeing with the content of that speech.’
“Daniel said in an email Tuesday that his support of free speech is not contradicted by his co-sponsorship of the bill prohibiting UT from using school funds to support Sex Week.
“’I fully support freedom of speech on campus, and the students’ right to express themselves in any way,’ Daniel told HuffPost. ‘Whether state dollars are used to pay for that speech, or support programs surrounding that speech is another matter, and therein lies the distinction.’”
But, very clearly, it is a distinction without an actual difference.
By the way, here is a poster for “Sex Week”:
It is worth noting that this “controversy” is a successor to the “controversies” over the use of religious symbols in workplace holiday events and over the use of gender-neutral pronouns in campus communications.
Kingkade’s complete article is available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tennessee-sex-week-free-speech_us_5703169fe4b083f5c608b35f?ir=Education§ion=us_education&utm