Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mike Rowe Weighs in on #Mizzou

Trigger Warning:
It's gonna get dirty.
Yesterday that bastion of reason, hard worker (oops, sorry Melissa Harris-Perry, I know that offends you), and all around Good Guy Mike Rowe was asked by a fan to weigh in on the controversy surrounding the Mizzou protests.  The question posed by the fan was "any thoughts on the madness at Mizzou?  Is there any hope for the youth of today?"  Of course Mike Rowe's response was classically Mike Rowe-esque:
There’s always hope, and I’ll prove it in a moment. But first, let me agree - it's madness to demand free speech, even as we demand silence from those who say things we don’t agree with. This kind of hypocrisy is unique to phonies and bullies everywhere, and while it’s disturbing to see it unfold at colleges and universities, it’s not uncommon, and certainly not unprecedented. However, this business at Smith is worse than Mizzou, and worth talking about.
In a nutshell, students at Smith College are barring journalists from covering their activities unless said journalists first pledge their loyalty to “the cause.” The administration appears to be supportive. https://reason.com/blog/2015/11/20/smith-college-students-say-journalists-m

Like you Fran, many people are wondering why anyone would pay $60,000 in annual tuition to an institution with so little regard for the First Amendment. Others have wondered aloud why we should tolerate this level of dissimulation in our institutions of higher learning. The answer is easy - because we must. This is the great paradox of our democracy. In order to honor the flag, we must be free to burn it. Likewise, the freedom to educate our kids the best way we can must be accompanied by the freedom to brainwash them in the worst way possible. But of course, that doesn’t mean we should all have to pay for the brainwashing in question. That’s gotta stop, pronto.
Is the Smith College situation worse than the situation at Mizzou?  It is true that the Smith protesters barred the media from their protests and demanded statements of solidarity as a condition of being able to cover it.  It is also true that the administration seemed to be okay with that.  Smith, however, is a private institution.  If they want to bar the media from their campus that's their prerogative.  Mizzou, by contrast, is a public institution.  The media should be allowed to report what goes on at a public institution without obstruction, and yet the same thing is happening at Mizzou.  Worse, in fact, because reporters covering the Mizzou protests have been threatened with physical violence, sometimes by professors.  Who could forget this paragon of progressive values calling for "muscle" to remove reporters from a "safe space:"
Personally I would argue that the Mizzou situation is worse based on this fact alone.  For the sake of argument, however, I think we can agree that both situations are equally bad.

Mike also makes the point that we have to tolerate this sort of situation, mainly because our interpretation of freedom of speech in the US says we must.  He states "in order to honor the flag, we must be free to burn it."  You know what?  He's absolutely right.  Our first amendment guarantees that everyone can say whatever they feel like in whatever kind of forum they want, regardless of how stupid or insane their speech is.  If we want to be free to tell the world how great our country is, we have to tolerate those who say how horrible we are.  Similarly, we have to tolerate the protesters calling our institutions of higher learning racist cesspools of oppression.  Of course that doesn't mean we have to agree with them.  It also doesn't mean we can't mock, deride, and in general laugh at their ridiculous demands.  After all, the antidote to bad speech is always more and better speech.

What we don't have to tolerate, however, is violence directed against those exercising their first amendment rights.  It would be unacceptable if a counter-protest went into Mizzou, Smith, Yale, or any other university and started knocking some sense into the heads of the protesters.  Such an incident would be rightly condemned by most everyone in media and government.  There should be similar condemnations from everyone when the protesters engage in violence against members of the media.  That there hasn't been should be a cause for great concern.

By the way, Mike's proof of hope?  A letter from the parents of Evan, a student who received a scholarship from the Mike Rowe Works Foundation to become a diesel technician.  The young man ended up getting a nice, cushy job in Savannah, GA.  

Share your thoughts and comments below.  Or follow me on Twitter @trigwarnblog, or check out my Facebook page.

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