Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Methinks thou doth protest too much."

Or in the case of this Daily Hampshire Gazette editorial, not protesting enough!


A repeat offender (Daily Hampshire Gazette 4/20/07)

Max Karson has a long tradition of offending people. Even the tragedy at Virginia Tech is not outside his reach.

Karson began publishing offensive material while a student at Amherst Regional High School. In his crude publication "The Crux," he sought to spread his insults as far and wide as possible. He got suspended from school twice, only to be reinstated with the help of the Western Massachusetts ACLU.

Karson is now offending people as a student at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he has been distributing an outrageous newsletter called "The Yeti," which is also packed with vulgar language.

It turns out that his timing is as bad as his taste. He declared in a women's studies class this week that he could see why Cho Seung-Hui went on his violent rampage at Virginia Tech. He also said that, like Cho, he could become angry enough to kill a large number of people, even for the most mundane reasons. After students and faculty complained and expressed fears, Karson was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of "interference with staff, faculty, and students of an educational institution."

Karson thinks he's doing us all a favor by pushing the limits of free speech, but free speech is not without responsibilities. Karson has a right to his opinions, but his fellow students have a right to react to what they find hostile and offensive and to protect themselves in the face of threatening remarks.


Arguably the most stunning speech in American history occurred to consecrate ground where tens of thousands of men over a three day period had giving “their last measure of devotion” so that a “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

War is far from pretty, neither is the First Amendment.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette--Max Karson’s hometown newspaper for the vast majority of his young life--hardly reenacted the cavalry riding to his rescue with the above editorial.

Sure, timing had everything to do with the rash reaction to his remarks. Spoken a day before the massacre Max’s comments would hardly have raised an eyebrow. Just as Professor Jennie Traschen’s trashing of the American flag at a public meeting in bucolic Amherst twelve hours before Flight 11 impaled the North Tower generated little response (there was even some applause). Then next morning, EVERYTHING changed.

I vehemently opposed the 2004 staging of ‘Vagina Monologues’ at the Amherst Regional High School because I believe the C-word (and N-word for that matter) should not be used in public. And I vehemently opposed the cancellation of ‘West Side Story’ in 1999 because I did not see it as even remotely racist.

Adults should be allowed to peruse porn--but not young teenagers. And even with adults I draw the line with kiddy-porn. So yeah, the First Amendment has its limits in protecting speech.

But Max did not cross that line! If he said that a few years back in Amherst--even a day or two after Columbine--everybody would have simply figured that’s our Max.

He was in a classroom (Women’s Studies no less). Did he have a gun on him when he made those supposedly threatening statements? And having tried to teach Max karate, I can assure you his slightly built frame is far from a deadly weapon.

Sure “free speech is not without responsibilities” just as government interference with free speech is not without grave consequences.

Now here's a sane editorial (from Colorado no less):

Opinion Colorado Daily News

Freedom isn't free. Or pretty

Thursday, April 19, 2007

We've got some bad news for you CU: you can't have your cake and eat it too. Following the arrest of CU student Max Karson on Wednesday after a heated classroom discussion with other students about the dreadful killings at Virginia Tech, it seems like university administration and students are trying to stuff their fat faces with high-minded social libertarianism and stay on a strict diet of political correctness all at the same time.

Sorry folks, but you can't defend Ward Churchill's right to call dead New Yorkers “Little Eichmanns” out of one side of your mouth and condemn Max Karson for saying he can identify with a mass murderer out the other.

Let's get the obvious part out of the way first. Karson, the CU student who has caused uproar after uproar with his sophomoric ‘zine, “The Yeti,” picked a bad time to launch another free-speech battle. In a classroom debate Tuesday, the always-provocative Karson allegedly said he could understand how someone could be angry enough to kill 32 people, according to CU police reports. He also allegedly said, again, according to police reports, that the lighting and interiors of CU buildings were making him feel “mad enough to do something.”

It's not a popular opinion these days to be sure, but was it worth arresting the guy over? Dumb? Yes. Threatening? We're not convinced.

First of all, debate about a subject never killed anyone. If a discussion about the massacre in Blacksburg, Va. was initiated in Karson's class, either by a student or teacher, surely no one expected everyone to have the same opinion about the matter. After Columbine, debate raged for years about whether 13 crosses - one each for the victims - or 15 - one for each victim and two for the killers who also died - should be erected to memorialized the fallen. A lot of people felt sympathy for the Columbine killers. Many more felt hatred toward the two young men that caused a community such misery. The point is, everyone had a right to their opinion on April 20, 1999 and they still do today.

In this country, we don't lock up people with ugly or stupid ideas. You are free to ignore them all you want, though. Once again, Max Karson, a man with views that so many people at CU disagree with, has been made a martyr for free speech, and that's bad for the rest of us.

And let's talk about people feeling threatened at CU for a minute. In Nov. 2004, CU-Boulder instructor Michael Kanner got angry when a student in his class made comments against the celebration of Veterans Day. The student told Kanner, a veteran, there is never any reason to use violence.

Kanner's response was, by his own admission, a bad one. He threw the woman's bag, then pulled a one-inch knife from his shirt pocket and, according to a witness, held it to her throat.

Kanner, to his credit, fell all over himself apologizing for the incident. He said his thumb, not the blade, was against the skin. No matter. He scared the woman and a number of other people in the class.

But he wasn't arrested. And he wasn't banned from campus. He's still there today, teaching like nothing ever happened.

Now that's what we call tolerance.

The CU administration also has never said Ward Churchill should be thrown off campus for what he said in his essay, “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” Supposedly, it's academic dishonesty that's got him in hot water with the university. So if the university is going to, in effect, defend Churchill's right to smear the fallen from Sept. 11, they ought to stand up and do the same for Max Karson, as painful as it may be.

But don't just take our word for it. Here's what CU-Boulder Chancellor G.P. ‘Bud' Peterson had to say Monday in a special editorial he asked us to run titled “Words need not create storms.”

“· on a university campus, you can enjoy the privilege of sitting across from the person you are engaging in debate or discussion. You can see the expressions and gestures of their person, hear all the nuances and inflections in their voice, and more fully comprehend how they process what you say and how it affects them.

“This proximity means that in face-to-face discussions, the stakes of debate are higher. You might have to go to class, or share a room or residence hall lounge with the person with whom you are debating, so the necessity for observing those nuances, along with the basic protocol of respect, is high.

“This openness and accountability represents the best of our universities and they are an integral part of our university community ·”

Well said, Chancellor. So the next time two people have a disagreement in a classroom, is the university still going to throw one of them off campus?

Looks like Michael Kanner put his knife away just in time. People get thrown in jail around here for a lot less these days.

And Max, grow up buddy. Fast.

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