The thought police police II

Posted: Aug 10, 2004 12:00 AM

Last weekend, I drove down from Wrightsville Beach, NC, to do a book signing at Barefoot Landing in Myrtle Beach, SC (I have a hard life, by the way). Almost every customer that came to the book signing was from another part of the country.  As such, the event provided a great chance to get a sense of what is on the minds of voters all around the nation, just before a crucial election.

Although the conversations varied, most of them ended up focusing on the politics of education. After all, that was what my book was about, not to mention 90% of my columns.

But interestingly, the discussions seemed to focus, not on certain groups (feminists, gay activists, etc.), but on the issue of campus speech codes. For example:

*a Democrat from Pennsylvania agreed that both parties must launch a unified effort to abolish speech codes at all public universities.

*an eighth grader from Alexandria, Virginia asked why campuses were becoming so Orwellian in their use of euphemisms. He had just finished reading 1984 and commented on how prescient Orwell had been.

*families from Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, and Tennessee all asked for advice on handling liberal professors who grade their children according to their political and religious convictions.

But the fun finally ended when a loud-mouthed woman came strutting up to the table to present me with the sophisticated argument that I needed to ?get a life.? It seems that the woman recognized my name from newspaper accounts of a controversy I had been involved in a few months ago at another university.

After an unpleasant exchange over that controversy, we somehow got on to the topic of affirmative action ?cookie bake sales.? Of course, she opposes such sales because (you guessed it) they are a form of ?hate speech.?

This enlightened love-speaking liberal informed me that it would be different if the people conducting the bake sales really wished to open a debate on affirmative action. But since they were all merely a) greedy people who only wanted to keep what was theirs and b) misled by Fox News (which she said wasn?t really news at all), students really don?t have a right to use the bake sale parody to mock affirmative action on a public university campus.

After her public display of willful constitutional ignorance (heard by everyone in Walden Books), I asked her the $64,000 question: what do you do for a living?

You probably guessed the answer. She is a professor in the UNC system.

So what are we to do in a society where everyone (except college professors) seems to ?get it? when it comes to free speech? The answer is simple: we must launch a formal campaign to sensitize the willfully uneducable about the threats to free speech posed by campus speech codes.

In other words, we must begin to police the thought police with an organized campaign. And today, I am launching that organized campaign.

The first prong of the attack involves the organization of a legal network, which will offer pro bono assistance to college students charged with violating unconstitutional campus speech codes.

In order to join that legal network, interested attorneys should send an e-mail to Along with your email address, please include your mailing address, fax and office phone numbers.

The rest is up to the students. I am sure that they can think of numerous ways to intentionally violate the campus right to be un-offended and comfortable, which is at the heart of the speech code movement. But, just in case students cannot think of anything, here are a couple of ideas:

*In the fall semester most campuses sponsor ?National Coming Out Day? for gays. Shortly thereafter, sponsor a ?National Coming Out Day? for campus conservatives. Ask your administration to provide free counseling and ?safe zones? for those ready to come out of the closet.

*In the spring semester most campuses sponsor a ?National Day of Silence? during which gays and gay activists don?t say anything as a way of bringing attention to gay issues. Write your administration telling them how much you enjoyed the ?National Day of Silence? and then ask them to extend it. Specifically, you can petition for a ?National Year of Silence? so you won?t have to listen to gay students whine about homophobia all year long.

Either one of these ideas is sure to get under the administration?s skin badly enough to levy charges of hate speech. Then, the real fun will begin when you contact and sue the hell out of them for violating your constitutional right to use parody and sarcasm as forms of expression.

In other words, I am asking students to do more than ?get a life.? I am asking them to get under the Dean?s skin, get a lawyer, and get rid of campus speech codes.

Because life is short and liberty is precious, let the games begin.

Mike Adams is a professor at UNC-Wilmington. He hopes that his readers will check out the following link: