Showing sensitivity, judgement and wit to make Michael Moore look like Mother Theresa, students at Duke University accompany Paris March for Freedom of Speech with demands people “don’t say” things they find offensive. The Witchfinder demands they be expelled, and the faculty apologise.
At roughly 10.30am GMT on the morning of Wednesday 7th January 2015 (11.30 Paris time), two masked Muslim gunmen forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in the capital of France and opened fire. The terrorists were enraged by ‘disrespectful’ ‘offensive’ images of their prophet, Muhammed. The murders were a direct attack on free speech worldwide.
At roughly 16.15 GMT that day, the first of a new set of campaign images produced by students at Duke University in their You Don’t Say campaign against ‘disrespectful’ ‘offensive’ language was put on line via the Twitter account @YouDontSayDuke. Although the campaign started last year, by a masterpiece of ill-timing the latest volley of images coincided with an atrocity by terrorists whose goal of controlling speech was remarkably similar.
Of course doubtless this deeply unfortunate juxtaposition was not deliberate. Most likely the campaign had been planned in advance and was not intended to slight the dead or mock their sacrifice.
Nevertheless even as 4 days later, 3.7 million French people demonstrated in honour of the dead and in support of free speech, the Duke students continued to pump out their unwelcome message – publishing 29 fresh images in the period 7-11 January. The irony of producing a campaign about not offending people whilst metaphorically dancing on the graves of the tragically dead does not appear to have occurred to them.
Ironically, on January 8th Duke Vice President for Public Affairs, @Mike_Schoenfeld had tweeted that – “The daily 5:00 carillon at @DukeChapel just rang out with La Marseillaise in tribute to the artists and journalists of Charlie Hebdo.”
Let us be clear – these Duke students are pretty thin skinned. One girl, Rachel Wolsfelt, demands, for example, that no one mention diets. The Witchfinder finds this offensive. Like all good Inquisitors, the Witchfinder celebrated Christmas … and celebrated … and celebrated. Now your author will have to pay the price of his overindulgence and work it off.
Dieting and exercise. These two slightly unpleasant necessities flow as direct consequences of the Witchfinder’s choices. Your author, as it happens, chose to eat a lot of Christmas pudding. The issue here is that whilst no one can choose the colour of skin they are born with, they do get to choose how many mince pies they scarf. If he was a leftist, the Witchfinder would demand Wolsfelt “check her privilege” as he is clearly far better qualified than she is to talk about it.
“Our words,” intones the pompous Ms Wolsfelt, “can have a profound impact on body image”. Know what else can have a profound impact on body image? Christmas pudding.
The grim truth is that the error of these self righteous leftist students is fundamentally indistinguishable from that of the terrorists. Our society permits and celebrates offensive speech because it is a necessary and integral part of democracy. Correcting error and exposing wrongdoing will always offend someone. A society which bans offence bans truth.
The faculty of Duke University should hang their heads in shame if this is the result of their ‘teaching’. The recent hashtag, #ShameOnDuke is underused – Duke is fast becoming the symbol of the ideological extreme left in the American university system. The @YouDontSayDuke campaign virtually danced on the graves of Charlie Hebdo. #ShameOnDuke