The thought police widen their net

Thank you, Glenn Garvin, for paying attention.  The Miami Herald columnist reports what the rest of us were too preoccupied to notice:

In an order to the University of Montana that they labeled “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” Obama’s Justice and Education departments created a sweeping new definition of sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct.”

(Or, as those more familiar with the English language call it, speech.)

Who gets to define “unwelcome”? The listener and the listener alone — no matter how high-strung, neurotic or just plain pinheaded that person is. The feds’ letter is quite explicit: the words don’t have to be offensive to “an objectively reasonable person” to be considered harassment.

Given that standard of guilt, it’s perhaps not very surprising that the government says anybody accused of harassment can be punished even before he or she is convicted.

Mr. Garvin goes on to identify a partial list of authors whose provocative works stand in danger of censorship under these new edicts:  Shakespeare,  Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, and Anne Frank, to name a few.  He then continues:

But surely, you say, surely nobody will take the letter of the law to such absurd extremes. And surely you are wrong: They already have. Brandeis University went after a professor for uttering the word “wetback” during a lecture — no matter that he was criticizing its usage.

A janitor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis was disciplined for reading a disapproving book on the Ku Klux Klan. Marquette ordered a graduate student to remove a “patently offensive” quotation by Dave Barry from his door:  “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.”

So what do we have here?  If someone takes offense, even where any “objectively reasonable person” would see no cause for offense, the perpetrator is guilty without recourse to due process or appeal.

In a land of political correctness run amok, feelings are the ultimate currency of social interaction.  Reason, logic, intellectual discipline, objective reality — none of these mean a thing if there is the slightest risk of hurt feelings.

Or perhaps there is a deeper fear.  Not the pain of hurt feelings, but the pain of having to think, the pain of developing  a work ethic, the pain of personal accountability.  Apparently, the truism of no pain, no gain applies only in the gym and not in the halls of academe.

Is this really what we want for our children?  Is it really what we want for ourselves?  Or are those questions simply too painful to think about?

Read Glenn Garvin’s full article here.

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