Maryland Republican State Senator Andrew B. Harris has found the perfect blackmail scheme to shut down a panel discussion event on free speech at the University Of Maryland by threatening to remove $424million in state funding to all state universities if the free speech panel discussion event took place on campus. Naturally, once this Republican thug threatened college administrators with the huge loss of state funding, they caved in to his outrageous blackmail demands.
Troglodyte man Religious right Republicans like Andrew Harris don't want rational discussions of social issues, law and morality to take place. The superstitions they hold so dear, as well as their unscientific views are written on stone to them just as much as the Ten Commandments written by Moses himself.
After protests by students took place at the University of Maryland, a compromise was reached were the free speech panel discussion was held at an off-campus site.
The event featured a screening of the high budget adult film, PIRATES II, followed by a panel discussion hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union on freedom of expression issues. Harris refused to show up for the screening of the film event, but instead called CNN and had a debate on national TV with a Digital Playground Productions executive who produced the high budget film with a digitally generated pirate ship among other things not normally seen in adult entertainment feature films. PIRATES II has won both awards as well as praise for being such a well written and produced adult entertainment film. Adult entertainment as well as independent art house type films that simply depict scenes of consensual adult sexual penetration are not generally considered to constitute illegal obscenity and fall under First Amendment protections, so Harris lacked any legal grounds to threaten the University Of Maryland if he attempted to claim that any Maryland state obscenity laws were being violated by the showing of the film and the following panel discussion.
Besides on CNN, THE WASHINGTON POST took up this controversy as well, and Associate Professor at American University's School Of Communication, John Watson addressed some of the issues raised, "When the government, especially embodied in an educational institution, intentionally becomes an impediment to the expression of ideas, fundamental liberty is threatened". Watson also pointed out that Maryland law only outlaws illegal obscenity and not mere material that some might consider to be of a pornographic nature. Watson noted that "pornography, as some people forget, is protected by the First Amendment as well as the Fourteenth Amendment". So no legal basis existed for Harris to demand that the film and panel discussion not be held.
The fact of the matter is that both PIRATES and PIRATES II have been screened at other university campuses for the purpose of legal, free expression, social or other educational discussions such as at UCLA, Carnegie-Mellon and University Of California Davis. However, by using the hammer of financial blackmail, a Maryland religious right state senator looked for a blunt object to use to beat down an academic discussion related to educational issues such as law and society. Like any nethandral man wielding a club to murder his opponent, Harris had hoped to kill any discussion of the irrationality of laws dealing with obscenity as well as the other legal and social issues raised by controversial films like PIRATES II. The religious right doesn't like rational discussions of issues.
During the 1960's, students at colleges had to first battle school administrators during the Free Speech Movement battle to assert more freedom in publishing controversial political opinions in school newspapers. In 1973, when I attended Portland State University, and a advisor professor attempted a Gay purge from the student newspaper for fear that a Gay man might become the editor, a serious fight ensued whether someone should be disqualified from becoming the editor simply because of their sexual orientation.
The battle over the PIRATES II film discussion only illustrates that the war to protect educational freedom only continues at colleges across America and is a ongoing battle. The war for free expression and academic freedom in the United States continues.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!