Academics: Artistic Freedom Only Protects Left-Wing Provocateurs

If an artist sticks a crucifix in urine, or a museum displays pictures of children smeared with feces or severed genitalia, liberal academics and judges insist that that such grossly offensive art is not only protected speech, but worthy of a government subsidy, as New York City Mayor Giuliani found when he tried to cut off city subsidies to a city museum (the Brooklyn Museum) that decided to flaunt its contempt for the bourgeoisie, and was blocked by a liberal New York trial judge from doing so.

But when non-ideological people create art that is arguably offensive to certain politically correct groups, academics insist that the artists deserve punishment, even if they had no bad motives in creating their art, and did not intend to offend anyone. So it is that Miami University of Ohio, a public university bound by the First Amendment, is now poised to punish art students for creating an artistic exhibit that included noose-like ropes to symbolize the death of certain stages of life. No one has even suggested that the students had any racial motive for creating this art, nor did they depict actual people (much less minorities) being lynched, or depict minorities in a negative light.

The university simply equates any noose with lynching and racism, despite the fact that most people hanged throughout recorded history have been white, since hanging was a method of capital punishment disproportionately used in Europe (and a significant minority of lynching victims in America were white).

I explain here why any discipline of the students would violate the First Amendment and clearly established constitutional rights, justifying a damage award against school officials, especially in light of a 1993 court ruling that even racially offensive skits are protected on campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education points out that offensive speech in general, and on campus in particular, has long been held protected by the courts.

Depicting a crucifix in urine, by the way, is entitled to protection under the First Amendment, despite its offensiveness, but that doesn’t mean the taxpayers should have to pay for it. To make an analogy, we all have freedom of speech and press, but that doesn’t mean the government should have to finance our printing or distribution of handbills.