University Backs Down Over Firefly Poster Protest

October 14, 2011

Back in September we learned about the sad story of James Miller, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who found himself in trouble with the campus constabulary for hanging a poster of Firefly-era Nathan Fillion, emblazoned with a famous quote from the show in which he explains the exact circumstances under which he will kill you. When the police decided that the poster was a potential threat to the peace and took it down, Miller put up another one referencing fascism, which of course just made things worse.

Miller eventually took his case to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education but he also found an outpouring of support from the hordes of indignant nerds brought running by the Firefly factor. Among them were none other than former Firefly stars Fillion and Adam Baldwin, aka the fan-favorite "Man Named Jayne," both of whom weighed in on the debate.

Noting that Miller sent a clip of the show including the relevant quote to the university administration to demonstrate that it was really "an homage to fair play and a code of honor that obviously prefers non-violence," Baldwin wrote on Big Hollywood, "This is precisely the issue with freedom of speech; words are subjective and can be interpreted differently by separate individuals. Sometimes this is done unintentionally, sometimes with malice, which is why the act of deciding what’s NOT free speech is ripe for abuse. The UWS administration’s stated desire to ‘promote a campus environment that is free from threats of any kind-both direct and implied’ may be well-meaning, but its meaning amounts to nothing. How does one set a universal standard to determine what is an implied threat or in what context speech may ‘refer to violence and/or harm’?"

Fortunately, Sorensen agreed, declaring that the poster that started the whole mess does not constitute a threat or disruption. He’s also going to hold "workshops and forums on the application of the First Amendment on campuses." It’s certainly better than tearing down patently inoffensive decorations but Baldwin, while "heartened" by the support of the Firefly community, nonetheless sounded a note of disappointment over the whole thing.

"It remains a tragic multi-generational crime that Leftism’s educational malpractices have so perverted our nation’s educational system that it becomes necessary for an American university to convene training seminars on the First Amendment," he told Hot Air.

Fillion, in a quote passed on by Baldwin, was a little more succinct. "There are times we must try hard to find meaning. I understand that," he said. "I don’t understand when we try hard to find malice."

Thanks to ltmarcos for the tip.

Schools: University of Wisconsin – Stout Cases: University of Wisconsin – Stout: Censorship, Referral to Threat Assessment Team, and Threat of Criminal Charges after Professor Puts Posters Outside Office Door