In reviewing FIRE’s multimedia efforts at the close of 2010, I introduced our new video series on censorship of hot-button issues. Our second installment in this series, “Portraits of Terror,” is a key example of why video is so effective in relaying the stories behind our cases. In this case, it was images, not words, that were censored by university administrators.
In 2006, Joshua Stulman, a student artist at Penn State University, produced an exhibit examining the promotion of terrorism and anti-Semitism in the Palestinian territories. But before Stulman’s exhibit opened, two professors claimed that the art violated Penn State’s policy against “hate speech.” Rather than allowing the exhibit and opening debate into the issues that his work explored, Stulman was labeled a racist and Islamophobe.
“Portraits of Terror” is effective because it offers a visual depiction of restricted artistic speech. Stulman’s art was censored in the same way that countless other forms of speech on issues of terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism have been in years past, as I pointed out in greater detail in my extensive blog about “Portraits of Terror.” This video provided an opportunity to open up discussion on a hot topic that has been repressed on a number of campuses, and to show FIRE’s support for artistic freedom. It helps to expose how censorship chills and directly silences dissenting opinions on those issues that we most desperately need to discuss. As part of our fight for free speech, FIRE works to ensure that all voices are respected on campus (even controversial ones), an effort we can’t continue without the support of our donors and allies. In my next post, I’ll discuss how those allies have been a part of our multimedia projects, helping to add respected voices to the battle against restrictions on expression.