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The University of Chicago has censored a student’s post on a private Facebook page. Undergraduate Joseph “Tex” Dozier posted a joke that he had had a dream about assassinating University of Chicago professor John Mearsheimer “for a secret Israeli organization.”
Mr. Mearsheimer is co-author of the controversial book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. This post prompted an investigator from the university’s police department to question Mr. Dozier about his political views, suggest that he would investigate Dozier’s comments on his university radio show and demand that Dozier remove the post or else have the post reported to Mr. Mearsheimer, one of his professors. Dozier contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.
“Any reasonable person would recognize that Mr. Dozier’s post was unquestionably a joke,” said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley.
“If Dozier worked for a secret Israeli organization, would he have announced it via Facebook? And if the University of Chicago truly believed that Dozier presented a threat to a professor’s life, how would merely censoring the student have solved the problem? The U of C is making a joke of itself by policing and censoring student comments on Facebook.”
On Dec. 6, 2009, Mr. Dozier wrote on his personal Facebook page “Dreamt that I assassinated [University of Chicago professor] John Mearsheimer for a secret Israeli organization – there was a hidden closet w/ Nazi paraphanelia [sic]. Haha! :-).”
Mr. Mearsheimer is popularly known for his 2007 book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy with co-author Stephen Walt. According to the authors, the book “focuses primarily on the lobby’s influence on U.S. foreign policy and its negative effect on American interests.”â€¨â€¨
University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) officer Abraham Martinez phoned Mr. Dozier on Dec. 7. According to Mr. Dozier, Mr. Martinez called the post a “death threat” and asked if Mr. Dozier disagreed with Mr. Mearsheimer politically. Mr. Martinez also asked if he had made “controversial comments” about Mr. Mearsheimer in the past that the UCPD should be aware of.
Mr. Martinez told Mr. Dozier that he had researched Mr. Dozier and his weekly radio show “The Boiling Point,” which is broadcast on university-hosted station WHPK. When Mr. Martinez said that he was required to contact Mr. Mearsheimer to inform him of Mr. Dozier’s comment, Mr. Dozier replied that Mr. Mearsheimer had been one of his professors and that he feared negative repercussions if his innocent comment was reported to Mr. Mearsheimer. Mr. Martinez responded that if Mr. Dozier deleted the comment within 30 minutes, Mr. Martinez would include the removal in his official report and not contact Mr. Mearsheimer. Mr. Dozier negotiated a two-hour window and then deleted his comment.