Barry Gewen, an editor for The New York Times Book Review, posted an interesting entry today on the Book Review‘s "Paper Cuts" blog commenting on FIRE Co-founder Harvey Silverglate’s recent "Parody Flunks Out" column for The Boston Phoenix. Harvey is quoted in the blog as saying that this particular column has received more attention than any of his others, a trend continued by Gewen’s entry. (We here at FIRE have certainly noticed the abundant interest.)
Of Harvey, Gewen writes:
I’ve known him for many years, and consider him as close to a free-speech absolutist —in the worthy tradition of former Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black—as anyone currently engaged in the never-ending battle against censorship. One doesn’t have to agree with every position Silverglate takes – I doubt he expects that. But it’s good for the culture and the country to have him out there, arguing, badgering, publicizing, provoking.
Discussing Harvey’s comparison of the state of parody on college campuses to society at large, Gewen gives an approving nod towards the work that FIRE does on behalf of student and faculty rights, and argues that while "many of us think of censorship issues as distant annoyances… several of the fiercest and most important free-speech controversies are in fact taking place much closer to home."
Pointing out that on many campuses, speech has been restricted—something that Torch readers already know—Gewen says that the effect of campus speech restrictions is that "the heavy hand of the censor is around people’s throats." Calling the situation Harvey describes at Harvard "mind-boggling," Gewen concludes that Harvey’s warning ("In Cambridge, one may not safely say in Harvard Yard what is constitutionally protected in Harvard Square,") should "haunt anyone who cares about the health of our society."
We at FIRE can only hope that more people, especially those at FIRE’s Red Alert schools, will recognize this fact before that "heavy hand" reaches out for them too.