By Martin Morse Wooster: You should see a YouTube video called “Don’t Mess With Firefly! How Sci Fi Fans Made a Campus Safe for Free Speech!” by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education or FIRE, posted at thefire.org.
Short version: University of Wisconsin (Stout) theatre professor puts a poster on his door quoting “Firefly” that the campus police chief tears down because of “sensitivity” issues: FIRE (a pro-free speech organization) gets involved, contacts “Firefly” fans; Neil Gaiman tweeted about it and his 1.6 million (!!!) followers began beseiging the university with email; school backs down; free speech wins.
Gaiman’s extensively interviewed in the video.
I’m one of the people who wrote a polite e-mail letter in standard business format to the lady who tore down the poster, explaining that it was about fairness and decent behavior in a frontier society, more of a non-threat than a threat, a promise that there would be no equivalent of random violence or drive-by shootings.
I even went so far as to include my street address, telephone number, and web address in the letter to facilitate communication. And believe me, I wrote as formally and politely as I am here.
No reply. Not one word, not even a form letter.
I suspect she never expected such responses to her bit of office-door tyranny. I think she fully expected a small academic skirmish perhaps as high as the faculty senate or its equivalent at UW-Stout, which she would win handily thanks to campus politics. Instead she got a deluge of mail, both electronic and paper, from all over the English-speaking world, not to mention an endorsement from an academically popular author, calling her on what she was doing. She was totally unprepared for the response her imitation of Dolores Umbridge had created.
Bjo and John Trimble, we remember, and thank you for showing us the way.