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I have three complaints about the way mainstream pundits treat the “campus speech” issue.
First of all, they vastly exaggerate the scope of the issue. Second, most of them barely acknowledge campus censorship coming from the right (Reason Magazine is an exception).
But, third and most importantly, they give little or no attention to much more effective attacks on free speech. The people most vulnerable to censorship are the people with the least privilege and standing in our society, such as sex workers, undocumented immigrants, and prisoners.
I’m not saying that genuine censorship on campus shouldn’t be reported on and editorialized against. But the attention campus speech gets, compared to the way pundits almost totally ignore other forms of censorship, is infuriatingly disproportionate.
And it’s hard not to see it as an unconscious bias based in self-interest. Columnists writing for major magazines and newspapers know that they will never be censored by laws targeting sex workers, or I.C.E., and it’s extremely unlikely any of them will spend significant time in prison.
But all of them either have been campus speakers, or can imagine themselves being campus speakers. All of them have friends and colleagues who speak on campuses. And that makes any threat to campus speakers seem far more immediate and significant to them, than objectively more threatening and harmful censorship against the less powerful.
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Here’s an essay on this by Noah Berlatsky.
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Panel one is exciting, to me, because I didn’t trace it, or use a perspective grid, or use the computer equivalent of straight-edges to help me draw. I just drew the capital building freehand.
That probably won’t seem like a big deal to you. But to me, it’s a great advance. I never would have attempted freehand drawing of this complex a building a few years ago!
I’m constantly jealous of cartoonists who are great at drawing architecture freehand – done well, it looks amazing. It’s much more expressive than the merely accurate results I can get tracing a photo. Panel one isn’t a great drawing of a building – but it’s certainly passable, and I’m proud of having achieved that. :-)
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Here are a few links with more info about the issues mentioned in the first three panels.
Panel 1, on censorship of sex workers by Congress:
With FOSTA Already Leading to Censorship, Plaintiffs Are Seeking Reinstatement Of Their Lawsuit Challenging the Law’s Constitutionality | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Why FOSTA’s Restriction on Prostitution Promotion Violates the First Amendment (Guest Blog Post) – Technology & Marketing Law Blog
Panel two, on I.C.E. targeting undocumented immigrants who criticize I.C.E.:
ICE arrested activist just hours after he recited a poem criticizing the agency – ThinkProgress
ICE Keeps Arresting Prominent Immigration Activists. They Think They’re Being Targeted. – VICE
Panel 3, on censorship of prisoners:
Inmate Says He Was Thrown In Solitary for Talking to Reporter
Do American prisoners have free speech?
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As always, thank you so much for supporting these cartoons! There are a lot of terrific cartoonists out there, but I think I have a point of view, and an approach, that is pretty unusual in editorial cartoons. Thank you for making it possible for these cartoons to exist!
I won’t be posting this cartoon in public for at least a week, but if you’re pledging at the $5 level or above, feel free to show (or post) it without waiting.
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TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
This cartoon has four panels, plus a small “kicker” panel below the bottom of the cartoon.
A large caption, at the top of the cartoon, says “DEFENDING FREE SPEECH.”
This panel shows the Capital Building in Washington, D.C., where Congress meets. Two word balloons come from inside the building.
SPEAKER 1: Our new law will force websites to silence sex workers!
SPEAKER 2: Good plan!
Two men, wearing jackets and hats that identify them as I.C.E. agents, stand talking to each other outside a depressing blocky-looking building. One of them is angrily pointing to something on his tablet. The other is grinning and holding up a forefinger to make a point.
ANGRY I.C.E. AGENT: An illegal immigrant wrote a poem criticizing I.C.E.!
SECOND I.C.E. AGENT: We’ve got our next target!
Inside a dirty-looking prison, a prison guard in uniform leans on a cell door, talking to the prisoner within. A small barred window is in the cell door, and through the window we can see part of the face of the prisoner. The guard is grinning; the prisoner looks angry.
GUARD: Let’s see you talk to any more reporters from here in solitary!
A large caption at the top of the panel says “THE PUNDITS REACT!”
Inside a room with a sofa and a vase on a table, two pundits – one male, balding and wearing a necktie, the other a woman with black hair and glasses – are talking. The man is looking at something on his phone screen and looking panicked; the woman is striking a heroic pose.
MALE PUNDIT: Oh no! A wealthy writer with a huge following and plenty of access to media was protested on campus!
FEMALE PUNDIT: This is the worst threat to free speech ever!
SMALL KICKER PANEL UNDER THE BOTTOM OF THE COMIC
The male pundit looks serious as he speaks to a self-portrait of the cartoonist.
MALE PUNDIT: If wealthy powerful pundits don’t stand up for the wealthy and powerful, who will?