Liberal academia is all about catering to special interest groups, at least until such groups find themselves at odds with one another in pushing their respective agendas. Such a scenario recently occurred at DePaul University in Chicago, where school faculty had to decide between defending the free speech rights of a gay speaker or pandering to the potential hurt feelings of Muslims, to which they chose the latter.
Problems began after James Kirchick, a gay reporter who had planned to give a talk at the school on radical Islam and its hardline position against homosexuality, was to be introduced with posters that read “Gay Lives Matter.” An obvious reference to the “Black Lives Matter” group, these posters were intended to be plastered around campus prior to the event – that is until school officials got wind of it.
According to reports, the campus group Turning Point USA was planning to help out with the event until it was notified that the lecture could not be advertised with these posters, which it claimed were part of an effort to “co-opt” the message of Black Lives Matter. Turning Point denied these allegations, but the school dug its heels in and refused to allow the posters to be used, effectively shutting down one group’s free speech in favor of another.
“This is a disappointing decision by the university to prohibit our poster,” stated Matt Lamb, one of the leaders of the Turning Point, which helped facilitate bringing Kirchick to campus. “The event by our DePaul chapter is calling attention to the harms that big government, authoritarian regimes pose to LGBT citizen’s (sic) most basic human rights.” (Related: More on issues pertaining to censorship is available at Censorship.news.)
The lecture, which was entitled, “Dictatorships and Radical Islam: The Enemies of Gay Rights,” was not only offensive to Black Lives Matter, according to reports, but also to Muslims on campus who may not have preferred that the truth about their religion be exposed. Members of the group DePaul Students for Justice in Palestine, who vocally oppose what they say are Kirchick’s Zionist leanings, published a post to Facebook announcing their intent to protest the event.
In this announcement, the group removed the word “radical” from the talk’s title to insinuate that Kirchick’s view is that all of Islam is the enemy of gay rights. This subtle change didn’t go unnoticed by Kirchick himself, who tweeted a message asking his followers, “Notice missing word?” The Palestinian group also wrote that Kirchick is “a white, Zionist, neoliberal journalists, to speak on [expletive] he knows nothing about.”
As far as Black Lives Matter and the alleged co-opting of its name, Turning Point says the posters themselves were only for the event. The intent was to catch the attention of students and faculty using familiar language – and only on this one occasion, not to be used in perpetuity as some kind of slogan or brand.
“We do not see how the branding of Black Lives Matter is exclusive from all other lives and we cannot make a similar statement in a different movement,” says Turning Point USA President Jason Plotzke, as quoted by The College Fix. “Sure, it is related and based off the BLM slogan, but with no intent to undermine the movement. We are not even using the poster to push an entire movement, but rather a specific event. We, as students in an academic setting, should be allowed to market our events as we see fit.”
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