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Yes, American University is Practicing Defacto Censorship

Posted on April 6 2010 6:00 am
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Because of NewsReal Blog contributor Alex Knepper’s thought-provoking ideas, American University has adopted a new policy of defacto censorship.

An anonymous blogger, NoRoomAU, takes issue with my recent posts here at NewsReal Blog regarding a high-profile incidence of censorship at American University. NoRoomAu denies that any such thing has taken place. “There is no institutional or legal censorship involved anywhere in this situation,” she writes.

As with any private publication, [AU’s student paper], the Eagle, has the right to publish nearly anything [that] it wants to [publish]; and its consumers have the right to object and seek their news elsewhere.

All sorts of media regularly hire and fire commentators based on ratings and feedback from consumers. I fail to see how this situation is any different.

Allow me to explain. It’s different because the Eagle is not simply and soberly responding to “ratings and feedback from consumers.” Such an innocuous description of what has transpired on the American University campus is completely disingenuous and laughably inaccurate.

In truth, the Eagle’s editors have responded to intellectual bulling, emotional blackmail, mass hysteria, and mob rule. They have been intimidated and cowed into intellectual submission by the mob. They have buckled to the rabid and radical left, which has issued ridiculous “demands” for greater editorial “sensitivity.” Such “sensitivity” amounts to defacto censorship, in which the Eagle’s editors have shamefully acquiesced.

The intention was not to harm, though we clearly did. We take responsibility for this mistake and will make sure — through new policies and new perspectives learned — that this does not happen again.

It won’t happen again because the Eagle won’t be commissioning again thought-provoking conservative columnists like Alex Knepper. Nor will the Eagle be publishing again ideas or viewpoints that it expects might create a furor amongst left-wing activist groups.

American University also bears culpability for this new defacto censorship because it has created a threatening and hostile atmosphere in which free speech advocates are afraid to speak out and be heard lest they run afoul of the angry mob that now rules the campus.

Moreover, as I reported in my initial NewsReal Blog entry, university administrators have invited the campus thought police to initiate formal administrative complaint procedures against the student editors. The administrators’ intent is clear: to promote further censorship through the threat of administrative hassles and star chamber rules and regulations.

True, American University and the Eagle are private entities. As such, they perhaps can impose whatever speech codes they wish. But AU and the Eagle deny that they practice censorship.

In fact, AU is committed explicitly to protecting “freedom of expression and dissent… for all members of the university community.” At least that’s what the university says in its 2009-2010 Student Handbook (p. 127, “Freedom of Expression Guidelines”).

And while American University may technically not have abridged anyone’s First Amendment rights — because it’s not a state or governmental entity — it absolutely has trashed the principles and purpose that underlie the First Amendment.

The purpose of the First Amendment is to promote free speech and debate. Yet, everything that has transpired at this university over the past two weeks has been designed to limit, circumscribe, and contain free speech and debate.

Sorry NoRoomAU, but that’s called censorship and it’s wrong — especially on a secular college campus that supposedly is committed to examining, and not suppressing, ideas.

John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter: @Guardian0

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