Arrogant Censorship

February 11, 2005

An incident at Hudson High School in Massachusetts provides an object lesson in the occasional arrogance of liberal bias.

A group of students decided to form a conservative club as “a counterweight” to the majority political viewpoint at the school. Student Chris Bowler put up posters to publicize the club’s first meeting in December.

Within hours, school administrators reportedly removed the posters because they contained a link to the Website of High School Conservative Clubs of America (HSCCA), a national organization for high school conservative clubs. HSCCA’s Website included links to videos of beheadings by Iraqi insurgents, and the high school would not allow even an indirect reference to those links. It also blocked access to the HSCCA’s Website on school computers.

“The material was way beyond what I believe the school should be advertising,” said Principal John Stapelfeld. What? Just because the school permits students to use its facilities to promote something doesn’t mean the school itself is endorsing it. In fact, just because the local club listed the HSCCA’s Web address doesn’t mean it endorses everything HSCCA endorses.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s concede that the school’s club was encouraging the viewing of those videos. What in the world is wrong with that, and what business was it of the principal’s to censor the posters?

Principal Stapelfeld insists his political bias didn’t enter into his decision. According to the Boston Globe, he was initially “thrilled” about the idea of a conservative club that would spark political discussions.

So, what’s his beef with the video links? The Globe reports that he “said the brutal images implicitly condoned violence as a way of ‘solving problems’ and did not reflect ‘mainstream conservatism'” — as if this liberal were an authority on mainstream conservatism and as if it’s fine to censor farther-right conservatism.

When I first read this I did a double take, thinking I’d misunderstood. How can links to videos of beheadings of innocent people by terrorists — unless shown by terrorists to potential recruits — be construed as condoning violence, much less as a means of solving problems?

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the HSCCA was linking to those horrendous videos to show how evil the terrorists are and how they use violence purely for the sake of violence and terror, without provocation and certainly not as a means of “solving problems.”

Let’s give Stapelfeld the benefit of the doubt and assume he got himself confused on that one. Perhaps his other statements express his concerns more clearly. According to the Globe, he felt that showcasing these violent acts “did not address the more central problem of growing anti-Americanism abroad.” “Unfortunately, said Stapelfeld, “we really haven’t dealt with the fact that we’re not well received in the world anywhere.”

In this revealing utterance, we have the principal’s naked liberal mindset on full display. What he is really saying is that he — like so many other liberals — believes the Bush Administration has alienated the rest of the world because of its “unwarranted” military action against Iraq. And by promoting the viewing of these videos, his students would be engaging in offensive behavior that will further alienate other nations.

But on what remotely legitimate basis would other nations have to be offended by American students encouraging Americans and other peoples to view videos the terrorists themselves produced and distributed, advertising their own violence? How could genuinely civilized human beings of other nations take issue with civilized Americans for reminding the world, via unedited terrorist-produced videos, of the abject depravity and brutality of the terrorists?

Indeed, isn’t it necessary for us to focus on their inhumanity from time to time to avoid becoming desensitized to it? Perhaps what really bothers the principal (and other liberals) deep down is that by showing the terrorists in their true element the videos demonstrate how utterly justified our cause in Iraq is — a reality that liberals simply cannot abide. How dare we use the terrorists’ own videos to turn people against them? I suppose that instead, we should be trying to negotiate with the sweethearts.

In short, the principal is betraying his own transparent political prejudices. But what alarms me significantly more than his bias or even the high-handed censorship it produced is his arrogant obliviousness to it.

This absence of individual and collective self-reflection is all too often the signature of today’s liberal, who apparently believes his positions are so pure that his motives are beyond scrutiny.

Memo to Principal Stapelfeld: Your wrongful removal of the posters is only exceeded by your refusal to own up to your reasons for doing it.