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College Repugnants
Stomping Hamas, Hezbollah and Free Expression

Not quite unstompable

Alarms about their phony endangerment aside, the last group of people who need defending on college campuses these days are college Republicans. They may consider themselves a minority (they’re far from it), but only because the notion burnishes their victim status, without which they’d be whiny white snobs worthy of little more than nauseating cameos in a Charlotte Simmons subplot, if that. Still, like the Second Amendment and Donald Trump’s right to be a supreme ass, even college Republicans must be defended once in a while. This particular bunch was holding an “anti-terrorism” rally at San Francisco State University on October 17. Right there, you could sniff something smelly, something no less aromatic than a rally held by the National Association for the Advancement of White People. An anti-terrorism rally sounds like an “anti-murder bill,” the kind of self-evident idiocy only Republicans can think of—as our own dear freshman governor Charlie Crist just did in Florida. He campaigned on an anti-murder bill (it cracks down on parolees who like to kill in large numbers, but mostly it’ll cost millions for law-and-order window dressing) and made it his first big victory bill last week. Not much different than Republicans running on anti-terrorism platforms. The intention is never to suggest anything novel in the approach, but to use the platform as an implicit indictment of the opposition, whoever the opposition may be, painting it as cowardly, disloyal, weak on terrorism. An anti-terrorism rally by college Republicans leaks equally rancid duplicity.

At the October 17 rally, the Republican students, in this case an oxymoron, drew the Hamas and Hezbollah flags, both of which sport god’s name (Hezbollah means party of god), and stomped on them. Arab students were offended but not, apparently, by the flag desecration. That’s more of an American specialty. They were offended by the stomping of the word “god.” A student filed a complaint with one of those student-college organizations that investigate and adjudicate, all with the implication that the Republicans’ stomping amounted to an attempt to “incite violence and create a hostile environment,” and showed “actions of incivility.” To which the natural answer should not be investigations, but an informed so what? Would the university have reacted the same way had anti-war demonstrators been desecrating the American flag, which more than a few people consider holier than the holy trinity and half their biological ancestry put together? Not likely. The Constitution protects flag desecration in any form, and of course not just the Am,erican flag. Some flags are eminently more worthy of desecration than others. Any flag dumb enough to desecrate god’s name in the first place by plastering it on a flag deserves what it gets by way of desecration. And any flag that brandishes weaponry as some sort of lusty ideal, as Hezbollah’s does, deserves the same. For all that, the Republican group faced potential expulsion from the university for its stunt on—get this— Malcolm X Plaza .

The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an equal-opportunity defender of all speech compressors and repressors, got on the case, and on March 19 the university relented. There would be no charges, no expulsions, although FIRE makes a valid point: there should never have been an investigation, either. It was a demonstration. It may have been vile although not by much. It may have incited anger, offense, hurt feelings. But no one has a right not to be offended in public places, least of all on university grounds where, one hopes, shocks to the system—moral, intellectual, emotional—are as rich a part of the experience as the binge drinking, the sex, the drugs, and of course the caffeine.

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