Censoring stupidity

The Campus Pro-Life club would like you to get angry. They’d like you to rip down their posters and confront them publicly. They’d like to be able to call the police when somebody vandalizes their graphic photos equating abortion with historical atrocities. More than anything, they’d love all of this to happen in front of the cameras.

That’s exactly what happened last year when the club’s ‘Genocide Awareness Project’ generated a mini-media storm of bad publicity for the University of Calgary. Some members from the club were banned from campus, an opposition group sprang up in response and Calgary Police showed up, charging a student for damage to the display. The local TV stations picked up the story and the event was an unmitigated success. Campus Pro-Life got to play the victim and they turned what is essentially a case of extremely poor taste into a fight for free speech.

Their cries that university should be an atmosphere for uncensored dialogue are as misplaced as the photos on their posters. Campus Pro-Life is not interested in an informed dialogue on abortion. They do not want to change minds. Not a single mind has been changed in the abortion debate thanks to this campaign. On the contrary, offending people and enticing conflict with a campaign based on cheap shock value has further entrenched both sides in their positions.

U of C administration, in conjunction with the Students’ Union, want to avoid last year’s shit show, and rightly so. They offered the club limited space on the south lawn of MacEwan Student Centre, as long as the group consented to turning all their signs inward in a circle. Campus Security would be present and the whole deal was to be wrapped in snow fencing to keep out those who don’t want to be part of the debate.

By trying to coral one point of view–however inflammatory– into a controlled position, the U of C and the SU are setting a dangerous precedent. If a group in the future wanted to set up a display critical of one of these institutions, would the same offer be made? Will all posters that have the potential to offend somebody be turned inward?

Security is important, but not when it includes censorship. These posters should have been allowed to point outwards. Individuals at this university, or any other, are mature enough to realize when somebody is baiting us. The pictures in this display are not as graphic as the average prime-time TV lineup. If people are offended by depictions of real events and Campus Pro-Life’s poor logical arguments, they’ll need to grow up before hitting the real world.

Genocide is spawned out of hatred and carried out in a systematic way. Women who have had abortions don’t hate fetuses and there is no systematic campaign to rid the earth of fetuses everywhere. Equating abortion with the holocaust or any other genocide is nonsense, but Campus Pro-Life should still be allowed to do it.

Don’t be fooled, this has little to do with free speech and a lot to do with publicity. Campus Pro-Life wants to generate some, the U of C wants to avoid it like the plague, but whether this event eventually happens or not, little will be added to the abortion debate.

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