September 18, 2008

Seen on Campus

Free speech zone, photo by Rosemary West © 2008I can’t remember which political conference it was that introduced the concept of the "Free Speech Zone". That is, a zone designed to prevent free speech from being heard. It caught on rapidly and now it is my understanding that all major political events in the U.S. use this device. Still, I was a bit surprised to encounter this on the campus of Pierce College, whose newspaper proudly (if somewhat enigmatically) proclaims itself to be "a first amendment publication".

There are a couple of "older" ladies who usually spend most of the day on campus sitting at a folding table where they dispense free Bible-related literature. They are always within the boundary of the "free speech zone" (usually tightly wedged into the only shady spot). When I asked, they confirmed that this is the only area the college allows them to use.

I don't think it's a bad idea to restrict people from off campus to limited areas. Otherwise we would quickly be overrun by politicians, advertisers, hucksters, and all the other annoying characters who'd like to bombard us with messages about whatever it is they're selling. But I don't care much for the way this area is labeled. And I like even less the way this kind of area is being used by government agencies and political parties. I am old enough to remember when the entire United States was considered a free speech zone.

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