University of Michigan cancels showing of “American Sniper” after accusations of Islamophobia and triggering, substitutes showing of “Paddington Bear”

April 9, 2015 • 10:00 am

Today we have more identity politics, with the emphasis on “identity” rather than “politics.” This involves another college campus, the prestigious University of Michigan, which cancelled a showing of “American Sniper” after Muslim students—and probably many non-Muslim students—complained that the movie made them feel unsafe, was “triggering”, and perpetuated anti-Muslim stereotypes. As The College Fix reports (and it’s been substantiated by several other sources):

A scheduled movie screening of “American Sniper” at the University of Michigan was abruptly cancelled Tuesday after nearly 300 students and others complained the film perpetuates “negative and misleading stereotypes” against Muslims.

“The movie American Sniper not only tolerates but promotes anti-Muslim … rhetoric and sympathizes with a mass killer,” according to an online letter circulated among the campus community via Google Docs that garnered the signatures.

The signers were mostly students, but also some staff, as well as the Muslim Students’ Association and the president of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a Palestinian solidarity group at UMich.

The online memo, titled a “collective letter from Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) and Muslim students on campus,” accused the public university of “tolerating dangerous anti-Muslim and anti-MENA propaganda” by showing the movie, the highest grossing film of 2014.

Here’s the collective letter, which you can see at the first link (I wasn’t able to access the “online memo” link):

*******

CollectiveLetter*******

The University caved:

“While our intent was to show a film, the impact of the content was harmful, and made students feel unsafe and unwelcomed at our program,” stated The Center for Campus Involvement, which oversees student activities and is run by university employees, as it announced its decision Tuesday on its various social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook.

“We deeply regret causing harm to members of our community, and appreciate the thoughtful feedback provided to us by students and staff alike.”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald confirmed to The College Fix on Tuesday the movie was cancelled.

. . . “We in the Center for Campus Involvement and the UMix Late Night program did not intend to exclude any students or communities on campus through showing this film,” the center’s announcement stated.

“… UMix should always be a safe space for students to engage, unwind, and create community with others, and we commit to listening to and learning from our community in the interest of fostering that environment. … We will take time to deeper understand and screen for content that can negatively stereotype a group.”

The Center for Campus Involvement’s Facebook page indicated that the film would be replaced by, appropriately, “Paddington Bear“: the equivalent of showing triggered students videos of puppies and kittens.

The sad thing is that the students who objected didn’t have to go to the movie. In fact, everyone can find out what American Sniper is about from simply Googling. What they objected to was not seeing the movie, but having the movie actually shown on campus.  And they succeeded, thanks to a compliant group of administrators and students who don’t give a damn about free speech, for if anyone says that speech is “offensive”, we must by all means ban it.

American Sniper is a true story, and, though I haven’t seen it, I know it sparked a lively conversation about whether or not Kyle was admirable, about the ethics of his actions, and so on. That conversation will not take place at The University of Michigan. Should we also ban “Schindler’s List” or “Band of Brothers” because they show Germans engaged in mass killings, which could trigger both Germans and Jews? Should we ban “Triumph of the Will” by Leni Riefenstahl because it glorifies the Nazis, which it does in a very clear way?

There are in fact many movies showing bad people doing bad things. That’s what happens in this world. Regardless of what you think about Chris Kyle, students should have the opportunity to see the movie for themselves. If they think it will grossly offend or “trigger” them, then they shouldn’t go. But they have no right to control what other students will see.  I, for one, would welcome seeing Nazi propaganda movies, including those that demonize Jews, (in fact I’ve seen many of those movies) as a way of creating a conversation and learning about history.

These students should grow up; they have no right to not be offended. And the University of Michigan and those who cancelled the movie should be ashamed of themselves. They have abrogated the very mission of a good university: to challenge students’ views and make them think.

I look forward to the universities of 2040, in which all movies shown will be about bears, penguins, and puppies, and everyone always feels “safe.”

193 thoughts on “University of Michigan cancels showing of “American Sniper” after accusations of Islamophobia and triggering, substitutes showing of “Paddington Bear”

  1. I agree with you Jerry. But I have to say, as cave-ins go, the University deciding to show Paddington Bear as an alternative has a very tongue in cheek, ‘backhanded compliment’ feel to it. They should not have caved, but if they’re going to cave, this is a pretty pointed and amusing way to do it.

    1. On a lighter note, my wife and I belong to a movie watching group that once a month or so shows mostly foreign films at the local mall theatre.

      These are usually films that have done well at Cannes or TIFF or other international film festivals. There is an earlier showing at 6:00 pm that attracts mostly retired older people (average about 75 years young I would estimate) and a later showing at 8:00 pm that attracts mostly people of working age.

      A few months back, the intended Spanish language film would not show because of technical difficulties downloading it, so the early older 6:00 pm crowd was offered by show of hands to choose between “Fifty Shades of Gray” or “Paddington Bear” as a replacement to watch. They chose “Fifty Shades of Grey”

      The theatre remained packed. TeeHee

      During our later showing at 8:00 pm, because there were even more technical difficulties, and the allowed time to use the theatre was quickly being eaten up trying to get the original film to show again — to no avail — we were offered only “Paddington Bear” because it is a shorter movie and only it would fit in the available remaining time.

      The theatre emptied pretty quickly!

  2. Agreed, Jerry. I’m a Michigan alum and feel quite insulted by the decision — will be writing the University.
    Also have to agree with Eric that the replacement movie may be signalling what someone thinks of the complainers…

    1. Good!

      I’ve spoken with actual death camp survivors (at the Holocaust Museum in DC), and they were against extinguishing free speech. They were against attempts to outlaw Holocaust denialism, because they felt that trying to silence anyone was the wrong approach.

      If you’re “offended” then don’t see the movie. (Same with adult films. If you’re a prude and don’t want to watch it, don’t make it illegal for others. Just don’t watch it!)

      1. re “If you’re a prude,” … … this phrase for explaining ‘the why’ behind one’s not watching a(ny) film was necessary to include in your post … … because why ?

        Blue

          1. Are you denying that prudes are one type of people who disapprove of pornography? Or were you simply assuming that the statement “If you are X and disapprove of Y, then avoid Y and leave the rest of us alone” is logically equivalent to “If you are X, the only group that disapproves of Y, then avoid Y and leave us alone”?

          2. Maybe (I’m trying to be generous here) the assumption was that non-prudes who don’t want to watch porn tend to leave other people alone to do as they please, but prudes who don’t want to watch porn also don’t want anyone else watching porn.

            1. Thank you for understanding, pacopicopiedra.

              I actually used the word “adult” to mean anything not appropriate for children (could include strong language, violence, etc.) not just sex, rather than merely “porn”.

              Another use of “prude” is as a label and an insult directed to anybody having reservations resulting from standards of modesty or even any moral standards and beliefs or which are not shared by the offender. Thus one can be labelled a “prude” for expressing reservations about drinking alcohol, or consuming other drugs, or participating in mischief.

  3. Although I have not seen the movie, I read the book. I do not recall any anti Muslim attitude from Kyle. He actually did not spend much time at all dwelling on or talking about the people he was shooting. He was a soldier in a specialized job, doing his job. The rest was about his wife, his family and his job. Unless the movie got way off track, I have no idea what those offended are talking about.

    The University of Michigan should really consider why they are in the sensor business. People are not being forced to watch so this is really crazy and wrong.

      1. I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to, but I heard commentary that the movie didn’t portray any “good” Muslims. Or the Muslims were very 2-dimensional and there was little to no empathy for them. I can’t verify if that is true of the film or not. It wouldn’t surprise me though considering the right-wing nut who directed it.
        Either way, I’m glad the University changed their position and are showing the film. This student coddling is getting out of hand.

    1. He not infrequently (in both the book and movie, as I understand it) refers to Iraqis as “savages”.

      I saw the movie. It is excellent up until it turns into hero worship at the end. But if you cut out the last 15 minutes or so, it is a genuinely engaging movie that revels in Kyle’s moral ambiguity. Thanks largely to Cooper’s nuanced performance, you get the subtle yet present impression that we are not supposed to be worshipping Kyle—or outright condemning him. Until, as I mentioned, the end, but it is not hard to turn off the movie at home.

      1. I thought that the references to Iraqis as ‘savages’ was an entirely accurate portrayal of how soldiers (on any side, in any conflict) refer to the ‘enemy’. The film did not portray the Iraqis as evil and even shows the Iraqi sharpshooter with his family and makes it clear that the Iraqis think he is a hero. This point is not developed much in the movie, but then the movie is an adaptation of an autobiographical narrative by Kyle.

        I heartily agree that Cooper’s performance is spot on (I’m a psychiatrist at a VA hospital) and one of the best portrayals of PTSD I’ve seen.

        And a word about Clint Eastwood. I dont’ agree with his political speech outside of his movies, but ‘Sniper’ was certainly not hero worship. It portrayed the hero worship of Kyle, but after watching the movie, I found that rather uncomfortable as, I’m sure, did many thoughtful viewers. Kyle is thought to be a hero by many people. I don’t think Kyle himself had that opinion and the film does not portray him in that light. Neither does it demonize him (or the Iraqis), but presents the moral ambiguity of combat. I think these themes are present in other works in the Eastwood oeuvre. Consider Eastwood’s two films about the battle for Iwo Jima, “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “Flags of our Fathers” are both devastating depictions of the profound moral ambiguity of war. “Letters”, filmed in black and white (and mostly in Japanese) tells the story of the Japanese defense (and defeat). I found it a heartbreaking study of the waste of human potential that wars bring about. “Flags” the story of the soldiers who raised the flag (or did not) is hardly hero worship and also treats the sequelae of combat: PTSD, substance abuse and alienation. I can’t quite square these movies with Eastwood’s political views, but I have to admire his directorial nuance.

  4. I think of all the films I saw at University in classes, from Triumph of the Will to A Clockwork Orange. Somehow, I managed to survive. Looking back, I am grateful my professors exposed me to these and more. I didn’t go to university to be coddled.

    1. I also saw “Triumph of the Will” in a university course. But in addition to the film, Sontag’s famous essay, “Fascinating Fascism,” was required reading. This strikes me as the proper paradigm for an academic setting – tackle contentious subject matter with informed dialogue, rather than suppression.

    2. I agree with your sentiment, but I don’t know if the “I went through it and I survived” argument is a good one. “My parents beat the shit outta me and I turned out ok…” Etc. Just because something didn’t ruin you doesn’t mean it was good for you, or that there aren’t better alternatives.

  5. Part of me wants to register for classes at Michigan, then file a compliant about being “triggered” by the showing of Paddington Bear as I was once mauled by a raincoat wearing bear with an English accent.

      1. I really wanted to see that film with my grown children, just for old time’s sake, but I saw the trailer. And sorry, that there bear looks a little ugly and nasty. 😛

        1. No way! I loved Paddington. I thought the bear was really sweet and the way they used animatronics and computer generated images has very good results. I also liked Capaldi as the nasty neighbour. You should see the movie.

          1. OK, I trust your judgement, Diana, so I will see it! Oh, I recently watched The Theory of Everything on DVD and loved it; it’s a great love story, and I cried at Hawkings’ struggles with the disease.

          2. Is that Peter Capaldi? I can well believe he would make a very nasty neighbour, though I doubt he was allowed to give full reign to his vocabulary in Paddington

            (NSFW, very:)
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfiEK3Ovv5o

            I have to admire anything done well, and I can’t think of anyone who does gratuitous swearing better than Malcolm Tucker

            1. Yep, it was Peter Capaldi and no, he didn’t get to use his full vocabulary.

              If you’ve seen him as the latest Doctor in Doctor Who, you’d see he does make a good curmudgeon.

        1. There is a pop song called, “Marmalade, Molasses and Honey.” (Now that your life is complete having heard that.)

  6. Those students who signed that letter are quite obviously vulnerable and in need of protection.

    I thereby propose, in an effort to ensure they feel as safe as possible, that they all have their current coursework cancelled in favor of something more sensitive and caring.

    The University itself likely doesn’t have anything in its catalogue that would be appropriate, but I’m sure a suitable non-traditional alternative can be developed with the aid of the early childhood specialists in the school of education.

    These students should feel right at home and maximally safe in a kindergarden classroom, and I’m sure they’ll especially appreciate the blankies and cookies and naptime in the afternoon.

    And, maybe after a dozen years or so of that, they’ll be ready to face some of the big and dangerous challenges of life — such as, for example, crossing the street without a big person holding your hand.

    Hell, I’d almost be willing to consider granting suitable diplomas for successful completion of the requisite number of credit hours.

    b&

            1. Multiple stickers? From one election? How many identical ballots do you usually put in the boxes? 🙂

              1. Well, there are elections more than every four years, you know — typically, at least three or so every year. And some of us have refrigerators more than four years old, and have lived in the same location with said ‘fridge since before it was new….

                b&

        1. Employee of the Month/Quarter/Year comes to mind. (Maybe there should be a similar reward for Congressmen and corporate investors. Bet they’d be “offended” by that.) Apparently a job well-done – and being reasonably paid (if and when that happens) – is not sufficient. (Or perhaps such fluff is offered in hopes of compensating for mediocre pay.)

          In K-12 there’s Teacher of the Year. I can’t believe every teacher who receives it thinks it counts for much (though who’s to gainsay the value of a strategically convenient parking spot for a year), but it won’t do to turn it down, what with the ensuing opprobrium from administrators and school board members,eh?

          In the U.S. Navy there was the Sailor of the Month/Quarter/Year for the ship/base/squadron/task force/fleet, etc. Enlisted personnel could get a Good Conduct Medal. Officer (management) types didn’t because apparently they supposedly don’t require that sort of external reinforcement/stroking. (Years ago in a Navy Times cartoon, a chief petty officer was showing off his chest-full of merit badges – I mean – medals, including the Navy Achievement Medal “for having processed two hundred thousand Good Conduct Medals.”)

  7. There’s always an option to not go to see this movie, but instead stay home and study. This is theoretically why people go to college, isn’t it? Unless, of course, homework also makes you feel “unsafe”.

  8. (1) “Safe” does not exist. (2) “Feeling safe” is an illusion.

    Triumph des Willens is an incredible propaganda film; we used it in our communications course; no one whined, but this was back in the 70s, when students were adults, not children.

    1. I agree. I bought the DVD as soon as it came out. No one hates the Nazis more than I do (and I’ve read very extensively on them and WWII). But it’s an important historical, artistic and propaganda document. And very interesting to watch.

      These babies need to take a step back and look at what they are asking for. They are asking for no one associated with the university that they have freely chosen to attend be able to speak, write, or display anything that any student might find offensive.

      Time to just shut the place down.

      Note that it is VERY frequently the “Islamophobia” card.

      Organized Islam (see the “blasphemy” resolutions that the Muslim-majority countries continue to push in the UN) is trying, very hard, to extinguish any criticism or discussion of it (all discussion must be only positive). And it’s winning the fight.

      Islam is a set of (very bad) ideas. All ideas are open for criticism. When that stops, free societies die.

      Friggin’ wake up people!

    1. Indeed, it’s about as illiberal and outright anti-liberal as one can get.

      Leftist, sure. No doubt.

      But there’s nothing even remotely liberal about it.

      b&

      1. Change the “but” for an “and” gets my full agreement. Like we could watch the movie and then, like, talk about it.

        Pardon my French, and I mean no insult to felines when I say this, I am very concerned about the pussificatiom of American youth. Humans need armor not bubble-wrap.

        1. Better even than armor…is the ability to navigate such dangers without such extraordinary protection and still come through unscathed.

          The greatest warriors win the battle without even needing to draw a sword.

          b&

    1. “I can’t help but think the choice of replacement films is a passive-aggressive FU to the whiners.”

      Yes! And wonderful! Here you go, little babies …

    2. Oh dear, ManOutOfTime, you’ve just triggered my fear of dentists, and didn’t provide any warning. I’d better lie down and listen to Enya.

              1. What is extra funny is when I was being a smart ass, I somehow put an F in front of my name. Like Word Press was trying to tell me something.

    1. Good statement from U of M President:

      “He was booed here, in 1963, but he was allowed to speak,” [U of M President Mark] Schlissel said. “This is what great universities do: we encourage all voices, no matter how discomforting the message. It takes far more courage to hear and try to understand unfamiliar and unwelcome ideas than it does to shout down the speaker. You don’t have to agree, but you have to think.”

      1. Sorry, missed the first bit of that:

        … Schlissel reminded students that Ross Barnett, the former segregationist governor of Mississippi, once stood on the same stage he was standing on now.

        “He was booed here, in 1963, but he was allowed to speak,” Schlissel said. “This is what great universities do: we encourage all voices, no matter how discomforting the message. It takes far more courage to hear and try to understand unfamiliar and unwelcome ideas than it does to shout down the speaker. You don’t have to agree, but you have to think.”

    2. This is good news.
      If I were American I would be very offended by people who call an American soldier doing his job a serial killer.

      1. Heck, I’m an American and I don’t feel offended by someone called a soldier doing his job a serial killer, if that’s what his or her job is. You think the other soldiers who kill people aren’t killers, too? You think that killing sanctioned by a government isn’t killing? How does that work?

      2. Oh, and would you call a concentration camp guard doing his job a ‘serial killer’? If not, why not?

        1. I don’t suggest that a soldier cannot be criminal. The crime being part of the job doesn’t necessarily make it less a crime.
          However, in many situations, act which are otherwise a crime, are not when done by a soldier in war.

  9. I saw this movie. It’s quite disturbing because it quite accurately portrays the toll that combat takes on people. The depiction of post traumatic stress disorder that Mr. Kyle suffered from is quite accurate. The movie certainly does not glorify war. The behavior of the soldiers is fairly realistically portrayed. I didn’t find it particularly uplifting, but then people in combat situations do not necessarily behave in uplifting ways. They behave in ways that allow them to survive and not be overcome with the horror of the situation.

    The Iraqis in the movie are not depicted in a particularly negative light. They are shown as people who are resisting an overwhelmingly powerful occupation force. Nor is there any particular emphasis on religious issues. The soldiers often refer to their Iraqi opponents as ‘animals’ or ‘barbarians’. This is an accurate portrayal of how soldiers often behave. Military combatants always tend to dehumanize the ‘enemy’; otherwise, the need to kill them would be intolerable.

    The Iraqi sniper who won an Olympic gold medal is not portrayed in depth, but is shown having a family and being seen as a hero by the Iraqis.

    The movie isn’t perfect, but is a more thoughtful and ambiguous film than these silly protests suggest. I applaud the U of M it’s decision to let the film be screened. Every one of those fragile students should watch it and then discuss what it says about the horrors of war.

    1. I think it’s the accurate portrayal of PTSD that the students have a problem with. It used to be that PTSD was something combat veterans suffered, now it seems like every white middle-class, gender studies major has it; hence the need for trigger warnings on everything. It’s almost as though PTSD was a fad or something.

      1. Doesn’t Melody Hensley, of CFI, claim to have twitter PTSD?

        Yet, she posts on twitter daily. How odd.

    2. American Sniper is in the running to be the most misunderstood film ever made.

      And part of the tragedy is, it’s the film’s most ardent fans who are responsible. It seems to have been embraced most by people who think it’s a flag-waving celebration of Chris Kyle killing people. It’s not, and before the film’s blockbuster box office success in America, no one saw it that way.

      1. The film’s publicity poster certainly makes it look like a flag-waving gung-ho patriot flick. The director’s well known politics probably help that impression, and doubtless its fans don’t help. Nor does the studio’s publicity machine (from IMDB:) “Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.”
        [Cynical view: Saves countless _American_ lives, other peoples’ evidently don’t count].

        Very likely pushing the patriotism button helped its box-office take.

        That said (and I haven’t seen it), from the comments here it appears that Clint Eastwood has once again surprised with the deftness of his directorial touch.

        1. Unlike most blockbuster films, this one had a long lead-in period of festival screening and limited release – during which the patriotic angle was downplayed (at least outside the USA, where I am). So we had a good chance to see what people thought of the film before they were told what they were expected to think about it.

          …Incidentally, I can see why people would judge the film in the light of Clint Eastwood’s attitudes, but it’s a particular mistake in his case. He’s a throwback to the studio era: the kind of strong, workmanlike director who will faithfully shoot whatever script was put in front of him. Normally, I believe the director’s attitude is relevant; but not in his case.

  10. I think American Sniper should have been cancelled because it is a bad movie. But that is about it. Doc Films at the University of Chicago is showing American Sniper on April 25-26. The matinee on those dates is Dr. Strangelove. Go see the matinee.

    1. If the choice is Dr. Strangelove and any movie, go to Strangelove. It is most certainly a classic. How many parts did Sellers play?

      Is it okay for the kids to see a black and white film?? Don’t want to offend.

      1. IIRC,He was actually supposed to do the Slim Pickens’ role in addition to the others, but that was one too many, I guess.

    2. I haven’t seen the film and I have no interest in seeing it but the folks at Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB thought it was at least better then average.

  11. From IHE: “Earlier Wednesday, the center said it would still screen “American Sniper” but in a “separate forum that provides an appropriate space for dialogue and reflection” about the film.”

    I bet there won’t be any “separate forum that provides an appropriate space for dialogue and reflection” about the film” for Paddington.

    Why is that?

  12. I don’t recall that Paddington had a british accent; wasn’t he originally from darkest Peru? I find his wellies to be triggering – bringing back unwelcome thoughts of dreary english rainy days and bouts of SAD.

    One wonders if these students also avoid malls and other places where this, and other movies are playing. Or do they picket the mall theatres? or whine and whinge and get the movie banned? or do they just go into a dark corner, assume a foetal position and cry?

    Frankly I’m beginning to feel unsafe myself with so many certifiable whackos and pusillanimous college administrators running around unchecked.

    1. I feel unsafe posting on twitter because of all the abusive whackos who might be triggered by my words. But rather than avoid twitter, I should just demand that twitter be dismantled. To protect my feelz.

  13. They’ll have to cancel the showing of Paddington anyway. After all, he is not wearing anything under that raincoat, which could be seen as the university showing support for flashers and other perverts, especially the short, hairy ones.

    1. My recollections of Paddington Bear are somewhat hazy after many years but my mental image of PB is he is wearing wellies and a duffle coat. And a label.

  14. Even though Roger Ebert gave The Passion of the Christ ***** (5 stars) and a 4/4 score, I couldn’t bring myself to see it, out of fear of being triggered. My companion wouldn’t have appreciated my barfing unto his lap.

    1. I watched about 15 minutes of this film on cable before I switched it off. I can watch most anything, but I’m not into torture porn. Still, I don’t try to keep others from watching it.

      1. I can’t bring myself to watch it (and it’s not the gore that would turn my stomach), just to test myself. And I’ve seen Kill Bill. Los Perros, and all those gory movies with my children.

        I guess that means the fun movie, True Lies, will never be shown again at U of Michigan. Pity.

        1. I think the thing with Kill Bill is that it’s obviously fantasy. The violence is ‘comic-book’. Therefore it’s much easier to take than the violence in ‘Passion of the Christ’ which (I believe – haven’t seen it) is depicted in tedious, ‘realistic’ and excruciating detail.

          1. I’ve had the same argument with a friend that thought something was wrong with me for liking Pulp Fiction. The violence was comic book in it. It’s called “pulp fiction” for a reason. It’s to make you question why the violence appeals to you.

            1. I loved Pulp Fiction, and found it mainly hilarious. Kill Bill I found boring, I guess just stylized violence. And if you disagree with me imo get medeeeval on yo ass;-)

  15. If you’re not going to correctly understand the objections being made, then you’re just wasting everyone’s time. It’s got nothing to do with worrying about viewers of the film being “triggered”. Just read the letter. The only reference to triggering comes in the second paragraph. It’s not the movie that triggers people, it’s hate crimes. Just read it, it’s right there. “These incidents (i.e., anti-Muslim hate crimes) create an unsafe space that does not allow for positive dialogue and triggers U. of M. students.” It’s not the movie that triggers people, it’s the hate crimes. The concern here is that the movie may provoke more hate crimes.

    Personally, I think that’s unlikely, and I would have been reluctant to pull the film, but it’s hardly an unreasonable concern.

    If you want a comparison, first imagine living in a society where hate crimes and discrimination against Germans and German-Americans are disturbingly common, and then imagine that the movie being shown is “Inglorious Basterds”, which specifically celebrates violence against Germans. In real life, it’s difficult to imagine that movie provoking violence, but in a society where anti-German violence is already a serious problem… I wouldn’t show that movie.

    Neither would I ban it, and it’s important to recognize that “American Sniper” has not been banned by anyone. That’s just lazy sensationalism. The school has decided, in light of the complaints, to choose a different film. The school hasn’t said that no one may screen the film, only that they won’t. That’s a judgment, not a ban.

    1. I think you’ve misread the letter. For you to take the second paragraph as a stance on hate crimes you have to 1) show examples of anti-Muslim hate crimes growing increasingly common, 2) How those hate crimes are triggering U of M students, 3) That the Chapel Hill shooting was motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment, 4) how American Sniper has contributed to a culture of Islamophobia in America.
      The last sentence of that paragraph is also telling. Read it again and tell me there are advocating free speech and not censorship.
      The only hate I see in any of this is labeling Chris Kyle a serial killer and “A racist who took a disturbing stance on murdering Iraqi civilians.

      1. It sounds like you’re asking me to provide evidence to substantiate claims made in the letter. It’s not my letter. Those aren’t my claims.

    2. The thing about sensorship verses free speech. to work in a society, it needs to apply to everyone in it. So this school or that movie theater should not always get the right to make the choice. Kind of like saying I don’t like this book so get it out of my library.

      If you believe a specific movie offends you then do not go. But you are not the sensor police for the entire society you live in. In the community at the school in Michigan, a handful of students should not be intimidating the school….and that is what this really was.

    3. I think the letter is pretty good myself. I don’t think it is inappropriate. I disagree with some of the claims in the letter, but they are claims that are open to interpretation and it is easy to see why the people who wrote the letter might have different interpretations on those things than I.

      I also think it was inappropriate for the U of M to cancel the showing of the movie for most all of the same reasons given in the OP and many of the following comments. I am pleasantly surprised that the U of M has reversed their decision and decided to show the film. And I think the message from the U of M president was right on point.

      Regarding the movie itself and how it may influence people, I am not sold on the “it promotes anti-Islamic rhetoric” claim at all. I very much doubt this movie will turn anyone who isn’t already anti-Muslim into an anti-Muslim. In my experience, and where I live I rub shoulders with these people, the people who are of concern don’t need a showing of this movie to inspire them to anti-Islamic retoric.

      This movie had quite the opposite affect on me. It engendered in me sympathy for the Iraqi people and shame for what my country had done. It saddened me to experience all the death and the damage done to the survivors, including the sniper character, and it pissed me off all over again about how the Bush admin took us to war for no good cause and no good purpose. I’ve got no beef with the US fighting terrorism. I was, have been and am disgusted at the criminally stupid, destructive, wasteful and ineffective ways in which the US has done so.

      1. I strongly disagree. For one thing, the letter signers declare that “watching the film is provocative and unsafe for MENA and Muslim students.” If I were a MENA or Muslim student, I’d ask them how dare they tell me what sort of reaction I’d have to seeing the film and what’s safe for me to watch. Who are they to speak for all MENA and Muslim students? Secondly, they seem to know a lot about the movie. Either they’ve seen it themselves and then decided that no one else should be allowed to see it, or that haven’t seen it but feel qualified to tell us all about it. Either way, the letter is disgraceful.

        1. You may have misunderstood me. I don’t agree with what the letter writers say in the letter.

          What I did say is that I thought the letter was pretty well written, and that I don’t have any problems with students writing a letter like this in this context. They should be allowed to say what they want. Everyone else should be allowed to also, even if it means people telling them their letter is disgraceful. Surely you aren’t going to tell the letter writers that they should STFU?

          My point was, the students and their letter? OK, free speech for all. The U of M administration’s 1st reaction to the students and their letter? Not OK.

          1. Ok then I misunderstood. I don’t think anyone’s saying that they shouldn’t have been allowed to write the letter, though. And I think characterizing it as “pretty good” is being overly generous.

            1. Well, maybe my bar was set too low. It was not nearly as over the top as I thought it might be tone-wise or rhetoric-wise.

    4. More hate crimes? Have there been any hate crimes against Muslims. Careful in your answer. Hate crimes are statistically reported by the FBI in the US.

        1. I’d think that was an “against brown people” and the perpetrator is too ignorant to articulate what he or she is bigoted against.

          My dad once had someone yell a racial slur at him when he was helping some East Indians with their car. My dad is dark skinned and since he was among East Indians, they just assumed he was one of them. 🙂

          1. Yeah. You’re probably right. On the other hand, it’s crazy how much antisemitism I see on Twitter directed at people who are mistakenly presumed to be Jewish. That’s not a skin color thing.

    5. No, in the third paragraph,

      “watching the film is provocative and unsafe for MENA and Muslim students who are too often reminded…”

      is an implication of triggering or something like it.

      1. Yes it is, you’re right. Still, “an implication of triggering or something like it” is hardly the core of the argument, is it? Besides, if you look at the full sentence you excerpted, it’s not exactly clear. It seems to be saying several different things as it goes along.

        1. Ok then, be vague and get out of jail free.

          The core of the argument was that it was NOT the film.
          That sentence is quite sufficient to prove it WAS the film.

  16. As an atheist, and as a member of the religious rights-protected organization of Secular Humanists, I find the Koran to be extremely atheistophobic, triggering, and causing great fear for my safety.

    Do they allow that book – essentially a manual for murdering atheists – on campus?

  17. Agree. People shouldn’t be forced to see an extracurricular film that they object to, and those who don’t like it could point out the obvious flaws by leafleting in the lobby.

    As I recall, that’s what we did when my University had a formal dance at a segregated club. I’m showing my age here; back then (1) there were legally segregated clubs in the North and (2) Universities sponsored formal dances.

    We attended a campus showing of “Dear White People” a few weeks ago. It was a little ridiculous: a member of the Film Committee read a statement explaining satire, and University counselors were available for viewers who felt offended. Believe me, the movie was neither good nor powerful enough to justify all the preemptive angst.

    1. OMFG

      I felt “unsafe” after our student union showed Psycho and the projectionist dropped the reel cover in a really scary part ( probably on purpose; scared the bejeebus out of us all, many whom had already seen the film.) This is a silly, but true, example.

      Thoroughly agree with person who said, above, I did not attend university to be coddled!

  18. IIRC, ethics is one of the strengths of the UMich philosophy department. Looks like a great opportunity for a “teachable moment”, regardless of how things play out.

  19. So they are showing a film about an illegal immigrant who almost certainly hasn’t a valid ticket for his rail journey and who almost certainly broke quarantine laws. They are glorifying crime !

  20. Having had discussions with a number of Christians over the years who vehemently denied that the Bible actually condoned slavery (it seems I wasn’t reading the Bible “properly”), I happened to come across a book in the public domain called “Bible Defense of Slavery,” written in 1853 and available here: https://archive.org/details/bibledefenceofsl00inprie). Reading this book with my 21st century worldview was both disturbing and eye-opening. Here was a book written by a man who appeared to be intelligent, articulate and well-read presenting detailed arguments for the inferiority of the black “race” and the legitimacy of their involuntary subjugation by the white “race.” However, my reaction on reading this book was not to think that it should be banned, but rather that it should be mandatory reading for all students at the high school level for an incredibly powerful lesson in how relying on an ancient “holy book” for your morality can lead to conclusions that every sane person in the 21st Century now regards as utterly abhorrent.

    1. Not that I disagree on anything important in this post, but why are you ready to accept a 19th century interpretation of the bible from a religious person and not a 21st century one?
      Personally, I see no reason to accept the first as more “accurate”.

      Also, I don’t know how it works for Christians, but here, in Israel, the Hebrew bible is highly valued by many secular Jews. A debate following an article published by a known writer here made it clear that for many religious people, it’s impossible to leave aside mountains of writings on the bible and read what’s simply there.

      1. I’m not prepared to accept anyone’s interpretation of the Bible as more accurate than someone else’s interpretation. Indeed, I’m not inclined to accept anyone’s interpretation of the Bible as “accurate” at all. To me it’s like a Rorschach test: you can see anything you’re inclined to see in it, and people obvious do so. I don’t think the Bible is inherently more instructive on how to live your life than Moby Dick or a modern self-help book.

        As for the balance of your comment, I accept that Bible may be “highly valued” by secular Jews and by secular people who come from a Christian culture. I’m not sure what the point of that observation is. The Bible is also highly valued by many people to justify bad behavior. Valuing it obviously doesn’t make it true or “good.” I would point out that many people value other parts of their traditions or cultures that we would be better off without. The “goodness” of the Bible or any other portion of a culture or tradition needs to be judged by its effects, not by whether they are valued by certain people.

        1. The second paragraph of my post was unclear, I see. I did not mean to show how great the bible is, because “even secular people value it”, but to give background to what came afterwards.
          My point was that (at least Jewish) religious people cannot read the bible without the mountains of interpretations added to it. It’s not uncommon that they completely lose any connection to the actual text.

          1. For those interested, I’ve recently come across a great online Yale University resource describing the probable sources of the Hebrew bible and its development over the years. There are many hours of lectures here that should be augmented with private study.

  21. The Center for Campus Involvement said “We deeply regret causing harm to members of our community, …” So it appears that even though the film was not actually shown the mere fact that it might have been is thought to be enough to harm(offend?) the delicate sensibilities of some people in that academic community!

    1. Yeah, that leaped out at me as well. Perhaps it was irony? Along with the choice of the replacement move?

      If not, then truly pathetic.

  22. Well that’s it! I’m going to complain if anyone ever shows the movie The Departed because it portrays Irish immigrants as violent. As someone of Irish descent, I now feel unsafe.

    LOL.

    1. I’ll see your Irish descent and raise you my German descent. Try to find a movie where the person with a German accent is the good guy.
      Excuse me while I go off and cry. 🙂

      1. Students of German descent should demand that 50% of video games be banned on campus. All that WW2 stuff that puts Germans in a bad light.

        1. Not to mention some of the atrocious VW commercials with stereotypical Germans and bad accents. I actually feel embarrassed for the Germans watching those commercials.

          I feel unsafe.

        1. The Germans in Das Boot are good but it is a German movie. In The Pianist, there is a good German who helps out the main character by letting him hide out. He brings him food and gives him his coat. That is a true story though.

          1. My parents took me to see Das Boot when I was a little kid, and I alternated between extreme bordeom and terror.

            Now that I am more mature, it is one of my favourite movies of all time. And Jurgen Prochnow was totes dreamy! /swoon

          2. Don’t forget the lead character, besides Django that is, in Django Unchained. The German dentist turned bounty hunter.

        1. He’s Austrian, and now I have to cry some more because you can’t tell the difference.
          I haz a sad.

          1. Actually, I do know that Ahrnie ist Österreichischer, und, es tut mir sehr Leid that you’ll have to get your blankie und wein 😰. Und now I need to go curl up and cry, too, cuz I hurted your feelings real bad🐸

      2. “Django Unchained” has a good guy who’s German. Probably the only actual ‘good guy’ in the movie.

    2. I suppose Bostonians should also be offended that it portrays Boston in a bad light, and they should ban it alongside The Town.

  23. So , not only are they childish in their need to be “protected” but they are also intellectually dishonest in citing the chapel hill shootings as a hate crime against muslims.

  24. I recall a similar brouhaha over the movie Last Temptation of Christ, which most Christians found offensive. It’s very simple, if you don’t like the movie, don’t go and watch it. AFAIK, unless it was a requirement of a class, nobody was being forced to view it.

    For those who believe in censorship, I have only one question, who censors the censors?

    1. I saw that movie in mid-Manhattan. A crowd of people was picketing it, and when I came out one of them waved a bible in my face and shouted “You’re going to hell”. I grinned and replied “I hope it’s for something a lot more exciting than that movie”. By the way, I thought is was an excellent movie, but, like others such as The Killing Fields, it’s never shown on TV…

      1. Interesting, because I know of some hardcore Christians that really liked the movie. And here (Germany) there was a lively debate as to whether the movie was antisemitic (especially since Gibson and his father had made some antisemitic remarks).

        1. I think you’re confusing that with ‘Passion of the Christ’.

          Yeah, I almost did too… haven’t seen either, btw, there are more interesting mythical figures to watch for entertainment.

  25. When I first went to university, the only safety question was which route to take when walking the two miles back to the halls of residence if it was late at night and you were on your own. I guess times have changed.

  26. This is a highly offensive movie that all should have a right to see. This is particularly so on a university campus.

  27. I am insulted over two things even. First that there is a campus wasting money to show students a current film without real value. I mean it was no class of movie analysis or about war mavies. It was just a screening of the movie.It’s wasted money. If movies are not necessary for classes, they should not be shown. There’s a cinema for people who want to see them.. BUt the cancelling was even worse…

    1. News Flash… All sorts of films are shown on college campuses all the time. This has been going on since there have been films to show.

      You’ve never heard of a film club? Do you think there should be rules against having theaters on campus?

        1. Yeah, it’s where I saw the movie, Jacob’s Ladder which scared me and first exposed me to the “reality isn’t reality” in movies. When I had my operation & they were wheeling me in, I kept thinking of the scary hospital scene in that movie.

          Hmmmm, I feel unsafe. Maybe I should complain even though I saw the movie over 25 years ago!

          1. We used to haveSunday Night Flicks in our biggest lecture hall for 25 cents. The main feature was always preceded by several Roadrunner cartoons where Wile E. Was always cheered. You would not ever want to see a very serious movie here as there were comments snd catcalls and paper airplanes galore. For more serious films, we went to film-club type showings at the Student Union.

  28. Whatever happened to “if you don’t like it, just don’t watch”? How did we get to a state where people can stop other people watching too? So much for the liberation in the 1960s and 1970s.

  29. I’m not so sure about Paddington Bear being the right choice – are bears not close enough to dogs to be halal?

    1. Real bears are not safe. Movies that make them seem cuddly and approachable add to the number of tourists that end up wiser and sorrier in places like Yellowstone and Banff. Don’t see anyone getting fussed about that.

      Interesting choice the movie society chose for the substitution.

      The reason they play this Muslim persecution card? It’s simply a ploy to get unearned privilege.

  30. I’d just like to point out that our film society (an entirely autonomous one, although based at the Australian National University) is this smester screening both American Sniper and Paddington, and has in the past screened The Triumph of the Will.

      1. Anyone! (It’s a membership system, single fee for all.)

        But although we’re non-profit I don’t want to abuse our host’s hospitality and start publicising any more, so… well, Google us if you’re interested.

  31. After going back and reading this letter a couple of times it seems very clear that whoever wrote the letter did not see the move.

    The letter writer comes to several completely incorrect conclusions that are at least as offensive as they pretend the movie to be.

  32. Firstly, I agree that the University should show any film it damn well pleases, including poorly made war biopics, regardless of whose sensitivities might be encroached upon.

    Additionally, I think that student groups may lodge their protest of said showings, even under that pusilanimous charge of “Islamophobia”, and be prepared to have those protests summarily ignored in the interests of free expression.

    However, I must take exception to Jerry’s description of the film ‘American Sniper’ as being “a true story”, when in fact it is a highly fictionalized, propagandized rendering of an equally facile biography, the falsehoods of which cost the publisher and Kyle’s estate several million dollars in damages.

    The actor Seth Rogan was more correct than he’s probably aware when he compared American Sniper to the Nazi propaganda reel ‘Nation’s Pride’ which plays within ‘Inglorious Basterds’.

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