The pattern of on-campus culture wars is now as familiar as the plot of a blockbuster film. And no sooner did the University of Michigan's Center for Campus Involvement announce a screening of American Sniper than a wave of upset broke out.
Things escalated quickly. The Michigan Muslim Students' Association organized an open letter campaign, boasting 200 signatures, against the event. CCI balked, first canning and then rescheduling the social gathering. Michigan's celebrity football coach, Jim Harbaugh, vehemently tweeted his support. A key administrator reinstated the original screening. And some irate students at other campuses—like Brown University's Nicholas Asker—found themselves momentary media stars by claiming that, after all, "canceling the movie is perfectly consistent with freedom of expression, and showing the movie is what contradicts freedom of expression."
Pundits accordingly trained their guns on these Orwellian, barrel-bound fish. But there is more to the story than the totalitarian instinct that alone guides minds when political correctness advances to its illogical conclusion. As Alyssa Rosenberg aptly observed: "Like so many controversies over campus speakers, events, or even freelance writing by professors, the University of Michigan's 'American Sniper' kerfuffle is both a symptom of and a distraction from larger questions about campus climates and students' sense of themselves and their environments."