Quoting the nation’s founding documents can be problematic — just ask an instructor at Portland State University.
PSU Professor Bruce Gilley recently tweeted an iconic reference. In response, he says, he was blocked — by the University of Oregon (UO).
Bruce’s egregious content came from the Declaration of Independence. He reportedly proposed, “All men are created equal.”
The hubbub began on June 14th, when UO’s Equity and Inclusion Twitter account offered a sort of woke Mad Lib exemplifying how you can masterfully sock it to racism. Per the account, all those times when someone says something racist, you should tell them what you think they said and request confirmation. In the process, you’ll become an illustrious interrupter:
You can interrupt racism.
“It sounded like you just said _______. Is that really what you meant?”
— Racism Interrupter
Bruce quote-tweeted with a filling of the blank:
Fill in the black for @UOregon “Racism Interrupter” machine. @Uequity.
My entry: …you just said “all men are created equal.”
Following that commentary, he was blocked by UO Equity and Inclusion — according to the professor’s free-speech-citing federal lawsuit.
The block supposedly came courtesy of Division of Equity and Inclusion Communication Manager Tova Stabin.
From The College Fix:
The suit claims the reason Stabin blocked Gilley is because “she and her employer disagree with the viewpoint…that ‘all men are created equal.’” It also alleges Stabin “believes that Prof. Gilley’s opinion is critical of her employer’s DEI ideology and she wishes to suppress his viewpoint.”
As stated by the filing, the block “removed Bruce Gilley’s ‘all men are created equal’ reply from @UOEquity’s timeline and prevented other users from viewing it or interacting with it, and with Gilley, including followers of the @UOEquity account.”
After the block, Bruce sought to discover what policy had allowed it. Purportedly, Ms. Stabin just gets to use her own judgment:
On July 5, 2022, after Bruce Gilley filed a public records request for the policy utilized by [the Office of the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion] to block Twitter users, the University of Oregon informed him that there was no written policy and that the ‘staff member that administers the VPEI Twitter account and social media has the autonomy to manage the accounts and uses professional judgment when deciding to block users.
Bruce is being represented by the nonpartisan Institute of Free Speech.
A press release from the Institute states the following:
The First Amendment does not allow the government or its actors to ban individuals from public forums just because they disagree with the views those individuals express. The lawsuit asks the judge to order @UOEquity to unblock Professor Gilley and to issue a permanent injunction preventing the account’s manager and agents from discriminating on the basis of viewpoint when blocking users in the future.
Speaking to the Fix, Bruce explained he’s suing on principle:
“Clearly it’s not that I need to read the University of Oregon’s Twitter account, but what is important is I need to make use of my role as a defender of academic freedom in higher education…to make sure government-funded universities comply with our Constitution. … I knew immediately that this was a clear-cut, made-in-heaven case, all the more so because I was blocked for quoting the Declaration of Independence. This is the perfect case to establish a precedent that says if you are a public agency you can’t pick and choose who is a member of the public.”
And the man won’t accept a mere unblocking:
“The case goes forward even if they unblock me tomorrow because they could reblock me anytime and because…simply to unblock me would not show they had engaged in a change of their practices.”
As noted by the Fix, Bruce has a knack for attracting controversy:
In 2018 he was investigated, but eventually cleared, by his employers at Portland State after authoring a controversial article in defense of colonialism. His course on conservative political thought was also canceled by Portland State.
Earlier this month, Gilley’s latest book, In Defense of German Colonialism: And How Its Critics Empowered Nazis, Communists, and the Enemies of the West, was published.
Back to the tweet, some people might say that claiming “men” are equal doesn’t mean that only men are equal — in the same manner that chanting “Black lives matter” doesn’t assert that other lives don’t. Presumably — if the lawsuit’s claims are accurate — Tova Stabin isn’t one of those people.
Either way — as we’ve learned repeatedly over the past few years — all men may be created equal; but all tweets definitely are not.
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