Barbara Bush, Twitter and the Freedom of Speech


Drew Taylor

Drew Taylor

This past week, former First Lady Barbara Bush passed away at the age of 92. While many in the political world have given their thoughts on her legacy as matriarch of the Bush political dynasty and prayed for their family, another story has gotten attention.

An English professor at California State University, Fresno by the name of Randa Jarrar made headlines after Bush’s death due to her comments made on Twitter about Bush and the presidencies of her husband and son. This drew ire from commentators on both sides of the political spectrum, with the president of Fresno State considering disciplinary action against Jarrar for her disrespectful tweets.

Jarrar comments included statements such as “I’m happy the witch is dead.” That is a disrespectful thing to say about someone who just passed away, regardless of whether you agree with that person’s political beliefs or not.

However, the same group of people that sound the alarm about free speech on college campuses now seem to be in favor of someone’s free speech being limited in this scenario. Jarrar’s comments do not incite violence against anyone. The comments do not break any laws. This seems to be a case for many people who describe themselves as free speech advocates to protect her point of view. Yet that does not seem to be the case.

The only reason for that to happen is the obvious one: Those who say they are concerned about freedom of speech, especially in the world of academia, are lying. The argument is meant in bad faith in order to silence criticism of themselves or others with similar points of view. This is not simply a right-wing, left-wing issue either. Prominent opinion columnists of all ideologies have written about this same topic.

The reaction to these tweets by Jarrar also shows another hypocritical view: The same people who are alarmists about political correctness running amok in society are not rushing to the defense of Jarrar. For a group who does the same when a stand-up comedian is called out for making a problematic comment in their routine, they do not seem worried about Jarrar’s case. It is almost as if it is not about political correctness or freedom of speech, but rather being able to pick and choose who can freely speak and who cannot.

 Should Jarrar be punished for her tweets? Let Fresno State decide that. However, if the mob that wants her fired gets their way, it will be a very loud silence coming from those who describe themselves as defenders of free speech and the first amendment.

Drew Taylor is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].