Thursday, November 21, 2002
The Sound of One Eraser Clapping

Norah Vincent (R), friend of Andrew Sullivan (R), is in another of her regular snits. This time it’s over “chalking,” a practice that has emerged on a few scattered college campuses that entails using chalk to write messages, political or otherwise, on sidewalks.

In her Los Angeles Times column today, Norah argues the practice doesn’t constitute protected speech and should be banned. It’s a position that a reasonable person could advance, but Norah approaches the subject with her customary faulty logic.

Before facing the free speech argument head on, Norah, a noted aesthete, writes, “Chalking is graffiti, it's ugly, and it should be illegal on campus for the same reason that it's illegal in most other places. It diminishes quality of life, and if everyone did it, college idylls would become as squalid as subway tunnels.”

From sidewalk chalk to subway tunnels. This is quite a leap, one that I would advise Norah not to attempt without first giving consideration to the fact that chalk dissolves in the rain.

Of course, deeper considerations abound.

“If students want to make this case [that chalking is protected by the First Amendment], they’re going to have to accept one particularly inconvenient truth about free expression. It applies to everyone, not just your friends and co-conspirators,” Norah writes, adding, “Naturally, though, chalkers don’t see it this way.”

The implication, which becomes slightly more clear in Norah’s next paragraph, is that chalkers are, to a man, if you’ll pardon the expression, liberals or leftists, or at least “politically correct.” Norah would have us believe that chalkers are budding Bolsheviks opposed to any expression of moderate or conservative opinions.

Norah’s evidence for this assertion? None whatsoever. Why provide any when she can simply rely on guilt by inference, culpability by ungrounded association? As she does here:

“The same students who shriek loudest in defense of their right to deface sidewalks with intentionally offensive ‘speech’ are usually those who campaign hardest for enforcing draconian politically correct ‘hate speech’ codes.” [Emphasis added.]

And here:

“They’re also often the same people who pilfer entire print runs of conservative campus newspapers when those papers run objectionable commentaries.” [Emphasis added.]

“Not exactly civil libertarians, are they? Nope, just the usual wilding packs of self-entitled, sophomoric pranksters falling back on high principles when it suits them,” Norah concludes. “It’s time they get the spanking they deserve or start living up to what free speech really means.”

No, Norah, it’s high time the Times hired an editor to give you--and your illogical and deceitful prose--the spankings you both so richly deserve.

Is it any wonder Norah and Andy are buddies?


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