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Theater Professor's Firefly Poster Declared Threatening 566

ocean_soul writes "Probably because nothing more threatening was happening and they need to prove their usefulness the school police at University of Wisconsin-Stout decided a Firefly poster with the quote: "You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed," was a threat to the safety on campus. Wasn't that a quote about not killing people?"
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Theater Professor's Firefly Poster Declared Threatening

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  • FSZ's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:54AM (#37589100) Journal

    Surely he can hang his poster up in the Free Speech Zone set aside for that purpose. You know, the three square feet way off in the back of the most distant parking lot where you can say whatever you want without fear that anyone will actually hear what you're saying.

    All free Americans should despise our new so-called "Free Speech Zones". My "Free Speech Zone" used to be called "The United States of America".

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I started writing this post, and I thought you made a joke about the FSZ... and I thought I'd just write something witty (which will then get modded down for bad humor). Then I decided to quickly doublecheck, and this Free Speech Zone is actually a real thing. Wow. []

      Then I read a bit more on wikipedia, and I found out that in the US, you're not always allowed to protest, except in your FSZ... which is practically hidden from public view.

      • You are allowed to protest pretty much anywhere if you do so peacefully. At certain big events where there is expected to be disruption and not peaceful protest (like the anti-WTO protests) there are designated free speech zones.

        Yes, these free speech zones are far out of the way and not conducive to protest.

        You thinking that in the US you cannot protest anywhere else would be equivalent to me looking at the Speaker's Corner article on wikipedia and concluding there is no free speech or protest legally allo

        • I wish I had mod points. I'm not sure what people think protests are. Here's a hint: publicity. You go, you hoot, you holler, you sit in, you get in the way. And yep, if you do it during someone's speech you're likely to get arrested for disturbing the peace, etc. But then you, and your cause, are news which is the whole point -- you don't want to interrupt someone's speech, you want your cause to be heard. So you take one for the team and spend a few hours in jail. Don't be an idiot about it -- just

        • You are allowed to protest pretty much anywhere if you do so peacefully.

          Tell that to the protesters who were barred from going near Wall St about 2 weeks ago (and then in some cases penned in by police barricades and shot with pepper spray).

          At certain big events where there is expected to be disruption and not peaceful protest (like the anti-WTO protests) there are designated free speech zones.

          No, it's not limited to big events where there is expected to be a disruption. For instance, in 2004, I was outside the Vice-Presidential Debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney. There were no plans by anybody to commit acts of violence, vandalism, or even blocking traffic, just people who wanted to use a political event to engage in pol

        • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @03:40PM (#37592692)

          I think the idea is that they don't want mobs. Too many examples in the past of angry protesting mobs disrupting events; blocking entrances, shouting at people entering the events, etc. Free speech is allowed, disturbing the peace is not. So now the free speech zones seem to be the preemptive approach to avoiding disruption and/or violence. I do agree that many jurisdictions are taking this preemption too far.

          Basically we still do have free speech everywhere. But that is not the same thing as being allowed to protest everywhere. You are allowed to walk to the entrance of the NYSE and speak your mind even with unpopular views. However you're not allowed to incite others to violence, or bring a group of people to disrupt traffic and block entrances.

          Of course even if this is a legal infraction does that matter? The civil rights marchers went ahead and marched even though it was illegal.

          • This is why the freedom of speech is usually followed by the freedom to assemble, so you can't make that silly loophole to free speech.

  • by broginator ( 1955750 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:58AM (#37589130)
    " police chief Lisa A. Walter..." It's the L.A.W.
  • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:58AM (#37589140)
    Who'da thunk that a failed mall-cop would screw up something as simple as english comprehension, eh? I've never heard that quote before, yet even I can see that it's essentially saying that the person will only kill another person if they are presenting an immediate and credible threat to said person's life. HURRR DURRR, that's the only time it's legal, and they'd better have the pistol to your head and their finger on the trigger for you to react like that.

    Someone send that guy back to kindergarten so he can learn to understand a sentence properly.
    • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:09AM (#37589240)
      There would be something to what you say, except that the campus administration appears to be siding with the Rent-a-cop (who happens to be a woman).
      Having watched Firefly, I believe that the quote was saying that the individual would only attempt to kill someone who was in a position to defend themselves and know why that person was attempting to kill them. Even with that more hostile reading of the quote, it is not a threat. The sentiment of the quote could be restated, "I won't blind-side you or backstab you. If I decide that you need to be taken down, you will know I'm coming and will have an opportunity to defend yourself."
      • I believe the administration was threatened by that quote, because they clearly aren't in the business of giving people a chance at a fair defense.

        If this prof is any good at what he does, he should jump ship, immediately, and find work in an institution that actually fosters learning.

        That, or have his students prank the dumb rent-a-cop daily until she checks herself into the nearest psychiatric hospital.

      • What is *truly* offensive to me:

        We're talking about a quote from a mainstream sci-fi series. A quote. . . posted on the door of a theater professor's door.

        Yet, no one would blink twice about Mao Tse Tung quotes/posters (which I've seen, not to mention occasionally repeated by Government officials), Che posters (which are common place in academia), or Holocaust deniers (Google it, these roaches are present at several American academic institutes). There are also a fair number of "academic" North Korea lovers

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      As fun as it is to make fun of the rent-a-cop overstepping his bounds (which he did), the summary is a bit misleading. The quote is more about honor than anti-violence. Mal was just saying that he won't kill somebody in their sleep and the only way he will kill is if his opponent has a fair chance. Mal is in no way against violence (although he doesn't like trouble, which violence usually brings. So he tries to avoid combat if he can). The quote was in no way about "not killing people", neither in nor out
      • Ok, thanks for that clarification.

        I've never seen Firefly (although I've heard good things, mean to check it out) so all I have to go on is the quoted wording. In and of itself, it is clearly not a threat of any kind based upon even the most cursory of examinations. When taking into account the quoted character's personality it may take on new meaning, but that isn't clear from the poster.
      • You can't go as far as "only", given this sequence:

        The Operative: I want to resolve this like civilized men. I'm not threatening you. I'm unarmed.
        Mal: Good. [pulls gun and shoots Operative in the chest, grabs Inara and gets ready to leave]


        • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @01:07PM (#37591006)
          Uh, you might want to watch the movie again. The Operative WAS threatening him, and was heavily armed. The threat was that the Operative would kill everyone that Mal holds dear, and he was armed with an entire armada of war ships to do it.

          From the same scene.

          The Operative: I have to hope, you know you cannot beat us. Mal: I've got no need to beat you. I just want to go on my way.

          Operative: I have a war ship in deep orbit. We locked on to Serenity's pulse becon the moment you entered atmo. I can speak a word and send a missile to that exact location inside of 3 minutes.

          The scene you quote is quoted WAY out of context. The conversation took place in a hostage situation. The operative was an assassin that was holding one person hostage with the demand to deliver another person for execution. The violence had already started, and the assassin was not unarmed.

          So, the quote "If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed" described the situation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nharmon ( 97591 )

      It is funny because I understand the poster to be saying exactly what you think it says as well. Except neither the professor nor police chief seem to think it says that at all. The police chief, obviously, sees it as threatening. And the professor? Well, I can not imagine a person who writes this in his e-mail is someone who supports self-defense rights:

      I am a committed pacifist and a devotee of non-violence, and I don't appreciate card carrying members of the NRA who are wearing side arms and truncheons lecturing me about violence.

      I really do want to know what the professor thinks the poster's quote means.

      • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:26AM (#37589396)

        He thinks it's a quote from a fictional character and being older than 6 doesn't have to 100% agree with the philosophy of said fictional character in order to enjoy the story or think it has some sort of artistic merit.

      • Maybe he thinks it's about a fictional character in a fictional universe? He's a theater professor. He likes the stories. He hung up a TV and/or movie poster. Any movie poster for any movie involving, e.g., guns, is going to be "threatening" by the criteria used in this case.

    • by yakovlev ( 210738 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:29AM (#37589428) Homepage
      Actually, the quote wasn't quite that noble. What it's saying is that the person will only kill someone with the ability to defend themselves.

      In a twisted way I see how they could have an argument.

      If you dig a little deeper (like looking at the case on the FIRE site) the professor then put up a poster against fascism, indicating that fascism can lead to violence and death. Campus police took that one down too and got the dean involved, which is when this guy got a lawyer.

      Seriously, Fascism?! Campus police has a problem with a poster against Fascism?!

      Basically, what's going on here is that the professor had a poster that could, by a decidedly UNreasonable (but still sane and literate) person be construed to be a threat. Campus police took it down. The guy got upset and replaced it with a new poster which, while DEPICTING comic violence, constituted real political speech and clearly was NOT a threat of any kind. It was phrased as a warning that Fascism can lead to violence. This is where the story should have ended.

      Campus police decided that since this guy was a "troublemaker" they would show him by taking down the new poster too and going after his job. This is where campus police went too far. The new poster was NOT a threat, and campus police knew it, or should have known it.

      So, the professor got a lawyer.

      And, the moral of the story is: Fear the police, they have public opinion, power, and guns on their side. :-(
    • by eepok ( 545733 )

      She's not a rent-a-cop or a mall-cop. She's the chief of an actual police department. Many universities have their own police department.

      • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:13AM (#37589932)

        She's not a rent-a-cop or a mall-cop. She's the chief of an actual police department. Many universities have their own police department.

        University of California campus police are real police, state police in fact so they may have wider jurisdiction than the local police department. I recall that every fall quarter, and often in the winter and spring quarters, the same story appeared in the campus paper. A student new to campus ignores instructions from a UC police officer while saying something to the effect of "I don't have to listen to a rent-a-cop", the stories then continues with that student's arrest.

        I also recall that UC Police often responded to emergencies near campus, not just on campus. An armed bank robbery occurred near campus, the UC police were first on the scene and "contained" the robber. A local Sheriff's deputy was shot during a "routine" traffic stop 10+ miles away, the suspect fled into an industrial park. While various SWAT teams from the region maintained a perimeter around the park three K-9 teams searched the complex, one was from the UC police.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The cop understood the quote just fine, she just disagrees with the message. Cops don't seem to like the idea that normal people should be able (or really even willing) to defend themselves. Partly because they see that as their job, and partly because they don't want ordinary citizens to be able to defend themselves against cops.

  • TAT (Score:3, Funny)

    by georgenh16 ( 1531259 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @09:59AM (#37589144) Journal
    You know what this means - the next time he wears a bonnet on campus, he'll be threatened by the "Threat Assessment Team".

    "I swear by my pretty floral bonnet I will end you."
  • by not_surt ( 1293182 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:00AM (#37589156)
    I got a paper cut from one. I nearly died.
  • Work too (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bigbutt ( 65939 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:03AM (#37589184) Homepage Journal

    I get the same thing at work. A few friends had a photo op for a school project and the main person decided to do a Shadowrun themed shoot. We dressed up in our gear and I grabbed my fake Katana ($40 at a game convention; yea fake) for some fluff along with my hat and oversized coat over my motorcycle jacket (for bulkiness). Anyway, she took some really good pictures. I printed out one of me with my sheathed sword and posted it in my cube. I got a little "talking to" from my supervisor about appropriate content at work.

    I've been talked to a few times about different things. My Zombie t-shirt with the shotgun on the back was one. I'm to the point that I have only one non-work related item up in my cubical. My Zombie calendar. I'm actually surprised it's lasted this long.


    • You didn't state where you work or what industry you work in, but there is a totally reasonable understanding in most workplaces that everybody maintain a professional business atmosphere. It might sound ridiculous to most of us, but displaying images of weapons and the shambling undead make some people uncomfortable. Businesses, generally by law, need to maintain a work environment free of those kinds of things.

      I'm to the point that I have only one non-work related item up in my cubical.

      Again I don't know what your organizational culture is like, but at most places I've worked pe

  • Heh, Prof. Miller should replace the poster with something from Nathan Fillion's work in Almost Porn.

    Although the situation pretty much follows the quote dead-on. I mean, the girl had arms, I guess.

    Funniest part was watching Fillion act like he doesn't know how to act. OK, maybe not the funniest.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...this kind of stuff presses into their ego in a way that is disempowering.

    For me, watching the bitch get it is like watching the bad die at the end of a movie.

  • On principle I side with the forces of Post Whatever You Damn Please On Your Office Door, but isn't there a certain amount of hilarity in how far removed from reality both of these people are in how they approached this issue?

    The public safety officer is hewing to the absolute letter of the law with no interest in exercising any kind of critical thinking or good judgment, and the prof leaps directly to 'OMG I AM A VICTIM YOU ARE TRAMPLING MY RIGHTS' as if they'd shut down a newspaper or burned books rather than removing a piece of Hollywood memorabilia from an office door.

    It seems to me that a dry, P. J. O'Rourke or Jon Stewart style response might have been better suited to pointing out the absurdity of the situation, instead of the 'I am being victimized by the man' clarion call, but as other posters have said, this is Madison.

    • The direct letter of the law in this case is the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, as repeatedly confirmed by courts at every level when applied to a government funded institution. If you're going to have a rent-a-cop execute the "law" then they should be expected to take the time to learn it first, rather than simply trotting out "Me am too dumb for my own thinking to make, you bring lawsuit thing now okey dokey."
  • I read the original exchange [], as well as the linked article. From that I get the following:

    1. The Campus Police saw a poster on a bulletin board near and removed it due the the reference to killing.
    2. They notified Professor Miller that he or someone had posted it and they removed it due to the reference. They asked him to contact them with questions
    3. He exploded at them about first amendment rights and called them fascists.
    4. They asked to sit down with them and

    • Unconstitutional restrictions. Being a public university means that content based restrictions unless containing a direct threat or obscenity are unconstitutional.

    • by Tom ( 822 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:34AM (#37589494) Homepage Journal

      While I generally agree that the calm, rational approach is the right one, it also shouldn't be the only one in your repertoire. And there are times when exploding on someone is the best way to handle a matter. That is especially true if the other side is acting first, and talking after the fact. Had they talked to him before removing the poster, I dare to guess he would have been calmer.

      Here's why I can relate: I live in the center of my city. There's a street filled with pubs nearby. Near the weekend, lots of people over there are drunken assholes. Sometimes, on their way home or whatever, they come through my street, and yell, fight or piss in my entrance. If I ever catch one in the act, I've sworn to myself I'll rough him up badly. Because the fact that he got that idea in the first place disqualifies him for any rational discussion, calm or otherwise. And besides, the damage is already done.

      While Miller reacted strongly, it seems to me that he was in a similar situation. They had already removed the poster, and their initial notification didn't indicate they were willing to reconsider, only that they'd answer questions. From his perspective, there was no option for a solution in his interest offered, so exploding was the act by which he intended to open up the issue, so the option "put the poster back" was at least on the table.
      Could he have done it in a different way? Maybe. Sometimes, stating your thoughts calmly and rationally is the right thing. But sometimes, it also means you're not going to be taken seriously, and your opponent will not look for a compromise solution, but rather for a way to brush you off, exactly because you aren't loud, so you're not a thread, just a nuissance.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:05AM (#37589856) Homepage

        "they come through my street, and yell, fight or piss in my entrance."

        when I lived in chicago we solved that one. every friday night 2 of my neighbors and I would sit out on the porch with a gardenhose and a trigger nozzle. Nothing stops idiots like having 3 people hose them down as they walk by.

        IT took only 3 weeks of this and suddenly we did not have the problem anymore. Which sucked, because it was a lot of fun drinking on the porch and hosing down idiots.

      • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:50AM (#37590314) Homepage

        Well, Tom, mr UID 822, I for one am quite pleased that you're not one of those P.C. apologists. Yes, people aren't always people, sometimes they're just savages, and should be treated as such.

        As someone who has spent far too much time in bars, as both a patron and employee, I whole-heartedly agree with you. The latest generation has been so coddled that they believe themselves impervious to criticism and reprimand. Waking up to a good sore knuckle imprint serves to fill in for the lessons their parents failed to teach.

    • by Dareth ( 47614 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:35AM (#37589508)

      You have as many rights in these United States of America as you can afford to hire lawyers to defend.

    • Nothing the CP did was a fascist crime?

      First of all, the CP (Chief of Police, not Child Pornographer) acted on something that she did not understand in the slightest. A thoughtful person seeks to understand what they are acting against before acting. A thoughtless person believes what they presume and acts on it.

      But you know, I can see where a chief of police might find the poster threatening. After all, the quote from a movie (a theatrical expression on the door of a theatrical professor?) stipulates th

    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:40AM (#37589566) Journal

      Ah, so the real problem isn't that the content of the poster was threatening. The problem is that he didn't show the proper deference to authority. Just making sure we're clear on this.

    • by BigT ( 70780 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:43AM (#37589604)
      You want rationality from a theater professor? But where's the drama in that?
  • I pity the fool that says they are threatened by movie quotes. Either that or the have so much time on their hands that they have to make a stink just for something to do. Sure might not be the best thing to let your kids see but they probably have seen worse on Saturday morning TV.
  • Of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joebagodonuts ( 561066 ) <> on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:23AM (#37589370) Homepage Journal
    If you go to the trouble to fund and staff a "Threat Assessment Team", then they have to find threats. Even if none really exist, something will be labeled Threat. Bureaucracy will take it from there.
  • He should have put up the poster with "I swear by my pretty floral bonnet, I will end you."
  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:32AM (#37589474)
    ...the second poster [] he hung up is better than the first. Much better.
  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @10:33AM (#37589486) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, the quote sounds all manly and tough, but I think it's also pretty stupid. If I am going to kill you, it's because it's important that you be dead. It's not a test of my masculinity, or some kind of honor thing where I'm going to let Fate or our skills with a weapon decide which of us really deserves to be deceased.

    If I kill you, I'm going to sneak up on you, and you'll have no idea what's happening until you no longer know that anything is happening. It won't be "honorable", just necessary. If it's not necessary, I won't do it.

    The real civility and honor comes BEFORE the killing part, where I try to settle our differences like adult human beings, with language. If you have any honor, we'll settle it then. If we don't find an honorable way to settle it, I won't be looking for an honorable solution, just a solution.

  • UW Stout is basically a joke in the UW system with the unofficial motto of "If in doubt go to Stout". It is basically a party school filled with lily white people from the twin cities suburbs. So to me its not a surprise that the campus security there would take down the poster and make a big issue about it, especially if there weren't any parties on campus that night that needed breaking up since they would have plenty of time.
  • Context (Score:5, Insightful)

    by paleo2002 ( 1079697 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @11:20AM (#37590032)
    If the poster was of 1940's Ronald Reagan dressed as a cowboy with the same quote, people probably would've been leaving flowers and candles at the door.
  • by lymond01 ( 314120 ) on Monday October 03, 2011 @01:04PM (#37590988)

    Way better quote:

    Mal: This report is maybe twelve years old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I’m asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make peoplebetter. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave.
            . . .
    Jayne: Shepherd Book used to tell me, "If you can't do somethin' smart... do somethin' right."

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.