I got an email today from UK reporter Brendan O’Neill. Apparently he’s writing a story about the RMU dance team. I don’t know anything about Mr. O’Neill other than what I’ve read on his column at The Telegraph. The byline there describes him as, “the editor of spiked, an independent online phenomenon dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms.” I can only assume he thinks I am all of the above.
Below is the text of his email to me in its entirety, and my email response to him. Maybe I’m over-reacting? Time will tell.
I am a journalist normally based in London but currently writing a couple of pieces from Chicago. I am writing on the controversy over the “straitjacket dance” performed by RMU students last month. But I am coming at it from a different angle than most other journalists.
My interest is whether in effectively censuring the dance troupe in response to a complaint from one woman, RMU has impeded on students’ freedom of expression. If you have time to answer the following questions, as briefly as you like, that would be excellent:
1) Why should your feelings of offendedness override students’ rights to peform as they see fit? Might this be seen as a potentially authoritarian stance?
2) Surely there is not right “not to be offended”. There is, however, a very important right to artistic expression. What do you think about that?
3) Is it not possibly an attack on artistic students’ freedom of expression to forbid them from performing this dance again?
4) Do you think there is a danger that this episode will lead to RMU only commissioning “safe” dance routines that are unlikely to cause offence? And isn’t that potentially a recipe for bland, almost censored performances?
Thank you for your time.