Max Karson: First Amendment Champion or Fucktard?
So, most people are familiar with the old “tragedy plus time equals comedy” maxim, right? And most people have enough tact to know when it’s “too soon,” right? In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, it’s one thing to make this particular joke (which was directed more at the media) only a few hours after the incident, but quite another to introduce alleged satire into a college classroom a day or two after the shooting. Well, that’s just what a University of Colorado student did the other day.
During a discussion of the shooting in a gender and race class, Max Karson made comments sympathetic to the VT shooter, saying “if anyone in here says that they’ve never been so angry that you wanted to kill 32 people, you’re lying,” and that he was “angry about all kinds of things, from fluorescent light bulbs to the unpainted walls, and it made him angry enough to kill people.” Karson was also reportedly asked: “Would you kill all of us?” His response: “No. Not all of you.”
Obviously, the comments scared the bejesus out of his classmates; students left class crying, scared for their lives, and shaken up. Even today, students are questioning whether to return to that particular class, though I understand there will be a police officer standing guard. But given the circumstances, the school made the only logical decision it could: It had Max Karson arrested and jailed for a day, before he was released on bail. The charge: “Interference with staff, faculty or students of an educational institution.” He’s also been suspended and banned from campus. He has since pleaded not guilty to the charge.
So, the question here is: Were Karson’s First Amendment rights violated? I mean, seriously: “Interferences with staff, faculty, or students of an education institution”? What kind of charge is that? And given the guy’s past history, it seems somewhat likely that the statements were satirical in nature (not funny, of course, but still … ). Karson has done this sort of thing before: in high school, he circulated a newsletter claiming that he was “gayer than Big Bird” for his friend, Matt, and another in which he satirically suggested that he’d been romantically involved with a principal accused of inappropriate conduct (the newsletter helped lead to the principal’s resignation).
And just last year he wrote an article in a self-published newsletter about “the myth of the female orgasm” and “argued that the clitoris is functionless (‘like an appendix’), breasts have no nerves and can therefore be squeezed as hard as possible, and the sex act should proceed without lubrication, ‘so they can really feel it.’” It was meant, according to Karson, as satire. The administration, however, was not pleased with the insensitivity of the article and looked into their legal options. Karson called in the ACLU, and the school rightfully backed down (it was a stupid, insensitive article — but, hey! That’s what the First Amendment is for.) (The ACLU was brought in after the high school incidents as well; in both instances, he got his suspensions taken off his permanent record).
And now I suspect that the ACLU will be brought in to help Karson once again, and CU will likely lose this battle as well. In the meantime, students in his class have no idea what to think — was he making a joke? Was he serious? Should we wear bulletproof vests to class? Personally, I think he’s a jackass with a bad sense of humor, but otherwise harmless. But if I were a student in that class and he was allowed to return to it, I seriously doubt I’d feel comfortable sitting next to the Fucktard.