Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, November 15, 2018

AU’s Young Americans For Liberty host film screening of “Can We Take a Joke?”

The screening was part of the organization’s national campaign in support of free speech

AU’s Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) chapter held a screening of the documentary “Can We Take a Joke?” last Thursday night to promote the importance of free speech across college campuses nationwide in preparation for YAL’s next event, featuring speaker Milo Yiannopolous.

The film addresses the push for encouraged free speech and expression on college campuses and within the comedy community. Comedians Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Lisa Lampanelli, Adam Carolla and more were featured throughout the film to give their own perspectives on taboo subjects, crossing the political correctness line and the repercussions students face on college campuses for saying offensive jokes, writing offensive blogs or wearing offensive t-shirts.

The film, which was released in November, showed the difficulties even professional comedians face, such as the arrest of Lenny Bruce for using profanity during a stand up performance, to stress the importance of a free flow of ideas and conversation amongst college students.

“I think the most important thing about this event is raising awareness about free speech issues,” John Nagle, the AU YAL chapter president, said. “I think it’s something that’s been an increasing concern especially on college campuses, so I think [this film is] something that’s really important and applicable.”

The film uses the term “outrage culture” to pinpoint a particular demographic that takes offense to a statement or action made by a person or group of people and then attempts to silence them. According to the film, an example of such a person would be a heckler at a comedy show.

“I think the main focus of this event is taking what they were talking about outrage culture as it relates to comedy, but then relaying it back to what we’re seeing at college campuses and even at American University, and how we can turn against that trend and stand up for free speech rights,” Nagle said.

YAL is a national organization with chapters on college campuses around the country. According to its website, “the mission of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) is to identify, educate, train, and mobilize youth activists committed to ‘winning on principle.’”

YAL recently launched a national movement to fight for free speech, and many chapters are promoting the film “Can We Take a Joke?” to encourage students to advocate for the right to free speech on college campuses.

“Over 340 YAL chapters from across the country have been doing screenings just like this one, which has been really great,” Nagle said. “It’s part of a national push.”

Following the screening, there was a brief discussion between students about the outrage culture at AU, their personal thoughts of the film and their opinions on how they think free speech contributes to the environment of a college campus.

“Free speech is an important issue,” Gabrielle Chishinsky, a freshman in the School of International Service, said after the film. “People shouldn’t be afraid to be offended.”

CJ Sailor, the Director of Free Speech at YAL’s national headquarters in Arlington, made an appearance and spoke briefly to the audience about the national efforts YAL is making to promote free expression.

Sailor recalled college campuses, such as the University of California Irvine, that protested the screening of the film and the YAL’s free speech movement by pulling a fire alarm before the movie began.

“If there’s any place where there should be an unrestricted exchange of ideas, it should be college campuses and there have been recent trends against that,” said Nagle. “That should upset and be cause for concern for students, and they should fight to assert their free speech rights on campus.”

news@theeagleonline.com


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