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Dressing as a Suicide Bomber to a Halloween Party:

Democracy Project is upset by this incident. InstaPundit seems to think the suicide bomber might be anti-Semitic. But this is a Halloween party, no? In recent years, people dress up as positive things for Halloween, too (my boys were Pooh and Tigger) but I had thought the tradition was to dress up as scary, often nasty people. One of the kids in the neighborhood this year was dressed as a '20s gangster, complete with a plastic machinegun. Pirates are pretty common.

You're told to dress as someone scary. A suicide bomber is scary. It should probably be scarier than a skeleton or a ghost. Sounds like you did your Halloween duty. And I don't think that wearing a costume for Halloween endorses the likely sentiments of the person being depicted, be he pirate, bomber, gangster, or zombie.

Now there is a more complex argument, I suppose, that could be made: wearing a costume suggests that the depicted person's activity is a laughing matter. I take it that this would be a possible objection to people's dressing as Nazis for Halloween. I should say that I wouldn't object myself to people's dressing as Nazis for Halloween; still, I assume the sensible argument wouldn't be "by dressing as a Nazi you're endorsing Nazism" but "by dressing as a Nazi you're suggesting that it's OK to use Nazis as a subject of light-hearted fun." Yet even this isn't that persuasive an argument in my book. There are contexts in which light joking about suicide bombers or Nazis might be strikingly inapt; a Halloween party, on the other hand, doesn't seem to me to be one.

UPDATE: Instapundit asks: "Would a university President really pose for photos with someone in a Klan outfit, or wearing blackface? I find that hard to imagine. And if not, why is the suicide bomber outfit OK?"

Two thoughts: First, I would likewise defend someone who came to a party as a Klansman. Same theory — Klansmen are scary; Halloween is about scary costumes; Halloween is not about endorsing the characters you're dressing as. (I'm not keen on the blackface taboo, at least when used to forbid all attempts by whites to try to play black characters at parties; but for this post I'd like to focus on costumes that fit with the Halloween theme precisely because they represent scary evil characters.)

Second, I don't know the details of the pose with the university president, but let's not assume that she deliberated much about the matter. A Halloween party at the university president's house to which students are invited is likely to be a huge affair. I suspect that Saadi wasn't the first person who posed with her.

The president's main job at the party is not to police costume choices but to be nice to the attendees. If she's asked to pose with someone, the default reaction is "OK, let me get this over with quickly, and move on to mingle," not "Let me think about the person's costume to see whether it's suitable for a Picture With Moi." Even if you think that on careful reflection she should have said "No, I won't pose with you because I find your costume in bad taste," I doubt that careful reflection should be expected here.

And, no, I don't think that now that she has had time for careful reflection she should put out a formal apology / clarification / statement praising peace and distancing herself from terrorists or those who would wear inappropriate terrorist costumes. It's a student dressing up for a Halloween party, for heaven's sake.

FURTHER UPDATE: In the paragraph marked "First," I meant to include one more item, but with the lateness of the hour forgot. It may well be that dressing as a Klansman to a Halloween party would have caused a fuss, from a refusal to pose to protest marches to disciplinary measures. But because people have lost a sense of perspective as to some set of costumes doesn't mean that we should encourage them to do the same as to others. One can certainly condemn those who use a double standard (though it's a little harder if you're just conjecturing that they'd have a double standard, since you have only a hypothetical case to compare against). For the reasons I gave above, however, we shouldn't avoid double standards by having a single standard of outraged condemnation.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on the Penn Halloween Controversy:
  2. Ah, Yes, the Press Release:
  3. Dressing as a Suicide Bomber to a Halloween Party:
Arnold (mail):
I had a similar thought when I saw the story. It's Halloween fro Pete's sake! When I was in college there was a dorm room on my floor shared by a white guy and a black guy... one Halloween the black guy came dressed as a klansman and the white guy in blackface.

Of course, that was years before the PC police started sucking all the fun out of everything.
11.2.2006 8:07pm
Bpbatista (mail):
Prince Harry dressed as a Nazi and was relently pilloried and forced to apologize by the PC police. Why not this scum bag?
11.2.2006 8:09pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
Very poor taste
11.2.2006 8:10pm
AntonK (mail):
Right, what's so bad about dressing up as an Islamofascist suicide bomber? And why shouldn't the University of Pennsylvania President, Amy Gutmann, have her picture taken with the suicide bomber?

Next year, I'm going to Gutmann's Halloween bash dressed up as a Ku Klux Klansman! We'll see how eager she is to have her picture taken with me.

You can go see Ms. Gutmann with her happy suicide bomber here.

Anton.
11.2.2006 8:11pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
I dressed as a Nazi for Hallowe'en once. But I can do that, because I'm Jewish. Much like black people are allowed to say "nigger".
11.2.2006 8:11pm
frankcross (mail):
More rightwing PC.
11.2.2006 8:15pm
Virginia Postrel (www):
Eugene is sane, as usual.
11.2.2006 8:16pm
err (mail):
I'm just curious to see how the response compares to other incidents of possibly inappropriate costumes.
11.2.2006 8:18pm
Ex-Fed (mail):
I can't say I get the outrage, either. Though I'm waiting for the perfect PC storm -- where the right is OUTRAGED at a costume that minimizes or supports suicide bombers and the left is OUTRAGED at a costume that suggests brown people are suicide bombers.
11.2.2006 8:18pm
Steve:
Uh, fine and dandy for a party among friends, I'd think. Poor taste for a party at the University President's house where you can't anticipate everyone's reaction - even if the President herself didn't have a problem.

But still, bad taste is not a criminal offense, I'd hardly go bothering the president over this, etc. Just one of those stories that makes you shake your head a little.
11.2.2006 8:21pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Was the costume funny? subversive? my position is that if you roll the dice with potentially offensive material, you're judged on the comic value of the material. if it's not funny, you shouldn't do it because it's not worth the offending. if it is, go for it.

or if someone dressed up in nazi mufti had the hair and face paint from braveheart, that would be funny. or if you got all your gay friends together and wore baseball unis and called yourselves the "gay bashers."

yeah, maybe poor taste, but who really cares? whoever thinks there's an implicit endorsement of the underlying activity needs to go to the "special classes" in school. whoever thinks its in poor taste and that the poor taste is something THEY should in turn get worked up about needs to lighten up.
11.2.2006 8:22pm
AF:
Note the picture of him pretending to execute a hostage. Makes it pretty obvious he's not trying to glorify terrorists.
11.2.2006 8:22pm
Waldensian (mail):
I went to a party last weekend where a black guy showed up dressed in full Confederate general regalia. The effect was incredible. Halloween is the greatest holiday, like, ever.
11.2.2006 8:36pm
Lawstsoul:
"...but "by dressing as a Nazi you're suggesting that it's OK to use Nazis as a subject of light-hearted fun."

I guess this get Eugene off the list of suspects in Bob Crane's murder.
11.2.2006 8:41pm
Lawstsoul:
I went to a party last weekend where a black guy showed up dressed in full Confederate general regalia. The effect was incredible. Halloween is the greatest holiday, like, ever.

Wait until George Allen finds out that Harold Ford borrowed his stuff.
11.2.2006 8:43pm
markm (mail):

I assume the sensible argument wouldn't be "by dressing as a Nazi you're endorsing Nazism" but "by dressing as a Nazi you're suggesting that it's OK to use Nazis as a subject of light-hearted fun."

To the generation that actually fought the Nazis, it was quite OK to use Nazis as the subject of fun:

Der Fuehrer say, ve are der master race,
So Heil, pffft, Heil, pffft, right in der Fuehrer's face.
11.2.2006 8:44pm
whit:
when i was a kid, we had the same discussion about "hogan's heros"

some relatives thought that a comedica portrayal of the nazis was wrong (never brought up mel brooks btw). iow, it made them more sympathetic - just bumbling good hearted boobs.

others thought that it was ok. after all, as steve martin says "comedy is not pretty"
11.2.2006 8:48pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Whit, Mel Brooks is allowed to make Nazi jokes. He's Jewish. See what I mean?
11.2.2006 8:51pm
anonymouslawyer:
"And I don't think that wearing a costume for Halloween endorses the likely sentiments of the person being depicted, be he pirate, bomber, gangster, or zombie."

In the photos, the "suicide bomber" is seen pretending to execute one student, and reading verse during another mock execution. I think he's doing just a tad more than simply wearing a costume, no?
11.2.2006 8:53pm
Lawstsoul:
"Whit, Mel Brooks is allowed to make Nazi jokes. He's Jewish. See what I mean?"

Damn that Tim Whattley!
11.2.2006 8:55pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"Note the picture of him pretending to execute a hostage. Makes it pretty obvious he's not trying to glorify terrorists."

ummm.. I wouldn't be too sure, I mean this was at a university... no, I think its the lightheartedness that bothers some people. I thought the pictures were a little jarring. But, I certainly wouldn't condemn the university for allowing it, nor make a big fuss. Discuss -- its academia, we must always discuss. But not condemn if there is no need, and pretty much any Halloweeen costume should be okay. That is the whole point of the holiday - shock, joke, have a little fun, make a point, don't make a point, etc.
11.2.2006 8:56pm
chaika (mail) (www):
I don't don't see anything wrong with it. This was the first year that I went as anything controversial:
My Mohammed costume
11.2.2006 9:02pm
Ken Arromdee:
One typically dresses up as an evil being on Halloween when the evil being either doesn't exist, or doesn't exist in the real world in anything like the version being used, such as pirates--people dress up as pirates using ideas from Pirates of the Caribbean or from a general cultural idea of fantasy pirates, not from news stories of murderers attacking refugees from third world countries.

KKK members, suicide bombers, and Nazis don't fall into this category. They're all things that either affect us in the real world, or are uncomfortably close to something which does. Of course, there's a bit of a gray area there, since the KKK and Nazis are pretty much nonexistent, but they were serious threats not long ago by historical standards, and they're still remembered as threats today and evoke reactions that, say, dressing up as Nero doesn't.

There's also the possibility that the person in the costume may have milder tendencies towards the kind of evil that he's dressed as. It's quite possible someone dressed as a suicide bomber is doing so to ridicule the idea that suicide bombers are bad. It's unlikely that someone dressed as a pirate is doing so out of sympathy with pirates.
11.2.2006 9:03pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Sorry, Ken... that entire last paragraph is absurd.
11.2.2006 9:05pm
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
Much as kids carrying realistic looking toy guns are occasionally mistaken for real threats, I would worry that a person dressed as a suicide bomber for halloween might be mistaken for an actual suicide bomber by a police officer or armed civilian, and shot in the head to prevent detonation.
11.2.2006 9:06pm
Michael Barclay (mail):
In October 1988, right before that year's Presidential election, I went to a Halloween party dressed as President (Dan) Quayle, complete with golf clubs. It was the scariest thing I could think of. Approval of the costume was understandably split along party lines.
11.2.2006 9:11pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Whit, Mel Brooks is allowed to make Nazi jokes. He's Jewish. See what I mean?

I dare say he's impelled to.
11.2.2006 9:14pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The point made earlier, that the scary reference should be currently non-existent, is absolutely true.

If this had happened at a fraternity house, the PC cops would be in full cry. Any excuse to get a Greek organization off campus.

Different standards, I guess. I know.

Now, since the private unis have made a fetish of making feigned offense an actionable issue, sometimes even suspending the offender, we need somebody to come to the Office of Feigned Offense Reports and pretend to be offended. They have to act.
11.2.2006 9:15pm
Bored Lawyer:
Guess you all missed the NY story about the HS student who dressed up as Hitler:

November 1st

November 2nd
11.2.2006 9:16pm
Kovarsky (mail):
I bet if Karl Rove wanted to he could win an election with it.
11.2.2006 9:16pm
Bored Lawyer:
Ironically, the kid started out the day dressed as Charlie Chaplin, who, IIRC, made a movie satirizing fascism in general and Hitler in particular.
11.2.2006 9:18pm
Bored Lawyer:

To the generation that actually fought the Nazis, it was quite OK to use Nazis as the subject of fun:

Der Fuehrer say, ve are der master race,
So Heil, pffft, Heil, pffft, right in der Fuehrer's face.


That's mockery, not fun (or at least not only fun).
11.2.2006 9:22pm
Lawstsoul:
Will Bill O'Reily claim there is a "war on Halloween?"
11.2.2006 9:28pm
Hans Gruber:
Daniel,

Absurd? I don't think so. But it wouldn't be a good assumption to operate under either; we shouldn't assume the worst just because we don't understand why it's particularly in the halloween spirit to dress up as a terrorist or suicide bomber. I don't personally get the humor or fun in dressing like a suicide bomber, does anybody here? Maybe somebody can explain it to me.

When people don't get the joke, I think they assume there is some sort of political point or motivation. Of couse that isn't always of even usually true, but it does seem to be a distinct possibility.
11.2.2006 9:28pm
Hans Gruber:
"Ironically, the kid started out the day dressed as Charlie Chaplin, who, IIRC, made a movie satirizing fascism in general and Hitler in particular."

Yeah, but Charlie Chaplin was making fun of Hitler! We can all see the fun in that. In what way was the kid poking fun at sucidie bombers? Maybe he was, and certainly the pictures can't tell the whole story. But that doesn't appear to be his intent.
11.2.2006 9:32pm
Mitchell (mail):
I think many here are way too cavalier about this. I think the pictures were almost surreal. Do we really get what happened to this country 5 years ago, and what will likely happen sometime in the near future?

Were we having Hitler to our Halloween parties in WWII?

I think it was very poor judgment, and lacking in perspective about where we are as a country, and what happened to a fair number of U.S. citizens in NY, Pa., as well as Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

It's pretty sick, actually. Sorry so many here don't get it.
11.2.2006 9:41pm
Kovarsky (mail):
With regard to the humor, I think it's of "The Aristocrats" how offensive can i be variety.
11.2.2006 9:41pm
Kovarsky (mail):
Someone should dress up like Donald Rumsfeld.
11.2.2006 9:42pm
SmokeVanThorn (mail):
I'm sure that you apologists would take the same position if the Penn Prez posed with someone dressed as William Calley, Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray or even Lindy Englund.
11.2.2006 9:47pm
Mitchell (mail):
I'm going to go as Daniel Pearl's murderer next year, Zarqawi, and see how many yucks I get.
11.2.2006 9:48pm
byomtov (mail):
Mel Brooks is allowed to make Nazi jokes. He's Jewish.

Nazi jokes are a regular feature of Brooks' work, well beyond "The Producers." I seem to recall Brooks addressing the issue in what struck me as a sensible way.

Brooks' position was that the only effective way to take revenge on Hitler was to make him a laughing stock. What else are you going to do? Say that Hitler was a really bad guy? Everyone knows that. Reduce him to a figure in Jewish humor instead, and you strike a genuine blow.

I think there's something to that.
11.2.2006 10:00pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
The point made earlier, that the scary reference should be currently non-existent, is absolutely true.

That rules out dressing as Dick Cheney, I guess.

But really, people -- poor taste? from an undergrad? When did such things start happening??? Must've been under Clinton.

Kudos to EV for acting like someone who lives in a free country.

Oh, and Mitch:

I'm going to go as Daniel Pearl's murderer next year, Zarqawi, and see how many yucks I get.

Might want to share your unique insight into the Pearl murder with the FBI or someone -- evidently this guy got framed.
11.2.2006 10:01pm
Mitchell (mail):
I have read that Zarqawi personally executed Pearl.

But, I don't get my current events from Wikipedia, like you do, so I guess I'm shit out of luck.

Assuming your "correction" vis a vis Wikipedia, the one source for information on terrorists, I'll simply go as Daniel Pearl's beheader, anon., so there won't be confusion in the Wikipedia ranks.
11.2.2006 10:10pm
anon252 (mail):
A German dressing up as a Nazi would inherently be in very bad taste, unless that person was well-known as an anti-Nazi. Is Saad Saadi, the student who dressed up as the suicide bomber, known as an anti-jihadist? And even if he is, the president didn't know this. It's not the worst sin in the world, but doesn't show good judgment on her part.
11.2.2006 10:13pm
ChrisO (mail):
My buddy went as a child molester. Generally i try to avoid spending time with people who get offended.
11.2.2006 10:13pm
Mitchell (mail):
I avoid spending time with bores and cretins. And people with poor judgment, like you and your friend, Chris Lame-O.
11.2.2006 10:17pm
Atlantic06 (mail):
Mitch ~ Put your head down on your desk and relax.
11.2.2006 10:30pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
You know, I really have nothing more to say on this subject than "who cares? It's a damn halloween costume!"

I figured it would be redundant to post that since it's pretty much Eugene's point, but it seems some people need to hear it again.
11.2.2006 10:39pm
egn (mail):
Generally i try to avoid spending time with people who get offended.

That is exactly right.
11.2.2006 10:43pm
Visitor Again:
I remember a guy who went around dressed as General Wastemoreland--a parody protesting the sort who said things like we had to destroy the village to save it. Some of us thought General Westmoreland a horror, but not the parody. (For the sake of completeness, General Wastemoreland was usually accompanied by General Hershey Bar, who was a play on General Hershey, head of the Selective Service System. You can find their photos by Googling them.)

As for dressing as Hitler, free speech--and it is expression--is often in bad taste. Criticize the way speech was exercised if you wish, but I hardly see cause for banning it. That New York high school administration could have turned the whole affair into an effective demonstration of freedom of speech and tolerance instead of despotism and repression (even if it is a private high school). But that would have taken good taste--and a little bit of imagination and perhaps courage, certainly far too much to ask.
11.2.2006 10:49pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
The guy in the costume has a website, which links to a facebook picture gallery. One of the pictures is him with his roomate. The roomate is an exchenge student from IDC in Israel. Apparently some people were upset that he posed with the suicide bomber. The roomate attached the following message to the picture as an explanation:


This note is only for the people who've got insulted from the picture of me and my roommate, Saad Saadi, while he's dressed up as a suicide bomber for Halloween. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you do not have to read it.

Let me explain some few facts. First, I don't really know who found this picture insulting. For some reasons I guess he/she/they are not Israeli. Why? Because even in Israel, a country which is accustomed, unfortunately, to suicide bombers, terrorism and innocent civilians killing, people get dressed up like terrorists or some famous enemies like Sadam Hussein, Hassan Nasseralla and many others, at Purim. Even in the Israeli television, many shows have plays with these "figures", or with "just" a terrorist figure, and not only at Purim (actually, every week).
I AM ISRAELI. I was born in Israel. I grew up in Israel every day of my life (except for some vacations). My parents were born there. Two of my grandparents were born there. I have a large family in Israel, and if you know this country, you probably know that everyone knows almost everyone. I know every town, kibbutz or moshav there. I know the roads there without a map. I love Israel. I love Israelis. I used to live in the north of Israel, near the city of Afula, which was one of the top targets for suicide bombings and civilians killing. I know what terror is. I have friends that were injured in terror attacks. I lost two friends that were killed by terrorists during their military service. My grandfather was injured in the War of Independence, my father was a highly ranked officer in the army. During the last war between Israel and Hizbolla, all my family had to leave their homes and come to my house, in the center of Israel, to be safe from the missiles. I was in Israel during this war. I was in Israel when every single bombing happened. I remember where have I been in almost each one of these suicide bombings. I still open Israeli news websites, as an habit, every some minutes, to be updated with the latest new. I saw some terror battlefields right after it happend. If you need some local reference, I was in New York City at September 11, 2001, and remember every moment of this bloody day. I spent three years of my life in IDF. My sister, as well as some of my good friends, currently serve in IDF. I have only one request from you: DON'T TRY TO TEACH ME WHAT TERROR IS. I know, probably, better than you (and sorry for being arrogant).
If you can not accept humor, even if you really don't like it, that's your problem. I don't say I like this costume (I don't), and I don't think it's the most appropriate one for Halloween, or for any other time. I just think that you should not take a Halloween costume as an insulting act against yourselves, your friends, the state of Israel or the Jewish people in the whole universe. It's humor. Satire. Even if we don't like it, we can't force someone not to do it. That's the exact aim of democracy. It happens in your television every night. It happens in the Israeli television too. Don't pretend! There is a huge difference between being pro-Israel and being hypocrite. Please watch this difference, and make sure you're on the right side.

Now, I don't know anything about Israel to know if this is true. Though I must I believe him.
11.2.2006 10:59pm
Penn Alumnus (mail):
Penn has a very substantial Jewish student body. They also have a very substantially anti-semitic Faculty and Administration. Penn, under former president Sheldon Hackney, threw their entire machine at expelling a Jewish student for shouting "water buffalo" at a group of loud African American women. In contrast, they also invited Louis Farrakhan to speak and allowed the school newspaper to publish editorials denouncing the "dirty jews." I don't believe that this student should be reprimanded for his costume (though they might want to notify the Dept. of Homeland Security). He's free to express himself, even inappropriately. However, the president of Penn, Amy Gutmann should absolutely be held fully accountable for allowing this inside her house at a University sanctioned party and posing smiling with the 'suicide bomber.' She should be fired. She would absolutely expel a student who did something that she felt was offensive to an ethnic group. The fact that this doesn't fall into her category of offensiveness disqualifies her from her position.
11.2.2006 11:03pm
fishbane (mail):
In the photos, the "suicide bomber" is seen pretending to execute one student, and reading verse during another mock execution. I think he's doing just a tad more than simply wearing a costume, no?

Why, yes, he's also performing for a crowd. I assume you'd be similarly offended if a Halloween vampire pretended to suck someone's blood? Or if the realism issue bugs you, that someone dressed as a serial killer at a haunted house pretended to, say, chainsaw someone?

Just a suggestion, but playing Teh Terrorists card this hard is not a long-term strategy.

And as others have noted, it is really amusing to this libertarian to see the various commenter's deeply PC instincts kick in, to justify suppressing Evil Intent in a goofy holiday party, and even drumming up ways to assume that a costume choice == solidarity with the subject. If nothing else, it does demonstrate that postmodernism is dead, as an academic theory - now, it is just a cheap, neutral rhetorical gambit (and thank goodness).
11.2.2006 11:04pm
Chumund:
I think it is hilarious that this is even an issue. Some people sure do like their outrage.

By the way, in my more rebellious days I once dressed as a drug-dealing CIA agent (cheap suit, cheap sunglasses, bag full of white powder, nametag saying, "Hello my name is Bob Smith. Businessman, not CIA.") Query: did I break the non-existent rule or not?
11.2.2006 11:05pm
whit:
if u want to see outrage, dress as mohammed.

and carry some beer, and have some hookers with you.

and maybe some bacon too

THEN you'll see outrage
11.2.2006 11:13pm
anonymouslawyer:
fishbane, stop arguing against a straw man. Noone has said anything about suppression. But if there is a First Amendment right to offend, there surely remains a First Amendment right to criticize as well.

As for your counter-examples, let's really talk realism. How about a student dressed as a Nazi guard pretending to execute a Jew? How about a student dressed in KKK regalia pretending to lynch someone?
11.2.2006 11:15pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"However, the president of Penn, Amy Gutmann should absolutely be held fully accountable "

Heh. Thought you said Amy Goodman for a sec.
11.2.2006 11:16pm
Fub:
Chumund wrote:
By the way, in my more rebellious days I once dressed as a drug-dealing CIA agent (cheap suit, cheap sunglasses, bag full of white powder, nametag saying, "Hello my name is Bob Smith. Businessman, not CIA.") Query: did I break the non-existent rule or not?
You might have broken a more consequential rule if you offered or made a mock "sale" in Georgia, (PDF) or some jurisdiction with similar statutes on sales of fake illegal drugs or "lookalikes".
11.2.2006 11:38pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
As an undergraduate, the president of the university had a halloween party every year. As a sophomore, someone was wheeled to the party wearing rags around the waste, a crown of thorns, and hanging from a cross, where he spent the entire night. Suicide bombers is nothing.

The next year, the president's party took a distant second to a party where they were serving Guyana Kool Aid.

When the children go as witches, goblins, or zombies, are we suppossed to tell them that those things don't exist? What if a kid decided to go as Santa Claus?
11.2.2006 11:45pm
fishbane (mail):
fishbane, stop arguing against a straw man. Noone has said anything about suppression. But if there is a First Amendment right to offend, there surely remains a First Amendment right to criticize as well.

I don't disagree, and I'm glad you don't either. We might mean different things by "attempt to suppress", I'm not sure. I mean efforts by some (nongovernmental) people to coerce other (nongovernmental) people to stop 'speaking'. I'm not claiming censorship.

As for your counter-examples, let's really talk realism. How about a student dressed as a Nazi guard pretending to execute a Jew? How about a student dressed in KKK regalia pretending to lynch someone?


I believe your examples were covered in postings above, at least to close proximity. As for me, I don't have an issue with that sort of thing on halloween, unless there's rather a lot of reason to assume it is a serious example of hatred (like, say, being performed in ernest, or at an event with a history of racist intent). Willfully missing the point for presumed political game seems to have become a widely used tactic recently, and I think that is not only sad, but a little self-belittling.

Like I said, I'm glad PoMo is over - now that partisan Republicans do it, we know it is nothing more than a dumb rhetorical tactic.
11.2.2006 11:57pm
Chumund:
Fub,

I guess it was a good thing I was playing a drug-BUYING CIA agent.
11.2.2006 11:57pm
Daled Amos (mail) (www):
The reason why the reaction by some is so visceral?

There is a consensus that Nazis who murdered millions were evil.
Therefore: To dress as a Nazi is not taken as a 'statement' of approval--so it is assumed as a parody on Halloween, though perhaps not at other times.

There is no consensus, but instead a significant number of people who claim, that the suicide bombers who go around blowing people up are really freedom fighters.
Therefore: To dress as a suicide bomber therefore can imply a stand in that debate, or at least as condoning it--especially when standing next to an authority figure.
11.3.2006 12:32am
Kovarsky (mail):
My buddy went as a child molester. Generally i try to avoid spending time with people who get offended.

I would never dress up as a Republican Congressman.
11.3.2006 12:35am
Stu Gittelman (www):
There are few, if any, other contexts in which anything like this would result in anything less than sensitivity training out the yin-yang and possibly a lot more as well. Can you imagine the reaction to a couple students running around dressed as immigration enforcements officers doing mock round-ups of "Latinos?"

Klansmen wouldn't be tolerated. Dressing up as the Minnesota Vikings and having a mock "Lake Cruise" would sink pretty fast too.

That this was enabled and tolerated by the highest levels of Penn's administration makes the sorry state of our pomo colleges evident.
11.3.2006 12:36am
Ken Arromdee:
By the way, in my more rebellious days I once dressed as a drug-dealing CIA agent (cheap suit, cheap sunglasses, bag full of white powder, nametag saying, "Hello my name is Bob Smith. Businessman, not CIA.") Query: did I break the non-existent rule or not?

You broke the non-existent rule, because regardless of whether drug-dealing CIA agents *actually* exist, people *believe* that they exist. It's like dressing up as a Jew who drinks the blood of Christians.
11.3.2006 12:45am
Terry Ott (mail):
I've been thinking about this ... vacillation is frustrating. Maybe I can break through, at least for myself if not for others.

In the end, this disturbs me. I think the purpose of dressing up for Halloween, and I hosted such a party last weekend, is for the amusement. And for the creativity. And for the "release" factor. You cannot be at a Halloween Party and not be in a light-hearted mood. Yes, you can do all of the above by dressing up as an unlikeable person, someone who is generally a subject of derision, or even mocking someone who is controversial (Limbaugh, Michael Moore, Rumsfeld as someone said, Clinton) knowing that some will find it hilarious and some will be a little on edge over it (if, for example, someone thinks Michael Moore or Limbaugh are figures to be looked up to). But if the chemistry is right among the party goers, and if they dip into the spiked punch a few times, that kind of mockery is all about giggles and getting/giving silly commentary.

But, a guy who looks like a terrorist acting out the inhumane rituals of a terrorist? I don't think so. Pedophile? Not that either. Rapist, with fly open and rubber appendage sticking out? Not really. Someone in the garb of a US soldier with empty sleeves and pantslegs, simulating a guy who lost his limbs in Iraq? Not so cute.

I'm asking myself, why is that not OK ... in MY OWN gut? Probably because of the seriousness of it and the
juxtaposition with a group attending in a spirit of "escape" and congeniality. My wife is a WWII nut. Has Nazi stuff --- helmet, flag, ammo box, etc. brought back from the war or bought on eBay. Yet, she would no more dress up in Nazi garb even among our close friends at an event. Though that horror is a distant thing, even to those who were alive then as she was, it's not a subject to be taken lightly. Nothing to use for "amusement". That's my take. And right now, and for a long time, those who kill people because of religion or ethnicity for a "cause" are nothing to emulate or impersonate.

Could any amount of alcohol get me to feel gracious about someone parading around in my home impersonating a terrorist? I doubt it. Oh, I wouldn't make a scene and take a stand about "get that off or get outta here". But, it would frost me that I had a friend so insensitive to how others might be affected that they'd do this, or even think seriously ABOUT doing it. I guess what I am saying is, it's out of place and just a bit too repulsive.

Where I am coming out: if you look like, or impersonate someone who might (if they were really what they look like) do harm to another right then and there, or create a traumatic reaction (the military amputee) and are not fictional such as a vampire or ghoul or something, it's out of place. It's introducing a seriously frightening and/or somber aspect into what is supposed to be enjoyable. Do it at a rally where it's par for the course, and the same thing may be OK in the context.

Also, I don't get a good feeling about the prominent hostess looking all jolly about the terrorist, no matter how much SHE might have had to drink.

Thanks for listening to the stream of consciousness. It helped me focus, anyway. I'm out.
11.3.2006 12:47am
Kovarsky (mail):
I'm pretty sure that the University of Texas just reprimanded a bunch of law students for throwing a "ghetto fab" party.
11.3.2006 1:05am
Kovarsky (mail):
i have to admit, the rapist example troubles me for some reason....
11.3.2006 1:07am
Perseus (mail):
I beg to differ about Tigger. What could be scarier than Tigger as the Masked Offender (who destroys gardens and homes in the process of trying to save them)?
11.3.2006 1:45am
Terry Ott (mail):
Kovarsky: Sorry, didn't mean to gross you out. Here is where I came up with that imagery... college days....
Used to go to a dive bar in Chicago where the bartender kept a beer bottle opener (pre-twistoffs, I'm old) on an elastic strap tucked inside his pants. It was in the shape of a penis. On occasion he'd unzip enough to grap the ugly thing and pull it out to open a bottle of Schlitz or Bud or Old Style.

Nearly made an iced tea drinker out of me. But not quite.
11.3.2006 1:54am
John R. Mayne (mail):
I think PennAlumnus went to a different University of Pennsylvania with F. Sheldon Hackney as president than I did, except that Penn did (and does) have a large percentage whose ethnicity is Jewish.

On the main point, I do think it's in poor taste, because it's too close and too real. Zombie-related deaths are quite low compared to terrorist-related deaths. I'm basically with Terry Ott's view; it's not something I'd want at my party.

I confess that I'd find some things funny and non-offensive that others would find quite unfunny, and if the people at the party were cool with it, my disapprobation is light to non-existent. But I don't think it's exactly parallel to EV's other possible Halloween costumes.

--JRM
11.3.2006 2:05am
Dody Gunawinata (mail) (www):
This is just another proof that Halloween party is best done in Madison - you don't attract some lame ass "criticism" for your custome because everybody else there is offensive.
11.3.2006 3:32am
Karen Schell (mail):
I agree that Eugene's defending dressing up as a terrorist homicide bomber and acting out fantasy executions because it's "scary" is a disgusting as defending someone who thinks going to a party as a child molester or rapist is just fine because they're also "scary".

Eugene's complete lack of basic common sense (or a sense of relativism, whatever) on this is only eclipsed by that of the idiot president who thought it was all great good fun - so much so that she actually decided it photo-worthy.

I believe every person of conscience and common snese should contact the school and demand the "student" and president be discliplined. Out of respect for Eugene's blog, though his judgment is appalling on this, I won't post the contact info here. But I believe the contact email address is posted on Michelle Malkin's site. And she is to be commended for not timidly bowing to PC demands to honor terrorist-chic as so many others feel compelled to do.

KS
11.3.2006 4:18am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Karen, I believe the phrase "get a life" comes to mind.

(As for Michelle Malkin, the phrase that comes to mind isn't printable in a family blog. She's always been something of a joke, but the thing that really sealed it for me was when she decided she was qualified to call William F. Buckley an idiot.)
11.3.2006 5:20am
Chumund:
For what it is worth, I think it is the rubber penis part that makes that example a little gross, and I'm not sure why that connotes "rapist" rather than "exhibitionist". Incidentally, I've seen several "flasher" costumes over time, probably because all you need is a trenchcoat and something funny to wear underneath. Interestingly, I've also seen lots of other criminals, including murderers (both specific ones--e.g. Jeffrey Dahmer--and generic ones (a friend once dressed as a "serial killer" by sticking a knife in a box of Life)). I wonder if people think all such costumes are in poor taste, or if there is something in particular about sex crimes that they find offensive--and if so, why that might be.

Anyway, some of the conversation above made me recall one of my own favorite costumes during college: I went as a cosmetics lab technician (once again violating the non-existence rule), which entailed wearing a lab coat with "Revlon" on it, as well as using red paint to put on bloody paw prints, scratch marks, and so forth, and carrying around a similarly disfigured stuffed animal. I mention this costume because I wore it to the Halloween block party being thrown by my own university's President. I didn't actually go up to him, but I would personally have found it pretty odd if he had refused to be seen with me, largely for the reasons given by Professor Volokh. And in general, I think the real story would have been if a university President HAD done something like that to the person in the instant case, or otherwise disciplined him.

And frankly, I think it is really hilarious that people are calling for this woman's head. But like I said, people do enjoy their outrage.
11.3.2006 6:56am
Chumund:
By the way, I'm trying to compose the right Onion-style headline for all this. So far I have:

COLLEGE PRESIDENT TOLERATES SOPHOMORIC BEHAVIOR

But it is a work in progress.
11.3.2006 7:04am
Chumund:
Incidentally, one last thougt:

I'm a little confused about the basis for Instapundit's outrage. First the charge apparently was that the student was being anti-Semitic, but now the problem apparently is that suicide bombers are current enemies (presumably of the United States), not "vanquished former enemies". So would dressing as Kim Jong Il be in poor taste? (by the way, in my view that could be a pretty sweet costume.)
11.3.2006 7:12am
ed in texas (mail):
Possibly the scariest costume I've seen was the father of two little ones that showed up at my door. The kids were, as I recall, a ghost and a witch. Dad had on a windbreaker that said "BATF".
That'll get your attention.
11.3.2006 7:31am
ReVonna LaSchatze:
Go Eugene.

(I bet he let the Tigger boy bounce all over the place too... good job!)
11.3.2006 7:39am
Kovarsky (mail):
Karen,

I believe every person of conscience and common snese should contact the school and demand the "student" and president be discliplined. Out of respect for Eugene's blog, though his judgment is appalling on this, I won't post the contact info here. But I believe the contact email address is posted on Michelle Malkin's site. And she is to be commended for not timidly bowing to PC demands to honor terrorist-chic as so many others feel compelled to do.

Yeah, um, let's laud Michelle Malkin's moral consistency for advocating reprisal when she, um, went APESHIT over the idea the newspapers might self-censor the Mohammed cartoons in the interest of quelling short term religious tension.

The rapist example doesn't work because it's not capable of being FUNNY. I think a child molester costume could be kind of funny - it's topical humor right now. But I'm guessing we don't share a sense of humor.

Quiz, who said this:

"I don't have a girlfriend, I just know a girl that would be really mad if she heard me say that."
11.3.2006 7:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Amos. Good point. In other venues, this might have been funny. On Ivy League campuses, you have to think a good many folks think suicide bombers--the real thing--are just fine.

That being the case, and it is, the usual presumption that this guy is trying to be funny and edgy doesn't apply.

You have an X% chance that he really approves, ditto the Uni president, where X>30.
11.3.2006 8:13am
Hans Gruber:
"Klansmen are scary; Halloween is about scary costumes."

I'm sorry, I am crazy about Eugene Volokh, but this is just silly. There are different kinds of scary. Jason and Freddy Krueger scary and terrorist scary. The difference is obvious.

The costume was stupid and in poor taste. But what the heck do people expect of the president? Was she supposed to kick him out? Refuse to take a picture? I mean, I could understand if she did those things, but should we expect her to? It wasn't her costume choice and she was just being polite and non-confrontational. Calls for punishing the student and the president seem a little wacky if you ask me (and I think the costume was STUPID STUPID STUPID!).
11.3.2006 8:19am
Chumund:
Come to think of it, I believe that one of the trenchcoated "perverts" I encountered in past Halloweens had a pocket full of lollipops, and he would periodically offer them to people while saying things like "Would you like a lolly little [girl/boy]?" in a creepy voice. So, I guess he was in fact dressed as a child molester.

By the way, I think Richard's comment clarifies why some people are seizing onto this non-event--it presents an opportunity (at least in their minds) to smear the Ivy League! For some people, that temptation is just too hard to pass up.
11.3.2006 8:40am
Karen Schell (mail):

"But what the heck do people expect of the president? Was she supposed to kick him out?"

Yes.

"Refuse to take a picture? I mean, I could understand if she did those things, but should we expect her to?"

And yes again, Hans. High school kids are routinely told by school admins that certain clothing is "inappropiate" and the kids have to change. This is not only shameful because the president approved (note her big ear to ear grin) but also in that she personally set up the "dress as your fave terrorist" party.

To allow her and the jihadi-wannabee to get away with this stunt would be to mock not only Jews, but all Americans and other civilized peoples under threats and assaults by terrorists. Let her and the little jerk plead either intense stupidity or bigotry, I don't care which. You may feel accountability is out of fashion, but many of us will disagree. As un-PC as it sounds, actions do have consequences.

Again, the school's email contact info can be found on Michelle Malkin's site.

KS
11.3.2006 9:06am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Hmmmnnnnn...

As far as I see it,

#1 its halloween for chrissake!

#2, the only way that the president should get slammed over this is if, under her administration, students have previously been censured for "un-pc" halloween costumes or celebrations. Until she demonstrates hypocrisy in this, I'm praising her for NOT being overly PC.

I really think we should be encouraging things like this, in order to get the PC police off campus.

BTW, if I were a Penn student, i'd file these pics away as an affirmative defence for next years costume, and I'd go as whatever i felt would be most un-pc.

Just my $.02
11.3.2006 9:20am
Chumund:
"she personally set up the 'dress as your fave terrorist' party"

Her "fave terrorist" is a princess? Other "fave terrorists" apparently include a kitty-cat (who got taken hostage) and the Statue of Liberty (who, fortunately, seems to have held her own against the terrorist threat).

By the way, although I am highly amused by the suggestion that a university president plays the same role as a high school principal, someone needs to read Tinker v. Des Moines School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
11.3.2006 9:30am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I think it's pretty obviously in poor taste.

For a more obvious (if overly obvious) hypothetical: Let's say you know somebody at the party's family member was murdered. Would it be ok to dress up as the murderer? Should everybody be light-hearted about it?

When you go as a suicide bomber, you don't have the right to tell people to be light-hearted about it. Sure you can do it, and you can make your statement, but you know darned well that there are going to be people who are offended. Essentially, you're saying "screw you" to those people. Even at a halloween party, I think that's in poor taste.

Of course, he's a college student, not a public figure, so it's not like this is a big deal, and I think it's pretty ridiculous to blame the President. This idea that there's really no such thing as an inappropriate joke, though, strikes me as kind of overboard.
11.3.2006 9:46am
Spartacus (www):
There is a whole movement among some Christian fundamentalists to ban Halloween from e.g. school celebrations because the wghole holiday is somehow Satanic or something. Halloween is definitely a potentially offensive holiday--as people have pointed out it is routine for folks to dress up as axe murderers and worse--and I have seen plenty of Nazi and KKK costumes in my day. The whol idea is to terrify people. This is of course a dangerous line to flirt with. And let's not forget the "trick" in trick or treat. When I grews up, it was also common to be pelted with rotten eggs or worse on Halloween. Halloween by definition pushes the envelope of offensiveness. The only thing that offends me about it is when someone wishes me "Happy Halloween." What's next? Happy funerals?
11.3.2006 9:51am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Marcus1,

Of course its in poor taste.

that being said, what's offensive to some may be funny to others. the student did nothing wrong, the president only did anthing wrong if she has policed halloween costumes before. (see the links in err's post (all the way at the top) at 8:18)

I guess people dont seem to see the larger point here.. You dont have the right to not be offended
11.3.2006 9:54am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):

To allow her and the jihadi-wannabee to get away with this stunt would be to mock not only Jews, but all Americans and other civilized peoples under threats and assaults by terrorists. Let her and the little jerk plead either intense stupidity or bigotry, I don't care which.


Ok, well I would tell people to be more light-hearted about it than that...

You should care which, though. There's a big difference. If you turn anyone like this college student into a societally condemned outcast, you're going to end up with a lot more problems than we have now.
11.3.2006 10:01am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Pol,


You dont have the right to not be offended


Not a right, of course, but isn't there some kind of societal expectation? For instance, that someone won't come up to you on the street and call you an ethnic slur? I'm not comparing, but I think the hard-and-fast rules are overstated. There are boundries out there, somewhere.
11.3.2006 10:06am
Chumund:
Marcus1,

You say: "Let's say you know somebody at the party's family member was murdered. Would it be ok to dress up as the murderer?"

That seems to me like a highly misleading analogy. Let's say instead that you don't know somebody at the party's family member was murdered, and you come to the party dressed as Jeffrey Dahmer (back in his heyday, I saw something like three Dahmer's at one party). Should you be accused of poor taste? Should the other person take it as a personal offense?
11.3.2006 10:07am
Don Miller (mail):
In 1985, while in the Navy, I went to a Halloween dressed as a terrorist.

Most people got a laugh out of it back then. Because they didn't recognize it, most people thought the gun slung across my back was a toy. It wasn't. I got the award for the most authentic costume. Because it was mostly young military people, they didn't mind having an unloaded rifle at the party.

I don't believe that I would get the same kind of reception today.
11.3.2006 10:15am
Anderson (mail) (www):
dressed as Jeffrey Dahmer

How do you do that? Wear a "Fine Young Cannibals" T-shirt?

I think Glenn Reynolds is just mad that nobody went as *him*.
11.3.2006 10:29am
buddingeconomist:
"The only thing that offends me about it is when someone wishes me "Happy Halloween." What's next? Happy funerals?"

They are supposed to say it and then cackly eerily.

I remember the Halloween parade in NY where I used to see at least as many real and current scary figures as imaginary. Everything from the flashers and serial killers to enemy soldiers, klansmen and dead cheerleaders (victims come back to haunt)... if you were easily offended you didn't show up because everyone was out to shock. Not sure if its still that way.
11.3.2006 10:32am
JoshL (mail):
Hmmm...sounds like it's time for Penn's regular scandal. As mentioned above, the "Water Buffalo" incident under Hackney. Last year, the couple having sex against the window/freedom of speech and technology issues. This year, Suicide Bomber at President's house.

Speaking as a recent graduate of Penn and a very active member of the Jewish community, I'm not particularly concerned by this incident, particularly considering the guy's roommate. Was it poor judgment on Gutman's part? Well yeah, but only because it doesn't play well in the press. Relatively speaking, it's fairly amusing. If people here would like, I can find out what the general response in Penn's Jewish community was to this issue and post it here.
11.3.2006 10:33am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Marcus1,

Sorry, Im at work and had to cut that post short... to continue where i left off,

Now, if I offend someone, and they let me know, i will look at my behavior and see if, imo, i'm outta line or they're overreacting. The more they scream and rant and rave, the less likely I'm going to give them any benefit of the doubt. If I'm outta line, i'll apologise.

As far as someone using an ethnic slur at me, thats their problem, really. (and it has happened... aimed at my religion and at my race) In this occurrence, yes some people have been offended. So? this kid should be punished for it? imo, these people calling for it should get a life. Words, however objectionable, should not be criminal if they don't put others at risk. (ie 'fire' in a crowded theatre)

crap, gotta run again,.....
11.3.2006 10:35am
Houston Lawyer:
I went as a Luby's Cafeteria worker the year of the masacre. I had a Luby's apron, hair net, tongs and a number of bullet holes. People either thought it was the funniest costume at the party or refused to speak to me at all. Costumes of questionable taste always get the best reactions.

The student in question may have acted in poor taste at a college Halloween party. As others have noted, surely that's never happened before.
11.3.2006 10:39am
Chumund:
Anderson,

As I recall, the standard Dahmer costume was a certain style of glasses, an orange jumpsuit and maybe restraints, and some sort of fake bodypart to chew on.

By the way, Houston Lawyer's post reminded me of the rash of "Disgruntled Postal Workers" I saw in the mid-90s.
11.3.2006 10:55am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Marcus1,

Okay, hopefully i can finish it this time.

i see a big difference in saying "effin n****r" and saying to a group, "lets beat up that effin n****r". but even then, i dont see either as criminal on their own. Now, if the group acts on the second statement, then the speaker should be liable for incitement as well as assault.

Wonderful thing about america, i can stand on a box and shout invective to my hearts content. you dont have the legal right to stop me... you do have the right to not support my ideas, to call me names, to shout back. I guess thats what I meant by you dont have the right to not be offended. i can say anything i want, and I really dont have to care how you take it. ( I do, personally, but i'm arguing societally) I dont support any institution regulating what I can and cannot say, hear, read or see.

Did I make any sense?

thanks
11.3.2006 11:07am
Chumund:
By the way, I think it is worth making clear again that this guy was not in fact doing something like shouting the n-word. In fact, I'm still not even sure who is supposed to be offended--Jews, Americans, Palestinians, terrorists? Everyone who is outraged seems to have a slightly different take on what was outrageous (and Instapundit seems to have at least two theories on his own).
11.3.2006 11:13am
godfodder (mail):
What bugs me about this issue is the hypocracy of the PC crowd. A white person in black face is enough to get you thrown out of college or fired from you job. If you doubt it, go to the company Halloween party next year dressed like a black slave. (Or save yourself the trouble, and read some of the linked stories cited in previous posts)

The heros and villains of the political Left have to be honored. To not do so would betray a monumental lack of social judgment. Dressing like a suicide bomber is OK because, in the mind of the PC Left, this is a villain of the Right. (I'm not saying this makes sense!) Suicide bombers oppose Bush; Bush is himself evil. Hence, suicide bombers are OK. Dressing like poor white crackers-- OK! Dressing like poor black crackers-- NO! Dressing like Fidel/Che-- OK! Dressing like Hitler-- NO!

The political Right is just peeved that its sensibilities are being ignored. They feel that people who blow themselves in pizza parlors and maim women and children should provoke the same disgust that Hitler does. Well... sorry! Obviously the political Right does not make the cultural rules.
11.3.2006 11:13am
Kovarsky (mail):
"The only thing that offends me about it is when someone wishes me "Happy Halloween." What's next? Happy funerals?"

Happy Yom Kippur
11.3.2006 11:22am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Chumund,
You're right. I was responding to a speech question with what most people can agree is objectional speech. I dont think that anyone did anything punishable, here. If anyone has references to Penn (under the current admin) freaking out over non-pc speech, I'd be all over the hypocrisy myself.

Godfodder,
You are spot on, imo.
11.3.2006 11:22am
Chimaxx (mail):
Cripers, people: The whole point of Halloween is to dress as something you're not--something clever, something incongruous (the one night when straight men do drag), or something that any other night of the year would be scary, offensive or inappropriate.


I still remember 1996: the three guys who went as ValuJet stewardesses. Hit of the party.
11.3.2006 11:28am
Edwin Wells:
I think the problem that people have is that like it or not we have two different standards for people. For all the people claiming it's just Halloween fun, that's true if you aren't a lead represenatative for a public institution. You are allowed to be as offensive as you want, crack as many jokes as you want, be a PC incorrect as you want. But leaders have always and will continue to always be held to a different standard. If Bush or Kerry would pose for the same type of pictures, either side would be clamoring for their throat. That is where the argument comes from and using the yardstick that has been applied to leaders forever, it's a *reasonable* argument to make. As a position of a leader in a government organization the people hold you to certain standards that don't apply to others. The people who think otherwise are really out of touch of reality, living in a insulated bubble world, with prancing unicorns and lollipop trees.
11.3.2006 11:28am
Chumund:
godfodder,

I think your point is well-taken, but which way do you want to go to resolve the hypocrisy? Once choice is to say, "Fine, PC Leftists, if you want to overreact to things you find offensive, then we will become PC Rightists and overreact to things we find offensive! See how you like it!" But the other choice is to say, "See, PC Leftists, this is the sort of thing you might overreact to, but we aren't going to do that because we really believe in free expression."

All that said, I'm still not sure how this cases falls along Right-Left lines, at least if you aren't using it as an opportunity for Ivy League bashing. As Ex-Fed also suggests, I could see PC-types of all sorts finding something to be offended about in this case.
11.3.2006 11:32am
Nick Good - South Africa (mail):
I went to a new years eve fancy dress party a few years back here in South Africa with the theme 'Poor Taste'- me and a pal dressed as a member of an Afrikaans extreme authoritarian pro apartheid paramilitary political group - The AWB, complete with arm bands with their logo we won a prize, but 3 people actually complained to the organisers and left the party becasue they thought how we dressed was 'poor taste and completely inapropriate' - the actual words!
11.3.2006 11:33am
Pol Mordreth (mail):
Edwin Wells,

My whole point has been that i welcome this kind of stuff in an effort to get the PC police off campus and out of everybodies lives. That way, anyone can be as offensive as they care to, and anyone can get as incensed at it as they care to, but none of this should be criminal. Kid shouldn't be kicked out of school, and the pres should only be fired if she has prevented speech on the grounds of it being offensive.

btw, that last sentence was a bit over the top.. ( funny tho)
11.3.2006 11:36am
Fub:
Anderson wrote:
I think Glenn Reynolds is just mad that nobody went as *him*.
And such an easy costume too -- big glasses, blender full of grey and red goo in one arm and a puppy in the other.
11.3.2006 11:38am
Chumund:
Edwin,

I don't get it. Are you saying that the same standards of public scrutiny and propriety should apply to the presidents of universities (in this case a private university, I might note) as to Presidents and Presidential candidates?

That sounds pretty odd to me. Even if you view them as political leaders (which is not exactly obvious), university presidents have a limited constituency and a limited mandate. For example, it isn't part of President Gutmann's job to communicate messages about terrorism to the general public, but it is part of her job to maintain a forum in which her students can feel free to express their views.

And all that being said--I'm sure people would in fact make political hay about Bush or Kerry appearing in a photo with a "terrorist" at a Halloween party. But I think that is a darn shame.
11.3.2006 11:39am
So White I'm Hot:
Kovarsky, to finally answer your question: Mitch Hedberg.

To the masses:

Am I the only one offended by Penn's President's costume? Her portrayal of Little Bo Peep just reinforces our societies unethical subjugation of animals.

Seriously though, should everyone just dress up as the verizon guy (that was hitler's costume this year) or a generic "GAP" model? Would that be better? That's one way to truly make Halloween scary. For one day of the year, we could all pretend to live in an oppressive authoritarian regime where individual freedom is abolished so not to offend the least tolerant among us.

So, who's going to lead the uproar November 23rd over all those genocidal maniacs in the funny hats and buckled shoes?
11.3.2006 12:07pm
AF:
"What bugs me about this issue is the hypocracy of the PC crowd."

Right. So the next time the leftwing PC police do something foolish, I'm not going to criticize them, I'm going to criticize the presumed hypocrisy of the rightwing PC police. Sheesh.
11.3.2006 1:08pm
eddie (mail):
God, some of you people are lame.

Your idea of "scary" is Freddy Kreuger? Freddy is cool, but not genuinely scary. Ghosts, witches, even dressing up as Satan himself - all stock material for Halloween, and thus now part of the iconography of supposedly-scary-but-not-really that makes up some people's idea of a safe-and-fun Halloween.

I love costuming. I love the creativity and enthusiasm that many people put into their costumes - the ones that have exceptional ideas, or make exceptional efforts. And most of them aren't scary, and that's just fine; they aren't trying to be scary, and the joy of appreciating their costumes doesn't come from that.

But Halloween wouldn't be Halloween if it were all just ha-ha-pretty-pretty. Scary is good, too. And that means getting outside people's comfort zone, which for some people can mean pushing things pretty hard and pretty far. Like the time a group of my friends came to a party dressed in Nazi regalia. Really good Nazi regalia, too - this wasn't just putting on a Prince Harry armband. Did we think they were endorsing the Nazis? No, of course not. Did we take it as light-hearted fun and games? No, of course not.

We took it as it was intended: black humor. It got even blacker and funnier at one point in the evening when the fog machine got turned on full blast and the house filled with vapor. The Nazis made cracks telling people not to run from the gas.

Sick? Yep. Funny? Oh god yes.

Not everyone gets that kind of stuff. Not everyone can appreciate it. I'm stunned that Glenn "Puppy Blender" Reynolds gets his panties in a bunch over a terrorist costume. But all humor is about cognitive dissonance; all humor is an attempt to deal with unpleasant things by putting them in absurd contexts. Black humor just pushes us to the extreme edge of being comfortable and invites us to laugh anyway.

I feel sorry for people that can't laugh at horror. Being able to laugh and being able to feel genuine horror are not mutually exclusive. You can feel sorrow and loss and anger for the events of 9/11, and you can laugh at a joke about it at the same time ("Q: When does a pentagon have four sides?
A: When it intersects a plane."). Being able to laugh in the face of tragedy doesn't make you less human; on the contrary, I'd be concerned about the humanity of anyone who couldn't do that.

Halloween of all times is a time to do exactly that.
11.3.2006 1:43pm
Jay Myers:

"A German dressing up as a Nazi would inherently be in very bad taste, unless that person was well-known as an anti-Nazi. Is Saad Saadi, the student who dressed up as the suicide bomber, known as an anti-jihadist?"

I have no idea but his website has photos of him visiting his immediate family in Syria. You can decide for yourself what that might say about the influences on his attitude regarding Muslim terrorists. On the other hand, he has apparently lived peacefully with an Israeli roommate.

As to the costume and acting out terrorist executions, I think it was both in bad taste and no big deal. Just because we believe something is inappropriate doesn't mean that we have to overreact and make a huge controversy over it. Americans have become whiners and I find that more disgusting than any Halloween costume.
11.3.2006 1:50pm
Ken Arromdee:
I have no idea but his website has photos of him visiting his immediate family in Syria. You can decide for yourself what that might say about the influences on his attitude regarding Muslim terrorists.

It would be bad taste for a German to dress up as a Nazi *regardless of whether the German is influenced by Nazis or what he thinks about them.* It's not the possibility of influence that makes it bad taste, it's because Nazis were associated with Germany and claimed to be working for the benefit of Germans.
11.3.2006 2:02pm
ss:
I agree that there's nothing to see here. If anything, dressing as a suicide bomber for Halloween is mocking suicide bombers. It's no more an endorsement of Islamists than dressing as a devil is endorsement of Satan. Same goes for dressing as a Klansman or dressing as a Nazi. Dressing up is mockery. That's the point of Halloween. Defeating fear by engaging it and mocking it. In this context, mockery is only objectionable when you're mocking something regarded as untouchably sacred or too sensitive and weak to stand up to ridicule: blackface, concentration-camp victims, stigmata Mary, Jesus on the cross, Steve Irwin (too soon?).

There was a comedian I saw who thought it was a great sign that he felt pretty comfortable making AIDS jokes these days. It meant AIDS was losing its unspeakable fearsomeness and that we were winning the battle. Same here. I would be more concerned about our nation's hope and optimism for the defeat of Islamists if there were not people like this kid and this school president, willing to take photographs casually mocking suicide bombers. (BTW, I think more overt mockery, like dressing as a cross-dressing Hitler or a terrorist suffering indignities, is actually more defensive and less powerful mockery than simply acting like a regular German-screaming Hitler or a swaggering macho suicide bomber. We you do that the mockery is inherent in the character.)
11.3.2006 2:03pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Chumund. When you suggest righty types not react to outrage the way lefty pc types do, are you supposing the lefties will take a lesson, or be ashamed?

Or will they see it as an opportunity to take advantage of our bourgeois rules?

To try to example the left into reasonable behavior is to cast pearls before swine.
11.3.2006 2:34pm
Chumund:
Richard,

Well, you might consider acting a certain way because it is the right thing to do, as opposed to because of how it will help you combat "the lefties" in whatever war you think you are fighting. And one would think if you had confidence in the rightness of your conduct, then eventually there would be more of you and less of "the lefties" precisely because open-minded people would be persuaded to join you.

Unless perhaps you believe people are simply born "lefties" and "righties", ala Plain- and Star-bellied Sneetches.
11.3.2006 2:50pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
> Happy Yom Kippur

I got that one last year. Sometimes I just want to smack people.
11.3.2006 2:56pm
another anonVCfan:
As long as women continue to dress like prostitutes on Halloween, I don't care what they do about this kid's costume.
11.3.2006 3:10pm
Chimaxx (mail):
Edwin Wells:
I think the problem that people have is that like it or not we have two different standards for people. For all the people claiming it's just Halloween fun, that's true if you aren't a lead represenatative for a public institution.


And since when is an undergraduate a lead representative for a public institution?

Had the university president herself dressed as a suicide bomber for Halloween there might be some room for criticism--but even that would suggest someone too unhinged by their own PC PC orthodoxy to take a joke. It is, after all, Halloween.
11.3.2006 3:18pm
Kevin Murphy:
I would have preferred to see the student dress as Muhammad, and had the university president pose for that one. But that might have been offensive....
11.3.2006 3:19pm
Jeremayakovka (mail) (www):
Respectfully, while most of his logic is clear, Prof. Volokh's comments suffer from a few weaknesses:

1) the KKK is not at war with the United States and its strategic Middle East ally, Israel -- or certainly not on the scale that quasi-governmental organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah are. Hence, his choice of costume deserves more than usual scrutiny.

2) The way this war plays out in civil society, in media and the culture, is of special importance. The blogosphere has documented rap videos glorifying military jihad; the cradle-to-grave brainwashing on behalf of "martyrdom" which Palestinian children undergo; and the decidedly not random assaults and murders committed in the United States by disgruntled Muslims and/or Arabs (the LAX shooting, the UNC student SUV driver, the Seattle JCC shootings). If Mr. Saadi failed to weigh these factors in his choice of costume, then those of us who did weight them have a duty to speak up.

3) KKK, Nazi, etc. garb should be extremely objectionable in their own right, even if permissible. Witness the flap Prince Harry caused by wearing a swastika to a party not too long ago. But the KKK has not murdered hundres of Israeli civilians in recent years, does not raise funds in the United States to buy weapons for Hamas and Hezbollah, does not operate cells in Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa.
11.3.2006 3:29pm
Chumund:
Jeremayakovka,

Exactly why is dressing as a current enemy of the United States (or Israel) problematic on Halloween? What do you think that means?
11.3.2006 3:38pm
Jeremayakovka (mail) (www):
Chumund,

Fair question. First, I think it's problematic any day of the year. Further, the license our culture permits on Halloween is not best well exercised by dressing - without qualification - as a declared and implacable enemy.

Look through all the pictures of Mr. Saadi which Michelle Malkin posted at her site: he deliberately and consistently exhibited the aggressive, menacing, and violent attirbutes of fanatic Islamic terrorists. In one he poses with his rifle at the head of an intended victim; in another he has given his rifle to a small child who aims it directly into the camera. Don't you know that Fateh, Hamas, and Hezbollah all train their children to use real weapons in passionate anticipation of one day being able to kill Israelis?

Let me qualify what I think our Halloween tradition confers on Americans. It allows us to parade our sense of horror and of death, and usually with a sense of hilarity. Very good. But there's no movement afoot to breed and train armies of Draculas to invade Israel, or to raise funds on several contients to make that happen. There, there is real horror and real death and no sense of hilarity. Mr. Saadi abused the license Halloween permits; the net effect was to tacitly endorse terrorism.

On the other had, please click on my post about my Hallowwen costume, a Homeless Suicide Bomber. I did a far better job of qualifying how to dress as a suicide bomber on this holiday. In that post, be sure to click over to Victor Hason in conversation with Hugh Hewitt on this subject.
11.3.2006 5:10pm
noki:
If, according to Amy Gutmann's released statement, it's okay for a costume to be offensive and he has a right to wear it, then why did the University of Pennsylvania take the web photos off-line?
11.3.2006 6:26pm
AntonK (mail):

"The Sigma Chi fraternity has been suspended at Johns Hopkins University after it threw a 'Halloween in the Hood' party that featured a skeleton pirate dangling from a rope noose on the roof of the fraternity house," the Associated Press reports form Baltimore:

The invitation to the party, posted on the Web site Facebook, encouraged guests to wear "regional clothing from our locale" such as "bling bling ice ice, grills" and "hoochie hoops."

Black Student Union (BSU) members, who protested Monday to call attention to the fraternity's actions, said the appearance of a mock lynching and the language on the invitation highlighted the racial tensions at Johns Hopkins and the strained relations between the university and the surrounding community.

University officials suspended all the fraternity's activities pending a full investigation.

All right, fair enough. We can understand why this sort of thing is offensive. But what about this, reported by the Democracy Project:

University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann threw her annual Halloween costume party at her home Tuesday night. Among the guests was Saad Saadi, who came dressed as a suicide bomber, complete with plastic dynamite strapped to his chest and a toy automatic rifle. Worse, Gutmann posed with Saadi!

If lynching is too serious a matter to laugh about, how can blowing up Jews be a laff riot?



From: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110009194
11.3.2006 8:49pm
Karen Schell (mail):
"Her "fave terrorist" is a princess?" (some anon poster)

I suppose it's commonly accepted by most of us that anon drive-by posters will usually try such obvious attempts to avoid the topic at hand: the wannabee-jihadist &the schools president's shameful behavior. Anons may even post great giggles when a busload of Jewish schoolgirls are murdered by a homicide bomber. But, for some odd reason, most of the rest of us will disagree.

Anons may very likely also praise and excuse those who dress up as rapists &child molesters, the terrorists of women and children. That's why I'm not surprised if they approve the fact that the school president's "come as your fave terrorist" bash included the terrorists of children:

"an impersonator of Scott Ward, the ex-Wharton professor who is awaiting trial for importing child pornography earlier this year. The costume was complete with a fake boy whose head was at the level of the impersonator's crotch."

http://www.campus-watch.org

Yes, Anon, I know the usual excuse will be a varation of the relativist creed: "one child's terrorist is another child's prince/princess"

Not that I expect really anything better from the anons, but it still surprises me that common sense has become so uncommon.
11.4.2006 1:08am
Chumund:
Jeremayakovka,

I still don't follow your logic. Yes, these enemies are real. How does that turn dressing as such an enemy on Halloween (and I do think context matters) into an endorsement of their aims or methods?

Karen,

I think I have in fact addressed the substance of the issue in the posts above. And frankly, by blatantly misstating the facts of this case, I think you are in the one who is avoiding the substance of the real issue. And, of course, it is ridiculous to suggest that those who think dressing as a terrorist for Halloween is acceptable would also support actual acts of terrorism. Your failure to understand that distinction makes it difficult to take your views seriously.
11.4.2006 1:55pm
Chumund:
AntonK,

First, from that description it sounds entirely unwarranted to suggest that the pirate skeleton in a noose was a reference to lynching.

Second, I agree with Professor Volokh that there is an unfortunate tendency to accuse all white people who dress as black people of racism (the "blackface" problem).

Third, all that said, in that case I think there is a potentially legitimate issue because of the stereotyping of local black people apparently represented in the invitation.

Applying that case to the case we have been discussing, then, I suppose we could ask whether the costume represented an offensive stereotyping of terrorists. And personally, I don't care, because I think it is fine to offend those people.
11.4.2006 2:05pm
Karen Schell (mail):
Drive-by anon poster:
"I think you are in the one who is avoiding the substance"

I'm so not interested in what anons and trolls "think" of me. I don't think any serious person does or should care.


"I think it is fine to offend those people."

Indeed, for many anons and trolls, offending Jews is a obsessive-compulsive lifestyle.

But for some odd reason, Jews are not playing along. "Those people" got that dang "never again" thing going on:

The Jerusalem Post
US university president poses with 'suicide bomber'

You are dismissed, anon, in every sense of the word. Goombye.
11.5.2006 1:08am
Chumund:
Karen,

As an aside, one of the many reasons why I post anonymously is that I wish my comments to be judged solely on their content.

Anyway, once again it seems to me that you are deliberately misstating things in order to make your points. For example, as I think you well know, when I said "I think it is fine to offend those people," I was referring to terrorists, not Jews. And again, when you deliberately misstate things in that fashion, it makes it quite hard to take you seriously.
11.5.2006 2:50am
Chumund:
Karen,

By the way, ordinarily I would actually be quite interested to find out why someone would think this costume is offensive to Jews. In that sense, I do think it is a shame that you will not discuss this issue in a serious manner.
11.5.2006 3:06am
Pocket Rocket (mail):
What's interesting about this incident is that it is (mostly) conservative bloggers who are acting politically correct about the costume, whereas those same conservative bloggers (usually) criticize liberals for being politically correct. Also interesting is that most of the critics are attacking Gutmann instead of the student who actually wore the costume. It's an intersting combination of politically correct hypocrisy and "blame the victim" syndrome all at the same time.
11.5.2006 2:08pm
markm (mail):
AntonK: A skeleton pirate dangling from a noose suggests the usual legal penalty for piracy (pre-20th century), not lynching.
11.6.2006 8:53am