Americans Should Hear Whole Iran Joke College Professor Got Fired Over – He’s Actually Right
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Americans Should Hear Whole Iran Joke College Professor Got Fired Over – He’s Actually Right


It’s difficult to get conservatives to mourn
the firing of a member of academia who cracks a flippant joke about America during a sensitive
time. Whatever modicum of sympathy may have existed
would probably vanish, too, if I told you the terminated faculty member’s job title
was director of sustainability. Here’s the thing, though: Babson College
professor Asheen Phansey was kind of right. If you haven’t heard of Phansey’s case,
this will take a bit of explaining. As you likely know, President Donald Trump
came under fire when he tweeted he was considering strikes against Iranian cultural sites depending
on how Tehran would respond to the airstrike that claimed the life of Maj. Gen. Qassem
Soleimani. “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran
strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing
the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important
to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND
VERY HARD,” Trump tweeted on Jan. 5. “The USA wants no more threats!” Those tweets got a lot of attention because
targeting cultural sites is a war crime, but they also inspired a lot of jokes, some in
questionable taste. Phansey’s Tuesday comment on his private
Facebook page, at first glance, seems to fall into that category. “In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomenei should
tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb,” Phansey
wrote. Um… Mall of America? Kardashian residence?” The comments were originally reported in a
vulgar little corner of the internet called Turtle Boy Sports, a place where a solid portion
of the headlines can’t be repeated here in good conscience, even when asterisked out. Despite the relative obscurity of the source,
Phansey’s post quickly gathered attention from publications of more august provenance. Phansey deleted the post and apologized for
his “bad attempt at humor” in a statement Wednesday, according to the Boston Herald. He added that he was “completely opposed
to violence and would never advocate it by anyone.” He’d originally been placed on paid administrative
leave while an investigation was ongoing. It didn’t take long for an investigation
to find reason to do away with him, with the Wellesley, Massachusetts school announcing
Thursday that Phansey was “no longer a Babson College employee.” “Babson College conducted a prompt and thorough
investigation related to a post shared on a staff member’s personal Facebook page
that does not represent the values and culture of the College,” Babson said in a statement. “Based on the results of the investigation,
the staff member is no longer a Babson College employee,” the statement continued, with
the school adding it “condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning
violence and/or hate.” Phansey said he was disappointed. “I am disappointed and saddened that Babson
has decided to abruptly terminate my 15-year relationship with the college just because
people willfully misinterpreted a joke I made to my friends on Facebook,” he said via
a spokeswoman on Thursday. “I would have hoped that Babson, an institution
of higher education that I love and to which I have given a great deal, would have defended
and supported my right to free speech,” he added. “Beyond my own situation, I am really concerned
about what this portends for our ability as Americans to engage in political discourse
without presuming the worst about each other.” If Phansey was disappointed, many conservatives
on Twitter weren’t. Todd Starnes seemed to get the temperature
of the conservative side of the room right when he said — in response to Phansey’s
statement that he was “concerned about what this portends for our ability as Americans
to engage in political discourse without presuming the worst about each other” — that “Americans
should be really concerned about professors and Hollywood celebrities who encourage foreign
countries to attack American soil. And so should the Department of Homeland Security.” He’s wrong, though. First, let’s deal with the obvious point
here: This wasn’t a serious invitation for the Iranians to strike on American soil. If you read this as a Babson College professor
rooting for the ayatollahs to approve a strike on Kim Kardashian, you need to take a vacation
from outrage. This is the kind of piling on that we ordinarily
associate with the excesses of cancel culture where, if any joke crosses into the foggy
gray area of unapproved thought, you can find yourself out of a career. Is this the kind of behavior we want to emulate? Second, he didn’t exactly make a bad point
here about American culture. He’s not the first person to have made it,
as anyone who watched the “South Park” movie will attest to. (To save you the trouble, in response to an
American aggression against Canada, the Canadians bomb the manses of American movie stars.) However, the point he was making wasn’t
that Iran ought to strike the United States — and anyone who confused the issue was
being deliberately dense. Why do we react so viscerally to a professor
saying that the Iranians should strike American pop culture iconography when they clearly
have no capacity to do so? The obvious joke here is that we take pop
culture too seriously. More people can recite the plot to “Avengers:
Endgame” beat-by-beat than can recite the first sentence from the preamble to the U.S.
Constitution. More people can list all of Kim Kardashian’s
boyfriends and husbands than can name the first first lady. We’ve gotten to the point where these really
are “sites of beloved American cultural heritage,” whether you want to admit it
or not. The joke may have been ill-timed, but it wasn’t
ill-targeted. Our national obsession with the subjects of
photos in glossy gossip magazines is profoundly unhealthy. Phansey may have been taking a swipe at the
president, but he managed to make a salient point while doing so. Getting someone fired for telling an uncomfortable
truth, even if he’s not on your political side, is still accommodating cancel culture
in a way that should make us exceptionally uncomfortable.

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