At the start of this month, Christopher Newport University welcomed the award-winning journalist Sophia Nelson as a scholar-in-residence. Nelson is known as an independent and at times contrarian figure, including being a Republican who opposed Donald Trump. Now however students and faculty are calling for her to be terminated after she tweeted her opposition to the decision by DC Comics to make Superman a bisexual figure.
Nelson objected on Twitter to the change and asked how it impacted religious or conservative parents.
The tweet unleashed a firestorm.
One student, student Abigail Honeycutt, is quoted as saying that:
“Reading her tweet, we felt uncomfortable and scared in a place we are supposed to call our home.”
CNU President President Paul Trible called for healing and reflection, according to WTKR reports.
Nelson lashed out at the cancel culture:
We are cannibalizing one another with #CancelCulture it has to stop or I promise you in a decade or less America will no longer be America. It’s bullying. They are mean, nasty bullies. Vicious with their words, with intimidation and hatred in their hearts. And there is no excuse for ever bullying another human being because they made a mistake, messed up, misspoke, were just caught being simply human.
There is a wave coming. A movement of sick and tired Americans. Tired of being pushed around and bullied, canceled, targeted, harassed for our faith beliefs, for our values, for our free thought and free speech. Today it’s me in the crosshairs. Tomorrow it’s you.
However, she deleted her tweet.
For those seeking to fire Nelson, consider the implications of such an action. Today we discussed another faculty member who was allegedly terminated due to her use of social media to criticize Vice President Michael Pence. Nelson was expressing her view of a cartoon character and social divisions surrounding bisexuality. I understand why many find the comment offensive. Other share her view. The solution is free speech in responding to her viewpoint rather than a campaign to silence her.
We have previously discussed the worrisome signs of a rising generation of censors in the country as leaders and writers embrace censorship and blacklisting. New polls show that sixty-six percent of college students think shouting down a speaker to stop them from speaking is a legitimate form of free speech. Another 23 percent believe violence can be used to cancel a speech. That is roughly one out of four supporting violence. A prior poll shows roughly half of the public supporting not just corporate censorship but government censorship of anything deemed “misinformation.”
Calls to fire Nelson will not be successful. CNU is a public university that is subject to not just contractual but constitutional limitations. The First Amendment will prevent such a termination or force the intervention of a court.
Superman once said that “a superhero is just an ordinary person who has found a better way to mask their human frailties.” One of those frailties is the intolerance for opposing views and the desire to keep opposing values from being voiced or heard. After all Clark Kent is a journalist.
The greatest danger on the CNU campus is not Nelson’s view of bisexuality or superheroes. It is the villainy of speech intolerance and censorship.