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Canceling a play because some of its characters are evil: This is peak campus absurdity

Words cannot adequately convey it

How bad can campus liberal activism get? This bad: At Washington College in Maryland, students there succeeded in getting the school to shut down a play—one day before opening night—because some of the play’s characters were members of the Ku Klux Klan. You’re not reading that wrong: Students were aggrieved simply because some fictional characters in the production were members of an evil terrorist organization, and so the play had to go.

Even by the cracked and useless standards of campus activism, this is rather astonishing. One of the basic markers of a sound and cognizant mind is the ability to adequately discern between reality and fiction—to recognize when something is real and when it is contrived for the purpose of entertainment. It may come as a shock to the students at Washington College, but: Those weren’t real Klansmen. They weren’t going to hurt you. They were actors portraying fictional characters. Nobody was in any danger, at any time, at all, in any way. It was not necessary to cancel this play.

Then again, the standards of campus progressivism are lower than you might expect. The play in question, The Foreigner, was a comedy, and the Klan elements in it are addressed partly through the lens of satire. Yet as one activist put it: “[P]utting the KKK on stage in a satirical way is not appropriate because nothing about the historical and present day ramifications of the KKK is funny.”

The idea that brutal and distressing history cannot be effectively satirized would seem palpably absurd to satirists in any era other than our own. Indeed, satire has often been the best tool with which to savagely criticize the most savage examples of human injustice: George Orwell’s Animal Farm, after all, is a spot-on critique of the mass-murdering dictatorship of Stalinist Russia, while Mark Twain skewered many of the depraved racist elements of then-contemporary American society in Huckleberry Finn.

A mocking portrayal, when done right, can function as a sharp and clean denunciation of a terrible thing. But even the mere appearance of something unpleasant was a bridge too far at Washington College. Shame on the students for promoting this type of hysterical nonsense, and shame on the school for indulging it.

MORE: College yanks student-directed play at last minute because it depicts KKK

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