‘In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomeini should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb.”

So wrote Asheen Phansey, an adjunct professor at Babson College in Massachusetts. He added that cultural sites to target might include the Mall of America and the “Kardashian residence”. Not the funniest of jokes (and not helped by the fact that Khomeini died more than 30 years ago) but definitely a joke and a response to Trump’s tweet that America would target 52 Iranian sites, including those of cultural significance, if Tehran did retaliate for the assassination of General Qassem Suleimani.

It led to an inevitable outpouring of outrage on Twitter from conservative snowflakes. By the end of the day, Phansey was no longer teaching at Babson. The post did “not represent the values and culture of the College”, read a statement. The college condemned “any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate”. It’s just as well that John Betjeman was never a professor at Babson.

Much is made today of liberals demanding action against those using offensive language or making politically incorrect jokes. The Babson case shows conservatives are equally easily offended.

Across the Atlantic came another illustration of rightwing outrage. The release of Tolo Tolo, an Italian film satirising anti-migrant hysteria, caused anger among conservatives who had thought that it would be hostile to immigrants. “It is too politically correct,” claimed a senator from Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party. Which only goes to show that “it’s politically correct” has come to mean little more than “I don’t like it”.

The Babson case also shows the dangers of the left demanding censorship of offensive speech. It’s not just speech the left thinks is politically incorrect that will get censored.


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