Continuing Orac’s quest for truly stupid quotes from The 365 Stupidest Things Ever Said calendar, this time a couple of tasty stupid morsels about free speech:

Here’s entry number 1, from the February 17, 2007 entry in the calendar:

“We forbid any course that says we restrict free speech!”–Dr. Kathleen Dixon, Director of Women’s Studies at Bowling Green State University, Ohio, commenting on the resignation of Dr. Richard Zeller, who wanted to teach a course in how liberalism has led to political correctness.

Here’s entry number 2, from the July 4, 2001 entry:

“What we have is two important values in conflict: freedom of speech and our desire for healthy campaigns and a healthy democracy. You can’t have both.”–Representative Dick Gephardt (D-Missouri) on campaign finance reform.

Here’s entry number 3, from the October 7, 2004 entry:

“The meeting was held in secret because it concerns the public so much.”–Edward Cooper, mayor of Caine, Wilshire, England on a meeting on police.


  1. #1 TheBrummell
    March 16, 2007

    Reading those makes my brain hurt. Thanks for putting them up, now I have an excuse (for whatever).

  2. #2 ed
    March 16, 2007

    For some reason #3 reminded me of Yogis “nobody goes there anymore because it`s too crowded.”Good stuff!

  3. #3 Dianne
    March 16, 2007

    What, you’re not including Bush’s “There should be limits to freedom” quote? Admittedly, I don’t think he said anything about destroying freedom in order to save it: he went right for destroying it with no apologies.

  4. #4 Mark
    March 16, 2007

    It’s “Gephardt”, not “Gephart”. Those throwing stones should at least check the spelling of their targets.

    And I think that he was trying to say that you can’t have absolute freedom of speech without harming democratic elections. Coincidentally, the Supreme Court Of Canada concluded the same thing yesterday in a case called R. v. Bryan when it upheld limits on publishing election results across time zones in jurisdictions where the polls have not closed yet.

  5. #5 mollishka
    March 16, 2007


  6. #6 Orac
    March 16, 2007


    You realize, of course, that typo and spelling flames are about as lame as it gets. Really. That’s not to say I haven’t indulged in them on a select one or two rare occasions myself, but only after repeated errors so egregious that it’s obvious that the person can’t write. However, just to make you happy, I’ll fix the typo. Typo or not, what Gephardt said would still be just as stupid–orders of magnitude more stupid than making a typo.

    Be that as it may, though, assuming you’re correct and Gephardt did mean to say what you say he meant to say, please explain to me how that makes what he actually did say any less stupid. Really. I honestly want to know. The post was about stupid statements as they came out–not what the person making them may have meant to say.

  7. #7 wolfwalker
    March 16, 2007

    whaaaat? [shudders in mental agony] Numbers 2 and 3 and typical stupid-political lines. But that first one transcends “stupid” and travels far into some realm for which my dictionary can supply no adequate adjective.

  8. #8 Nes
    March 16, 2007

    “nobody goes there anymore because it`s too crowded.”

    Or Fry’s “No one drove in Old New York; there was too much traffic.”

    (Probably not an exact quote, but close enough.)

    </Futurama nerd>

  9. #9 Inquisitive Raven
    March 17, 2007

    And to think, I used to live in Gephardt’s district.

    I probably would’ve voted for him too if I’d still lived there. As it was,I now live in PA. The Senate race was between a sleaze and a wingnut. I ended up voting for the sleaze on the grounds that you can at least count on a sleaze to vote in his own self-interest. Wingnuts aren’t that predictable, hence are more dangerous.

  10. #10 Benjamin Franz
    March 17, 2007

    “We forbid any course that says we restrict free speech!”–Dr. Kathleen Dixon

    The quote is admittedly stupid – but I have been unable to find a source that places it in context. IMHO, there is more than a small chance someone is being either mis-quoted or quoted significantly out of context. The oldest source I could find for it was “The politically incorrect professor” by Larry Elders (yes, that Larry Elders). The original event was evidently in 1996 (see Zeller teaches rejected course for more background).

    It is instructive to check out the person it was allegedly uttered about and his subsequent actions.

    Dr. Richard A. Zeller resigned his tenured position because he wasn’t allowed to teach his proposed course and joined – a online only ‘Conservapedia’ type effort that appears to be completely unaccredited and allied with the conservative homeschooling movement. He contributed a course titled: “Political Correctness – Totalitarianism American Style” (now taught by Dr. Wade Shol; syllabus here:

    From “Yorktown University”‘s website:

    At Yorktown University we pursue a love of wisdom by which we discover our humanity in relation to divine reality. That is what it means to be a participant in Western civilization.

    Western civilization is coterminous with the Judaeo-Christian tradition, and includes a commonly shared morality based in God’s commandments and experience of His intervention in history.

    The majestic history of Western civilization, its origins in the inquiries of the ancient Greek philosophers, the arts and sciences by which it is now defined, and the experience of transcendent divine reality that has shaped the consciousness of Western man, are what we discover through our studies at Yorktown University.

  11. #11 Benjamin Franz
    March 17, 2007

    I did some background research on the Dixon quote and posted it, but it got tagged by the moderation software for too many links. 🙁

    The long and short of it?

    1) Dr. Zeller appears to be a twit who has chosen to associate himself with the Conservapedia-like with a course titled: “”Political Correctness–Totalitarianism American Style”.

    2) I could not find any confidence inspiring documentation of the ‘free speech’ quote itself (the oldest source appears to be Larry Elders in September 2000 in an article titled “The Politically Incorrect Professor,” Given Mr. Elders track record on other issues, the veracity of the quote is in doubt to me),

    3) The whole thing happened back in 1996.

  12. #12 Benjamin Franz
    March 17, 2007

    Suspicion confirmed: Kathleen Dixon stated the stories were inaccurate and that she was misquoted shortly after the quote originally appeared on Fox News and in Larry Elder’s article back in September/October 2000 (as reported at ).

    Score another checkmark for “Fake Quotes for $1000”.

  13. #13 Eric
    March 17, 2007

    With respect to the Gephardt quote, I’m not sure that any right/freedom is absolute. Often rights come into conflict, and at that point we try to find the right balance that maximizes the overall freedoms. I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said that, “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”

    With respect to freedom of speech, I’m sure if we thought about it we could all come up with examples of conditions under which right to say something must be curtailed in favor of other rights. There’s the weary example of shouting fire in a crowded theater.

    With respect to campaigns, there have been and are many limits. Presumably the limits imposed by libel exist. Although I think it is no longer the case, there was a time when “equal time” was the rule for certain types of media, even when the media outlet was privately owned. This was justified, at least in part, because the airwaves belonged to the public and they were a limited resource. Some might claim that the right to speak anonymously is fundamental to freedom of speech. But because that makes it so easy to lie about someone without out consequences, we now often require that campaign speech be attributed to the individual/group behind it. And because campaign-fincanced mud-slinging ads were still easy with seemingly no consequences for the candidate, we now require the candidate him/herself to endorse what is said by the campaign in certain cases. And does a campaign or other political group have the right to call you at any hour of the day? Send pages to your fax machine endlessly? Be exempt from copyright and trademark laws?

    If freedom of speech were absolute, then none of the limits referenced in the previous paragraph could be allowed. But the view that freedoms are absolute is strikingly naive.

    I haven’t tracked down Gephardt’s quote, but I suspect it’s from the question of whether giving money to a campaign is tantamount to speech, because if it were, then putting limits on money would be limiting speech. And if money is speech, do the wealthy essentially have the right to orders of magnitude more speech than the rest by virtue of how media works? My guess is that Gephardt was saying that even if money is speech, there’s a justification to putting limits on it in view of the inherent right to have a democracy that allows for government of, by, and for the People.

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