A controversy has erupted at Penn State University flagship campus after film studies professor Matt Jordan juxtaposed news footage of last year’s debate over the state’s new voter ID laws into the final scene of the movie ‘The Birth of a Nation‘ to prove that the new laws are ‘disenfranchising’ the commonwealth’s minority voters.
When asked by conservative student Victor Schleich if the juxtaposing was intentional, Jordan admitted that he was attempting to sway his students against supporting the law:
On Jan 10, 2013, at 2:59 PM, Victor Schleich wrote:
There was something at the end of class today that greatly concerned me. Towards the end of class we were going over the film THE BIRTH OF A NATION. The final shot we saw was a scene where a number of the KKK members were scaring black men back into their homes signifying voter suppression. I had no problem displaying that scene with the proper context that it was incredibly racist and that the content was unacceptable. However, as class was ending there was footage on the screen of news coverage concerning the issue of voter ID laws and commentary suggesting that these laws were new minority voter suppression. John Stewart even made references that these were the new horsemen of intimidation when it came to minorities voting. Now, in the context of the film we had discussed I can’t help but see this display as an attempt to equate a voter ID law to actions taken by the KKK. If this was the intention of that footage then this is is incredibly offensive. However, I hope this is simply a misunderstanding.
Schleich’s suspicions were confirmed when Professor Jordan replied back with the following message:
On Jan 10, 2013, at 3:12 PM, Matt Jordan wrote:
I was – indeed – trying to elicit moral comparisons with this juxtaposition, given that the KKK was behind voter suppression in the 1880s and 1920s, by splicing that clip in there. I am sorry that you find that offensive, but I find disenfranchizing [sic] minority and elderly voters based on specious arguments about voter fraud (which multiple studies have shown to be trumped up and, indeed, many of the architects of these laws have all but admitted were purely designed to suppress the vote) equally offensive in a country predicated on one person, one vote.
I don’t think I equated them, but I certainly want you all to think about it. I am sorry that you find this work of challenging you all to think offensive.
Dept. of Film/Video and Media Studies
College of Communications
Penn State University
As Young America’s Foundation noted, Jordan’s class – COMM 150 Intro to Film Studies – “is supposed to examine attitudes and assumptions about film as well as ‘the role cinema–and, especially, narrative film–plays in relating individuals to the values and assumptions of their culture’,” something which he clearly failed to do by brainwashing the students with his own political agenda.
Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed the voter ID legislation into law last March. The law requires all Pennsylvania residents to provide a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, as proof of identity when voting in local, state or federal elections.
While Pennsylvania Democrats strongly opposed the legislation, 70 percent of Americans – including majorities of individuals across the political spectrum – approve of voter ID laws according to a Fox News Poll conducted last April.
Naturally, the ACLU and other minority organizations were up in arms over the new laws, arguing that they prevent urban voters – especially those in the Democratic strongholds of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – from voting. While the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation had been issuing free state IDs to adults who didn’t previously have one, a state appeals court ruled in early October that there wasn’t enough time between March and November for those in need of a government ID to vote to obtain one.
Pennsylvanians will be required to provide proof of identification in the form of a government-issued photo ID in all future elections.