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Nanny State of the Week: Halloween for the politically correct only

By   /   November 2, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 60 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week

A good Halloween costume should shock, scare or at least generate a few laughs. Most of all, it should be fun.

But what happens when anything shocking is considered offensive, when anything that scares could exclude those who don’t like to be frightened and anything that generates laughs is considered mockery?

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A MEMBER OF THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMUNITY: “Mad scientists” aren’t mad anymore. Ditto for hatters. Halloween isn’t fun either.

Well, then there’s no fun to be had.

This week, we take a break from tracking the normal Nanny State abuses to survey the growing power of “political correctness” and how it’s wrecking havoc with one of the most fun days of the year: Halloween.

Let’s begin at Pamona College, where students were invited to a “mad scientist party” hosted by nearby Harvey Mudd College. The party was intended to mock Mudd’s reputation for being a science school (both schools are part of a the Claremont College system in southern California, so they’re not completely separate institutions).

The Associated Students of Pamona College didn’t think the theme was very funny.

“We are disappointed at your choice of the name for the event, as well as your rationale for allowing the name ‘Mudd Goes Madd.’ Your disregard of the concerns of the mental health community and their allies trivializes issues that we deem extremely important to our community. Further, the exclusion of the mental health community in the discussion of allowing the event name is inappropriate,” the student government posted on its Facebook page, according to College Fix.

You get that? Dr. Frankenstein and his ilk are now a protected class.

But the best part of this story is the Mudd students’ response to the outrage. They held the party anyway.

Unfortunately that was hardly the only instance of “political correctness” — which is a particularly difficult-to-combat strain of nanny state-ism — ruining Halloween this year.

At Penn State University, the student government took time away from dealing with issues that actually matter (like making certain parts of their university less scary — and no, not scary in the Halloween way) to address potentially insensitive Halloween costumes. According to the Daily Collegian, the school’s paper, Steffen Blanco, chair of Student Life Committee, said some of his constituents have expressed concern about people dressing up as different races and nationalities for costumes. The student government decided to hang posters around campus to help raise awareness about the “difference between appreciation and appropriation.”

At Wesleyan University, similar posters appeared this October, urging students to ask “Is your costume offensive? Check yourself and your friends” and giving students a number to call if they were unsure. There’s nothing like getting permission from the authorities to really make your Halloween a scream.

And at Louisville University, school president James Ramsey was called on the carpet by his student body for hosting a staff Halloween party where he was photographed wearing a “a rainbow poncho, standing with a group of people wearing sombreros and smiling while holding maracas.”

“There is a word for this. It’s called racism,” wrote Olivia Krauth in the school’s student paper.

Even the New York Times has noticed the trend, noting last month that it’s better to play it safe (read: be boring) on Halloween than wear a costume that risks offending anyone. The paper suggested dressing as “a Crayola crayon, a cup of Starbucks coffee or the striped-cap-wearing protagonist of the ‘Where’s Waldo?’ books.”

That’s all fine and good, but what happens when it’s decided that a crayon offends those who are colorblind, asks Brian Joondeph of the American Thinker.

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THATS OFFENSIVE: Some people can’t afford quality dental care. Don’t mock them with your Halloween costume

But give the New York Times some credit for this bit of common sense, buried within 2,000 words of crazy talk by college students and professors too wrapped up in their own world of PC perfection:

“It’s always possible that someone will be offended by this or that costume or statement or position, but you can’t base your behavior on that chance,” Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, told the Times. “There has to be some room for stepping over certain boundaries.”

If you think this sort of nonsense is limited to college campuses, well, you’re wrong.

Newington School District in Connecticut canceled plans for a Halloween party because of “concerns that they exclude children whose families don’t celebrate the holiday.” Because if there’s a few kids who will refuse to have fun on Halloween, that’s grounds for ruining everyone else’s fun too, right?

At Milford School District, also in Connecticut, Halloween was just straight-up banned over similar concerns about offending students who can’t or don’t participate.

Evan retailers are now caving to the pressure applied by the PC police. As Bloomberg reported last week, Walmart set up a so-called “SWAT team” to stop people from making certain purchases that could be combined in potentially offensive ways on Halloween.

How does that work? Like this: “Wal-Mart customers haven’t been able to purchase the white hotpants and wig marketed as a Caitlyn Jenner transgender parody costume. A decapitated Cecil the Lion head sold with a dentist’s smock? Banned on Walmart.com.”

Look, Walmart is a private retailer and as such they can make whatever decisions they want about selling certain products in combination with other products. That’s not “nanny-ism,” it’s just an odd sort of thing to care about (since people can presumably just order the lion head and the dentist’s smock in separate orders and still be able to get their costume).

But the mega-retailer’s actions here reveal one of the consequences of the Nanny State in all its forms: to limit choices and behavior through group-think until entities that have no stake in the outcome (Walmart, presumably, just wants to sell as much cheap stuff as it can, no matter how that stuff will be used) are going along just to go along.

Here’s the thing: Halloween is not a history class. It’s not a women and gender studies class, either, nor a seminar on multiculturalism. Racism and sexism have no place, in our universities or otherwise, as official policy, but Halloween is — by its very nature — about subverting what we consider “normal” and “official.”

I wouldn’t be able to show up for work Monday dressed as a zombie any more than I’d be able to show up for work dressed as Caitlyn Jenner.

The best response to political correctness and other forms of nascent Nanny Stateism is exactly what the kids at Mudd College did.

Part of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week
  1. Nanny-state state of the week: MD may become first to ban Vaportinis
  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food
  23. Nanny of the Week: California bans plastic bags
  24. Nanny of the week: Maybe this time it will be different for Chicago
  25. Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers
  26. Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents
  27. Nanny of the Week: Proposed bans on Thanksgiving Day shopping
  28. Nanny of the week: U.S. government bans ‘Comfyballs’ underwear
  29. Nanny of the Week: Better take down those holiday decorations
  30. Nanny of the week: Towns ban sledding
  31. Nanny of the Week: New York City plans to ban out-of-state cars
  32. Nanny of the Week: Snow-shoveling teens get in trouble with the law
  33. Nanny of the Week: Get caught wearing yoga pants three times, go to jail for life
  34. Nanny of the Week: Georgia lawmaker wants to ban mermaids, werewolves, other fictional creatures from real life
  35. Nanny State of the Week: Endangering manatees in Florida
  36. Nanny of the Week: Christie caves to protectionist gravestone proposal in N.J.
  37. Nanny of the Week: Don’t mix beer and ice cream – because of the children
  38. Nanny of the Week: Is the minimum wage a nanny state policy?
  39. Nanny of the Week: Republican in NY backs cat declawing ban
  40. Nanny of the Week: NJ continues ban on self-serve gasoline, because sometimes it snows
  41. Nanny of the Week: Bernie Sanders is coming for your deodorant
  42. Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?
  43. Nanny of the Week: Weeds will prevail in Maryland lawn care ban
  44. Nanny State of the Week: FDA bans trans-fats
  45. Nanny State of the Week: L.A. plans to jail unlicensed street vendors
  46. Nanny ST8 of the Week: Anti-government messages not allowed on license plates
  47. Nanny State of the Week: Helicopters, horses and New York City
  48. Nanny State of the Week: Lawsuit challenges Seattle trash snooping
  49. Nanny State of the Week: Town officials mandate mowing
  50. Nanny State of the Week: Florida county sends environmental specialist to investigate BBQ
  51. Nanny State: Despite menu nannies, Americans still fat!
  52. Nanny State of the Week: New York City’s ban on Styrofoam hurts businesses, consumers
  53. Nanny State of the Week: Colorado Springs may ban sitting in public places
  54. Nanny State of the Week: New York’s soda ban could be back — but for kids only
  55. Nanny State of the Week: D.C. flexing licensing muscles at personal trainers
  56. Nanny State of the Week: Hammock bans mean no hanging out on college campuses
  57. Nanny State of the Week: County can use same lawn treatments it banned residents from using
  58. Nanny State of the Week: Pols want to ban daily fantasy sports
  59. Nanny State of the Week: Bay Area bureaucrats ban fireplaces, wood stoves
  60. Nanny State of the Week: Halloween for the politically correct only
  61. Nanny State of the Week: Governments lag behind the public on orca captivity ban
  62. Nanny State of the Week: New York might accidentally ban makeup
  63. Nanny State of the Week: California could be first state to apply no-fly list to guns
  64. Nanny State of the Week: University may block social media app in futile effort to combat racism
  65. Nanny State of the Week: City fines residents for chipped paint, mismatched curtains
  66. Nanny State of the Week: No Christmas in Bethlehem this year
  67. Nanny State of the Week: Connecticut may outlaw smoking in many cars
  68. Nanny State of the Week: Town inspection checks whether you cleaned your toilet
  69. Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer
  70. Nanny State of the Week: City rewrites law to block theater from getting liquor license
  71. Nanny State of the Week: FDA goes beyond the pale, prepares to ban teen tanning
  72. Nanny State of the Week: Charleston’s storied history is off-limits to the unlicensed
  73. Nanny State of the Week: Feds marketing food stamps with bingo games, TV ads
  74. Nanny State of the Week: No sipping and selling for Alabama winemakers
  75. Nanny State of the Week: Jail time for texting while walking in New Jersey
  76. Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks
  77. Nanny State of the Week: Feds send LSD Ale on a long, strange trip
  78. Nanny State of the Week: Happy Tax Day! Now get ready to pay more to file
  79. Nanny State of the Week: A state license for breast-feeding advice?
  80. Nanny State of the Week: School officials bully kids with ban on skinny jeans
  81. Nanny State of the Week: FDA fries family’s potato chip business with new cooking oil mandates
  82. Nanny State of the Week: CFPB knows what is best for your personal finances
  83. Nanny State of the Week: City cracks down on crawfish boils after mayor’s aide complains
  84. Nanny State of the Week: Florida couple still fighting for their vegetable garden
  85. Nanny State of the Week: State lawmakers to decide where you can get an Uber in Boston
  86. Nanny State of the Week: Businesses can’t sell parking spaces to Braves fans
  87. Nanny State of the Week: OK, everybody’s foam toys, out of the pool
  88. Nanny State of the Week: Get out of the pool!
  89. Nanny State of the Week: Common sense goes to the dogs in Phoenix
  90. Nanny State Of The Week: It’s nanny-on-nanny in Portland pot dispute
  91. Nanny State of the Week: Your pool isn’t cool
  92. Nanny State of the Week: You can’t be trusted to rent to your family
  93. Nanny State of the Week: Protecting pub crawlers from themselves
  94. Nanny State of the Week: Government fingerprints on your beer bottle
  95. Nanny State of the Week: Swimming with dolphins? Not if NOAA gets its way
  96. Nanny State of the Week: Keep your kids off the trees
  97. Nanny State of the Week: No property rights without paperwork
  98. Nanny State of the Week: Chicken nannies hatch new regulations
  99. Environmental nannies can’t regulate cow farts — yet
  100. Nanny State of the Week: Silence is golden in Worcester
  101. Nanny State of the Week: Land regulation trampling on cultural history
  102. Nanny State of the Week: New Jersey’s great leaf-blowing war
  103. Nanny State of the Week: New York bans homesharing ads
  104. Nanny State of the Week: Food truck destruction by the health nannies
  105. Nanny State of the Week: Chicago tries again with plastic bag tax
  106. Nanny State of the Week: Butts out in public housing
  107. Nanny State of the Week: Baltimore closes in on toy gun ban
  108. Nanny State of the Week: D.C. nannycrats ‘sting’ Airbnb
  109. Nanny State of the Week: Pursuing porn in the Palmetto State
  110. Nanny State of the Week: Too much summer fun on New Jersey lakes
  111. Nanny State of the Week: Public housing should go to the dogs
  112. Nanny State of the Week: The revolution will not be livestreamed from Congress
  113. Nanny State of the Week: California slow-pedals autonomous cars
  114. Nanny State of the Week: Aspen City Council helps the rich stay rich
  115. Nanny State of the Week: No more taco trucks on Santa Ana corners?
  116. Nanny State of the Week: The Burbank homes are too darn big
  117. Nanny State of the Week: Pesticide regulation full of bugs
  118. Nanny State of the Week: Anchorage’s no-drone zone
  119. Nanny State of the Week: Regulate all the teenagers
  120. Nanny State of the Week: Texas messes with winemaking
  121. Nanny State of the Week: Bad science guides Novato nannies


Eric Boehm is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed listicle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87 and reach him at [email protected]