Harbaugh & American Sniper

Submitted by MichiganMAN47 on April 9th, 2015 at 1:11 AM

There is some controversy on campus about the University showing American Sniper. It was cancelled after some protest, but it has since been rescheduled.  I know that politics aren't supposed to be talked about on the board, but it involves our beloved coach. 

Harbaugh weighed in on the matter via twitter:  

"Michigan Football will watch "American Sniper"! Proud of Chris Kyle & Proud to be an American & if that offends anybody then so be it!"

Apologies for not being sure how to embed twitter posts.



Harbaugh has stirred a bit of controversy on campus with this tweet- a minority of students have complained about this.  

My personal opinion on this is that I like Harbaugh more because of it. He is not afraid to step on people's toes, and voice his opinion. He is unapologetic. That's exactly how a coach should be. 

As far as the film goes, I would prefer the University show it. Although I am not a big fan of Chris Kyle, I can understand why people would be. There are a lot of inspirational things about him, but also some negatives. I think the film addresses the negatives of war adequately, and makes a nuanced argument- Kyle is a controversial figure.  

[ED-Seth: Aaaaand we're locked. Handed out one ban. Leaving because it's news that Harbaugh waded into it. This is why we don't talk about politics. But see Comment 14 for a good example of why I wish we could sometimes.]



April 9th, 2015 at 1:29 AM ^

Obviously there are situations where apologies are required.

But for a football coach, you have to stand by your decisions, even when your rub people the wrong way. See Brady Hoke and the stake incident at MSU this year. He should not have apologized to Dantonio for that. 

yossarians tree

April 9th, 2015 at 8:20 AM ^

When I was a student there I watched all kinds of crazy political films that swung in every political direction--Night and Fog, Triumph of the Will, Hearts and Minds--sometimes in my classes. To censor this film is just stupid. My daughter is a student there and she said there are just too many snowflake kids sucking their thumbs looking for a reason to be outraged. She said she feels intimidated to offer up certain opinions because she knows she'll get shouted down. The university, at the administration and faculty level, needs to be "leaders" and allow a free exchange of ideas.


April 9th, 2015 at 8:24 AM ^

I learned pretty quickly to reserve some of my opinions in class because they didn't match the TA's own Berkley and Michigan-influenced opinions.  I know a lot of my friends said the same thing.  

I guess Omar Mahmood (you know, the writer fired by the Daily for mocking the institutional oversensitivity) was right after all.



April 9th, 2015 at 10:39 AM ^

Okay I highly doubt normal unbigoted people go into movie theatres and come out racist... like cmon. Prejudiced morons go into theatres and come out more prejudiced. 

Let's give Michigan students some respect in their intellectual capabilities of discerning the difference between an actual terrorist and a normal Muslim okay?

Chris Kyle wasn't an angel, and I wouldn't expect hardened soldiers to be perfect either. What is with this angelic view of soldiers? They kill people who oppose the USA for a living... Does MENA really think they're going to be perfect? 

The social media PC age...ugh. Do Germans get scared after watching any of the thousands of anti-Nazi movies out there? 


April 9th, 2015 at 10:58 AM ^

I spent four tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and I think UM needs to do some serious work creating a constructive dialogue about veterans' perspectives.  I completed my M.A. from 2010-2012 and was surprised at how rclosed minded and relutctant folks were to discuss war and veterans.  The forums for discussing vets' issues were pretty lackluster, especially considering how open folks were to discussing just about anything else (LGBT issues, animal rights, feminism, etc.)  and how well done presentations on those topics often were.

As for the movie, I initially hated it because it does glorify some aspects of war that shouldn't be glorified.  After awhile though, the movie grew on me because many of its faults reflect naive US perspectives that created a lot of problems.  The Iraqis, for example are so shallow and in the background that it almost seems intentional (sadly, I don't think it was).  Additionally, if Sunni insurgents ever went into Sadr City like they supposedly did in the movie, the US wouldn't have to worry about it because the Shia militias would kill them well before we would even know what was going on.  These and other flaws are reflective of the US-centric mindset and complete lack of situational awareness that plagued US warfighting throughout the war.

As for Kyle's character, I don't know the man.  However, I think the movie also does a good job of capturing the personal struggles and mindset of many US Soldiers.  In the movie, Kyle's view of the world as black and white/good and evil is overly niave, but it is the way many American warfighters saw the war.  This is dangerous and isn't necessarily praiseworthy, but, on a daily basis, US soldiers demonstrated awe-inspiring courage to confront what they saw as evil.  That courage is certainly praiseworthy.  The struggle of helping foreigners and fellow soldiers while your family falls apart is as real as it gets too.

It would be nice if UM would encourage students to watch this movie with a diverse group of vets to get there perspective, rather than shutting it down for somewhat bizzare reasons. 

Be careful of taking too much from the movie about Iraq, though.  It shows what Iraq was like from a lot of US soldiers' perspectives, but that's not actually what the Iraq war was in an objective sense.


April 9th, 2015 at 11:18 AM ^

for this fine-grained and personal analysis. It is often vets who are least anxious to glorify war. While deeply anti-war myself (attitude I proudly sharpened at the UM), I regret if the film simply gets shut down; dumb. I am also curious about whether Harbaugh has seen the film, and how he will feel he has influenced his players after they see it themselves.


April 9th, 2015 at 11:27 AM ^

For serving this country. I was trying to get at that point when I made this thread. Regardless of what people think of Kyle, this is a very complicated subject matter on so many levels.  The movie is intentionally provacative and divisive... that's what makes it an interesting movie. You are correct- we need to take it with a huge grain of salt. 


April 9th, 2015 at 9:05 AM ^

Context always matters.

  • JH is proud to be an American.
  • Not proud of being late to his first practice under Bo.
  • JH is proud to be a Michigan grad.
  • Not proud to get a DUI.
  • Proud of Chris Kyle.

Personally, I think you need to separate policy and implementation. Policy questions (Should we be in Afghanistan? Iraq? Iran? The Middle East? How long should we stay? What should our role be?) can be addressed one way. Implementation (support for our troops on the ground) is another thing altogether. I believe you support the office of the President, regardless of who is sitting in that position. I also believe we support our troops in the job they have to do. Admittedly, I can't be unbiased, as my own flesh and blood daughter is currently serving as an ACNT on a Destroyer in the Navy.



April 9th, 2015 at 10:13 AM ^

I agree fully on your distinction between policy and implementation.  

Many of the military members themselves don't even support the majority of policy and while some are vocal, many more are afraid to voice their opinions in fear of reprise.

If anyone wants to hate their country, offices, individuals in the military, they have misguided frustration.


April 9th, 2015 at 1:18 AM ^

Hopefully this post doesn't get nuked but it likely will.  Nonetheless, I pretty much agree with you.  Look, I'm a flamingly liberal panty-waisted hippie who opposed the war before it become cool to do so and I also think the University shouldn't have pulled the movie.  I haven't seen it myself and don't plan to but the film certainly has value as far as speaking to PTSD and its effects on our veterans and people in uniform - whatever your politics are, surely we can all agree that this is a problem worth addressing, right?


April 9th, 2015 at 4:57 AM ^

I am in the same boat as you on everything.

Universities should be centers of free expression. Don't understand this new trend of trying to create safe emotional spaces for everyone. The whole point of a "university" is to create a space where conflicting ideas can coexist and intermingle. 


April 9th, 2015 at 10:23 AM ^

I loved that article by Chait. I love the free interchange of ideas, the marketplace of thought. I decidedly agree with the quip regarding the fact that while I may disagree with you, I strongly support your right to your own views and beliefs. For many years, I have kept many of my thoughts to myself, because of the chilling effect of the PC police. As a privileged white male, my thoughts are often suspect merely because of my status. And when my thoughts don't jibe with the majority culture, it is hopeless and pointless to express them.


April 9th, 2015 at 9:26 AM ^

The CCI claimed that it was cancelled because it created an atmosphere that didn't make students feel "safe".  Safe from what I ask?  Should student-veterans feel as though their past in the military makes their classmates feel unsafe?  Should ROTC members be barred from wearing uniforms on campus?  Maybe we should all take a moment to read Omar Mahmood's astute and, apparently, timely column that got him fired from the Daily for "creating a hostile environment" while at the same time getting his house vandalized.

"After his column was published last week, Mahmood tells The College Fix: “I received a call from the editorial editor [of the Daily] telling me that I had created a ‘hostile environment’ among the editorial staff and that someone had felt threatened because of what I had written … The issue had been taken to the editor in chief who procured a bylaw by which I was given an ultimatum to leave the Review or leave the Daily within a week. I was not allowed to know the name of the offended individuals.” He added the newspaper’s leaders are “forcing me to write a letter of apology as a condition for staying on the Daily” and suspended his regular column in theDaily."



April 9th, 2015 at 10:13 AM ^

This is what happens when children grow up without being spanked (swatted on the butt, not beaten), without any real discipline, and for receiving participation trophies.

You end up with a generation of cry-babies who think that the world revolves around them, look for anything to get upset about, and think everyone should think the way they do.

Personally, I agree with you. My thought for the whining minority is: If it offends you, good. It's my god damn right to do what I please. Don't like it, don't participate or leave. You have that freedom. I honestly don't give a rats ass how you feel. Not to sound close-minded or ignorant, but I don't give a shit if you think this movie creates a hostile environment. It's a patriotic movie. The University should be able to show whatever they want. Show porn for all I care. Nobody is forced to show up.

The Mad Hatter

April 9th, 2015 at 10:21 AM ^

to have to agree to disagree about the benefit of hitting children (it's one of the worst things you can do to kid), your overall point is valid.

Personally, I've learned much more from the failures in my life than I have from the successes.   As a result I don't coddle my kids too much and when they screw something up I let them know it.  I also don't micromanage them and I expect them to take responsibility for their actions.

And I'd like to know exactly when saying "I'm Offended" started giving people the moral high ground? 

El Jeffe

April 9th, 2015 at 6:59 AM ^

I am similarly inclined politically, though not hippily, and I completely agree. By far the least liberal thing one can do is suppress the viewing and discussion of art, no matter how politically objectionable one might find it. As long as university resources devoted to "conservative" and "liberal" points of view are more or less equal, then I see no reason why such a film should not be shown and discussed.


April 9th, 2015 at 7:23 AM ^

that the film is being shown politically, I just don't understand why he is subjecting them to such a bad, bad movie. If you are going to show Eastwood, hit up Mystic River or Unforgiven. Showing them this just seems cruel and unusual.