Free speech, when it incites negativity, is worrisome.
It's Bill O'Reilly's free speech right to call Dr. George Tiller "Tiller the Baby Killer" endlessly on his FOX show. But in our fanatical world, is it so unexpected that someone ultimately took it upon his unhinged self to carry a gun into Dr. Tiller's church and blow his brains out in the name of Jesus? Was the resulting murder of Dr. Tiller a stretch of our collective imaginations?
The analogy that you can't yell fire in a crowded theater needs to be updated to reflect our current, cyber-connected information age - what Jon Stewart calls our 24hr news cycle "Conflictonator" - when a lone fanatic exercising free speech can illicit actual real-time violence.
Of course, where would it end? Would suddenly calling Maggie Gallagher from the rabidly anti-gay org National Organization for Marriage (whose sole purpose is to oppress gay Americans) "a stupid cow who just needs a little dick in her life" end with one defending the statement in court after some loon actually rapes her?
Possibly. Should we be willing to let the courts and juries parse intentions and actual consequences? Certainly. Bill O'Reilly should be facing that same jury right now.
Back to the students burning the rainbow during Pride. They shouldn't be kicked out of school, let alone arrested. However, the University should do something that implies they understand the gravity of the situation, the consequences of anti-gay sentiment however innocently expressed. That they understand the possible domino-effect of provocative acts, however unexpected. Maybe hold a student assembly where the offending students debate their actions with a local GSA or some such group. This would be a teachable moment for everybody.
Something. Anything that says ACTIONS, even free speech protected ones, sometimes have unseemly and unwanted consequences.