"Big Brother is watching you" used to be a punch line.

Maybe not anymore.  

Alfred MacDonald, a bisexual student, who was then attending the University of Texas in San Antonio, admitted in private conversation, after classes, that he was uncomfortable with Islam because in ten Islamic countries the penalty for being gay is death.

For expressing this private, and, under the circumstances quite understandable, opinion, MacDonald was hauled before the chairman of the philosophy department, Eve Browning. Here is what happened, as described by Robby Soave of Reason magazine:

Prof. Browning told MacDonald in no uncertain terms that he had committed the crime of "offending" someone, and she warned him that his habit of saying what he thinks could bring down the entire program. She threatened to call the Behavior Intervention Team and refer MacDonald to counseling. She did everything but send him to Room 101.

(Room 101 is another reference to Orwell's 1984.)

MacDonald made the now-infamous remark about Islam when talking to a friend who is engaged to be married to a Muslim. He secretly recorded the conversation with Browning. It is a delicious look into modern academia. Here is a snippet:

MACDONALD: I said that I was bothered that I could be killed in 10 Muslim countries. I'm bisexual. So they'd definitely do that in the 10 countries where I would be— you know.

BROWNING: Doesn't that strike you as an inappropriate thing to say about someone's fiance?

MACDONALD: I wasn't talking about the fiance. The fiance could have whatever interpretation of the religion that they want. I said something like…(thinking) that I…yeah it wasn't about the fiance, it was about the religious practices in those countries.

BROWNING: How is it appropriate to bring that up in connection with someone's fiance?

MACDONALD: They brought it up. The Islam part.

BROWNING: And you brought up the threat to your life as posed by this fiance?

MACDONALD: No. We got to the subject of Islam, not the fiance.

BROWNING: Do you understand how someone would find that offensive?

MACDONALD: How someone would find that offensive, yeah; how they could perceive it, yeah; yeah, I mean, if I…

BROWNING: It's a confusing comment to me because Muslims do not all live in countries in which bisexuals are executed. Muslims live in the United States—


BROWNING: —Muslims live in France, Muslims live in every country in the world—it's the fastest growing world religion.

MACDONALD: Yeah, one of my good friends at the university is Muslim.

BROWNING: And do you tell him that you object to his religion because there are places on earth where gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are discriminated against, including your own country?

MACDONALD: Well, "her." And my verbiage was "killed" not "discriminated against." I mean, death penalty's pretty severe.

BROWNING: What does that have to do with her being engaged to a Muslim?

MACDONALD: Nothing. I wasn't talking about the engagement to the Muslim. I was talking about Islam in that particular moment.

Moving on from 1984 references, this conversation is pure Through the Looking Glass.

But back to Orwell and 1984: The University of Texas has a Behavior Intervention Team to investigate complaints such as the one against MacDonald.

Soave comments that the chair of a philosophy department should not have found it so offensive and unthinkable that a student had made accurate criticisms of Islamic extremism.