Make no mistake about it: Free speech is under attack on our very own campus. This past Wednesday, the Associated Students Legislative Council convened to consider condemnation of the Nexus as a “biased” and “discriminatory” newspaper for its publication of facial photographs of alleged criminal Riccardo King Jr. on two occasions (“Leg Council Debates Nexus, Budget,” Daily Nexus, May 13). To prevent future incidents of possible racial profiling, the proponents of this resolution “want to interject at certain key points so that the student of color community, the queer or gender community isn’t offended.”
While I commend the activists involved for their passion to pursue social justice on behalf of underrepresented communities that have unquestionably suffered historical injustices, the tactics they have chosen to utilize threaten freedom of speech and thus, the very foundation of our democracy.
By its very nature, free speech is offensive. With the right to free expression comes with it the right to offend all those with contrary viewpoints. Instead of promoting rational discourse on issues of concern, proponents of the Leg Council resolution believe the best way to solve this injustice is to create a “liaison” between the Nexus and the student of color, queer and gender community. While the proponents assert that they are “not for a censored Nexus,” the end result will be a monitored free speech that won’t be free speech at all.
The Daily Nexus belongs to all students. If we are to trust our campus newspaper as a fair and unbiased source of information, the Nexus must not be controlled or filtered by particular interests on campus, no matter how well intentioned those interests may be.
In this case, proponents of editorial reform are outraged by a journalistic practice that they believe unfairly targets particular communities. It is unclear whether they believe the publication of Riccardo King Jr.’s picture was a conscious act on behalf of the Nexus or rather a result of institutionalized racism. No matter what the reason may be, is any perceived injustice truly worth society tyrannizing itself by limiting the freedoms provided to its press?
Rather than stifling debate, we should instead seek to encourage freedom of expression. Since student groups have claimed that our campus newspaper is not providing all sides of the issue, maybe the time for reform is now. The Nexus may wish to consider strengthening the equal time it provides to differing opinions regarding the content of its newspaper by implementing a policy of publishing all editorials signed by a certain number of students.
The direction that our campus leadership may be headed is frightening indeed. Do we really want to live in a society where the only “acceptable” topics of discussion are the weather and reality television shows? With individuals asserting that they wish to live in a society in which only “nonoffensive” opinions are acceptable for publication, we’re headed towards a McCarthy-style witch-hunt a lot sooner than you may believe.
Scott Talkov is a senior political science major.