Free speech is a topic that is well trodden by media sources, the Muhlenberg Weekly included. Pretty much every editorial we have written this semester either directly or indirectly has had to do with free speech, whether it be through attacks on the media or protests or people choosing what to hear and what to believe. We talk about the importance of free speech and the first amendment and how to make your voice heard, but we don’t talk about how free speech is used. Specifically, how the idea of free speech is used by the powerful against those without power.

This weaponization of free speech can be traced back to college campuses. When people like Richard Spencer began to be denied and banned from college campuses, the claims that colleges hate free speech and that the left were denying people of their right to speak came flying in. But what must be noted is that when Colleges like Ohio State University denied Richard Spencer, it was usually on the basis of potential danger, seeing as Richard Spencer’s followers have a history of violence sometimes resulting in death, and not based solely on his views.

We see this from the right all the time, using free speech as a way of making their voices heard. Look at when Alex Jones was being banned from facebook and youtube, there were countless articles and posts about how it was an attack on free speech. Or consider the articles by websites like Breitbart talking about how the left has abandoned its ideals of free speech. But what those articles don’t understand is that the left has refined their understanding of free speech. The first amendment guarantees that the government shall not make laws limiting the freedom of speech or the freedom of the press. So, to say that newspapers or colleges must give space to every voice and all views is not true.

Before moving forward, it must be made clear that we here at the Weekly do believe it is of the utmost importance to give space to as many voices as possible, especially disenfranchised people whose voices are all too often ignored and suppressed based on reasons of race, class or gender, please read last week’s editorial for more on that.

“We must use our power to improve the world for all, rather than improve it for those already in power. And that is well within our rights.”

There is then the argument that, while not legally required to, there is a moral and intellectual obligation to include voices from all sides, and in general I would have to agree. What is often forgotten, or willfully ignored, is that part of the freedom of speech is the freedom to choose what not to say, especially when thinking about it in terms of newspapers. You may argue that for a newspaper to deny space for an opinion or point of view is a denial of that point of view’s right to speech as an individual, but the press also has the right to free speech and part of free speech is curating what to say and being critical of your own speech.

What does it mean to curate and be critical of your speech? It comes down to considering the effect of the speech. To deny speech to someone based on race or class or gender is deplorable because it continues to disenfranchise those who are abused by the powers that be most of all. But, to deny speech to those who are encouraging violence or are denying space for the disenfranchised, is different as those types of speech have a direct negative effect on real people. Even if someone is not explicitly saying anything harmful to anyone, if their followers are causing violence and attacking disenfranchised minorities then that affect must be taken into consideration.

A newspaper has power and a platform.

It is each newspaper’s job to determine how they will use their power and their platform. In an ideal world, a newspaper would stay strictly neutral, but our world is far from ideal. This is also true of private companies like facebook or twitter, which allow their platforms to be used for nazis and TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminists). But this is also true of you. You have the power and the right to use your voice to ensure the safety and the well being of those by not giving space for thoughts of hate and violence. We must use our power to improve the world for all, rather than improve it for those already in power. And that is well within our rights.

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The Muhlenberg Weekly's Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor(s) and Section Editors, one of whom writes the editorial. Material appearing without a byline represents the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Are Muhlenberg students receiving an education, or are they being indoctrinated?

    John Williams became president of the college in July 2015. Since John has been president, Richard Cohen of the very liberal Southern Poverty Law Group has presented. This past year the founder of Black Lives Matter organization in Canada has presented. Who has been presented to the student body with a different view of America than these two? Both of these individuals have been treated with respect by the student body. I wonder how the students would react to a presentation by Candace Owens, a female conservative African-American?

    Do you believe that the students have a right to hear both sides of this and any issue?

    The following is a copy of an article that appeared in Campus Reform today. The Colorado professor makes a case on the lack of philosophical diversity on campuses across our nation. Shouldn’t this be a concern of the editorial board of the Muhlenberg Weekly.
    Dave Gehris
    Class of 1962

    A Colorado professor gave a TEDx Talk on a topic all too familiar in academia these days. He discussed diversity…not diversity of race or gender, but instead diversity of thought.
    University of Colorado at Colorado Springs political science professor Joshua Dunn discussed the importance of diversity of thought in college, in a video posted by Power Line.

    The TEDx Talk video’s description cites a Higher Education Resource Institute study saying that, as of 2014, conservatives make up less than 13 percent of university professors, while 60 percent of professors identify as left-leaning.
    “In some fields, [conservatives] are almost an extinct species,” Dunn said. The UCCS professor said that he and another researcher had found that one-third of 153 conservative and libertarian professors they interviewed “hid their politics from their colleagues…many expressed profound fear about being outed. Some even thought that our project was a Red Scare in reverse.”
    “Our colleges could be a place where our future leaders learn to engage with people they disagree with,” he continued. “But today, too many people on campus seem to think that the appropriate response to people they disagree with is shouting, name calling, and even violence. Every year, every semester brings more and more examples.”
    Dunn cited a 2017 event featuring libertarian author Charles Murray. Students disrupted the event and assaulted the professor who hosted Murray, resulting in whiplash and a concussion.
    The UCCS professor claimed that students today can receive elite educations without learning about conservative ideas which, whether positively or negatively, have had major effects on America.
    Dunn related how conservative professor Robby George and left-wing professor Cornel West became friends at Princeton and co-taught a course, allowing them to “show students how you could respectfully engage with people you disagree with and sharpen your own arguments at the same time.”
    “The only sad part of their story is that it is so rare,” the professor said. “Our campuses would be far healthier places if their example was the norm, rather than the exception.”
    Dunn described confirmation bias among a group of like-minded people as something that results in “groupthink.” He cited a study in which, after being asked individually about their opinions on various policies, faculty from UC Boulder and UC Colorado Springs discussed the issues among members of their respective schools. After convening, the Boulder faculty members’ views moved further to the left, and the UCCS professors’ views shifted further to the right.
    The professor encouraged initiatives that embrace and teach multiple ideologies and concluded his talk by bringing up another friendship between two individuals from opposite ends of the spectrum: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
    “Before Justice Scalia died, there were hardly two people on the court who disagreed more about how to interpret the Constitution, but there were no closer friends on the court either,” Dunn said, noting that, in a tribute after Scalia’s death, Ginsburg commended the former justice for making her opinions on cases stronger by noting the flaws in his dissenting ones.
    “We all need friends like that. We can’t really do our jobs as citizens without them,” Dunn said.
    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @GenSanchezz

  2. Are Muhlenberg students receiving an education, or are they being indoctrinated?

    John Williams became president of the college in July 2015. Since John has been president, Richard Cohen of the very liberal Southern Poverty Law Group has presented. This past year the founder of Black Lives Matter organization in Canada has presented. Who has been presented to the student body with a different view of America than these two? Both of these individuals have been treated with respect by the student body. I wonder how the students would react to a presentation by Candace Owens, a female conservative African-American?

    Do you believe that the students have a right to hear both sides of this and any issue?

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