Tuesday, September 25

Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable

Civility is constantly challenged by those wishing to be heard. Sometimes they are heard, sometimes they are drowned out by a sea of objection. The controversy over the Colorado State University editorial (Taser this, F**K Bush) is that the larger point was missed by going for shock value. While sometimes it works (e.g., Hearst News' "Remember the Maine!" led to the Spanish-American War), this time it didn't.

Interestingly, the offending editorial has been purged from the CSU Collegian website, so you'll have to take my word that it made a valid point, albeit in a less than agreeable manner. Freedom of Speech was the premise of the editorial. A student in Florida was subdued by use of taser when, in the opinion of university police, he was being disruptive during a Q and A after a speech made by Senator John Kerry.

The editorial board at the Collegian was making the point that the person's first amendment rights were violated by the police's action. They also took aim at the President and the chilling effect his administration has had on civil liberties, but that was largely lost because many folks were stuck at the headline.

The editor of the Collegian, J.David McShane, is unrepentant for the editorial and, perhaps, he shouldn't be. An editorial is an opinion and in this case, an opinion endorsed by the Collegian's editorial board. Opinion is protected free speech, just as the opinions of those who were offended by the editorial with some 21 webpages of LTES and 870 plus comments on the Collegian Website.

The sad thing is the offending editorial has been removed so intelligent discussion of its merits are largely stifled. As Voltaire said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." My addendum, whether I defend it or not, I will reserve the right to chastise both the opinion maker and the audience for missing the forest for the trees.

Does anyone disagree with the notion that free speech is something worth defending? Should we be in danger of physical attack over the words we say? Like the word choice or not, the editorial and the student in Florida challenge our beliefs and force us to look at expressed opinions without the filter of our experiences.

Let us hope that after the cacaphony simmers down that cooler heads will look at the serious issue of free speech and we can have an intelligent discussion of ideas.

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