Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The great American cop-out

Photo: Andrew St. Hilare (published in The Western Front)

Caption: Darius Hardwick, (left) the northwest education director for the Center for Bioethical Reform, a national anti-abortion organization, watches Western junior David Zhang stand on an overturned sign with pictures of aborted fetuses in Red Square

I never thought Western's campus would be big enough to house students who believe the First Amendment is null and void--um, to pro-life groups that is. See this coverage in The Western Front regarding one "offended" student's attempt to ravage the constitution:
In response to the anti-abortion display Tuesday and Wednesday in Red Square, Western senior Cara Pierson started a petition to ban hate speech from campus.

She said the photos of aborted fetuses, lynchings and Holocaust victims bullied and offended women who had abortions or considered having abortions.
For background on the displays and the fallout last week, see this article on the event and this one about the vandalism that ensued from one intolerant youth turned criminal.

Kudos to The Western Front for condemning the petition in this issue's editorial. Honestly, I can't imagine any newspaper coming down on the wrong side of this issue, but I'm sure it's possible.
If this amendment becomes campus policy, it would infringe on every student’s right to free speech.

Western should not ban any display — no matter how unattractive or offensive it may be — unless the display is breaking the law or purposefully inciting violence.
But even some self-described pro-lifers seem to have the makings of this tendency to censor. Censorship is usually motivated by one implicit goal: to squelch debate with hurried value judgments. Even if they aren't out signing petitions to censor, many people have been pointing fingers at the displays themselves instead of being willing to debate the issues. So while I don't know if such graphic displays are the most effective means of starting debate, I try not to distance myself from them because of my visceral discomfort.

Mark Iozzi, candidate for President of the Associated Student board of directors, seemed to attempt a fence-sitting move with regard to the petition:
“It is a slippery slope — infringing on free speech,” Iozzi said. “It is time to re-evaluate [whether] that the line is drawn in the appropriate place.”
No, it's not a slippery slope in this case--it is a cliff.

Crossposted at Western Unraveled
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