There are a lot of words I don’t like, but one has recently become the central focus of my free speech crusade: censorship.
The Op-Ed section of any news paper is bound to garner controversy, but that doesn’t mean those personal accounts have any less right to be there. The Op-Ed sections of newspapers give me hope that freedom of speech is thriving in a world where many reporters live in fear.
I have said it before and I will say it again: freedom of speech protects unpopular speech, and furthermore it protects your right to anonymity–but that protection should not be used as a vicious cycle to continuously attack one another.
Recently I was told that, as a “weak-willed Libertarian,” I was a traitor to both the Catholic Church and all true conservatives.
This was after I wholeheartedly disagreed with statements made in the opinions section of the newspaper I edit, but FOUGHT ANYONE WHO THOUGHT WE SHOULDN’T INCLUDE IT. I wouldn’t dream of quelling someone’s freedom to express their ideas (even if it’s humorously slanderous toward me), and I would hope no one ever expects me to refrain from exercising the same right.
However, “free” speech is not always constructive–especially when people can’t separate political opinions from their own ego.
Here’s how an opinion and rebuttal should work: I have an opinion–here’s why. I disagree with your opinion–here’s why. And we both walk aware with a better understanding of the other person, and hopefully the confidence in our own convictions to integrate ourselves into a world full of challenging and contradictory ideas.
Here’s how opinions and rebuttals have recently been working: I have an opinion and I’m not going to justify it because if you disagree I don’t care. You are a garbage person and your opinion has no place on this earth and I’m not going to tell you why I’m just going to continue this personal attack. And both people walk away angry, irrational and less willing to accept or discuss ideas in the future.
This is free speech being used for all the wrong reasons. I never want to have to make the decision to censor something another student submits to the Op-Ed section (and I am bold enough to assume I’m not the only one who shares this conviction) so here’s a plea: before you write, pause.
Exercise your rights in a way that makes our nation proud–not in a way that discredits or demeans the freedoms we have been given.
Take a step back and look at it from another perspective: is it constructive, is it essential, am I willing to accept people will disagree with me, do I have all of the information I need, is this issue too personal for me to discuss logically or rationally?
Words have power. We’re taught that as children on the playground. We’re reminded of that as teens venturing into social media. And we prove that every day as journalists.
We cannot (and should not) stop words, but we should challenge ourselves to use their power for good.