Campaign response

This letter is in response to a not-too-subtle campaign The Northern Star has been waging all semester about freedom of the press and partially to the letter by Mr. Dexter Rowe Grouper on Nov. 4. The argument of the absolutist position on free speech hinges upon the idea that any kind of limits on free speech will eventually lead to a totalitarian system of government that will persecute people for their beliefs. Hence the demise of democracy as we know it. While this is good hyperbole, it is based on a fundamentally faulty assumption. The assumption goes that since what is a violent speech for one is freedom of expression for another, we can not establish a standard to make any judgments. That is why I was interviewed by The Northern Star about the NAACP lawyer. Such reasoning would be dismissed as ridiculous in any other setting, because we do set standards and we do make judgments in our daily life. Yes, government does make standards and does make judgments. The doomsday scenario the press paints about what will happen if government sets standards for speech will be considered demagoguery in any other context. The democratic tradition and form of government of the United States does not sit on a single pillar of the press and does not crumble because the press is expected to be governed by rules.

A related belief by the press is a total distrust of the representative form of government of the United States. This form of government, however, is entrusted with the appointment of judges that have the power of life and death over citizens that come to their courts. I will say that the press should overcome its paranoia and stop requesting special privileges.

I suggest that instead of citing anecdotes that are sometimes untrue to ridicule and make its point, the press should be unafraid to carry on a serious dialogue about what constitutes free speech. Mr. Gruber responded to my comment in The Northern Star by saying, “I am sorry, Mr. Zike, but unfortunately as it may be, the Klan is protected by the constitution.” I responded to a question on free speech and not about due process and the Klan. Maybe you just wanted to say that anyway.

Dr. Admasu Zike


Center for Black Studies