Want free speech? You'll hear things you don't like

 

Last updated 10/25/2023 at 3:03pm | View PDF



A fellow Illinois Wesleyan alum recently blasted the school newspaper, The Argus, for posting a pro-Palestinian graphic on Facebook.

"This is unacceptable from the Argus," she wrote in her own Facebook post. "The blanket statement that 'we' support terrorists is disgusting."

She goes on to say the post is "evil incarnate" and that the newspaper staff apparently supports the genocide of Jews and other atrocities.

"Please let the IWU administration know your thoughts on this. I do not want a dollar of my scholarship donations given to a member of the Argus staff."

Some students at Harvard University have more at stake than scholarship dollars. Wall Street firms apparently are blacklisting students who put out a statement blaming Israel for the Hamas terror attacks that killed more than 1,400 people.

"The apartheid regime is the only one to blame. Israeli violence has structured every aspect of Palestinian existence for 75 years," reads the statement issued jointly by 31 different student societies.

In addition to Wall Street execs demanding a list of students to ban their hiring, a truck with a digital billboard circled Harvard Square, "flashing student photos and names under the headline 'Harvard's Leading Antisemites,' " according to the New York Times. Accuracy in Media, the conservative group that deployed the truck, has done so on other campuses as well, like Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley, the article states.

The issue of free speech has been a complicated one for campuses, the article states. Writer Anemona Hartocollis goes on to offer examples of donors attempting to influence what is said on campus, both by students and by administrators.

The assumption, of course, is that all supporters of a free Palestine are supporters of Hamas and that they condone the atrocities committed when the group attacked Israel on Oct. 7. Given the complexity of this issue and the history of the region, making assumptions does not seem to be a very safe bet here.

One hedge fund billionaire who said he was "100 percent in support of free speech" in a social media post also said a person needs to be "personally accountable for his or her views."

It's a nice thought, but if being accountable means you can't find work or your family is being harassed or your fellowship is pulled, then I don't think free speech is being "100 percent" supported.

We've quoted fictional president Andrew Shepherd from "The American President" on these pages before when talking about free speech.

"You want free speech?" he asks at his seminal press conference. "Let's see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil and who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.

"You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms."

I believe we're treading on dangerous ground if we try to institute financial consequences for expressing an opinion, whether the source is a student or an administrator or a company, like Budweiser.

What if instead, every time we hear something we don't like, we make an effort to understand why the person said what he or she did and to see the issue from his or her point of view? That would be something to celebrate.

- Pamela Lannom is editor

of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at

[email protected].

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean

 
 

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