Editorial: Here’s how free speech works

A recent email to Amarillo Globe-News from a self-described “research assistant” at West Texas A&M University shows a growing problem in higher education today, if not society.

 

And in his column on today’s page, syndicated columnist Walter Williams hits the nail on the head regarding this problem.

The email was in reference to a letter to the editor about the exploding sexual harassment/abuse controversy in America — an issue which badly needs to be brought to light.

The letter (Letter: A man’s interest in a woman is not always sexual harassment, Dec. 29, amarillo.com) more or less attempted to claim that men are unable to control their sexual urges around women, which leads to sexual abuse/harassment.

The “research assistant” was “deeply troubled” that AGN would “endorse this viewpoint,” and wanted the letter “removed” or the “research assistant” would no longer use AGN as a “source of local news,” and would suggest to colleagues to do the same.

For starters, AGN does not “endorse” the “viewpoint” of the aforementioned letter — any more than we endorse the viewpoint of any letter to the editor. Letters to the editor are the opinion of the author only — pure and simple.

Do we agree with the letter writer’s sentiment? Absolutely not. People — no matter their gender — are responsible for the actions.

However, we do support free speech — even speech with which we may not agree.

This is where Williams comes in — with his latest column.

The aforementioned column provides a few examples of what amounts to political censorship and propaganda on college/university campuses motivated by the suppression of ideas, beliefs and opinions.

The problem is this, according to Williams: “The true test of one’s commitment to free speech doesn’t come when he permits people to be free to make statements that he does not find offensive. The true test of one’s commitment to free speech comes when he permits people to make statements he does deem offensive.”

In a way, the commitment to free speech mirrors the biblical logic found in Matthew 5:46-47: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

A real commitment to free speech — which should be the foundation of higher education — means sometimes having to see or hear opinions that are not music to your ears. If you are exposed only to opinions with which you agree, you are not only limiting diversity but failing to take advantage of the exercise of free speech.

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