Letter to the Editor

Justin Spayde, Class of 2021

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My first encounter with Declan Leary’s Op/Ed column was three weeks ago when he wrote on the tobacco policy at John Carroll. While I disagreed with the content of the article and thought it was almost satirical, I was not overly offended by it and had no issue with its publication. His article about the drag show, however, read to me not as an opinion piece, but a hate piece. The language used in it was without a doubt based in fear, anger, and hate. A perfectly fine piece could have been written against the idea of the drag show that I would not have opposed the publication of. What I am writing in response to is actually not Mr. Leary’s Op/Ed pieces. It is Olivia Shackleton’s. Two weeks ago she said that the reason the pieces were published were because the writers have a right to “freely write and publish their opinions” as do the readers. However, I feel as though this is not an absolute rule. Is there anything that one could not openly express in the Carroll News? If someone wanted to write a column full of racist vulgarities towards a minority race would that be allowed? If someone wanted to write a column suggesting that a group of people deserve to die, would that be allowed? Both of these scenarios are unthinkable.

Suggesting that freedom of speech and freedom of the press justifies what he is writing is ridiculous. I am a political science major as well, and in my classes we were taught that the freedom of the press to write news stories was vital, not to write hateful opinions based off of little to no facts.The Constitution prohibits the government from censoring the media. It is left to the institution itself to determine what to publish. It is the responsibility of the publication to decide what is worthy of publication. Pointing to freedom of speech and the press is a strawman argument because no one to my knowledge is asking the FBI to censor the Carroll News. They are asking the organization itself to choose to better live out its mission and the mission of John Carroll by choosing not to spread hate even though they can.

I do not stand against the article because I disagree with the position taken in it. I stand against the article because its author chose to convey the opinion in a hateful way and the Carroll News chose to publish it in the name of the student body, which includes students of all backgrounds. In the two pieces Shackleton wrote, she expressed her joy that the articles stirred up controversy. She explicitly mentioned that she was glad that “two people read the paper” and also that “it is incredible that one person’s writing can create this much dialogue.”I have three questions to pose to Ms. Shackleton directly and for all to consider. Is there a line beyond which  someone’s opinion is too hateful to be published? If there is, what is it and why have the articles by Mr. Leary so far not met that criteria? Lastly, what is more important, publicity for The Carroll News or basic human decency and respect for differences in our society?

Lastly, I would like to speak to the idea that the articles are not threatening or violent speech.  In my opinion, speech that is by design divisive and hateful and causes people to feel alienated and unsafe in their community is violent. Physical violence is not the only form of violence. Mental anguish can be just as, if not more, hurtful to an individual and their safety. What may seem to simply be an “opinion” to some feels like a personal and direct attack to the identity of others. If The Carroll News is meant to be the voice of the student body, how are those targeted by it supposed to feel safe in that community?