The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Free speech in trouble at the university - again
Back in the days of Ross Barnett, the University of Mississippi, aka Ole Miss, was a specialist in a variety of intolerance: intolerance of students who were less than lily-white.
Nowadays, the intolerance is just as visceral, but directed elsewhere. A long spell in the re-education gulag is indicated for the editors of The Daily Mississippian for having the temerity to run an
ad, published Friday...pictur[ing] a white baby with light hair and eyes under the heading, "Will She Be a Racial Minority by the Time She Turns 40?"
Not that there were any defenders of free speech from those editors (none apparent in the piece, at least). It's being explained that
they did not thoroughly proof the ready-made ad
Not that I can blame student journalists for cowardice in the face of the enemy: they have degrees to collect and careers to start. None of them have any interest in making sacrifices for free speech.
(It's an incident that will stand them in very good stead when they come to earn their bread as journos: the medals for point-men are usually awarded posthumously!)
Emery Carrington, editor in chief of The Daily Mississippian,who, I'm thinking, must be important, is quoted as saying
This is absolutely not a message that any one of us intended to send ... If I would have seen it, I would have never, ever run it. It's one thing to debate issues; it's another to come out with a message of hate and ignorance and you alienate people. When you alienate people, there isn't a debate.
No mere dutiful heel-click, this. George Orwell made clear in 1984 that bureaucratic compliance was no good for the cause: and the editor in chief clearly seems to love Big Brother!
But what to say of
Ralph Braseth, director of student media and a journalism professor at Ole Miss?
Apparently, for this educator, the First Amendment is a waste of good trees:
The content is offensive and it's sad because The Daily Mississippian got duped. The students work really hard to establish credibility ... When something like this happens, it hurts the newspaper and it hurts what they've been trying to do. They'll recover from it, but it's just unfortunate.
The exercise (albeit through carelessness!) of free speech is, according to Braseth, pathological - a disease from which one can thankfully predict recovery. The psychiatric services of the USSR worked on precisely that basis, I seem to recall!
Braseth, according to his page on the Ole Miss site, is not
a journalism professorbut an
He has yet to obtain tenure; and the Number One thing that pisses faculties off right royally is an academic who causes waves. Go along to get along was not an invention of Sam Rayburn.
(Judging from his Ole Miss page photo, he is also white, which the Clarion-Ledger fails to point out. It does mention the race of a couple of students it quotes, though.)
The prevailing attitude down in Oxford, MS is kow-tow, as deep as you like - just as it was in the 'good, old' lily-white days. Only the ideology has changed.
I see that a new head of the Ole Miss J-department (not J-school?) was recently appointed, one Samir Husni.
Perhaps that means the entire J-faculty is more than usually walking on eggshells right now?
(A couple of putrid examples (here and here) of what passes as student journalism chez Husni.
Almost makes you nostalgic for a helping of Kerry's butler...)
Big picture: the right to speech that offends no one is worth nothing. The Ministry of Truth down in Oxford knows that fine well.
But it's also a popular standard: in the State of the First Amendment poll, one statement put to respondents was
People should be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to racial groups.
(And note that the standard is might, not are or are likely to be.)
The response from the American public was as follows:
Strongly agree - 17%
Mildly agree - 18%
Mildly disagree - 14%
Strongly disagree - 49%
We don't want no stinking free speech saith Joe Sixpack.
That's just as well, brother...
After the election of John Major as British prime minister in 1992, guests on one TV (or was it radio?) panel were asked to explain this rather unexpected result. One lefty bishop, I think it was, scarcely able to contain his outrage, said
I blame the people
When it comes to explaining the servile state of American journalism, it's hard not to come to the same conclusion!
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