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Saturday, February 12, 2005
As Beetle thankfully pointed out, my op-ed in this week's Daily Cal was, somewhat ironically, not placed on the online edition. Hopefully we can get our Reader's Rep on that. In any event, here's the text.
Paved With Good Intentions
The ASUC Senate is notorious for passing outlandish and obscure bills, but this week, its actions have left the realm of naïve idealism and entered that of hypocrisy and disgrace. Earlier this week, it nearly unanimously approved a bill calling for the firing of the employees associated with the airing of the HOT 97 "Tsunami Song" in New York, a satirical song which utilized racially insensitive terms and statements to praise the tsunami which struck nations bordering the Indian Ocean last December.
With this statement, the student government from the home of the Free Speech Movement has proclaimed itself an authority on intolerable hate speech and censors of the world. In doing so, it has spat in the face of those who have worked so hard, both on this campus and elsewhere, for the right to speak freely.
Yes, the "Tsunami Song" is inappropriate, and should not have been aired. It should undoubtedly be condemned, deplored, and disdained. But calling for the punishment of those who created it stands against the ideals of this university and this country. The Free Speech Movement was formed so that people could speak publicly against societal injustices without fear of tangible retaliation from the government or others. They fought for this right while realizing that this meant even the most bigoted and backward people were guaranteed the exact same thing.
But the question must be asked: if punishment is not the right way to fight hateful and prejudiced speech, what is? More speech. Not fighting fire with fire and forcing people to change, but working to educate and allow others to freely reform their ways. Speech purity does not equate or lead to social change, and it never will.
The ASUC cannot just simply lower itself to making moral demands upon society. It needs to realize all the repercussions of its actions and make the most responsible decision. Or, after the horrifying actions it took Wednesday, it should at the very least try to return to a philosophy of mere naïve idealism.
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