Opinion

Free speech along with free hypocrisy

An oft-repeated phrase in the wake of 9/11 is that such and such a comment is always OK because it represents the expression of the right to free speech. The problem with free speech that most people miss is the “being responsible for what you say” part. Now this doesn’t mean that sanction should be made against you just because you say something that I don’t like. It does mean, however, that if your words cause someone or some institution actual harm, rather than perceived harm, then it’s perfectly appropriate for you to be held accountable.

A perfect example of this is the recent controversy over University of Colorado professor Dr. Ward Churchill’s comments characterizing the people who died in the World Trade Center as “little Eichmans” and that their death was not the death of innocents, but that of the “technocrats of empire” who in pursuing their careers in the capitalist system were akin to the Nazi Adolf Eichman, who facilitated the apparatus that enabled the Holocaust. These comments eventually became part of the book On the Justice of Roosting Chickens and express what is at its core a “you reap what you sew” argument. Now, I’ve heard this basic argument before, although not in such inflammatory terms. In fact, Harry Browne, the Libertarian candidate for president in 1996 and 2000, expressed something very close to this “we deserved it” argument less than a week after the attack. Perhaps this explains the vast numbers of Libertarian elected officials across the country. Oh, wait a minute…there aren’t any. Ah, but I digress.

Many people have called for Churchill to be fired for these comments. His defenders on the other hand think that what he says is his right and that if he is in fact fired it’s a violation of his free-speech rights. I think this claim that his right to free speech outweighs any harm he may have cause with his words is just utter nonsense. Many of you were screaming for the heads of Advocates for Conservative Thought just because they held that symbolic affirmative action bake sale last year that caused no harm at all except that many of you didn’t like it. Affirmative action was never threatened and neither were UM’s policies related to affirmative action. And yet some of you wanted sanctions made against ACT on the grounds that you were “offended.” Like anybody gives a crap that you were offended.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Churchill should be fired for saying what he said. It’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it. If what he did causes the University of Colorado to lose money and/or enrollments, then the administration has every right to show him the door.

Scott Wacholtz can be contacted at s.wacholtz@umiami.edu.

February 11, 2005

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

One of the reasons Manny Diaz overhauled his recruiting department when he took over as UM’s coach i ...

Connor McLaughlin never gave much thought to the Miami Hurricanes when he was younger. Even though h ...

The Miami Hurricanes’ 2020 recruiting class continues to grow. Three-star Deerfield Beach wide recei ...

Chaminade-Madonna in Hollywood has produced some distinguished alums, including ESPN (and Miami Hera ...

Columbus was a popular destination for coaches throughout the first full week of May this spring. On ...

Academics met at the University of Miami to plan the next phase of a study looking at how journalist ...

Former University of Miami student Elio M. Garcia, Jr. and his wife Linda Antonsson discuss their jo ...

Researchers at the University of Miami are using big data to identify affordable housing opportuniti ...

From office furniture to electronics to kitchen items, the University of Miami sells surplus propert ...

Researchers at the University of Miami are studying zebrafish to understand human genetics and ident ...

Six members of the Miami track and field team earned a spot at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships i ...

Top-seeded Estela Perez-Somarriba of the Miami women's tennis team secured her spot in the NCAA ...

It took extra innings, but the Canes dropped their final game of pool play at the 2019 ACC Baseball ...

The Student-Athlete Development department has grown in size and scope and become an integral part o ...

For the second-straight season, Kevin Arreaga of the Miami track and field team secured a spot at na ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.