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October 21, 1993 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-10-21

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, October 21, 1993

cbe £id iwug niaiIg

420 Maynard
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Edited and managed
by students at the
University of Michigan

Editor in Chief
Acting Editorial Page Editors

i 1

Unless otherwise noted unsigned editorials reflect the majority opinion of the Daily editorial board.
All other cartoons, articles and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion of the Daily.

(Jr r"S
'S ~ (ALL '

Speech and
Two weeks ago, I talked about
buzzwords in general, and "political
correctness" in par-
ticular. This week,
I am going to talk a
bit about another
buzzword: Free
Free Speech,
many have argued,
is one of the foun- A
dationsofthiscoun- -r K.
try. As with"politi- "'
cal correctness" two arguments are usu-
ally associated with it. One posits that
it is only through the rigorous debate of
opposing ideas, can progress be reached
through a "survival of the fittest" pro-
cess. Even the most obscene of speech
must be protected, in order to ensure
that the other forms of speech which
have beneficial purposes, are also pro-
tected (I guess this argument goes back
to the quote "I disagree with what you
say but I will defend unto the death
your right to say it" or something like
Others have argued that certain types
of speech are actually detrimental to
the "survival of the fittest" process and
in order to produce a truly free dis-
course, some forms of speech-particu-
larly those forms that have a negative
affect on women, and people from dif-
ferent cultures-should be regulated at
least in certain spaces, like the class-
room. In the mid eighties this led to the
call for speech codes, which punished
those individuals who made deroga-
tory statements towards individuals
based on sex, "race" (I'll discuss in
another column why I put that in
quotes), and sexual orientation. The
University of Michigan was one of the
first universities to put such a code into
Although I suppose that there are
certain merits to these two points of
view, I choose to take a third side. I
don't think that the issue should be
about "free" speech, but about respon-
What do I mean here?
Political scientists like to talk about
two kinds of freedom, the freedom
from, and the freedom to. The first
Spence's column appears every other
Thursday in the Daily.


freedom refers to the freedom from
external checks, and the second refers
to the freedom to act without having to
worry about these checks. Free speech
would mean then, the freedom to speak
without fear of being checked by oth-
ers. Looking at this as I write, it seems
to make perfect sense.
However, this argument overlooks
a very crucial relationship-the one be-
tween speech and action. Speech how-
ever is related to action, and people
have recognized this since before the
Old Testament talked about God creat-
ing the world through the Word. The
Egyptians for example talked about
speech "having power in the limbs."
More recently, the Supreme Court rec-
ognized this when they said that scream-
ing "Fire" in a packed theater was
illegal, because the actions that fol-
lowed from what was said was detri-
mental to the public. Some media
critics also recognized this when they
decried Do The Right Thing for its
"rabble-rousing" capability (in this case
though their analysis was absurdly off-
base). This establishes a firm tradition
going back thousands of years, linking
speech to action.
The relationship between speech
and action doesn't mean that I believe
in governmental legislation of harmful
speech (because of its relationship with
harmful action). It does mean though
that rather than speech being made
"freely," it should be made "responsi-
bly." Just as it would be absurd to say
that people should be able to do what
they want without taking responsibil-
ity for their actions, they shouldn't be
able to say what they want, without
taking responsibility for their actions.
I'll give you two opposing examples
which may produce clarity.
While a black man waited at a party
store, a white man ("W") stepped up to
him looked at him, and called him a
"nigger." The black man ("X") asked
him to step outside. At this point the
white man looked at the manager of the
store and asked him to call the police.
The manager wouldn't do it, so "W"
was forced to step outside with "X".
"X" knocked him out with one punch,
and left. "Y" got his license plate
number, and filed assault charges
against him.

Another example is presented by
Martin Luther King jr. (as well as
Malcolm X, and others). The speeches
he made were very radical, in that they
called for the fundamental restructur- -
ing of society. He knew that because
his speeches would have this effect, he
would die. Knowing this though, he
continued to speak until his death at the
hand of the society he spoke against.
The first example is an example of
someone saying something that would
produce a certain action, but not taking
responsibility for that action. The sec-
ond is an example of someone who
ended up taking ultimate responsibil-
ity for his speech. Note that in King's
case he wasn't necessarily being re-
sponsible, in that if he was he would
have told Blacks to accept their lot as
ordained by God. But he did take re-
sponsibility, and in conclusion it seems
nonsensical to ask individuals to take
responsibility for their actions, but not
for the speech which led to them.
How does speech as I have con-
ceived it, relate to the classroom, where
most of these battles are being waged?t
How does it relate to those students,
and (perhaps more importantly) to those
professors who espouse views that may
be labeled controversial? In this case,
I think it is up to both the professor and
the student to realize that the professor
is not infallible.
Too often students take classeswith-
out questioning the information pre-
sented by the professor. The professor
must realize also that if he/she presents
information that may contradict the
experience of his/her students, he/she
should be prepared to be questioned at
best, and raked over the coals at worst,
by his/her students. In this case, re-
sponsibility goes both ways.
Hopefully this may provide some
clarity to the argument. Just so you
know I practice what I preach, I take
personal responsibility for everything I
write (two weeks ago though, my erst-
while editors made a crucial mistake
while typing my column-I never spoke
to Lani Guinier personally) and will
never pass off this responsibility by
calling for "free speech." If you can't
get with what I am saying, try to "take
I wouldn't have it any other way.

College Roundup
I 0 00 M:4:1

Former Detroit police officers Larry
Nevers and Walter Budzyn learned their
fates Tuesday morning as Detroit
Recorder's Court Judge George
Crockett III handed down their sen-
tonces for the beating deathofmotorist
Malice Green. Neversreceived a12to
25 year sentence and Budzyn got eight
to 18 years.
Although these are stiff penalties,
ti ey are not harsh enough.
When considering these sentences,
it nustbetaken into account that Nevers

peated strikes of aweighty, metal flash-
The former officers, therefore,
should not have been treated so lightly.
Their punishments should have been
nothing short of life -because that is
what they were found guilty of depriv-
ing Green of: the rest of his life.
Not that these officers should have
been treated with unnecessary harsh-
ness to provide an example for other
cops with a propensity toward vio-
lence. Rather, this should be consid-

against them and become a threat to
their safety.
If police cite a lack of self-defense
training as the reason for their panicked
overreaction to violence, this concern
must be addressed.
Police forces should be given self-
defense training and ought to be pro-
vided with alternatives other than wield-
ing a weighty flashlight. If they are
given other options, then perhaps the
public will avoid such lashing out and
be spared of hearing excuses like a lack

Christians should be
To the Daily:
This is in response to the letter
"The Religious Right does not speak
for all Christians" from October 18.
The modern era faces a crisis of
meaning. No one wants to be labeled,
and everyone is mislabeled. There
are no communists now; only
socialists, for "communist" is an
unwanted label. Do we need to be
reduced to such a mindless anti-
intellectual level? If I talk with
someone who calls himself a socialist
and find that the principals he
advocates are classically communist,
I am ,ninirn tcallhim anmmini t'

from which they claim to derive their
knowledge of Christ? Such people
follow a new religion. In the words
of Christian expert Dr. John
Gerstner, "While not all
fundamentalists are Christians, the
only Christians are fundamentalists."
Should, then, the fundamentalists
be speaking for all Christians? Who
else could consistently speak for
them? And is it surprising that those
who follow a new religion under the
appropriated name of Christianity are
prone to misrepresent issues of
Christian doctrine like that of the
sinfulness of homosexual acts (I Tim.
1:10,I Cor. 6:9, etc.)?
The writer has criticized
fundamentalist Christians for being

on the Diag. At noon, during the
National Coming Out Week Kiss-In,
a student was leading an orientation
group on a campus tour. When this
tour came through the Diag, the
leader of this orientation prefaced her
speech with an apology to the group
for having taken them through the
Diag during such a demonstration,
but it was part of the organized tour
and couldn't be avoided. It offended
me that someone representing the
students at my school would be so
close-minded and insensitive as to
apologize to potential students for
making them witness reality. Would
she have apologized if it had been a
Pro-Choice rally (a very
controversial topic on campus), a




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