Free Speech: why publish here?
At Talking Points Media, Josh Marshall posts about controversy over an op-ed in the (liberal) Berkshire Eagle, Here’s the solution for black America. The post, written by “Steven Nikitas, who’s biography only says is a conservative activist from Pittsfield [MA], essentially reads as a laundry list of “why can’t blacks just behave.’
The response to the article was, of course, critical; much of it misdirected the paper for publishing it in the first place, instead of the person who actually holds the offensive opinions, Steven Nikitas.
The Eagle’s editor, Kevin Morin, responded to that criticism in a post that Marshall calls, a good explanation, (I’d have describes as a great explanation of free speech and the fourth estate, which is why I’m bringing it to your attention). Morin’s explanation (and you really should read the whole thing,) of why he published:
Views and opinions — whether they be considered by some, most or all people to be ignorant or brilliant or somewhere in between — tell us a lot about the community in which we live, work, go to school, vote, debate, worship, pay taxes, make choices and decisions, etc.
Such knowledge can spark a community discussion or debate and enact change, but it should never be held a secret. Some in our community have observed that publishing a controversial opinion does the community a public service. Therefore, we ought not sweep it under the rug. As we say in the First Amendment business, sunlight can be a great disinfectant.
But Morin’s piece gets to the real-world consequences of Nikata’s speech, too:
In this particular case, in my opinion, a writer for the Berkshire County wing of a national political party making its case for “sure-fire solutions for black America” is indeed a revelation — of apocalyptic proportions — if this is their prescription to heal the serious racial issues that confront the United States.
As a result of its publication, the BCRA and the candidates this group supports now and in the future — especially the local and state ones — will have no choice but to be held accountable for it.
Yes, on the Opinion Page, we all get a good understanding of what just about everyone is thinking.
Hopefully, Mr. Nikitas and the Berkshire County Republican Association will too.
Profound respect for Morin’s editorial decisions here, including his examination of his own publishing policies and the changes he implemented — more clearly identifying opinions contributed by community members and speaking out for the right of people to publish what many think of as offensive. This is the best response to politically-correct calls to censure.