February 17, 2006

...And freedom for all.

Being an American Citizen, we all have rights that given to us by the Constitution of the United States. A lot of people take this freedom, this right, this privilege for granted. That is until something happens where it is taken away. Then they will scream about the loss of their first amendment rights.

Blackfive has a post regarding a University of Illinois editor being suspended. The student published the Danish cartoons that caused such uproar over the last couple of weeks. Many have voiced their opinions that what was done to this editor is wrong. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I think that the majority of my readers would agree that this is wrong. The student, Acton Gordon, is being punished for exercising his first amendment rights. I have strong issues with that.

Now, lets turn the table. Barb at Righty in a Lefty State has a post regarding the University of Washington student Senator Jill Edwards. For those of you that haven’t heard about this, it is where the Ms. Edwards made a statement along the lines

”…Whether it is appropriate to honor a person who killed other people. (I) don’t believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce.”

This has angered many people, and I think she was wrong is saying such things. But then in Barb’s post she states that Ms. Edwards is going to be forced to make an apology. She has the following excerpt from the mandate:

WHEREAS Student Senator Jill Edwards offended all members of the United States Marine Corps, past or present, dead or alive; especially those who were, are, or will be students at the University of Washington with her comment that she "didn't believe a member of the Marine Corps was an example of the sort of person UW wanted to produce." This commented brought shame and dishonor to not only the UW Student Senate, but also the University as a whole, all its members who have served in the Marine Corps and all Marines past and present.



Student Senator Jill Edwards will submit, in writing, a signed apology letter seeking forgiveness to all students, staff, and alumni who are now or ever have served in the United States Marine Corps. In said letter it will contain a formal apology and a recognition that her very rights and freedoms are guaranteed by such members of the armed services, to include the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard, past or present, living or dead. Additionally, said letter will be printed in all its form and substance in that day's edition of the UW Daily newspaper as well as being recited on the UW Radio station. To realize her mistake, she must acquaint herself with the history of the person she is so keen to dismiss, by reading Col. Boyington's book, Baa, Baa, Black Sheep. All of these requirements are mandatory, under pain of losing her seat on the Student Senate.

History of Legislation
02/15/2006: Submitted for consideration

Emphasis mine

The problem I have with this is not that Ms. Edwards is being asked to issue an apology. That’s fine, if someone actually managed to offend me I’d demand an apology too. Where I have an issue is that Ms. Edwards is going to lose her student elected seat on the student senate if she doesn’t. Apparently I’m one of the few people that see this as wrong. I’m not seeing too many of the blogs I read shouting out how this is wrong, even the ones saying that what is happening to Mr. Gorton is wrong aren’t touching this? Are the blogs I read that bigoted? Are they not saying something because they don’t feel this is wrong, or are they not saying something because they didn’t catch that part? Maybe I’ve been wrong and they aren’t as freedom minded as I had thought, only comments they agree with are allowed protection under freedom of speech. Personally, I’m hoping it’s just and over site.

Sure I may not like her statements, I may feel what she said was completely wrong. Ms. Edwards may not appreciate the fine men and women that served and fought to give and protect her freedom of speech, but she is still entitled to it. In this case if she feels strongly about her statement and decides not to apologize, she will be punished. Now in Barb’s comments she states:

I haven't followed the U of I story, and don't know anything about the circumstances there. However - I think that the resolution made by Ms. Edwards' fellow senators and peers, if approved as-is (highly unlikely) or even in a toned down form (still unlikely) is valid. They are a self-governing group, and should be permitted to censure their own - you and I have no right to interfere with whatever process they choose.

If she is forced to apologize, I believe that she will learn something - or she is lost already. If the senate backs down and nothing really happens - she will have learned that negative feedback is just fluff she can ignore. At worst (from her perspective) she will be forced to be more introspective in her manner of discourse, at best it will all quietly go away.

emphasis mine

Don’t get me wrong; I like Barb and her blog. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what she is saying there, but by her statement I’m under the impression that as long as it’s a self-governing group in the United States, they can do what ever they want. Well the U of I is self-governing, wait most corporations are self-governing. Hell, the mainstream media is self-governing. I guess it’s okay what happened to Mr. Gorton. Hey, for that fact any newspaper should be able to censor any story they want. States, cities and municipalities should be able to censor their senators, aldermen, council members maybe even their citizens. No, I don’t think so.

I think that the UW is just as wrong for threatening to take Ms. Edwards student elected seat away from her if she doesn’t follow their demands as much as it was wrong for the U of I to suspend Mr. Gordon. Wrong is wrong people; a violation of rights cannot be taken as a shade of gray just because you don’t agree with the message.

Posted by Contagion in Rants and Raves at February 17, 2006 10:34 AM | TrackBack

Jill Edwards, private citizen, has the right to say any damnfool thing she likes.

Jill Edwards, Student Senator, speaking in her official capacity as a Senator, however, should take care that when she presumes to speak for the organization as a whole, she not completely misrepresent them or their beliefs.

That, I think, is the difference.

Posted by: Jenna at February 17, 2006 11:40 AM

There is validity in what Jenna says. When acting a representative of a group, the group is allowed to dictate the rules and standards for those that are members. If Jill Edwards broke a rule, when making that statement, then she should face the repercussions. On the other hand, Jill as an individual with no affiliation to any group is allowed to say whatever she wants and can just look like an a$$hole all by herself, but being part of a group that has standards as to how their members act, she must either abide by them or leave the group.
The press part is just ridiculous. If it was a report that included the cartoons and there was no malice intended, then the whole thing is a crock.

Posted by: Dr. Phat Tony at February 17, 2006 02:15 PM

When I posted about Acton Gordon I said - the paper had a right to fire him. This is true - I didn't like that they were doing this and I felt it set a very bad precedent. But it is their right to get rid of him if he doesn't toe the line of the board.

Now in the matter of the Student Senate - I don't know what the status of this body might be. I would PREFER that she be voted out of her office (however, considering the interest that people actually take in student politics - who would vote?) But as to the rights of the council to boot her off because of what she said - that would depend on their by-laws.

I hadn't been following her story because the original disgusted me so much and to tell you the truth I expect no less from anyone out on the left coast.

Posted by: Teresa at February 17, 2006 05:15 PM

Seems to me that you're comparing apples to crayons with these two stories. (Caveat: I haven't researched either story very well, so I may be completely full of it.)

Mr. Gordon is being let go by the administration of the school/paper, but Ms. Edwards is being cencured by her peers. You made a point of stating that Edwards was "student elected", and I see in the release from the student senate the phraseology "BE IT RESOLVED BY THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON:", and that leads me to believe that the same process that got her elected is setting her straight. That's all "according to Hoyle" in my book.

The Girl expressed her opinion, and is being afforded an opportunity to change said opinion by way of the agreed upon resolution of the body of "student elected" people with which she is a member.

Gordon is being canned by "The Man" because he printed FACTS that were contrary to what the administration thought was proper. No apology afforded to him, and IMHO he wouldn't do it anyway ...due to the fact that he had enough balls to print them in the first place, and by doing so he let his readership decide.

"Student Senator" does not equate to "Student Newspaper Editor".

I believe that the folks who are ranting about the injustice of the treatment of Gordon are standing on principle, and shouldn't be chastised. As far as I'm concerned, he did what others in the "media" wouldn't do, and showed the truth... unobjectively. He should be praised for this, as it's so rare.

She gave her opinion, and misrepresented the people who put her there to represent them. The folks she is there to speak for are now calling for her apology and requiring her to learn more about the subject she opined upon...which is what an electorate is supposed to do when they are misrepresented. The people who are affording her an apology should be praised for doing so, as it's so rare.

I think you're looking at two sides of two different coins here. Then again...I've been drinking, so all bets are off. :^)

Posted by: Johnny - Oh at February 17, 2006 10:16 PM

I think Jenna distilled my view nicely. Although I have struggled with turning it around - say she insulted the ACLU or the UN ... something which I (private citizen) do all the time. I still think that it stands when turned around, though, which was my purpose it twisting it that way.

Posted by: Barb at February 17, 2006 10:56 PM

we all have rights that (are) given to us by the Constitution of the United States.

I disagree, somewhat.

The Bill of Rights protects the rights that the founders thought were God given, and/or inherent to the human condition.

I realize this sounds picky, but your wording implies that human rights are given to us by the government, and logically, they would then not exist when the government is gone or decides otherwise.

Words have power.

No disrespect intended, I might add.

Posted by: jimmyb at February 18, 2006 09:35 AM

Day late and a dollar short am I. Johnny-oh said pretty much what I was going to before I opened the comments. (Much more smarter though)
And Jimmyb, I agree 100%

Posted by: littlejoe at February 18, 2006 07:30 PM

Well, the Bill of Rights covers what the "government" can do about your speech. You have the freedom to say what you want without the government arresting you in the middle of the night and throwing you in jail. What happens in the work place or in schools is governed by their rules.

In Acton Gordon's case - (and Eugene Volokh pointed out on his blog) the board of directors of the paper (which is not part of the school it is a separate entity - has the right to fire him if they don't like what he's doing as editor... even if we think it's wrong.

I don't know where the student Senate falls in this mess. It may be something that is covered by the bylaws of the Senate (covering objectionable speech by a Senator) or it may be covered under the same rules that govern free speech on campus... I have no idea.

But as I said at Barb's - it's not a good idea to make a martyr of this chickie - embarrass the hell out of her by passing a unanimous disagreement with what she's said.

Posted by: Teresa at February 18, 2006 11:36 PM

Some of you are saying this is comparing apples and oranges. If you go deeper then what I'm implying yes, it is different. If you look at the basics of it, no its not. Both said/printed something of their own free will, both are being punished for it. (Even if Mr. Gorton wasn't given a chance to appologize)

Amongst yourselves you've established that both the school newspaper and the senate can do what they want. Now we get back to the heart of my post, why isn't anyone that is screaming that what happened to Mr Gorton is wrong, not screaming that what is happening to Mrs. Edwards wrong?

Ms. Edwards didn't do anything worse then some of the current U.S. Citizens/politicians we have now. She wasn't speaking for the school she was voicing her oppinion.

JimmyB: you went way too literal into that statement, poor choice of words.

Posted by: Contagion at February 19, 2006 04:19 PM

I am not making any noise about Mr. Gordon, and I do think that the editor is subject to the publishers.

Posted by: Barb at February 19, 2006 09:58 PM

I felt it an important distinction.

A very important one.

I may have used a poor choice of words.
It would not be the first time.
I don't claim to write well, or to be that insightful.
But I feel this was important, because while you say I misread what you wrote, there are many in this country who feel exactly that way.
That rights are bestowed by the state.
This is a dangerous mindset.
I apologize if you took offense.

But I don't think you disagree with what I said (correct?).
This seemingly insignifigant parsing of words is what the left uses to do what they wish regarding constitutional issues. The 2nd Amendment is one issue they do this to all the time.
Stoopid hippies.

Posted by: jimmyb at February 20, 2006 06:45 AM

Jimmy, I was saying it was my poor choice of words. I do agree completely.

Posted by: Contagion at February 20, 2006 10:53 AM

Let us smite hippies together in solidarity, then!!!

Posted by: jimmyb at February 20, 2006 11:39 AM

Yay! Hippie Smiting! Count me in!

Posted by: Ogre at February 24, 2006 10:33 AM