Letter to the Editor – Response to "Conflicts at the CPAC"

At the time of this writing, several weeks will have passed since the newspaper printed a controversial opinion article entitled “Conflicts at the CPAC”. Soon after, a student submitted her own response, which rightfully criticized the earlier publications as hate speech. The whole ordeal has caused quite a stir on the Campus’s new website, which might have the unfortunate consequence of encouraging decisions similar to accepting the “Conflicts at the CPAC” piece. Controversy, when surrounding differences of opinion, is almost always beneficial for our community. Unfortunately when homosexuality is compared to a deadly cancer, or when anti-LGBT sentiment is praised as courageous, such controversy has little to offer.

This letter to the editor is an honest plea to reflect on the events that have transpired. Journalistic objectivity is a goal worth pursuing, and censorship has little place in a democratic community. But the reason for representing all ideas is because diversity breeds resilience, and ideas that clearly discriminate will have the opposite effect.

My understanding of the situation is quite limited. From what I have gathered, the author of the derogatory article was called to the Campus to discuss her work; the editors did feel that her language could have been better chosen. The author asked that the paper be published as initially submitted. Given the hateful language of the piece, and the author’s resistance to rework the article in a less harmful way, I must ask why the article was published. By allowing one individual to voice her opinions—opinions that describe homosexuals as subhuman—you are deterring our gay community from feeling safe about voicing their own. When such an article is published, it inevitably implies the acceptability of the views within. As the press, I ask that you first and foremost protect the feeling of safety surrounding discussion. Hate speech, which I reiterate only to make clear that the article was unambiguously hateful, taints the discursive space.

Of course, this is a slippery slope. If you decide not to publish one opinion, how will you know that a slightly less hateful article should be printed in the future? Unfortunately, this is a burden you have accepted as journalists, and calling it a slippery slope or a gray area does not remove your responsibility. We all like to believe that, by publishing anything, we are being fair and balanced, and most importantly objective. Sadly, no such strategy is really neutral, and I ask that you deeply consider the values that such a strategy embodies. If it turns out that this “universal tolerance” is so easily invaded by intolerance, then a better system is warranted.

I had hoped that no response would be needed to this unfortunate situation, that it would go away on its own. Like the author to the initial response piece, it might be wholly inappropriate to respond simply because it validates the hate speech. So I hope this is published as an open letter to the editor, so that it is clear who my audience is. I have a great deal of faith in those students who have chosen to create our school’s newspaper, as it is a daunting task. And I ask that, in the future, you trust your instincts when debating whether an intolerant opinion should be published. Those instincts were correct this time, and they are no less objective than printing anything and expecting the discussion to enlighten us. Sometimes, it will make us fearful of expressing our differences.

-Zach Piso