Free speech for all

By Ben Leddy

The opinions page of the Sept. 24 edition of The Daily Illini had much to say on the limitation of free speech; this was first stated in an editorial condemning the Rocky Mountain Collegian’s “F*** BUSH” editorial, as well as an opinion piece telling supporters of the infamously Tased Andrew Meyer to “shut up.”

I can’t help but see the irony in a newspaper’s condemnation of certain uses of free speech when the existence of newspapers depends on this freedom.

A call for moderation in free speech is acceptable, but to label certain forms of speech “graffiti” is to undermine the purpose of our First Amendment.

The DI editorial states that the press is essential to a functioning democracy “when used responsibly.” When exactly then does free speech become irresponsible? Should we limit font size, profanity, or the volume of a speaker’s voice? Or does the “abuse” of free speech lie in the speech’s message?

I believe free speech is abused when others are harmed or threatened, but this abuse is along the lines of yelling “fire” in a theater, not “f***” in a newspaper.

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The First Amendment protects both our views and how we communicate them, but the Daily Illini encourages us to compromise these protections in the name of moderation. Whether one believes that printing the f-word or questioning John Kerry are defenses of free speech or cries for attention, both are legally protected under the First Amendment.

Author Albert Camus once said, “A free press can be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom a press will never be anything but bad.” While the Daily Illini has a right to label dirty words “graffiti” and to tell me to “shut up,” in doing so it attacks the freedom of speech on which it depends. And that’s anything but good.

Ben Leddy

Freshman in LAS