‘Free’ speech?

Editorial Board

Freedom of speech has transformed from a protection from overbearing government restrictions to the “right” to say whatever one pleases regardless of how ignorant it may be.

The government does not have the right to restrict speech; that is a given. However, the freedom of speech comes with the responsibility to protect it and not abuse it. The recent conflict surrounding an opinion column in the Central Connecticut State University newspaper, The Recorder, titled “Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It” is an alarming example of the freedom of speech being used in an irresponsible manner.

Constitutionally, the author of the column, Opinion Editor John Petroski, had every right to express the ideas he did. Despite this, it is obvious that his column, satire or not, was an irresponsible use of freedom of speech. It’s not an issue of political correctness; it’s a problem of ignorance – there is a clear disregard for the potential repercussions. Satirizing rape is not unconstitutional, but doing so disregards the millions of people who have had their lives shattered or otherwise affected by the offense.

However, the abuse of freedom of speech and expression doesn’t stop at CCSU. It has hit home. In addition to the racial graffiti left inside a McGuire Hall bathroom last month, last week’s discovery of a swastika drawn near Sullivan Hall has served as further representation of the current abuse of freedom of expression. While there may not be a law prohibiting the symbolic expression of the swastika, the drawing was clearly an example of ignorance. Whether it was intended as a joke or not, the simple act of drawing a swastika – which has come to symbolize the grave injustices of hatred and genocide – may bring forth recollections of the atrocities of World War II or the unfortunate modern-day presence of hatred and discrimination. At the very least, it is a show of support for the causes that the symbol represents. Using “free” speech to harm another is in direct conflict with the freedom’s initial intention of protecting people from harm.

While freedom of speech and expression is an inalienable right that cannot be taken away, it is an honor that must be cherished as though it can be lost. In many places around the world, the freedom of speech is restricted. We are fortunate enough to have it secured for us and given to us; the only thing we are asked to do is use it responsibly. The First Amendment is a protection from government, not a protection for irresponsibility.