Expression attacked by ‘subtle censorship’

As the Record editorialized last week, “It’s a common complaint that Williams students are apathetic…The events and movements which do occur tend to come about as a result of the efforts of a few dedicated students.”

After reading the rest of last week’s issue, it is not hard to understand why. Twenty three faculty members and the Chaplain got together to protest the actions of the Record in the David Horowitz controversy. What could have a more chilling effect on the actions of students?

The faculty members, in their published letter, assure everyone that the paper has a First Amendment right to publish anything it wants. But they then express “dismay” because the ad was published. “We are disappointed,” they write, that the paper “made a choice” to publish something the faculty members strongly disagreed with. In other words, the editors have a right to allow any view to be expressed. But if they exercise that right, the faculty members will not attack the views they oppose, they will attack the persons responsible for publishing those views.

It happens that two days before publication of the faculty letter, a letter of mine was published in The Berkshire Eagle. It strongly criticized Israel for its actions in the West Bank.

I noted that Amnesty International had issued a report saying that Israel’s actions constituted “war crime,” and I cited the incidents that led to Amnesty’s conclusion.

My views were in direct contrast to the views of Horowitz, and my views were surely “offensive” to some people. But offensiveness is a criterion for news judgment that was cited by several persons at a Gaudino forum on the Horowitz issue, and that is the essence of the faculty complaint.

Anything that is offensive or that creates some imagined “threat” to someone or some group is, in essence, not to be published – or those responsible for the publication will surely be criticized.

My views may well be criticized by someone else writing in the Eagle, and I should expect that. But the Eagle deserves no criticism for publishing my views. The world can live with what I had to say and it can live with what Horowitz has to say.

The faculty letter endorses an earlier letter by five faculty members and a rabbi who stated that “hate speech and inflammatory rhetoric poison the public sphere, and subtly censor victims by frightening them from participating in the arena of public discourse.”

Subtle censorship is exactly what the faculty members are exercising on the Record’s editors and on the entire student body.

Ray Warner

100 Meacham St.

(The New York Times, retired)