Dislike someone else's speech? Raise your own voice, panel says
The remedy for bad speech is more speech in an open-minded world, panelists at a free speech forum agreed Thursday.
"The truth shall make you free," said Dr. Ken Godfrey, former
director of the Logan LDS Institute.
As part of Libraries 2000 week, USU sponsored the freedom of speech forum hosted by KUTV-Channel 2 reporter Rod Decker. The forum was in attempt to help students better understand libraries' role in free exchange of ideas, and the challenges they face in censorship and restrictions.
The three-member panel consisted of librarian and professor of law at the University of Utah, professor Rita Reuch; Godfrey; and journalism and communications department professor and author, Dr. Mike Sweeney. The panelists addressed specific topics about their individual expertise and research on the subject of censorship, while students were then asked to participate by asking questions or giving comment.
Reuch spoke about the more legalistic side of censorship and its specific dealings with the library. She told students about a library bill of rights, which is used to support the access and interests of all. The library bill of rights has recently included the internet as part of its codes and according to Reuch is causing a stir among those who wish to see at least some kind of a filtering system on libraries' internet use, and to others, who see it in direct violation of their First Amendment rights. Which, according to Reuch raised the question, "How much internet access should we have?" Reuch told students she raised the question, but would not answer it.
Godfrey addressed students from a religious perspective and noted that in his time at a California library, the majority of the religious books were illegally removed from the religion section. Godfrey claimed there was "more controversy regarding religious books than any other field." Godfrey touched on the importance of history and the importance of discovering our past, He said, "Most of our past could not have been retrieved," if books and other records had not been so well taken care of.
Sweeney entertained the audience with a more historical view of censorship problems in history, and especially during wartime. Sweeney spoke about Nazi Germany during World War II and an art exhibit in Berlin where the government had an art museum of what it considered to be, "proper art." "Of course," Sweeney said, "this stuff was incredibly boring," and he explained that many went to underground museums to see paintings that the government had forbid them to see. "It's part of the beast inside us." Sweeney said. "The government tells us we can't see it, and we want to see it." A more modern example Sweeney used was the 1998 release of the Ken Starr report, which took a lot of fire for its content and nature. Yet, according to Sweeney it got more than 5 million hits on its first day and sold over 3 million copies when the book came out a day later. In addition, he asked how well Salman Rushdie's books would have sold if he had not been condemned to death by the Ayatollah Khomeini for writing The Satanic Verses.
Sweeney spoke not only of our desire and right to view material, but also of how censorship can prove to be counterproductive. He talked about the Japanese-Americans who were uprooted from their homes along the West Coast in 1942 and were forced to move to relocation camps as government felt they might ally with the Japanese and betray the U.S. after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Sweeney spoke, however about the same Japanese-American men, who were treated completely unconstitutionally, and still fought in the war, and more that that, became some of the most patriotic of our fighters.
Unfortunately, Sweeney said, "There are times when we get caught up in the moment, and realize [later] we were wrong."