During the heyday of the cartoons featuring a terrorist prophet of Islam, with a turban in the form of a bomb, we were told free speech was necessary even if it upset the sensitivities of people; in order to live in a more perfect union it was necessary to uphold the principles on which this country were founded than it was to address people’s feelings. Yes, I know that the cartoons of the Prophet of Islam were featured in a Danish newspaper, but even they the Danish were seen as a bulwark against giving in to terrorism and they had the right as we do here in America to freedom of speech and should not be intimidated from or waive that right. Yeah…that’s what we were told when it came to dealing with Muslims’ reactions to news they might not deem pleasant.
However, such openness to free speech is not seen in much the same positive or necessary light when it comes to speech or criticism about the state of Israel, as the editors and owners of The Berkeley Daily Planet have found out. A quick look at the website for the paper, http://www.berkeleydaily.org/issue/2009-11-28, reveals a paper that seems interested in its local affairs, from the closing of a post office location to citizen displeasure at the response of the local university to the financial crisis, but some people, notably Jim Sinkinson of Infocom Group, a media relations company and John Gertz of dpwatchdog.com seem to think the paper should please the Jewish citizens of the Bay area by printing stories they consider non-offensive towards the state of Israel. Not exactly the definition of freedom of speech, nor the role of a publication. In fact almost every group in the world would make that demand, that any publication should print only those items that meet the emotional needs of that particular group and at the same time not offend group sensitivities. Usually the answer to such a request is simply “nuts”, a free press means it reports what it wants to report and it the media outlet determines what is responsible and reasonable as it pertains to its readership/viewers/listeners and their values. Fortunately, the editor of the Daily Planet, Becky O’Malley, has said essentially the same thing when defending her paper against the charges leveled by the two who want to limit her papers’ right to publish articles or columns critical of Israel. In fact, the classiest response I’ve seen to date to her critics is quintessentially free speech in nature, ‘they (her detractors) could start their own paper.’ That alone should be enough to silence her critics, for in throwing down that challenge O’Malley has defended her right to free speech and a free press and encouraged them to do the same even in opposition to her.