Test of Resolve in Campus Newsrooms

Test of Resolve in Campus Newsrooms

by Kevin Nguyen
June/July 2001

In a sign that political correctness continues to be a source of intimidationa in college, a paid advertisement circulated by David Horowitz to university newspapers across the country has generated apologies from campus editors.

Why has the word “sorry” been on the lips of these student editors? It appears that Mr. Horowitz’s provocative ad on “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea for Blacks – and Racist Too” not only struck a nerve for ulta-sensitive junior race advocates, it got them literally storming newsrooms, crying “Racists!” and demanding immediate reparations from intimidated journalists-to-be.

The famed 60’s radical-turned-conservative-activist by now has sent his ad to over 100 papers, but by late February, when about a dozen papers had rejected the ad (including Harvard, Columbia, Notre Dame, the University of Washington, Georgia Tech and the University of Virginia), three of the four student papers that accepted the ad have since apologized for, as they Daily Californian’s (UC Berkeley) Daniel Hernandez put it, “becom[ing] and inadvertant vehicle for bigotry.”

While some of the ad’s ten points may have bordered on the inflammatory side, they were similar to oft-stated objections to slavery reparations based on practical and philosophical problems (e.g., it is difficult to impossible to identify individual victims and those to be held personally liable, slavery was a trade run by not just white Europeans but also black Africans and other “minorities,” etc.). Mr. Horowitz’s opposition to reparations is shared by an overwhelming majority of Americans and cannot be credibly dismissed as bigoted or racist.

Yet, that did not stop student activists, who have been called “Brown shirts” by their critics, from confronting editors of the Daily Californian and the California Aggie (UC Davis), extracting apologies and guarantees that it would not happen again and securing free newspaper space for rebuttals to the ad. In the case of Berkeley, the “by-any-means-necessary” crowd also stole papers off the racks, which intitially went unreported in the campus news pages.

The editors were immediately under fire not just from other students, alumni and faculty. Professional journalists and editors from across the country lambasted such “bush league” capitulation. The outcry produced pro-Horowitz-ad editorials from strange befellows such as the San Francisco Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Yardley dismissed the charges of racism as “hogwash,” and according to Salon.com, the executive editor of Foxnews.com, Scott Norvell, “took time from his busy day to write a personal e-mail to young Hernandez, attacking his ‘cowardice and audacity’ in apologizing for the ad.”

In protest to their caving in to racialist intimidation, ACRI Chairman Ward Connerly revoked his accessibility to reporters of both the Berkeley and Davis staff. In similar e-mails to both papers’ editors-in-chief, Mr. Connerly wrote:

To censor David Horowitz’s ad…as “discriminatory” or “offensive” content is as ominous as the accusations of “communism” which were often used to intimate and silence unpopular opinion a half century ago…To have such an unradical viewpoint banned from the pages of your newspaper — even when it is paid for — is a glaring and shameful ommission. Instead of the “Red Scare,” the banner of today’s censorship comes from the political Left and flies under the colors of multiculturalism. Today’s accepted speech may be tomorrow’s offensive speech if sensitivities change; do you want to subject yourself and others to such whims?…There is nothing in the ad that offends the First Amendment so much that the California Aggie has to become apologists for causing “hurt.” Free speech sometimes hurts, and when you try to shield your readers from “hurt,” you invariably engage in censorship…It is the height of hypocrisy for defenders of skin-deep diversity to be so intolerant of a diversity of opinion. Is the California Aggie’s commitment so shallow?

As testament to how valued Mr. Connerly’s access is as one of the most approachable and responsive Regents at the University of California, the editors of both papers immediately wrote back to plead for their reporters not to be punished for their decisions. A conference call was arranged, and editors Daniel Hernandez (UCB) and Eleeza Agopian (UCD) both insisted that they do not regard Mr. Horowitz as a racist and that they will strive to be independent of the forces of political correctness.

While some have suggested that they apologize for apologizing, these budding journalists received a crash course on what happens when controversial speech collides with political correctness. Unfortunately, speech is not met with speech; shouting, whining and confrontation is the tool of choice to silence the opposition.

And then there are brave voices like those of the Badger Herald of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Despite having their offices mobbed and their papers pulled of the racks, the Herald refused to apologize for running the ad, instead “regret[ing] only that the editors of the Daily Californian allowed themselves to give in to pressure in the manner that unfortunately violated their professional integrity and journalistic duty to protect free speech with which they disagree.” How refreshingly independent!

Kevin Nguyen is Executive Director of the American Civil Rights Institute.

Also by Kevin Nguyen

  • The Abolitionist Examiner – Election 2000: The Venom of Race
  • The Abolitionist Examiner – Groundbreaking Proposal Launched in California to Free People from Boxes

    Copyright © 2001 ACRI. All rights reserved.

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