Saturday, February 18, 2006

Free Speech

Today as I was waiting for the start of the Interactions of Poetry and Music Symposium (which went very well, if not as highly attended as I would wish), I was gazing at the posters of previous speakers at DePauw. One was for Lynne Cheney, back in 1994. No mention of Dick was made in her bio, instead she was properly billed as the former chair of the NEH. The title of the speech showed that in 1994 Mrs. Cheney believed that political correctness stifled free speech and intellectual engagement on college campuses. I wonder how she feels about current attempts to stifle speech that may offend politically conservative students, or attempts to stifle speech that may offend religiously conservative students.

In related news, DPU's own Ken Bode praises the entrance of the Sierra Club and the ACLU into news broadcasting. I agree, for the reasons Ken lists and for others. The typical news report no longer looks for nuance or "the truth." Instead, both sides are to be presented equally and separately, with limitations of time, money, and education keeping the discussion at an embarassingly rudimentary level. Experts such as the Sierra Club or the ACLU can delve into the details of their pet issues, and are willing to do so. Bias is clearly present, but also clearly answered by allowing the opposition to broadcast their disagreement on their own media, like Fox News. Blogs are already a step in this direction, though they also point out the one danger. Echo chambers can be formed, if the audience neglects important cross-checks with the other side. I have more ideas about that for later.

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