Free the press

UCPC: Do you think the student editors at The California Aggie over at UC Davis would let Bites take out an advertisement entitled “Ten Reasons Why Political Correctness is a Bad Idea for Journalists—and Craven too?”

No, probably not, because some people might find that offensive. But what Bites finds offensive is the notion journalists have to protect readers from the ideas of racists, sexists or any other disturbing –ists out there, as if said readers were impressionable children incapable of critical thought.

First it was the Sacramento Bee’s refusal to print the slurs that recently got two public officials in trouble, and now, from the college newspapers at both UC Davis and UC Berkeley, comes a new example of journalists choosing political correctness over the free exchange of controversial ideas.

Both university newspapers ran advertisements placed by conservative author David Horowitz titled “Ten reasons why reparations for slavery is a bad idea—and racist too,” which laid out reasons like “there is no single group clearly responsible for the crime of slavery” and “there is no one group that benefited exclusively from its fruits.”

Bites and other enlightened souls may find the ad objectionable. And when Horowitz goes so far as to write “reparations to African Americans have already been paid” in the form of welfare payments and racial preferences, then angry letters to the editor slamming Horowitz are probably appropriate. Heck, Bites doesn’t even take issue with the indignant crowds that showed up at the two newsrooms to protest, because it’s their constitutional right to raise hell.

But what Bites does have a problem with in this whole sordid mess is how both young editors rolled over like trained dogs, pulling the ads and running apologies in the face of public pressure.

“The Aggie staff takes great pride in its work and is saddened by this grievous mistake on our behalf. It is an embarrassment not only for the newspaper, but the university community at large,” wrote editor Eleeza Agopian last week.

That might be a noble sentiment if this budding young journalist were apologizing for stifling free speech instead of allowing it. But, instead, it stands as a testament to how the liberal notion of responsiveness to cultural sensitivities has trumped the infinitely more important notion of a free press.

Horowitz’s ideas deserve to be refuted, ridiculed and criticized by an avalanche of letters to the editors. But what they don’t deserve to be is censored.

Fallout I: If anyone out there is looking for an example about how to respond to items in print that you don’t like, just take a lesson from the conservative compatriots of local right-wing publisher Walter Mueller, who Bites skewered last week for rudely refusing our interview request.

Lemme tell ya, these yahoos came out of the woodwork to criticize yours truly, sending in letters and e-mails from all over the country (apparently, the column must have made the militia newsletters or “patriot” listservers).

Bites won’t go into the details (you’ll probably see a few of them on the Letters to the Editor page), but suffice it to say they all think Bites is the worst sort of commie, pinko, PC liberal ever to let his heart bleed into print.

Anyway, the upshot is that some of these guys are trying to arrange some kind of tête-à-tête between Herr Mueller and the Bitesmeister, and you’re all invited. Frankly, Bites could use some support when walking into a room full of pissed-off, well-armed white men who think Bites is a propagandist for the New World Order.

Details to follow.

Fallout II: Oh, and speaking of smackdown challenges resulting from last week’s column, Gov. Gray Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio wrote in to ridicule the notion that the guv hasn’t opened himself up to tough questions from skeptical outsiders about the current energy crisis.

So, right now, publicly, here in print, Bites wants to formally and humbly apologize for such a gross error of fact. Bites really had no idea that our governor is so willing to subject himself to questioning by someone like Bites about why we are using billions of dollars in public funds to prop up a system that has been bending Californians over like the Marquis de Sade in a particularly sadistic mood.

Of course, Bites took the opportunity of the exchange with Maviglio to request such an interview with our fair governor, which I’m sure will be granted. Once again, dear readers, details to follow.