The difference between free speech & forcing views on others

The Channels Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL

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The difference between free speech & forcing views on others

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Freedom of speech must be protected, but with this fundamental right to express one’s views — no matter how politically or ethically contentious they may be — comes the responsibility to express them respectfully and refrain from forcing those views on others.

The most recent group to bring politically charged opinions to campus is Project Truth, a pro-life group that demonstrated this week in front of the Luria Library. It finds abortions to be morally unacceptable under almost all circumstances, including after becoming pregnant from rape, and used graphic imagery and informational pamphlets to convey its views.

The Channels Editorial Board firmly supports the right of this group’s members to express their views, but we do have a moral disagreement with them: it was wrong for them to coercively display large, disturbing images of human figures soaked in blood in a location that essentially forced people to see them.

These images were intentionally used to provoke the public and convince people of the immorality of abortion. Having been supposedly taken from clinics that provide abortions, the reasoning is if you are appalled by the images, you should be appalled by abortion.

The group certainly had the legal authority to be present on campus. The First Amendment prevents the government from abridging our freedom of speech, and according to City College’s recently passed free speech policy, the group was in a designated free speech zone.

The group’s right to be there was never challenged. Many of the protestors on West Campus earlier this week were there to pressure the group to take down the images, not censor the group’s message. The students merely didn’t want to have to look at obscene images on their way to class.

As college students, we don’t come to college to feel comfortable — we come here to learn, and at times that will mean being exposed to views that we vehemently disagree with or that make us extremely uncomfortable. City College should encourage expressions of views which take us out of our ideological comfort zone. But, displaying this kind of imagery is obscene and inconsiderate, no matter how seemingly righteous the cause.

These images could have easily been conveyed to the public without forcing them on passers-by, and the group’s members did have the means to do so through the informational brochures they handed out. If they had limited the imagery to these brochures, it would simply be expression of free speech, but by making exposure to these images compulsory, it became a violation of basic decency.

Just as we wouldn’t want animal rights activists to shove images of decapitated pigs in our faces while we are eating bacon, we do not want to have to view large, gory images of bulls, chickens, humans or any other living beings on our way to class.

Please feel free to express your views until the cows come home — just don’t bully others into accepting them.

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