Student Newspaper Defends Holocaust Denial Ad
March 5, 2010 7:21 AM   Subscribe

On Wednesday, students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison rallied to honor Holocaust victims and demand that the student newspaper remove an offensive ad posted to their website. The Badger Herald recently posted an ad questioning the existence of the Holocaust paid for by a Holocaust denier. The paper’s editors are defending the ad on free speech grounds. UW Chancellor Biddy Martin weighs in.
posted by Consonants Without Vowels (164 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
"As much as I hate what I think Bradley Smith [the man who bought the ad] was trying to say in that ad, and as much as I hate what the Holocaust deniers are saying, they do have a right to say it," said Badger Herald editor-in-chief Jason Smathers.

Absolutely they do. That does not translate into a right to advertise in your newspaper. You get to decide who does that, and if the deniers don't like it, they have the right to start their own newspaper. In essence, the very thing that makes it possible for you to print whatever you want, is what also makes it incumbent upon you to take responsibility for what you decide to print.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:29 AM on March 5, 2010 [76 favorites]


The paper certainly has free speech rights to run the ad. However, the paper editor says
As much as I hate what I think Bradley Smith [the man who bought the ad] was trying to say in that ad, and as much as I hate what the Holocaust deniers are saying, they do have a right to say it.
This doesn't say anything about why they ran the ad. Having a constitutional right to say something doesn't mean a paper has to publish it. Why do so many people not understand the difference?
posted by demiurge at 7:32 AM on March 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Exactly. "Congress shall make no law" does not apply here.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:34 AM on March 5, 2010


"Congress shall make no law" does not apply here.

It's going to be unpopular to say this in this thread, but I disagree. The First Amendment is an ideal enshrined in legislation. Just because the legislation does not apply to a newspaper doesn't mean the ideal doesn't.

You get to decide who does that, and if the deniers don't like it, they have the right to start their own newspaper.

I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.
posted by DU at 7:38 AM on March 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


See also ( from 2004).

I don't get holocaust denial. Holocaust-maybe-argue-some-of-the-facts-like-we-do-any-event-in-history maybe, but denial?

Anyways, this quote sums it up best:

"Why is it that the people most likely to say the Holocaust didn't happen are the people who wish it had?"
posted by MuffinMan at 7:39 AM on March 5, 2010 [9 favorites]


Even if the newspaper doesn't have a legal obligation to run the ad, a principled stand that they do not censor ads based on content is in the same spirit as the first amendment.
posted by callmejay at 7:39 AM on March 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.

Where have you been for like the last several centuries?
posted by hermitosis at 7:41 AM on March 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.

If only there were other ways of disseminating information... A series of tubes, perhaps?
posted by god hates math at 7:42 AM on March 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


"Congress shall make no law" does not apply here.

Really? UW-Madison is a public university. I'm guessing its newspaper is funded at least partially by taxpayers. Does anyone know authoritatively how much leeway papers like this really have to reject advertisements before running aground of first amendment lawsuits?

I remember those asshole evangelicals with their everyone-is-going-to-hell sandwich boards parading around the campus of my public university. The university allowed them there on the grounds of free speech. I don't see how this is any different.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:42 AM on March 5, 2010


I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.

That's no longer a concern, thanks to the internet!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:43 AM on March 5, 2010


This Bradley Smith creep has been buying advertising space in college newspapers nationwide. His modus operandi is "Get ‘em while they’re young!" Last April my college newspaper ran his advertisement in their print edition and were widely denounced for this decision. The newspaper issued an apology and opted to not run future advertising from Smith.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:43 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.

how much would it cost to print 5,000 copies of your ad and distribute them around campus? Probably less than he paid for the ad. He wasn't paying for the distribution, he was paying for legitimacy. And no, the newspaper is not required to provide him legitimacy.
posted by lunasol at 7:44 AM on March 5, 2010 [13 favorites]


I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.

Not to pile on, and beaten to it twice, but the barrier to entry is pretty low right about now. No rich/poor at all.
posted by fixedgear at 7:44 AM on March 5, 2010


newspaper advertising and newspaper distribution is still a privileged set of eyeballs. it implies loads of things about age, income, educational attainment, power and privilege. the people who read newspapers are not the people on aol hometown or whatever it is now.

standing in the traffic circle near your house, declaiming your opinions to all and sundry who pass is not the same forum as addressing the 400-member Rotary club in the same town.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:48 AM on March 5, 2010


DU, I'm am hardly the first person to observe, cynically, that the right to a free press belongs to he who owns one. But my point is more that it's just as great an imposition on free speech to argue that this newspaper is obligated to act as a mouthpiece for someone else's viewpoints. That's never been true for newspapers in this country, and I very much wouldn't want to see it become so.

I do think they should provide a forum for as wide a variety of viewpoints as they deem appropriate, and we should distinguish between the viewpoints they express as their own, and those they merely transmit from the community (as in letters to the editor). But they still have a responsibility to decide what falls within the range of civilized discourse, and what doesn't, and they're accountable if they fail in that role (in a moral, rather than legal sense).
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:51 AM on March 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


The paper's editor is completely missing the point. He doesn't have to auction off the limited advertising space in his newspaper to the highest bidder, or allocate on a first-come, first-served basis without regard to repellent or offensive content of the advertisements. He doesn't have a legal obligation to allow repellent advertisements in his newspapers. People can get blogging software for free, for pete's sake, and if they can't afford a computer they can generally even go to a public library. Free speech is not like free beer - you have the right to speak as much as you can given your means; it doesn't mean you have a right to commandeer someone else's property and impose on them to broadcast your ideas (setting aside the issue of access to forums that are by their nature public - parks, sidewalks, etc. - which must have content-neutral restrictions, and which don't include student-edited papers even at public universities, as far as I know).
posted by chinston at 7:52 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that it's a public university does frame things differently than if it were a private newspaper. Perhaps at that school they have policies mandating an open platform for everyone. I've seen plenty of public school papers that still got to exercise editorial discretion, though.

As for freedom of speech... you have the right to say whatever you want to say, with whatever resources (newspaper, web site, TV show, whatever) are at your disposal. If someone else could come along and co-opt those resources for their own message, that's a hinderance to your freedom of speech, not an enabling of theirs. People can't just go around using other people's stuff to make a point, regardless of what that point is. Holocaust deniers can find Holocaust-denying newspapers to willingly publish their propaganda but nobody else should be forced to do the same.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 7:54 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This used to happen every year at Michigan. The conservative upstart student paper would publish this ad, The Michigan Daily would soil their undies, protests would ensue, it would blow over, and next year same thing. I mean, it's clearly liberal baiting, no?
posted by spicynuts at 7:54 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Rather than a free speech issue, this seems to be a case of everyone-has-their-price.
posted by fuq at 7:56 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The right to free speech is not the right to have your speech published by someone else.

It is, instead, is the right to publish your speech yourself.

I don't let people stand on my porch and shout their manifestoes, even if they want to pay me for it. However, they are welcome to do so on the city sidewalk, which is on the other side of the "free speech" demarcation that is my property line.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:57 AM on March 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


What if, across from the Holocaust denial ad, the paper had run an "ad" which was just a huge arrow and big letters reading "THIS IS STUPID."
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:59 AM on March 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Did you ever notice how the people who are always like "hey let's keep an open-mind and debate this well-understood, factual thing as if it were still nebulous or unclear; i'm just saying, you gotta have an open mind, man" are always huge gaping assholes
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:00 AM on March 5, 2010 [20 favorites]


What I wonder is how strongly the editors truly believe that anyone should be able to advertise anything in their paper. Would they run an ad praising Osama Bin Laden? Would they run an ad advocating the death of the president or the nuking of Iran? Can anyone with $75 dollars spew any hateful nonsense they want over the Herald's pages?

I strongly believe that there are some lines even they won't cross, though I think it's strange that Holocaust denial doesn't seem to cross that boundary. In that sense it almost seems like they're granting the movement some sort of legitimacy. I'm not saying that they agree with with the viewpoint, but somehow they believe that the viewpoint is a valid one for people to have. Odd. This leads to my favorite part of the Biddy Martin piece:

"At the moment, we live in a world that too readily substitutes mere opinion and shrill ideological or partisan claims for the serious pursuit of fact and reasoned argument. Virtually any opinion or claim, however unfounded, can find space. It is our responsibility to oppose reckless claims with the vigorous pursuit of truth and with actual knowledge."
posted by Consonants Without Vowels at 8:00 AM on March 5, 2010 [7 favorites]


Bradley Smith and his ilk are doing a great service to the anti-holocaust deniers of the world. Their campaign to "get them while they're young" has ensured that college students everywhere are made aware of the "arguments" holocaust deniers use everywhere and they are thus taught just how wrong, misinformed, illogical, and full of shit those "arguments" are.

I say huzzah to Mr. Smith! Huzzah!
posted by Pollomacho at 8:02 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like these people are never keeping an open mind about the solar neutrino problem or Freudian interpretations of Sumerian erotica it's always shit like "maybe Jews don't have regular lungs but instead they breathe through their skin" and "there's no such thing as evolution because I had a vision of Jesus eating Dippin Dots"
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:02 AM on March 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


Let's just buy an ad that says

FUCK
BRADLEY
SMITH

and see if it's upheld on free speech grounds?
posted by notsnot at 8:05 AM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Where have you been for like the last several centuries?

Well, after Gutenberg invented the printing press, I stepped away for a packet of ramen. I'm back now. What'd I miss?
posted by sswiller at 8:09 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that it's a public university does frame things differently than if it were a private newspaper.

Really? UW-Madison is a public university. I'm guessing its newspaper is funded at least partially by taxpayers. Does anyone know authoritatively how much leeway papers like this really have to reject advertisements before running aground of first amendment lawsuits?

Actually no, the Badger Herald is not the school newspaper. It is independent. The school newspaper is The Daily Cardinal.

If things haven't changed since I was an undergrad there in the early 1990s, the Badger Herald is a completely crappy conservative rag, and the Daily Cardinal is a completely crappy liberal rag.

Of course, at that time there was a third paper which kicked ass and took names and went on to bigger things.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:10 AM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


In essence, the very thing that makes it possible for you to print whatever you want, is what also makes it incumbent upon you to take responsibility for what you decide to print.

I don't think it's as simple as that, because taking that line of thinking to its logical conclusion would mean ISPs would need to take responsibility for blog posts that get sent through their network and whatnot. In my opinion the act of accepting money to disseminate offensive speech is not wrong in itself, because in some cases the publishing infrastructure can and should be unbiased.

To me the reason that newspapers specifically need to restrict what kinds of ads they publish is that for better or worse they are a moderated filter of content, rather than a completely open publishing platform. The fact that they hire people and put them in charge of what content makes it into the paper means that they have taken on that responsibility, and if they let certain content through it means they have deemed that content more appropriate than the content that gets rejected. An editor can't sit back and say they take no responsibility for content in ads when in reality deciding what content gets published is their whole job.

Not to pile on, and beaten to it twice, but the barrier to entry is pretty low right about now. No rich/poor at all.

That doesn't mean it's going to stay like that forever. The point is that freedom of the press doesn't really exist if a small group of people control the technology required to publish speech in a meaningful way. Right now it's easier than it ever has been in the past to publish whatever kind of content you want, which is a good thing, but I don't think we should take the status quo for granted.

In the past it was harder to publish information, but it was also harder for people to stop someone from publishing something or destroy the content once it was published. China is a good example of that, because while the Internet there has giving many people the ability to post and read information, it has also resulted in one of largest and most sophisticated censorship systems ever created. I would guess that Chinese government has deleted more content online than has ever been destroyed in book burnings or other pre-Internet censorship activities.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:10 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have to admit -- Horace Rumpole's comment has made me completely re-think a previous stance I've had on free speech. HR, you're absolutely right; I've also long accepted ads from questionable parties in papers on the grounds that "they have the right to say what they say, just like me." And I strongly value that right being available to all.

But you're right that the paper doesn't necessarily have to accept that ad revenue. I also agree with that.

About the only counterpoints I can offer, though, is that it's possible that turning down that ad may have left them with a lot of blank space in their layout that issue -- they were low on other ad revenue, low on column inches, whatever -- and it would have created another headache, so they held their nose and took it. Filling column inches is more of a concern than you'd think, even at the college level; I had a column in NYU's paper my senior year, and I will always remember being at the office and typing it into their computers one day and the assistant editor coming up to me, leaning across from behind the monitor to stare into my face, and intoning, "LENGTH, [Empress.] Think LENGTH." Still, though, another solution to that problem could have just been coming up with some dippy ad for the paper itself to fill space.

Still, too, I also believe in the principle that sometimes the best way to prove someone a fool is to go ahead and give them a soapbox and let them speak -- oftentimes they will end up proving themselves a fool all on their own. I also believe that sweeping offensive messages under the rug altogether sometimes backfires, because it gives them a sort of persecution complex and that complicates things.

It's really, really a tough thing to suss out, though, and like most First-Amendment issues, isn't quite as cut-and-dried as you'd think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 AM on March 5, 2010


Some context:
The Badger Herald is a completely independent entity. It was formed in 1969 as a more conservative counterpart to the university-supported Daily Cardinal.

UW-Madison has had a significant population of Jewish students since the 1920s or so, partly because it courted students from the East Coast who were denied admission to Ivy League schools. As a land grant university, it is required to take a certain (large) percentage of its students from Wisconsin, and an additional large percentage comes from Minnesota through a reciprocity agreement between the two states.

Due to the misconception that only in-state students can live in university residence halls and/or the implication that the more expensive private residence halls are better, most out-of-state students (including students from the coasts, who are referred to as -- stop me if you've heard this one -- "coasties") live in private halls located several blocks from university housing. Midwesterners and non-Midwesterners do not typically mix socially.

As much as anti-Semitism has lurked under the surface for years, this particular series of events was prompted by reaction to a party held by a predominantly Jewish fraternity in Madison's downtown arts center. The party got out of hand and the arts center banned the frat (already on probation with the university and attempting to evade sanctions by billing the event as a "philanthropy" event) from holding future events in its facilities.

In (naturally) the Badger Herald, the fraternity defended itself, including this quote from its president:

"We are more beneficial than detrimental to this university,” Herscott said. “I don’t think the Jewish community or the Greek community can survive without us and the 6,000 people we represent.”

...which then led to an explosion of anti-Semitic comments, many of which have since been removed.

Here and here are some discussions from the journalism school, as prompted by its director.
posted by Madamina at 8:11 AM on March 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Wow, Bradley Smith? That dude's still around? This guy has been relentlessly preaching his Holocaust-denial crap at least since the 90s, probably longer. He used to be active on alt.revisionism back when USENET was still the big thing for discussion on the Internet. You don't even need to wish any harm on him, because his pathetic life is punishment enough. He probably spends every waking moment obsessing over an idiotic subject that no one believes in except for total meathead Nazis and those who seek to manipulate them, and he's been doing so for at least 15 years.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:11 AM on March 5, 2010


But the Badger Herald publisher had just the opposite view. Nick Penzenstadler said that what the newspaper has done is a positive. He said it is bad for society to simply ignore such people. He said that if a crazy idea is advertised, the community can do what they have done in this case -- reject and denounce it.

So run an article about him. Jeez. You're actively profiting from Holocaust denial, my friend.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:11 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I asked to run an ad to bring back slavery to the United States, would that be ok? Nah. Any paper--and espeically one run on student tuition--has the right to decide on matters of taste.
Free speech is free for those who own papers. An ad is not free speech. It is paid for speech.
posted by Postroad at 8:12 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's all nice to compare yourself to Voltaire and quote the First Amendment to the American Constitution and everything, but it takes real guts to say something is hate speech or Holocaust denial, and refuse to print it.

I suppose there would have been greater harm censoring Goebbels before Kristalnacht than the harm done to hundreds of thousands of Jews that night.

I suppose the coordinated radio broadcasts directing Rwandas to kill all Tutsis (preferably with a machete) had intrinsic value as "free speech", compared to 800,000 Rwandans who would be killed over the next months.

In this case, the editors could have chosen not to run the ad in memory of the 6 million (give or take a million) Jewish people who were exterminated, plus the millions (and million is just a word) of other minorities who were liquidated.

No one would have blamed them, and they would have been right (the American Constitution is not the pinnacle of creation).

But they instead chose to support "free speech" of some lunatic scumbag, plus their own consciences.

Good thing they don't live in Germany or Canada.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 AM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Simple solution: the protesting students should just put an ad right next to his with the text "THIS GUY IS A CRACKPOT HOLOCAUST-DENYING DOUCHBAG -->" and an arrow pointing to his text.

Free speech for all.

On preview; What notsnot said.
posted by quin at 8:16 AM on March 5, 2010


Also, Nizkor is easily the best anti-Holocaust-denial resource on the Internet. It's run by some of the same people who used to needle Nazis on alt.revisionism, and there's a lot of information on Smith there (some you may have to dig for, it's a very Web 1.0 site).
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:18 AM on March 5, 2010


As far as the free speech debate: let the asshole run his ad. Let him speak however he wants. Then smack down every single point he makes in a huge ad that runs right next to his. THAT'S how you beat these fuckers - not by suppressing them, but by making them look like the fools and cretins they are.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:20 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let's just buy an ad that says FUCK BRADLEY SMITH

Let's buy an ad that says "The editorial board of The Badger Herald has no credibility."
posted by hydrophonic at 8:24 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Buy an ad claiming that the Herald never ran his original ad.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:26 AM on March 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


Where is the line drawn around what ads a Public University can and can't be run? Is it solely the choice of the editorial staff? What if the pare refused to run an ad for a women's clinic? Is that still within their right? Aren't there some rules or laws that require them to be somewhat fair. I mean, I'm sure they couldn't use race as a determining factor on whether to run an ad or not, can they? I guess I'm not clear on the guidelines that *should* be in place, so I'm not able to figure out how egregious the paper's actions were. I would have thought that even if they determined that the offensive ad should be run, they could have had the decency of running some type of counter to the ad in the paper itself Something affirming the holocaust. Hell, it probably wouldn't have been to much to ask to devote some OpEd space for the editors to explain why they ran the ad, that their view is that the ad pushes a bunk theory, and maybe something about market place of ideas or some such stuff.
I guess I'm saying that I'm having a hard time getting upset by the paper running the ad, but I am scratching my head on why they would think that the ad should be run without any challenge.
posted by forforf at 8:28 AM on March 5, 2010


I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.

Then advertising in papers better be free, or you're implying only people rich enough to buy advertising have free speech.
posted by kmz at 8:28 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Badger Herald can run any damn ad it likes. You can complain about it all you like, but you can't stop them.

That's the free speech issue here.

On a larger scale, it seems to me that school newspapers (at both the high school and college levels), which are supposed to be training students in the ethic of free speech, are doing the opposite.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:31 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had to deal with something like this a few years ago. Not Holocaust Denial, but close to it: David Horowitz. I was in a different situation, as I had been brought in to clean up a school newspaper that had been shuttered due to a racially offensive April Fools edition (and rightfully so).

I chose not to ran the ad. I bought the space myself and published an ad explaining why I turned down the money and making the ad available to anyone who wanted to come and see it in person. I tried to start a dialogue about offensive materials like this without offending the groups it targeted. Horowitz went nuts and there was some short-term fallout, but it mostly went away. The only remnants now are on Wikipedia, although someone close to him or Richard Mellon Scaife pretty clearly edited the section in his favor.

In short, I think the editor made a bad move. There are ways to acknowledge one's responsibilities to the community as a publisher while remaining responsible to the community.
posted by allen.spaulding at 8:34 AM on March 5, 2010 [16 favorites]


I actually think a better tact would be to drop the ad and invite him to write an opinion piece. And counter that with an opinion piece that just factually tears the guy a new asshole.

Despite the SCOTUS' seeming bending over backwards to try and equate $ with free speech I still believe advertising is not and should not be protected speech. Indeed, the sheer number of denied ads because they are seen as too politically or topically controversial is overwhelming and happens every single day. I can vagully understand the Badgers' standpoint but barring a massive shift it is a lost cause and one not worth defending the hill for.

(off hand I wonder if this means The Badger accepts ALL advertising, because if it can be shown that they have actually denied some forms, say a strip club, or sex line for instance, but allow for Holocaust denying... well I wouldn't give 2 cents for the editor surviving)
posted by edgeways at 8:37 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Shitty fucking conservative college newspaper in middle of country known for publishing moron crap by racist idiots takes money from Holocaust denier. And now to Steve with the weather
posted by Damn That Television at 8:38 AM on March 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Freedom of the Press" means that you're free to buy your own press.
posted by mikelieman at 8:42 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Badger Herald can run any damn ad it likes. You can complain about it all you like, but you can't stop them.

That's the free speech issue here.


It's a problem if the paper's editor is running every ad he sees because he believes, falsely, that he is required to and that refusing to do so infringes on the advertiser's right to free speech. The alternative view is understanding that he is free to run basically any ad he wants within certain bounds of discretion, which, sure, might include "I will not reject ads with offensive or clearly wrong content." The issue is whether the editor understands what the actual legal and moral bounds on his job are, or if he is making decisions under a misunderstanding.

That said, hell, maybe he does understand and he got quoted out of context and made to look ignorant. That wouldn't be the first time that happened in a newspaper article.
posted by chinston at 8:48 AM on March 5, 2010


Damn That Television: WI, like all states, has pockets of liberalism and conservatisim, but as a whole the state is more D than R, and Madison itself is significantly more liberal than the rest of the State. And UW Madison (a very good University) is anything but a conservative institution. Unless you have something specifically to point to regarding The Badger your implied coastialism is off base.
posted by edgeways at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2010


Wow, a lot of you with opinions don't follow these issues at all do you?

Free speech is free for those who own papers. An ad is not free speech. It is paid for speech.

Tell that to the Supreme Court. I think they just said even corporations have a right to free speech and can place pretty much whatever ad they want on TV or print.

The paper's editor is completely missing the point.

No, he's defending the man's right to say stupid things, much as I would imagine any newspaper editor would do. I'm not sure how this paper would function, for sure, being a student publication, but most papers' editorial side have nothing to do with the ad side.

Also, there are laws about these things. Often the paper can't refuse (in this case they probably could have). For example a paper has to give equal time and access to political candidates as long as they are paying. It can't take a "principled stand" against Democrats and run only Republican candidate ads for example.

I live in the midwest. Farm central. The paper here ran an ad for PeTA. That ad cost them way more in lost subscriptions and ad boycotts than they made off the ad. People held grudges over that for years. So do you turn down their ads? What about Green Peace (who many see as engaging in illegal activities)? The Boy Scouts? They are are discriminatory. Wal-Mart? They treat their employees poorly and exploit the poor of other countries. Nokia? They help oppressive regimes persecute their citizenry. On and on.

So please provide me with a list of people who should be allowed to advertise? And make sure you let me know where to draw that line. To me ads against Prop 8 are nearly as vile as what this guy is spouting, yet tons of papers ran those and some politicians road that wave right into office. Once you've decided that anti-holocaust people have no right to access to the paper, why not take it a step further and identify these people and disallow their business to advertise as well? I mean if you're going to take a stand against their message, let's actually take a stand.

I don't have a problem with a paper deciding that the won't run an ad, but once you start down this line it's pretty easy to start finding a case against many ads. Escorts? Yeah, the cops want those out, so many papers no longer publish them. Seems reasonable to me. Everyone knows what many of them really are, so why promote an illegal activity? It's fine to say, "Nope, we're not going to do this," but some of the reasons given here for why not are stupid. Just because the message is offensive isn't a reason to not run it. I'm offended by Amish Fireplaces that claim to provide free energy and ads encouraging idiots to place their life savings into gold and fucking seeds (if it weren't for these ads right wing radio would lose half their advertising base).

A case can be made against almost any company. Newspapers shouldn't be activists.

Would I have run this ad? Probably not. I would take a stance on the grounds of not perpetuating ignorance, but I'd not run an ad that denies we landed on the moon either.

It's easy to be for free speech when you agree with the message. Not so easy when you think it's espoused by asshats. And yes, advertising is speech. That's not longer even part of the debate.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:04 AM on March 5, 2010 [8 favorites]


What's the point in starting up a newspaper if everybody else gets to dictate what you print in it?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:10 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have to admit -- Horace Rumpole's comment has made me completely re-think a previous stance I've had on free speech.

Thanks! I am always grateful when Metafilter provides that service to me, and there are precious few places on the internet that you can say that about.

The Badger Herald can run any damn ad it likes. You can complain about it all you like, but you can't stop them.

I completely agree with you. What they can't do is pretend that they had no choice in the matter.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:17 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Damn That Television: WI, like all states, has pockets of liberalism and conservatisim, but as a whole the state is more D than R, and Madison itself is significantly more liberal than the rest of the State. And UW Madison (a very good University) is anything but a conservative institution. Unless you have something specifically to point to regarding The Badger your implied coastialism is off base.

I misspoke, let me rephrase: Shitty fucking conservative newspaper (I think we're in agreement), made at a collegiate level (pretty much bad no matter what college), in the middle of the country (not an attempt to slight the middle of the country, but rather my observation that college newspaper flare-ups tend to happen in the middle of the country, not the coasts -- admittedly not a point that I have statistics to back up), known for publishing moron crap by racist idiots (see: shitty fucking conservative newspaper), takes money from Holocaust denier.

UWMad is a good school and I have nothing but positive feelings toward Madison in general. My diss was against the paper, college newspapers in general, conservative "rebel" newspapers, and Holocaust deniers. Sorry!
posted by Damn That Television at 9:17 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a former university-newspaper editor (also in WI but not Madison), I faced a similar situation with a representative of the KKK. We refused the ad, knowing full well that the white-hooded one would use that to wrap himself in free speech and get attention from the local media. We didn't mind this, because it then became a wider debate, freeing us from worry over stifling his right to speech. Besides, his views got a full airing in the community, which allowed people to see him as the semi-literate, under-rock-dwelling cretin he was.

He made noises about suing the university. We were the official student paper so, as others have pointed out, he may have had a case. But he did not have the resources to pursue it.

I think we made the right call. The first amendment is about your right to speak, not your right to compel me to amplify your speech.

A friend later suggested that we could have accepted the ad and then donated the money directly to the NAACP or some other worthy organization, and that would have been entertaining, I'll admit.
posted by dust of the stars at 9:31 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.

As mentioned in the article in the first hyperlink, the ad was an online ad. "For $75, the paper agreed to post for 30 days an advertisement..."
posted by ericb at 9:31 AM on March 5, 2010


OK, here's my beef with all the 'I hate what you are saying, but i will fight for your right to say it' stuff--intrinsically, these arguments about free speech are more or less applicable to situations where there is little at stake. People love feeling good about letting Nazi's march, but what if the neo-Nazi movement in this country was in a position to get real power? What if there were thousands of little Timothy McVeighs being handed copies of the Turner Diaries every time there was a rally? I'd certainly hope you, and any other responsible citizen, and the government, would actively fight to censor, suppress, and otherwise squelch the movement's speech and actions. As a gay, jewish leftist, my life could easily be at stake.

Now, to venture away from the hypothetical, what the paper did here is twofold: first, it legitimized the viewpoint of the ad by accepting it--and then, by defending its decision to run the ad, reinforced this unbelievably crazy ideal of neo-Nazis as the paragon of free speech, which further establishes the neo-Nazis as embattled victims in their own eyes.

My roommate is a journalist and editor of a small GLBT online newspaper--on several occasions, I've taken huge exception to things that have been published there, and I always get the same kind of response as the editor in this case. When I complained about a review lauding a bar that was alleged to be turning away black patrons at the door, his response was, "well, that's [writer]'s opinion. I don't agree with it, but I think he should be able to say it." and then, falling back on the old, "well, I'd like to think that our job here is to allow these discussions to happen, and that's what this article does." He didn't like it when I then told him that by those standards, Judith Miller had done wonders for the anti-war movement. But fundamentally, what it boils down to is that most journalists and editors I've met, regardless of whatever romantic ideals of their writing making a difference they have, are terrified of the concept of being held accountable for their writing or their actions as editors, and have a plethora of meaningless defenses on hand in case they ever are. This is no exception.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 9:32 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


So please provide me with a list of people who should be allowed to advertise?

So a newspaper is required to print every ad that comes across the transom? If someone pays for a full signature of full-page ads for [whatever], the newspaper is required by law to accommodate that?

If this is true, I wonder why it doesn't apply to television broadcasters. That whole Superbowl ad kerfuffle wouldn't have been a kerfuffle, I guess, if they'd been required to run the pro-choice ad.
posted by rtha at 9:32 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, I am going to look forward to Bradley Smith's Superbowl ad next year.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:33 AM on March 5, 2010


We get the society we accept.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:40 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, here's my beef with all the 'I hate what you are saying, but i will fight for your right to say it' stuff--intrinsically, these arguments about free speech are more or less applicable to situations where there is little at stake. People love feeling good about letting Nazi's march, but what if the neo-Nazi movement in this country was in a position to get real power? What if there were thousands of little Timothy McVeighs being handed copies of the Turner Diaries every time there was a rally? I'd certainly hope you, and any other responsible citizen, and the government, would actively fight to censor, suppress, and otherwise squelch the movement's speech and actions. As a gay, jewish leftist, my life could easily be at stake.

The flip side of that, though, is: suppose someone does censor anti-semitic speech in one community.

But now, suppose you live in a community which then sees this, and stops accepting ads from GMHC or the local synogogue on the grounds that "well, those people in THAT town censored an ad on the grounds of community decency; and now so are we, in THIS town. We just think different in this town than those fruitcakes do over there."

Now what?

I hear what you're saying about groups in real power, but the best way to combat that is to speak up against them in counterargument, rather than keeping them from speaking. I also find that keeping a group from speaking altogether kind of gives them a very powerful martyr/oppressed victim complex that just fuels their endurance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:41 AM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I hope the same people that are advocating that the Badger Herald has the right to not publish a holocaust denier ad based on their editors judgment as to the worthiness of the content of the ad would, if asked, similarly defend the owner(s) of the billboards in Atlanta who judged worthy of publication the ads which said that black children are an "Endangered Species" because of abortion.

Perhaps we have all come to think too much of money in our society but I don't think that it was the monetary definition of "free" that was intended in the first amendment.
posted by vapidave at 9:44 AM on March 5, 2010


For example a paper has to give equal time and access to political candidates as long as they are paying. It can't take a "principled stand" against Democrats and run only Republican candidate ads for example.

you need to provide a reference for that statement - i'm not aware of any law that requires a newspaper to provide equal time and access to political candidates

So please provide me with a list of people who should be allowed to advertise?

that's the editor/publisher's job to do that
posted by pyramid termite at 9:48 AM on March 5, 2010


I hear what you're saying about groups in real power, but the best way to combat that is to speak up against them in counterargument, rather than keeping them from speaking. I also find that keeping a group from speaking altogether kind of gives them a very powerful martyr/oppressed victim complex that just fuels their endurance.

Here is my corollary to my aforementioned beef: the assumption that ideas of tolerance and equality will win over bigotry because they're better ideas is arrogant. Oh, and giving them a forum to spout their beliefs gives them a sense of accomplishment on top of the martyr/oppressed victim complex that they already get whenever anyone rallies against them. Oh yeah, and it still gives them a forum to spout their beliefs in. Given your hypothetical, I would argue that the best thing to do is to yes, still censor anti-semitic speech, and then start the discussion with the community which equates it with ads from a local synogogue.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 9:51 AM on March 5, 2010


I also think it's pretty dangerous to imply that only people rich enough to afford a printing press have free speech.

What's the point in starting up a newspaper if everybody else gets to dictate what you print in it?


Now... see... change all this from newspapers and literal "printing presses" and turn it into broadcasting, and I start arguing in favor of reinstatement of The Fairness Doctrine.
posted by hippybear at 9:52 AM on March 5, 2010


Given the number of lies I see on network news ("Obama is a socialist"), it's hard for me to get too excited about a lie in an advertisement.
posted by Slothrup at 10:01 AM on March 5, 2010


Here is my corollary to my aforementioned beef: the assumption that ideas of tolerance and equality will win over bigotry because they're better ideas is arrogant.

It's arrogant to think progressive ideas will win out over regressive ones, but somehow not arrogant to imagine that people are at the mercy of these ideas and cannot be trusted to take responsibility for adopting either hate or tolerance? And that you should make that decision for them?

That's an interesting take on arrogance; I'll give that to you.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:06 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


For example a paper has to give equal time and access to political candidates as long as they are paying. It can't take a "principled stand" against Democrats and run only Republican candidate ads for example.

Nope. The Equal-time rule applies to broadcast media only. The reason? The public ostensibly owns the airwaves. Newspapers, on the other hand, are owned by individuals and corporations, the same as publishing houses. Do you really think for every anti-Obama book Regnery Press publishes, it's required to put out one that's pro-Obama?

The choice of whether or not to run this ad was entirely the editor's to make. His "they have a right to say it" statement is a total bullshit cop-out.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:06 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


For example a paper has to give equal time and access to political candidates as long as they are paying. It can't take a "principled stand" against Democrats and run only Republican candidate ads for example.

The equal-time rule applies to TV and radio broadcasters because they use the public airwaves to transmit their signals. Print publishers are not bound by this rule.

Free speech is free for those who own papers. An ad is not free speech. It is paid for speech.

Sounds to me like you're mixing your speech with your beer.
posted by sriracha at 10:07 AM on March 5, 2010


That statement, btw, is not intended to represent a "side" in the debate over newspaper time in these circumstances (hold off, you zealous pigeonholers, the lot of you). But that conception of "arrogance" required a response.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:07 AM on March 5, 2010


People love feeling good about letting Nazi's march, but what if the neo-Nazi movement in this country was in a position to get real power?

You have heard about the "teabagger" movement, no?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:16 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Even if the newspaper doesn't have a legal obligation to run the ad, a principled stand that they do not censor ads based on content is in the same spirit as the first amendment.

Exactly! This is why you see so many ads filled with with full frontal nudity and racial epithets.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:30 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


The editor did not have to allow the ad to run. There is no law stopping him from rejecting the ad.

However, once you start to accept or reject ads you start down a very slippery slope. What happens when someone wants to run a pro-life or pro-choice ad and the paper rejects it? What about an ad that calls into question the competency of the administration of the institution?

Once you apply your ability to reject advertisements you run your readership will call you out anytime an ad is run that they do not agree with or when they learn of an ad for something they agree with is rejected.

A policy of not passing judgment on any of the content of your advertisers keeps you safe from a lot of these very gray area issues. I can understand taking such an approach. I don't necessarily agree with it, but I understand it.

At the same time, the paper's readers are just free to express their displeasure through any means including protests and simply no longer reading the paper. A paper that continually pisses off its readership will soon be out of business unless they apply new policies. This is why commercial newspapers that rely on readership don't publish provocative or salacious advertisements.

And although I don't believe this should play in any way into the decision of whether or not to run such advertisements, I do like the idea that by publishing this ad and exposing this belief or movement it opens up the doors to public response which include concrete evidence that the Holocaust did happen. This will hopefully educate and thus protect people who might otherwise not have the knowledge to protect themselves were the topic to come up in casual conversation without an available counter-argument.
posted by ruthsarian at 10:45 AM on March 5, 2010


Stop it with the slippery slope arguments. You don't need to know where the line is. It just has to be somewhere before Nazi propaganda.

If you're going to argue that it's good to run anti-semitic crap like this then do so directly.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:54 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know that, at my age, I should stop being surprised that there are still those that latch onto something like holocaust denial. But I am. I thought we all agreed that the sky was blue, girls are as good as boys, the climate IS currently "warming", and that the Third Reich systematically killed millions of people. Of course, I'm not known as a great thinker.

I'm guessing those who allowed the ad in the paper were interested in stirring up interest in the paper. Other than that, most people don't want to touch Holocaust denial with a ten foot pole.
posted by _paegan_ at 11:06 AM on March 5, 2010


You do not have the right to force me to speak in support of your beliefs even though they contradict my own on the grounds that my not doing so violates your speech rights. Newspapers get to decide what they want to say, just like anyone who enjoys speech protections and freedom of the press protections does.

Newspapers can include or reject whatever morally repugnant advertising they like, unless it clearly breaks the law. For example, if a newspaper posts an ad that offers sex with a 12 year old, they might be found legally responsible for abetting the advertiser in the commission of a crime. That's not a question without controversy, given some recent incidents involving Craigslist, but it's a much different question than this one.

In this case, yes, the newspaper has the right to publish the ad, but no, they are in no way obligated legally or morally to publish the ad. In fact, publishing the ad kinda makes them dicks.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:21 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Absolutely they do. That does not translate into a right to advertise in your newspaper. You get to decide who does that, and if the deniers don't like it, they have the right to start their own newspaper. In essence, the very thing that makes it possible for you to print whatever you want, is what also makes it incumbent upon you to take responsibility for what you decide to print.

What does that even mean, "take responsibility?" There's no penalty for running someone's ad.

Freedom of speech doesn't end at the bare minimum allowed by the constitution. Freedom of speech as a general principle means that everyone should have equal access to say what they want. No cutting of Internet connections for people you disagree with, no denying advertising, etc.

Now, obviously you can do those things, but it doesn't mean you should. And if you think people should be censored, then you are not in favor of free speech.

If you don't support free speech, that's fine I suppose, but don't run around pretending like you do.
It takes real guts to say something is hate speech or Holocaust denial, and refuse to print it.
What are you talking about? No it doesn't.
I suppose there would have been greater harm censoring Goebbels before Kristalnacht than the harm done to hundreds of thousands of Jews that night.
Or, alternatively, suppose the Nazis had not censored opposing viewpoints leading up to WWII. Maybe if people had been exposed to counter arguments against the Nazis it wouldn't have been so easy for them to take total control of society.

The people who advocate censorship always assumes they're going to be the ones with the blackout marker. It's a pretty dangerous assumption.

I mean god damn, remember back in 2004 when everyone was badmouthing the Dixie Chicks and everyone else for being "against the troops" by being anti-bush (because bush was the commander in chief)

The people who advocated that censorship made the same arguments, that private companies didn't need to give people a platform, that they had to "take responsibility" and so on. Suppose that argument had gone further, and extended to the internet. After all, if it's reasonable to deny someone's access to ad space, why not deny access to web hosting, or even an Internet connection?

It's all the same logic. Private companies ought to be able to censor. It completely ignores the fact that all communication goes through Some private company nowadays.

Either you're for freedom of speech or you're not. you will never be the one who gets to pick what content is allowed and what's not.
It's a problem if the paper's editor is running every ad he sees because he believes, falsely, that he is required to and that refusing to do so infringes on the advertiser's right to free speech.
Obviously, restricting someone's speech restricts their right to free speech. Now, it might not be unconstitutional, but that doesn't mean people should just feel like they should violate it with impunity.

--

Anyway, I'm not advocating that all papers must accept all ads, but what I am saying is that it's wrong for demand a paper censor it's ads.
OK, here's my beef with all the 'I hate what you are saying, but i will fight for your right to say it' stuff--intrinsically, these arguments about free speech are more or less applicable to situations where there is little at stake. People love feeling good about letting Nazi's march, but what if the neo-Nazi movement in this country was in a position to get real power? What if there were thousands of little Timothy McVeighs being handed copies of the Turner Diaries every time there was a rally? I'd certainly hope you, and any other responsible citizen, and the government, would actively fight to censor, suppress, and otherwise squelch the movement's speech and actions. As a gay, jewish leftist, my life could easily be at stake.
If it ever got to that point in the U.S, there would be no way to impose censorship at that point.

And as I said, there would be no way I'd ever want to censor anything. Suppose that group got some power, couldn't they use the same censorship apparatus and precedents to censor opposing views? Obviously, they could and would.
Here is my corollary to my aforementioned beef: the assumption that ideas of tolerance and equality will win over bigotry because they're better ideas is arrogant.
But it's not arrogant to assume that people who support equality and bigotry will always be in charge and get to choose who and what gets censored? Of course it is. What would have happened to Martin Luther King in this country without freedom of speech? Or early gay rights advocates? Without freedom of speech, progress can be stopped.
posted by delmoi at 11:33 AM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I thought we all agreed that the sky was blue, girls are as good as boys, the climate IS currently "warming",

Uh what? Lots of people don't believe that. They're wrong, but they're pretty common. Lots of powerful people are deniers.
posted by delmoi at 11:36 AM on March 5, 2010


It's arrogant to think progressive ideas will win out over regressive ones, but somehow not arrogant to imagine that people are at the mercy of these ideas and cannot be trusted to take responsibility for adopting either hate or tolerance? And that you should make that decision for them?

What? The concept that people's thinking is influenced by ideas is arrogant? And no, I don't trust people to 'take responsibility for adopting either hate or tolerance.' That's not the point. The times I've looked in the eyes of a neo-Nazi protesting an anti-racist conference, or the "God Hates Fags" people, I really don't give a shit about whether I'm treating them like grown-ups. All I care about is making sure that they never get what they want. Again, this concept of 'trust' ignores the possibility that maybe tolerance won't win, that those advocating hate will do a better job of making their message appeal to people. In that situation, it doesn't really matter to me any more how we got there, and that we respected people enough to choose hate and gave them that choice.

And when exactly did I say that I should make the decision for them? All I'm talking about is communities holding media establishments accountable to their beliefs.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 11:37 AM on March 5, 2010


Exactly! This is why you see so many ads filled with with full frontal nudity and racial epithets.

It seems like you're equating two separate issues.

Nudity and swearing are typically denied across the board - if I wanted to run an add for my bar and wanted to use a picture of a naked women, my ad probably wouldn't run. Even though most student newspapers would probably have no objection to advertising bars and frequently do.

Similarly, if a strip club wanted to advertise their business - without using nudity or foul language, simply by displaying their name or something - it would be questionable to deny that because you don't like legal strip clubs.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:43 AM on March 5, 2010


But it's not arrogant to assume that people who support equality and bigotry will always be in charge and get to choose who and what gets censored? Of course it is. What would have happened to Martin Luther King in this country without freedom of speech? Or early gay rights advocates? Without freedom of speech, progress can be stopped.

Right, because neither MLK nor any of the early gay rights advocates were jailed for lengthy periods of time, harassed by the FBI, or otherwise had the U.S. government actively trying to keep them from being heard.

And as I said, there would be no way I'd ever want to censor anything. Suppose that group got some power, couldn't they use the same censorship apparatus and precedents to censor opposing views? Obviously, they could and would.

Bad news: they could and would either way. Fascists tend not to care terribly much for the legality of their actions once in power.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 11:43 AM on March 5, 2010


I'd certainly hope you, and any other responsible citizen, and the government, would actively fight to censor, suppress, and otherwise squelch the movement's speech and actions.

Absolutely not! I'd put that effort into mocking them, creating cruelly accurate caricatures of them, etc., etc. What you're advocating is far worse.
posted by Scoo at 11:45 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's clearly liberal baiting, no?

It is, and Mr. Smith should send Mefi a thank you letter for the free publicity provided by this thread. ("Don't feed the trolls" doesn't just apply to the internet, people.)
posted by coolguymichael at 11:49 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


As someone in management at a newspaper, I would say that. A) every newspaper out there has some filter in place regarding what they publish, be it ad copy or editorial content, and B) there is no way that my newspaper would have run something like this.

Are they free to print this ad? Of course, in the sense that they do not suffer any legal penalty for that act. However, condemning that act and those who chose to implement it is also legitimate, as is calling for a boycott of the newspaper, cancelling subscriptions and ads, etc.

So, the editor of this paper is a scumbag who is hiding behind a stupid reading of the First Amendment that "requires" him to put this kind of crap in his paper. Bullshit.
posted by dellsolace at 11:52 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyway, I'm not advocating that all papers must accept all ads, but what I am saying is that it's wrong for demand a paper censor it's ads.

So your car must be covered in bumper stickers since you are obliged to put all requests on there.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:54 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


For example a paper has to give equal time and access to political candidates as long as they are paying.

Huh. I guess I was wrong here. I still be if a paper ran an ad for one candidate they would have to run it for the other, even if only through their own policies. I'd see lawsuits over that one. But I could be wrong. (Again.)

About the only censorship I can endorse is self-censorship.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:56 AM on March 5, 2010


And if you think people should be censored, then you are not in favor of free speech.

That's just goofy. Not running an ad is not censoring it: it's not running it.

Walk through this with me:

If I ask you to run around yelling, at the top of your voice, that the holocaust never happened (or something equally noxious), would you do it?

Or would you have the right to refuse?

How about if you were in the habit to sending e-mails to friends about your cats? Would I have the right to demand you insert statements about the holocaust never happening in those e-mails?

Okay, well, what if you have a blog about your cats? Can I insist that you start posting blog entries about my crackpot holocaust denial theories?

Let's step it up from the blog, and say that you prepare and distribute a cat fancier newsletter around your neighbourhood. Can I insist that you deny the holocaust in that?

Your cat fancier newsletter really takes off, but to distribute as many copies as you need to in order to meet demand, you need some help paying the bills. A few local pet shops start offering to buy ad space in your cat fancier newsletter. I show up on your doorstep demanding you place ads denying the Holocaust in your cat fancier newsletter. Do you have the right to refuse?

Congratulations! Your cat fancier newsletter has really taken off. Martin Scorcese has optioned it for a movie, and you're now about to launch a national glossy cat fancier magazine. I want to buy out your back cover for a year, to run nothing but statements about how much cats suck (and are responsible for the holocaust hoax). Can you refuse me, or will that make you a horrible hater of free speech?
posted by Shepherd at 11:59 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


>Anyway, I'm not advocating that all papers must accept all ads, but what I am saying is that it's wrong for demand a paper censor it's ads.

So your car must be covered in bumper stickers since you are obliged to put all requests on there.


Unless people regularly consult your car's hood for news about local and global events, this is apples and oranges.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on March 5, 2010


People love feeling good about letting Nazi's march, but what if the neo-Nazi movement in this country was in a position to get real power? […] As a gay, jewish leftist, my life could easily be at stake
Then it would be even more important to have enshrined the principle that unpopular minority viewpoints have a right to exist and be heard, wouldn't it? I'm not talking about the First Amendment per se; I'm talking about the cultural valuation of free speech which the First Amendment reflects. Would you really be happier if gays were forbidden from speaking in the South and leftists were forbidden from speaking during conservative administrations? Because that's what you're actually advocating here. I'm not saying that you and I can't tell the difference between gays and Nazis. I'm saying the law can't tell the difference, and even the cultural norms which are the human counterpart to the law can't tell the difference. Do you even remember the early-mid 2000s in the US?

Also, I am annoyed at your goalpost-moving equation of speech with murder. The law has always had to deal with the line between speech and performative speech (incitement to a crime and all that).

I have often been unsure, myself, whether it's better to let Holocaust deniers etc. talk or not. They are awfully vile. But lately, especially when I read threads like this one, I've returned to my belief in the importance of free speech. It's better to expose the deniers for what they are. The first step in destroying their credibility is to let them open their mouth.
posted by hattifattener at 12:13 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unless people regularly consult your car's hood for news about local and global events, this is apples and oranges.

Private Newspapers, TV stations, Radio Stations, etc. are not public service providers, they are businesses. Nothing in their business model requires them to be unbiased or to print anything they do not wish to print, ads included, any more than you would be required to post a bumper sticker on your privately owned car.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:13 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well if this paper is so concerned about censorship, and will allow all views, surely they would just love to post an ad consisting of a photoshopped picture of their editor kissing Hitler's naked ass, right?
posted by Zalzidrax at 12:15 PM on March 5, 2010


Unless people regularly consult your car's hood for news about local and global events, this is apples and oranges.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on March 5


How can you not see the difference here? Are you honestly saying that newspapers, radio stations, television stations, magazines, all forms of media must be held by statute to publish all ads no matter the content? Do you actually have any evidence that this is or should be the case? Because I'm pretty sure I can't put an ad in The National Review that just says YOU ARE ALL DOUGHY ASSHOLES in 120 point type.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:20 PM on March 5, 2010


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

"Sounds good to me."
"Hey let's put in a part where publishers have to accept any Notices of Sale and then make Franklin run one that says his weiner is like a capless acorn and that he smells like stale snuff and underage bar-wench vajay."
"No, that would be fucking stupid."
"Maybe one day in the future people will just assume that to be the case anyway."
"Then may Providence have mercy on us all, gentle-men."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:26 PM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Often the paper can't refuse (in this case they probably could have). For example a paper has to give equal time and access to political candidates as long as they are paying.

Papers are made out of paper and do not broadcast on public domain airwaves, therefore they are not subject to public domain fairness doctrine nor equal time rules.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:26 PM on March 5, 2010


I love how every "free speech" thread turns into a horrible confusion between:

a) Asking people not to say horrible shit, asking media not to be promoters of horrible shit, and, when having done so, to own up to that instead of claiming "censorship!", and being willing to accept you may lose customers/viewers/consumers/readers for what you produce...

b) Actually pushing for laws, policies, or threatening with violence in order to silence opinions.

One of these is both part of a free-speech democracy and the choice of consumers, and the other is actual censorship.
posted by yeloson at 12:27 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey let's put in a part where publishers have to accept any Notices of Sale and then make Franklin run one that says his weiner is like a capless acorn and that he smells like stale snuff and underage bar-wench vajay.

"BE IT KNOWN TO ALL PRESENT ON THIS DAY that the Weiner of Benjamin Franklin hath been Shaped by Providence into a Forme resembling that of a Capless Acorne, and that his aroma..."
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:34 PM on March 5, 2010


The Freedom To Quit Hitting Yourself, Quit Hitting Yourself, Quit Hitting Yourself is worthless, gentlemen, because in many cases, the victim is not even in control of his very arms!
posted by Damn That Television at 12:39 PM on March 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


Mooooooooooom!!!!!!

/little brother
posted by Pollomacho at 12:55 PM on March 5, 2010


It's really simple, and a lot of people appear not to get it: free speech is about government taking steps to prevent or punish the expression of an opinion; it is not a principle that is engaged when a private entity chooses to deny someone an opportunity to express a particular viewpoint. In the latter case, such a denial may be improper, it may be unfair, but it is not a free speech issue.

If people think that this paper should have run an ad promoting Holocaust denial, then let's hear why they think it's an appropriate exercise of editorial discretion, or perhaps why editors should never exercise discretion over advertising that is not illegal. Those arguments would at least be to the point. Free speech in this context is a red herring.
posted by Dasein at 12:56 PM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's an interesting sidenote that Voltaire never wrote or said that "I will defend your right" bromide that's attributed to him (over and over again). It's actually a paraphrase of what a British writer named Evelyn Beatrice Hall imagined in a long-forgotten 1906 book called The Friends of Voltaire that he might say. However, "To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall" doesn't have quite the same ring.
posted by blucevalo at 12:59 PM on March 5, 2010


How can you not see the difference here? Are you honestly saying that newspapers, radio stations, television stations, magazines, all forms of media must be held by statute to publish all ads no matter the content? Do you actually have any evidence that this is or should be the case? Because I'm pretty sure I can't put an ad in The National Review that just says YOU ARE ALL DOUGHY ASSHOLES in 120 point type.

If this were the case, then CBS would have broken the law by refusing same-sex dating advertisements for broadcast during the Super Bowl.

I actually wouldn't mind taking CBS to court over their bigoted hypocrisy, except that I'd have my ass handed to me by a federal judge.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:02 PM on March 5, 2010


Right, because neither MLK nor any of the early gay rights advocates were jailed for lengthy periods of time, harassed by the FBI, or otherwise had the U.S. government actively trying to keep them from being heard.

Well, in the case of MLK, he was never jailed for his speech, but rather civil disobedience, violating jim crow laws which he knew were on the books, but were unfair.

Anyway, I'm not sure what the point of that statement was, "MLK went to jail for protesting, therefore civil rights wouldn't have been more difficult if their speech was oppressed"? How does that make any sense?

Bad news: they could and would either way. Fascists tend not to care terribly much for the legality of their actions once in power.

Sure, but it would be a lot easier if there were already laws in place that allowed censorship of political ideas. They might just get a lot of power, not all of it.
That's just goofy. Not running an ad is not censoring it: it's not running it.
That's sort of a tautology. I mean, all censorship takes place by some means. Right, if the government were to go through taking down blogs they disagreed with, as happens in China, would you claim it wasn't censorship, because they were just "not hosting it". Or if phone calls between dissidents were blocked would that not be censorship because they were just "not connecting it"?
If I ask you to run around yelling, at the top of your voice, that the holocaust never happened (or something equally noxious), would you do it?

Or would you have the right to refuse?
I'm not going to bother responding to analogies. They are generally a huge waste of time. It isn't like people can't understand the concept of a newspaper here.

So moving this back into the real world, what happened was that someone asked the guy to run an ad, the ad didn't violate the paper's policies, and therefore they ran it. The question is, was it morally wrong for the paper to run the ad, and a lot of people seem to be arguing that there was.

My argument is that a newspaper ought to be able to set standards for what it publishes. Obviously there are papers that push a particular point of view, and they ought to be able to censor ads that they disagree with. On the other hand, if a paper feels like they ought to grant freedom of speech to their advertisers, then you can't call them "responsible" for the ads they run. They are sticking with their policies.
How about if you were in the habit to sending e-mails to friends about your cats? Would I have the right to demand you insert statements about the holocaust never happening in those e-mails?

Okay, well, what if you have a blog about your cats? Can I insist that you start posting blog entries about my crackpot holocaust denial theories?

Let's step it up from the blog, and say that you prepare and distribute a cat fancier newsletter around your neighbourhood. Can I insist that you deny the holocaust in that?

Your cat fancier newsletter really takes off, but to distribute
See what I mean about a waste of time? Cat fancier newsletter? *rolls eyes* Analogies and metaphors can be helpful for explaining something that people don't understand. They are a complete waste of time in a debate or discussion.
b) Actually pushing for laws, policies, or threatening with violence in order to silence opinions.

One of these is both part of a free-speech democracy and the choice of consumers, and the other is actual censorship.
Well, first of all, the dictionary definition of the word censorship doesn't mention anything about it being done by governments. So you're just factually wrong about your definitions here.

Second of all, I'm sure you were totally cool with the push to punish and ban people who were opposed to bush back in the middle of the decade, right? Hey, take the Dixie Chicks off the radio, it's a private enterprise right? Freedom of speech that's at the whim of private companies means freedom of speech that only exists in theory.

And people who think freedom of speech should only exist in theory are not people who actually believe in freedom of speech.
posted by delmoi at 1:03 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Unless people regularly consult your car's hood for news about local and global events, this is apples and oranges.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:06 PM on March 5

How can you not see the difference here?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:20 PM on March 5


How can YOU not see the difference between a MEDIA OUTLET and a CAR BUMPER?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:04 PM on March 5, 2010


And for the record, OC, I wasn't saying the analogy was wrong or right -- I only meant it was pretty bloody dumb.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:05 PM on March 5, 2010


“That does not translate into a right to advertise in your newspaper.”
So newspapers should censor non-editorial, ad space content based on their editorial slant. Yeah, that there’s some free speech.

Once you start drawing lines based on ideology (rather than harmfulness – such as the falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater) then the lines are drawn. There’s no reason not to deny any particular ad other than editorial whim. It’s only offensive if they think it’s offensive, what you think, or what’s best for an informed society doesn’t matter. Hey, we don’t like the Dems. Let’s not take their ads.

No problem with not running these kinds of ads, but if they have standards for accepting or not a given ad, those standards must apply fairly to everyone.

And there’s a difference between advocating an action in speech and expressing an opinion.
Beyond that, I’m entirely happy to give people enough rope to hang themselves with their own words.
Running an ad next to it saying “Some idiot actually thinks this -→” would be fine.

“People love feeling good about letting Nazi's march, but what if the neo-Nazi movement in this country was in a position to get real power?”

They are not in a position to get real power, precisely because we let them march. Look at what happened in Skokie Illinois. The more publicity they got, the more exposure they got. The more exposure they got, the more came out, like their leader being a child molester.
People who get involved in those kinds of hateful movements typically have other anti-social traits as well. They crave a voice without the attention. Giving them a higher profile allows them the voice, but denies them a chance to hide.

Silence is death. It’s that simple. If not engaged by society, if denied a chance to express their views many groups go underground and use violence. That’s terrorism 101.

Even in the worst case scenario, if they had their hands on real power, but got lots of exposure before the fact, at least you know who to draw a bead on. Because if that were actually happening and they were overtly preventing other types of speech, that’s what I’d be doing.

“Here is my corollary to my aforementioned beef: the assumption that ideas of tolerance and equality will win over bigotry because they're better ideas is arrogant.”

I’m always worried that other pro-wrestling fans don’t notice that the referee isn’t doing a very good job and that perhaps the match is unfair. I shout and point loudly to direct their attention.

“You don't need to know where the line is. It just has to be somewhere before Nazi propaganda.”

F’ing A! And you don’t need to know which prisoners to castrate. It just has to be somewhere where we start with the pedophiles.

“All I care about is making sure that they never get what they want.”

Then kill them. If they’re that dangerous, if people are such big suckers that they’re going to buy into the rhetoric and suddenly hate everyone and come after you, pick up a weapon and treat them like an enemy. A few dead in the street is better than thousands by pogram, no?
You’re already willing to demand they be silenced. “By the community” What if the community is ok with not silencing them in the first place? How does one hold someone accountable for a belief instead of an action?

So if it’s not done ‘properly,’ by a given community who dictates how it be done?
This was already done at this paper. The community reacted. You don’t like it. You clearly want more. So what’s the next step?

It wasn’t “the U.S. government” that didn’t want MLK to be heard. It was citizens of some white folks, in their “communities” holding the U.S. government accountable.
They had exactly the same logic you had only with a different theme – the hateful blacks were causing chaos and violence in the streets. The Black Panthers were arming and going to kill white men and rape white women. You can’t let them speak to the press or be heard or march because it’s just going to lead to more violence and hate.

”Either you're for freedom of speech or you're not. you will never be the one who gets to pick what content is allowed and what's not.”
This.
If the standard is based only on the ideology of whoever's running the newspaper or whatever people in the community think, there's no standard. Don't want holocaust denial ads? Lay down a standard that applies equally.
I don't know why anyone would have to run a holocaust history ad anyway, since it's a pretty well established fact. But perhaps no non-topical advertising or some such. Shouldn't be too hard to find a fair standard and stick to it rather than just not liking what someone has to say and refusing based on that.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:08 PM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


What they can't do is pretend that they had no choice in the matter.

They can do that too. And you can complain about it.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:08 PM on March 5, 2010


How can YOU not see the difference between a MEDIA OUTLET and a CAR BUMPER?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:04 PM on March 5


Because a media outlet such as a newspaper does not use limited public resources the way that broadcast networks do. In this instance, the car bumper and the printing press are more alike than they are different, and laws forcing car owners and publishers to accept ads from all comers regardless of message would in fact be an abrogation of the very first amendment rights you are claiming.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:12 PM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


See, to me, "Oh, dear, saying a newspaper has to run every ad is like saying I have to put every bumper sticker in existance onto my car" sounds like "oh dear, requiring a school to cater to every diet sounds like requiring me to feed EVERY FOOD EVER to my family at every meal."

My discussion was not about the source of the funding, it was a comment on the size of the audience.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on March 5, 2010


“If this were the case, then CBS would have broken the law by refusing same-sex dating advertisements for broadcast during the Super Bowl.”

Yeah, they did not, apparently, break the law (IANAL). But it’s pretty clear they were wrong. They had accepted other dating advertisements. I see no grounds they could legitimately stand on to say they’re at all pro-free speech. If someone isn't suing them, they should be.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:20 PM on March 5, 2010


Actually, not even that. my comment was about the analogy itself and "you....actually could stand to think of a better example, methinks."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on March 5, 2010


Analogies and metaphors can be helpful for explaining something that people don't understand. They are a complete waste of time in a debate or discussion.

Well, you obviously didn't understand how a newspaper can be seen as a scaling up of an individual voice, and how an individual should have the right to exercise how his or her voice is used, so I thought I'd take you through it in baby steps, starting from a single person sending e-mails up to a publication. I seem to have lost you somewhere along the way. You also seem like somebody that might like cats. I think they're swell!

The question is, was it morally wrong for the paper to run the ad, and a lot of people seem to be arguing that there was.

Backwards.

The stance that you and some others have taken ("free speech!") is that the paper has a moral imperative to run everything it is given without question or that it will somehow violate some precious and ill-defined idea of "free speech" that trumps any individual's control over what they say, do, or publish.

What most people are arguing is that it is would not have been immoral for the paper to refuse to run the ad, and that the stance the paper's editor is taking, that he is somehow morally bound to run everything that happens to be thrown at him with a wad of cash tied to it, is untenable. Do you see the difference?
posted by Shepherd at 1:24 PM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I remember running my college newspaper and being amused at potential advertisers who suggested I had a First Amendment obligation to run their ads. Especially when they were in arrears on payment for previous ads.

That is all.
posted by jscalzi at 1:28 PM on March 5, 2010


In this instance, the car bumper and the printing press are more alike than they are different, and laws forcing car owners and publishers to accept ads from all comers regardless of message would in fact be an abrogation of the very first amendment rights you are claiming.

Actually, I thought of a better difference between a car bumper and a newspaper.

With a newspaper, the advertiser buys the space on the paper.

With a car bumper, the car owner buys the bumper sticker.

The only way that a car bumper could be analagous to a newspaper is if someone paid ME to put a sticker on my car. Or, if the newspaper BOUGHT the ads.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on March 5, 2010


Okay, well, what if you have a blog about your cats? Can I insist that you start posting blog entries about my crackpot holocaust denial theories?

Yep. As long as there are pictures: CatsThatLookLikeHitler.com.
posted by ericb at 1:45 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


At least they didn't run the Nyarlathotep Hitler ads.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:47 PM on March 5, 2010


Because a media outlet such as a newspaper does not use limited public resources the way that broadcast networks do. In this instance, the car bumper and the printing press are more alike than they are different, and laws forcing car owners and publishers to accept ads from all comers regardless of message would in fact be an abrogation of the very first amendment rights you are claiming.
No one is talking about forcing anyone to do anything, except for the people who want to force the paper to take "moral responsibility" for the ads they run -- that is, equate them with holocaust deniers if they run holocaust denier ads. Essentially force them not to run offensive ads.

Seriously, who said anything about forcing newspapers to run ads against their will?
Well, you obviously didn't understand how a newspaper can be seen as a scaling up of an individual voice -- Shepherd
I don't know why you think I don't understand that, but I don't really care either.
The stance that you and some others have taken ("free speech!") is that the paper has a moral imperative to run everything it is given without question or that it will somehow violate some precious and ill-defined idea of "free speech" that trumps any individual's control over what they say, do, or publish. -- Shepherd
Bullshit. That's completely false. I haven't taken that stand. I said it very clearly in my first comment in this thread.
Anyway, I'm not advocating that all papers must accept all ads, but what I am saying is that it's wrong for demand a paper censor it's ads.
The stance I took is exactly the same as the one you quoted, and then claimed was "backwards".

Learn to read.
posted by delmoi at 2:13 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


There seem to be three or four different viewpoints here:

1) Newspapers should be forced to run any ad from any person -- no one holds this view

2) If a newspaper has a "free speech" policy for advertisements, then they're not responsible for the ads they run.

3) Newspapers are responsible for all the ads they run, and if they don't censor ones you find unacceptable, then they are as bad as if they held those views themselves (i.e. they are "morally responsible")

4) Newspapers should be forced to censor ads. -- No one holds this view, except maybe Subcommandante Cheese who says:
I'd certainly hope you, and any other responsible citizen, and the government, would actively fight to censor, suppress, and otherwise squelch the movement's speech and actions.
Which would, I assume, include legal suppression.

So anyway, I hold view 2 and disagree with 3 and 4. I also think that when you move from newspapers to things like the telephone system, web hosting, and so on free speech probably ought to be mandatory for "common carriers". Since you like analogies, it shouldn't be legal to refuse to sell someone a printing press based on their views, any more then you can refuse to sell someone a house or rent them an apartment on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and so on.

But that's beside the point of newspapers. I've been very clear that I don't think newspapers should be forced to carry ads, but I do think that if they have a free speech policy for their ads, they shouldn't be criticized for following it. If they ran an holocaust denier ad, but refused to run a rebuttal ad, then they would be open for criticism.
posted by delmoi at 2:28 PM on March 5, 2010


I think I see where you're coming from, but it doesn't work for me.

1) Newspapers should be forced to run any ad from any person -- no one holds this view

2) If a newspaper has a "free speech" policy for advertisements, then they're not responsible for the ads they run.


Well, nobody holds view #1, except you, if you hold view #2.

If a newspaper has a "free speech policy", they are bound to accept all advertising (within the confines of what they can legally print), yes?

Because if their "free speech policy" doesn't force them to run any ad from any person, then they are applying their "free speech policy" on an ad-hoc, per-ad basis, deciding for each ad whether or not to run it. And if they are deciding on an ad-hoc, per-ad basis whether or not to run every ad, they do not have a "free speech policy," because they are making moral decisions whether or not to "censor" advertising. And since they are making these decisions, they are responsible for them.

If they do not accept every ad they can legally run, without question or hesitation, they are censoring ads, and not have a "free speech policy." If they do have a "free speech policy," they are forced to run every ad they can legally run.

#2 is #1.
posted by Shepherd at 2:50 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


This (.pdf) is the terms and conditions of the ad contract for the San Francisco Chronicle. It reads, in part:

1. All advertising is accepted subject to Chronicle’s approval. The Chronicle shall at all times have the right without liability to reject, in whole or in part, any advertisement scheduled to appear in the newspaper for any reason in Chronicle’s sole discretion, even if such advertisement has previously been acknowledged or accepted.

Here is the same from the NYT. It reads, in part:

The Times may decline to accept advertising that is misleading, inaccurate or fraudulent; that makes unfair competitive claims; or that fails to comply with its standards of decency and dignity.

I would bet that policies like these are common for the vast majority of newspapers in the U.S. If there is a newspaper whose ad policies are "If you got the money, and the ad doesn't break the law, we'll print it, no matter what," I'd be interested in seeing it.
posted by rtha at 2:55 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've run one campus newspaper and worked for two "real" papers, and none of them had anything even approaching the faintest reflection of the hypothetical "free speech policy" being advanced above.
posted by Shepherd at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2010


Yeah, I somehow doubt this paper is accepting ads from NAMBLA. Or, heck, even Planned Parenthood, for that matter.

Which means they're exercising editorial control at some level when it comes to selling ad space. So, yeah—to throw up your hands and say "Free speech. What can ya do?" as their editor has done here, is disingenuous at best.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:08 PM on March 5, 2010


But now, suppose you live in a community which then sees this, and stops accepting ads from GMHC or the local synogogue on the grounds that "well, those people in THAT town censored an ad on the grounds of community decency; and now so are we, in THIS town. We just think different in this town than those fruitcakes do over there."

OMG, this, like, almost totally happened in Canada, where mass publication of holocaust denial nutbaggery is illegal to the extent that some of those assholes get kicked out of the country.

Fortunately, someone threw some grit at the top of the slippery slope. So far, it seems to have done the trick.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:05 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Easy now. There's no reason to pollute your point of view by lauding misuse of anti-terror legislation to remove the "national security threat" that was Ernst Zundel.

Now pass me a piece of that Hitlercake.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:27 PM on March 5, 2010


It's really simple, and a lot of people appear not to get it: free speech is about government taking steps to prevent or punish the expression of an opinion; it is not a principle that is engaged when a private entity chooses to deny someone an opportunity to express a particular viewpoint. In the latter case, such a denial may be improper, it may be unfair, but it is not a free speech issue.

It seems a lot of people missed this rather succinct statement by Dasein.

And as people up thread have mentioned the paper in question is NOT the "official" paper of UW, and therefore not obligated to allow every ad that comes its way because of free speech/public funding issues.

This is plain and simple conservative lib baiting.
posted by Max Power at 4:47 PM on March 5, 2010


For the folks advocating "free speech" in the case of Holocaust denial, how come none of you gets upset when a mod deletes a post or cleans up a thread, or when a user gets banned for self-linking?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:52 PM on March 5, 2010


So if a paper can exercise –some- editorial control – regarding uniform standards of decency or whatnot (say not putting full frontal nudity in its ad space) – than it’s illegitimate to claim any standard as not arbitrary?
So why have any standards? You don’t like Joe’s auto sales because he’s black (you don’t need to say that of course) so you don’t run his ads. You do like Phil’s used car lot (as a white anglo saxon protestant) so you do run those ads.

Doesn’t strike anyone as unfair? Remove the racist undertones – still unfair? Seems like it to me either way. They’re auto dealerships. If you run car dealership ads you should run all car dealership ads.

Don’t want holocaust revisionism in your paper? Don’t run the whole class of such things. Bear in mind – it’s an opinion, not advocacy (like NAMBLA). Still – what counterpoint is there to holocaust denial? Nothing comes to my mind. Seems like a pretty well established historical fact.

Maybe not accept ads regarding genocide? The Armenian genocide is a pretty serious bone of contention. Pretty well established tho. We shouldn’t let Turkey present its side? Who gets to decide what legitimate historical issues are and which sides get presentation?

The UN ruled (in 2001) that Serb troops didn’t carry out a genocide against Albanians under Milosevic. So that was all settled then? Or maybe we think about it some more and look into it?

I’m pretty serious about denial, and I agree it aids in fostering new genocides. On the other hand, as long as the other side isn’t silenced and can respond, I think it’s productive to talk about. But what, we’re not supposed to because it upsets people? Sort of defeats the purpose of public scrutiny not to have an argument by the other side. Sort of what creates the myopic perspective that fosters genocides in the first place.

So anything the paper runs they should be “held responsible” for?
What exactly does that mean?
As far as I can tell they were and are free to run the ad, and they have been held responsible for it in terms of criticism. (If you buy into the answer to free speech you don’t like being more free speech)
As it happens I think they should adhere to a consistent standard.
But ‘held responsible’?

It sounds more like the debate is prior restraint. They should ‘be responsible’ and not run something other people might not like. Well, they did run it. Should they not have? Was it in bad taste? Well, duh.
But prevented from doing so, or compelled to do so? No.

“free speech is about government taking steps to prevent or punish the expression of an opinion; it is not a principle that is engaged when a private entity chooses to deny someone an opportunity to express a particular viewpoint.”

Which is totally awesome. I love that employers can fire you for having a political bumper sticker on your car that they disagree with or for something you write on a blog. I can only hope I work for someone who thinks having sex with my wife for purposes other than for procreation is a sin and fires me or ends my career because they like looking at me in the john when I take a dump and I protest.

There’s no way we should do something crazy like change the law to make the principle of free speech (which is just crazy talk) align with core human rights in business.

Because it’s only about what the -government- can and can’t do. And that’s made life soooo much better, hasn’t it? That’s what free speech is all about. Those little ‘free speech zones’ are just awesome little loopholes thanks to security and private property laws.

- I will defend to the death your right to say it … unless you’re at work or something. Or in a mall. Or on private property. Or you work for a newspaper. Then you should be restrained to community standards in what you say. But if you’re in your house, in the closet, under a blanket – solid.
If it's not useful, if it's practically revocable by depriving you of your livelihood if you dissent, of what value is your version of 'free speech'?

“For the folks advocating "free speech" in the case of Holocaust denial, how come none of you gets upset when a mod deletes a post or cleans up a thread, or when a user gets banned for self-linking?”

I’m sorry – people don’t get upset those things happen? Was there some sort of public trust on metafilter I’m unaware of? It's a 'platform of legitimacy'? (How the hell does a newspaper provide legitimacy? In the first place, it's an ad, not an actual story. In the second place - if it's the kind of newspaper that prints ads that one thinks are completely illegitimate, it is then, not a legitimate news source - qed. Third, if ads are valid representations of the editorial position and are then legitimate - I hear there are some fabulous! deals! on some used cars you absolutely! cannot! miss!)

In any event there are clear and uniform standards regarding those kinds of things on metafilter. There’s no bias where only certain get to self-link or only certain viewpoints are allowed for FPPs. Indeed there’s been more than an ample number of controversial topics.
(And personally, I've always opposed banning anyone for nearly any reason other than purposeful and overt disruption)

Is it at all clear that the subject matter is less relevant than form and fairness regarding free speech?

That it’s not that the paper should or shouldn’t have run – specifically – a holocaust denier ad but rather that it should be free to run any ads or not at will (albeit with a standard would be fair and closer to the principle of free speech) and the actual being “held responsible” part of it is going on now up there?
That it is, in fact, being talked about. Criticism has been levied. The editor has been made to answer for himself (how valid one considers his argument aside).

And so that many of the points made here seem to be supporting prior restraint rather than the “they shouldn’t be compelled to run every ad” – the corollary of which is “they shouldn’t be compelled NOT to run a given ad” - before the fact?
That the latter *is* a free speech issue?

Other points of contention I cede. Plenty of common sense here from a number of quarters. Someone saying they just don't like this and it was a stupid idea to run it - sure. Maybe he's being a dick. Who knows? His argument is vague. Boils down to he thought he should run it and he's got the right to. Ok. Yeah. Duh. Doesn't address the 'should' part of the equation, I agree.

But saying there's a lack of responsibility ignores the right to protest what was said prior - which again, is going on. People have protested. College officials are talking about it. It's being addressed and so the editor - whether one thinks he's wrong, right, whatever - is being held accountable for letting the ad run.

Anything more seems to imply denying the right to print the ad in the first place. So again - who decides that before the fact? Given the editorial staff thinks its ok or have standards which allow for it? I don't think anyone should. People don't like it afterward they can protest, as they have and as they have the right to do, and as they should.
Free speech rights, like a muscle, need exercise to be maintained.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:46 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Besides, his views got a full airing in the community, which allowed people to see him as the semi-literate, under-rock-dwelling cretin he was. He made noises about suing the university. We were the official student paper so, as others have pointed out, he may have had a case. But he did not have the resources to pursue it.

You sure told that ignorant Kluxer! You knew you were acting as an agent of the State. You even figured "he may have had a case" that you were violating his First Amendment rights.

But you went right ahead and did it, because you figured he was too poor and too unpopular to claim his rights.

You can praise yourself that you're on the right side of history, that you abused your power and denied the rights of someone who couldn't fight back for all the most politically correct reasons, that he was just a dirty smelly hippie Kluxer.

I suspect similar things happened during Jim Crow when black folk like Fannie Lou Hamer tried to buy ads, and I suspect that the people in power then also smugly congratulated themselves on doing the right thing -- by the mores of their times -- in keeping the unpopular speech of outsiders, on the outside.

I'm not equating a Kluxer with Fannie Lou Hamer. Not politically, not morally.

But I am equating smug power and privilege with, well, smug power and privilege. And it still stinks to high heaven, even doused with politically correct perfume.
posted by orthogonality at 6:57 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


orthogonality, cool it. dust of the stars was not acting as an agent of the state - he was the editor of a student paper that was officially recognized by the student union. Not the same thing.

In fact, dust is wrong about the KKKer having a case - he had no case. Accepting ads, much like accepting letters to the editor or articles, is at the sole discretion of the editors of a publication. No one can force anyone else to print their stuff. It's really amazing to me how many people don't seem to get that.

Not being published, even for the wrong reason, does not infringe your freedom of speech. As others have pointed out, to be compelled by law to print something would, however, be a serious infringement on the freedom on the press.
posted by Dasein at 7:07 PM on March 5, 2010


What if there were thousands of little Timothy McVeighs being handed copies of the Turner Diaries every time there was a rally? I'd certainly hope you, and any other responsible citizen, and the government, would actively fight to censor, suppress, and otherwise squelch the movement's speech and actions. As a gay, jewish leftist, my life could easily be at stake.

So what you're saying is, you're a gay, Jewish leftist who doesn't believe in democracy?

I mean, that's OK, but you need to understand that's really the conclusion you're inevitably making. That it's OK for you -- and your government -- to hypothetically suppress -- to "squelch" -- the non-violent persuasive political activity of, in your words, "thousands" of people. Thousand of people, hypothetically, whose only crime is handing out literature you disagree with.

Well, you're not alone. Woodrow Wilson and Mitchell Palmer and and Edgar Hoover and Joe McCarthy and Dick Nixon did exactly what you propose, though instead of targeting Americans handing out "copies of the Turner Diaries", they wiretapped and harassed, jailed and imprisoned, and assassinated American citizens: Pacifists and union organizers and Socialists and members of the Communist Party of the United States of America and civil rights activists, and yes, some gays and Jews and leftists.

Congratulations. You're right, your life is at stake. You've unwittingly allied yourself with the very people who never minded lynching liberals. You're a "gay, jewish leftist" just like Roy Cohn.
posted by orthogonality at 7:12 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was in college, my University enacted a policy that no one could put up any signs or decorations on their doors, due to some asshats putting up some racist crap because some students got offended. So down came the swastikas (or whatever) and I was forced to take down my CD long boxes off my door.

Problem solved, except then as I walked down the halls I kept wondering which ignorant racist made me take down my Bauhaus cover art. The way I see it, if people are going to hold those beliefs, and are willing to advertise such, then I can only benefit by knowing where to stay the fuck away from.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:32 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Doesn't the publisher of a newspaper have freedom of speech, too? And shouldn't that mean that he gets to decide what gets printed on his own press, down to selecting which advocacy groups can buy ad space in the paper? It seems to me that some people are essentially claiming that a publisher has a moral obligation to undermine his own free speech in this regard, and I don't think that works in the end.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:48 PM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


People who are offered money to broadcast hate speech and turn it down are good people. People who accept that money and do broadcast that speech? They're bad people.

No one is obligated to accept money or to donate space to hate speech. Letting haters manipulate public opinion does not benefit society.

So long as one is allowed to express one's opinion directly to consenting adults, I can't see that it's necessary to guarantee anything more: you have free speech. ISPs shouldn't be obligated to sell services to promote your speech. Newspapers shouldn't be obligated to sell services to promote your speech. Public funds should not be used to promote your speech. You're all on your own.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:00 PM on March 5, 2010


Hate speech is exactly like love-ins, union rallies, and equality protesting. Exactly!

And that's why you can't go down the slippery slope.

I mean, just look at Marion Rolland!
posted by five fresh fish at 11:05 PM on March 5, 2010


It seems a lot of people missed this rather succinct statement by Dasein. -- Max Power
The fact that he said it doesn't mean it's by definition true. I read it and I disagree with it. There's government censorship, and censorship done by other parties. Freedom of speech is the freedom to say what you want. The more mediums you have available to do so, the more free your speech is.
For the folks advocating "free speech" in the case of Holocaust denial, how come none of you gets upset when a mod deletes a post or cleans up a thread, or when a user gets banned for self-linking? -- KokuRyu
I don't know how many times I need to say this, but my point is that if a paper chooses to have a "Free speech" policy for ads, then they shouldn't be criticized for sticking with it. Metafilter obviously isn't a site where people can just say whatever they want. There are plenty of sites where people can say whatever they want, should they all be shut down, or what?


I'm not saying that absolute free speech exists, or that it should. But I am saying you can have more or less of it. You have more free speech on 4chan then you do on metafilter. That has nothing to do with the government, but rather the policies of the message boards. You'll find plenty of nazi love on 4chan, btw.
Well, you're not alone. Woodrow Wilson and Mitchell Palmer and and Edgar Hoover and Joe McCarthy and Dick Nixon did exactly what you propose, though instead of targeting Americans handing out "copies of the Turner Diaries", they wiretapped and harassed, jailed and imprisoned, and assassinated American citizens: Pacifists and union organizers and Socialists and members of the Communist Party of the United States of America and civil rights activists, and yes, some gays and Jews and leftists. -- orthogonality
Well, he said that if fascists ever did take power, they'd have no problem using censorship, so "we" might as well do it to them now, since there's now downside. That was his argument in another comment, obviously I think it's wrong since getting people used to the idea that politically incorrect speech ought to be suppressed (as opposed to now when most people are appalled by the idea of government censorship)
Doesn't the publisher of a newspaper have freedom of speech, too? And shouldn't that mean that he gets to decide what gets printed on his own press, down to selecting which advocacy groups can buy ad space in the paper? -- Pater Aletheias
OMG, NO ONE HAS SAID OTHERWISE
No one is obligated to accept money or to donate space to hate speech. Letting haters manipulate public opinion does not benefit society. ISPs shouldn't be obligated to sell services to promote your speech. Newspapers shouldn't be obligated to sell services to promote your speech. Public funds should not be used to promote your speech. You're all on your own. -- five fresh fish
So your opinion is that because they are not Obligated to air their views, they are obligated not to air their views? Or they become "bad people"?

And this includes ISPs as well? In other words, people with unpopular views shouldn't even be allowed to post stuff on the internet? (And yes, unpopular views, since that's the only standard that could actually be used in the real world. People can make arguments about what they feel should and shouldn't be to unpopular to post, but ultimately only unpopularity is the only measure. Opinions that the vast majority of people feel are beyond the pale are the ones that will be censored)
posted by delmoi at 12:04 AM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't know how many times I need to say this, but my point is that if a paper chooses to have a "Free speech" policy for ads, then they shouldn't be criticized for sticking with it.

I don't know how it can be made any clearer that such a policy could never possibly exist. I could illustrate it with a brilliant diagram involving cats and magazines, but apparently that sort of thing falls on deaf ears.

You, Smedleyman, and a few others are claiming that you're championing free speech. As in:

And people who think freedom of speech should only exist in theory are not people who actually believe in freedom of speech.


If you "actually believe in freedom of speech," according to the confines of your hypothetical "freedom of speech policy," you are committing yourself to printing anything and everything that crosses your desk within the bounds of the law.

That is not sane or tenable.

I know analogies are anethema to your staggering intellect, so let's take it back to this paper. Here are your three options:

1. The newspaper has a staunch "free speech policy" for all content. That means they're obliged to print anything that crosses their path, be it holocaust denial ads, articles by 911 Truthers, drawings by five-year-olds and essays by the local cat fancier. The paper has absolutely no editorial control over its content. Every issue is 300 pages long.

2. The newspaper has a staunch "free speech policy" for ads alone. That means that the paper exercises no censorship at all over any content it receives, ever, but only in cases where the content is accompanied by sums of money.

2a. If that is the case, and the newspaper completely cedes any control (within law) over paid content, their "freedom of speech" extends only to people with the money to pay to speak freely.

2b. Therefore, the "freedom of speech policy" only applies to people with money.

2c. Therefore, it is not "free."

2d. Therefore, it is no different than arguing that people that want to deny the holocaust can start their own newspaper. Freedom of speech belongs either only to people with $75 for ad placement in the first case, or people with the resources to start self-publishing in the other. Paraphrasing Churchill, we already know what your "freedom of speech" is, now we are just haggling about the price.

3. No such "freedom of speech" policy exists, the newspaper does have agency of its editorial and advertising content, and therefore is responsible for what it prints. The editor does have agency over what his publication prints, and his "freedom of speech" defense is a desperate and feeble attempt to get himself off the hook that doesn't stand up to any scrutiny.

You can pick 1, 2, or 3. It really is that simple.

Bonus question: which of these statements do you actually believe?


I'm not saying that absolute free speech exists, or that it should.



And people who think freedom of speech should only exist in theory are not people who actually believe in freedom of speech.


Either you stand for "freedom of speech," and you will print anything that crosses your path in your cat fancier magazine, or you do not believe that freedom of speech can absolutely exist, at which point you assume agency and responsibility over what you communicate.
posted by Shepherd at 2:43 AM on March 6, 2010


So if a paper can exercise –some- editorial control – regarding uniform standards of decency or whatnot (say not putting full frontal nudity in its ad space) – than it’s illegitimate to claim any standard as not arbitrary?
So why have any standards? You don’t like Joe’s auto sales because he’s black (you don’t need to say that of course) so you don’t run his ads. You do like Phil’s used car lot (as a white anglo saxon protestant) so you do run those ads.

Doesn’t strike anyone as unfair? Remove the racist undertones – still unfair? Seems like it to me either way. They’re auto dealerships. If you run car dealership ads you should run all car dealership ads.


It's totally unfair, and the owner of the newspaper in question has to own that unfairness, nut up to being called a racist and a vile human being, get sued and prosecuted under laws governing publications, and slowly get destroyed by a smarter publisher that starts a paper that accepts advertising from all parties regardless of race, has more robust advertising revenue, and thrives while your paper crashes and burns.

It does, in many circumstances, suck. But barring total acceptance of all content for any reason, there's no such thing as a "free speech policy" that makes any logical sense.

You therefore have to wonder what the hell "free speech" is.

Maybe it's "the freedom to express your views and opinions using any means at your disposal."

If the means at your disposal are a billion dollars and the Hearst newspaper chain, congratulations.

If the means at your disposal are a cardboard megaphone and a soapbox in the park, then have at it.

But, if you have created a publication and you aren't allowed to control what goes in it, where's your freedom of speech? Why would anyone ever bother to publish anything at all, if they're forced to publish everyone else's contrary opinion?

If you say "but people have to pay for that freedom of speech in the paper," then you're agreeing that "freedom of speech" exists only as "the freedom to express your views and opinions using any means at your disposal." In the case of "freedom of speech advertising," the means at your disposal are money. In the case of Hearst newspaper chain vs. cardboard megaphone, the means are a newspaper vs. a cardboard megaphone. There's no difference in principle, only in degree.
posted by Shepherd at 2:57 AM on March 6, 2010


I don't know how it can be made any clearer that such a policy could never possibly exist.
Well, I disagree.
I could illustrate it with a brilliant diagram involving cats and magazines, but apparently that sort of thing falls on deaf ears.
Yes, it would.
If you "actually believe in freedom of speech," according to the confines of your hypothetical "freedom of speech policy," you are committing yourself to printing anything and everything that crosses your desk within the bounds of the law.
No.
2a. If that is the case, and the newspaper completely cedes any control (within law) over paid content, their "freedom of speech" extends only to people with the money to pay to speak freely.

2b. Therefore, the "freedom of speech policy" only applies to people with money.

2c. Therefore, it is not "free."
LOL, it's funny that you would make that mistake, the "Free as in speech" vs. "Free as in beer" error is so common it has it's own wikipedia page. When people are talking about "free speech", they're talking about unrestrained speech. The word free is also used to mean no cost, but that's not the case here. Free speech is still "Free speech" if it costs money.

Anyway, this error invalidates the rest of your "logic", as confused as it is. As far as 2d goes, all self-publishing requires the assistance of someone else. You need to buy Internet connectivity from somewhere, or you need to buy a printing press, paper, and ink from somewhere, etc. If a newspaper is responsible for the material it prints, then wouldn't a web hosting company also be responsible for the pages it hosts, or a paper company for the material printed on it? The problem is that if you held every link in the chain of commerce responsible for the material, then in fact people would not have freedom of speech. It would only exist in theory. The paper and ink example isn't all that relevant, but the Internet connection example is.

But a newspaper that chooses to have a free speech policy (free as in unrestrained, not zero cost) is selling ad space the same way an ISP sells internet connectivity or a paper maker sells paper. There's no difference because they've chosen to sell those resources.
there's no such thing as a "free speech policy" that makes any logical sense.
Again, this is based on flawed logic and a (fairly common) confusion of two different definitions of the word "free". In fact, your confusion actually explains a lot of your nonsensical posts.
posted by delmoi at 5:39 AM on March 6, 2010


But a newspaper that chooses to have a free speech policy (free as in unrestrained, not zero cost) is selling ad space the same way an ISP sells internet connectivity or a paper maker sells paper. There's no difference because they've chosen to sell those resources.

I think Sheperd gets the difference between unrestrained and zero cost. So do I, for that matter.

And when you say Well, I disagree. , well, that's not a very explanation as to how an unrestrained ad policy in a print newspaper would work. In fact, it's a terrible explanation, since it isn't one at all.

How would it work? How would this hypothetical newspaper that does not restrict or in any way exercise any editorial control over its ads function?
posted by rtha at 6:13 AM on March 6, 2010


If you "actually believe in freedom of speech," according to the confines of your hypothetical "freedom of speech policy," you are committing yourself to printing anything and everything that crosses your desk within the bounds of the law.

No.


I'm sorry, but it really is yes.

One more try, then:

Either you have a "free speech policy" or you don't.

With the "free speech policy" (which, I again repeat, does not exist, has never existed, and will never exist, for obvious reasons that you "disagree" with, but can't muster any reason as to why) you disavow any responsibilty for what is said.

If you disavow such responsibility, you are bound to accept everything that is given to you, and allow it to be produced. Just like your ISP example, yes?

That is your definition of the "free speech policy."

You position is that the newspaper has a policy in which it claims no responsibility for anything that people pay to publish in the advertising section, because it accepts all such submissions blindly and without review (except for raw legality). Just like an ISP.

Is that correct?

If that is correct, then the newspaper is obliged to accept everything it is given.

If it does not accept everything it is given, it is exercising editorial control over the advertising section on some grounds.

It is censoring.

That is where "free as in speech" and "free as in beer" cross over. The two are not matter and antimatter. There is no error in the logic. It is not nonsensical. It happens to be a point where cost of voice (which is not free, as in beer) controls availability of expression (which may or may not be free, as in speech).

For the paper to credibly claim "free speech!" under the ficticious "free speech policy", it must accept everything it is given.

Otherwise, it is not honouring its own policy.

It is, again, censoring.

Which is not "free speech."

So it really is two choices:

1. The ficticious and impossible "free speech policy," which requires total acceptance of all material submitted, like your ISP example, and which therefore forces the paper to publish paid content provided, which you keep insisting is not your position;

or

2. The paper has some measure of control over what it prints, and therefore does not have any consistent "free speech policy" worthy of mention.

I understand your logic. It's perfectly clear. You're just not following it past a certain point, and as a consequence you've spent the whole thread yelling "two plus two! two plus two!" and getting angry when anybody says "four."
posted by Shepherd at 6:30 AM on March 6, 2010


Let me point out here that many arguments are slippery slope arguments - and these arguments are always wrong, because there is no action so benign that taking it to its limit is not offensive.

No matter how "liberal" your paper's advertising policy is, I can always write an ad that cannot be accepted by your paper even though it breaks no laws. For example, I could write a long description how people in your town will be tortured in Hell or accounts of the workings of my digestive system.

Such writings aren't censored - you can find them all over the Internet - but no sane editor would accept them as ads.

There has to be some sort of grey area, as in all human endeavours, and there's nothing per se inconsistent with an editor accepting Monsanto ads but rejecting those from Holocaust deniers.

Slippery slope arguments are universally wrong, exactly because they're universally applicable.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:01 AM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why do slippery slope arguments even continue? They're a logical fallacy. Whenever somebody says, well, here's a slippery slope, they're admitting to a logical fallcy. It's like saying, well, let me retort with an ad hominem and then ad in a Fallacy of Undistributed Middle.

Everything is on the very top of a slippery slope to something more terrible. Everything. Free popcorn. Comic books. Lindsey Vonn. Lindsey Vonn in particular. We're all on the verge of sliding toward something terrible.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:14 AM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


Free speech is not the highest value.
posted by koeselitz at 11:57 AM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seems that the anti-publication argument has broken down into a criticism of a putative claim by the Badger Herald that they had to run the ad. But
"As much as I hate what I think Bradley Smith [the man who bought the ad] was trying to say in that ad, and as much as I hate what the Holocaust deniers are saying, they do have a right to say it," said Badger Herald editor-in-chief Jason Smathers.
So, who is disagreeing with this?

He's not saying that they had a right to buy the ad, and that he had the obligation to run the ad. But the people who are criticizing him for running the ad seem to be saying that he had an obligation not to run the ad, presumably because they disagree with its content,and therefore have a right to prevent it from being run.

Well, it's not their newspaper. They can reject any ad they want from their newspaper. They can't control the ads that run in someone else's newspaper.

You don't have a right to have any ad you want run in any newspaper you want. But you also don't have the right to prevent any ad you want from being printed in whatever newspaper you want.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:04 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why do slippery slope arguments even continue?

Because they are easy for people with little common sense to conceive and articulate and audiences are receptive to pat arguments. A person who pushes and buys into a slippery slope POV will always, always be right.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:41 PM on March 6, 2010


What (some) people are disagreeing with is Smathers framing this as a free-speech issue, with the implication that he was somehow required by the Constitution to run this ad. Because he's not. He's right that the Holocaust denier has a right to say stupid shit, but the denier's freedom of speech is not abrogated by the refusal of this publication to run the ad.

The paper's editor said he thinks the ad is OK because UW students acknowledge the tragedy of the Holocaust. He said in the future the paper will revise its ad approval process, WISC-TV reported.

So, they have an ad approval process (they must, or it wouldn't need revising), which means that they have some sort of mechanism by which they accept or reject ads for publication. What then of freedom of speech?

I don't think he should have run the ad, but yeah, it's not my newspaper. It's kosher, though, for anyone to tell him that running the ad was an asshole thing to do; other advertisers are within their rights to express their displeasure by withdrawing their advertising. All of this sends the message that he shouldn't have run the ad. Is this the same as preventing him from running the ad? If he gets an ad like this in the future, and thinks about how much of a shitstorm running it the last time caused, and decides not to run it again because it will lose him other ad revenue, well, that's business.
posted by rtha at 12:47 PM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't say the editor should not be allowed to run the ad. I would say he is a prize asshole for running the ad. Wouldn't hurt my feelings if he were sued by the subjugated(?) group for promoting hate, either. If they can prove harm — an uptick in violence, perhaps — he is partially responsible.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:06 PM on March 6, 2010


That is where "free as in speech" and "free as in beer" cross over. The two are not matter and antimatter. There is no error in the logic. It is not nonsensical.
Sorry, they are two separate definitions referring to separate things. Call it an "unrestricted speech policy" if you can't deal with the word free. Or "unrestricted advertising policy". No one said they were "matter and anti-matter" they are orthogonal concepts. (Like 'fire' as in burning stuff vs. 'fire' as in terminating someone's job)

Anyway, anyone can write up a policy and title it "free speech policy", and that's all I'm talking about. Having a set policy, and then sticking with it. You set down guidelines in advance about what you're willing to publish, and you don't make any exceptions when you come across something that does not violate those prior guidelines. That's all I mean when I say free speech policy, a policy that governs the level of free speech. The same way a "return policy" governs how often, or for how long a person can return an item.

By your exemplary use of "logic", you would argue that no store could ever have a 'return policy' because no store would ever let you return anything and everything without a receipt no matter how long ago you bought it. Or that a website cant possibly have a "privacy policy" unless they completely guarantee absolute privacy.
It happens to be a point where cost of voice (which is not free, as in beer) controls availability of expression (which may or may not be free, as in speech).
No one said otherwise. But the problem is that something isn't "free" as in no cost doesn't mean that you don't have the freedom to do it. The word "freedom" isn't related to no cost in general. They are separate meanings. That's all explained in the wikipedia article, but you don't seem to be able to deal with it.
1. The ficticious and impossible "free speech policy," which requires total acceptance of all material submitted, like your ISP example, and which therefore forces the paper to publish paid content provided, which you keep insisting is not your position;
Are you talking about paid advertisements now? If so, then you certainly can have a policy to print whatever advertisements submit and pay for, up to the point that you're advertising inventory is empty. I'm not sure why you find that so confusing. In fact you could even do it online without ever having anyone even look at the ads if you wanted. That's probably not a good idea for a newspaper but it's certainly theoretically possible. Many website administrators actually don't pick and choose what ads appear, they just sign up with google or some other ad hosting company which then targets ads for their users.

Anyway, you seem trapped in a dogmatic use of logic, which is always a bad idea, since logical prepositions can never fully capture real world. You got confused by the word "free" to describe "unrestricted" instead of "zero cost", and you got confused by the use of the word "free speech policy" to mean "completely free and zero cost access to say whatever you want" instead of simply "a policy with rules about unrestricted speech"
posted by delmoi at 8:33 PM on March 6, 2010


Sorry, they are two separate definitions referring to separate things. Call it an "unrestricted speech policy" if you can't deal with the word free. Or "unrestricted advertising policy". No one said they were "matter and anti-matter" they are orthogonal concepts. (Like 'fire' as in burning stuff vs. 'fire' as in terminating someone's job)

Yes, absolutely, and in the case of the ower of a public medium choosing what to publish, you've hit a point where the financially un-free nature of running a newspaper can conflict with the idea of free speech. Totally different terms that can, amazingly, exist in the same sentence and still mean totally different things.

Following your example above, it is, for instance, possible for me to be "fired" (as in my job terminated) because I set the office on "fire" (as in I set it aflame). Similarly, running a paper is not "free" (as in magically produced by pixies for no effort), so the person footing the bill should be able to choose how to control "free" speech in that paper.

Are you talking about paid advertisements now? If so, then you certainly can have a policy to print whatever advertisements submit and pay for, up to the point that you're advertising inventory is empty. I'm not sure why you find that so confusing. In fact you could even do it online without ever having anyone even look at the ads if you wanted. That's probably not a good idea for a newspaper but it's certainly theoretically possible. Many website administrators actually don't pick and choose what ads appear, they just sign up with google or some other ad hosting company which then targets ads for their users.

But these Web sites still take responsibility for choosing the ad hosting company; if the ad hosting company starts providing objectionable content, then the Web site owner must decide whether to continue accepting ads from that hosting company, or whether to drop the hosting company.

The ad hosting company must also choose which ads it distributes, and which ads it must drop.

You keep reaching for some sort of Nirvana where somebody can completely wash their hands of any and all responsibility over what they choose to present to the public. I'm saying, and have proven in about eight different ways, that this is completely inconsistent with any sort of rational idea of "free speech", and that somewhere along the line, somebody is responsible for these decisions.

In this case, the editor of the paper is responsible for a stupid and objectionable decision, and however you choose to look at it, the "free speech!" defense is hooey. The paper has no "free speech policy" for its ads; there is no commitment that binds the paper to run any and all ads without review, and for the editor to claim otherwise is disingenuous.
posted by Shepherd at 7:06 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


you would argue that no store could ever have a 'return policy' because no store would ever let you return anything and everything without a receipt no matter how long ago you bought it.

Well, you forgot a word before 'return policy' there, didn't you? The word "free". You also introduced is an analogy, which I thought you'd forbidden, but since you've introduced it I'll assume it's okay.

I would oppose, on common-sense grounds, any store that claims it has a "free return policy" (as in speech, unrestricted). Total return of any object ever? That would be silly!

But they don't have "free return policies," do they?

They have return policies. Full stop. The policies, second word, govern what can be returned, first word. A conspicuous absence of the word "free."

Real newspapers, similarly, have advertising and editorial policies. They do not have "free speech policies."

Because such policies don't and cannot exist.
posted by Shepherd at 10:37 AM on March 7, 2010


You also introduced is an analogy

Er, "you also introduced an analogy," and typos like that are a good sign that I should fuck off and do my taxes before I start rabbiting on about cat fanciers again.
posted by Shepherd at 10:39 AM on March 7, 2010


so the person footing the bill should be able to choose how to control "free" speech in that paper.
Yeah... I never said otherwise.
I'm saying, and have proven in about eight different ways, that this is completely inconsistent with any sort of rational idea of "free speech", and that somewhere along the line, somebody is responsible for these decisions.
It's only possible to prove logical predicates about well defined, and agreed upon, axioms. Since we're not dealing with those here, you haven't "proven" anything.
Real newspapers, similarly, have advertising and editorial policies. They do not have "free speech policies."
You're really spouting nonsense here. Maybe you have a definition of "free speech policy" that you think can't exist in the real world. My definition is any policy that's called a "free speech policy" is one. Obviously such policies exist in the real world.

I certainly never said that a newspaper could ever have zero theoretical control over it's ads. Why would I? What I said is that it's possible for them to choose not to exercise that control if they don't want to. Which is obviously true.

Anyway, you obviously don't understand how to apply logic to real world situations.
posted by delmoi at 12:01 PM on March 7, 2010


My definition is any policy that's called a "free speech policy" is one.

Upthread, I linked to a couple of examples of ad policies from newspaper. If the SF Chronicle called its policy a "free speech policy" that would make this a free speech policy?

1. All advertising is accepted subject to Chronicle’s approval. The Chronicle shall at all times have the right without liability to reject, in whole or in part, any advertisement scheduled to appear in the newspaper for any reason in Chronicle’s sole discretion, even if such advertisement has previously been acknowledged or accepted.
posted by rtha at 12:47 PM on March 7, 2010


Upthread, I linked to a couple of examples of ad policies from newspaper. If the SF Chronicle called its policy a "free speech policy" that would make this a free speech policy?

Yeah, I suppose I would. Policies with that title certainly do exist I suppose I should have said "liberal free speech policy" to be more clear, but Shepard was getting really going off the rails with his "logic"
posted by delmoi at 3:17 PM on March 7, 2010


certainly do exist

I'm not seeing how a policy that governs where people may exercise their free speech, but says nothing about content, is at all comparable to a policy that says "We reserve the right to reject what you say if you want to say it in our publication," but okay.
posted by rtha at 6:06 AM on March 8, 2010


“People who are offered money to broadcast hate speech and turn it down are good people. People who accept that money and do broadcast that speech? They're bad people.”
Slogans good. Dichotomies bad. (Unless dichotomies good. Then slogans bad.)

“If you "actually believe in freedom of speech," according to the confines of your hypothetical "freedom of speech policy," you are committing yourself to printing anything and everything that crosses your desk within the bounds of the law.”

No. I believe one is free to print anything and everything that crosses one’s desk within the bounds of the law. One can set standards which limit certain things. If, however, those standards favor one group or thing over another that would be an unfair standard.
Why would a newspaper ok ad space for one car lot instead of another? Given they allow ads for used cars. It would be unfair. If, however, they don’t allow used car ads, then there’s no issue. No one’s used car ads make the paper, period. Not too hard a concept really.
My contention is with the concept that the newspaper is ‘responsible’ for what it prints in ad space. And with comments like: “his "freedom of speech" defense is a desperate and feeble attempt to get himself off the hook that doesn't stand up to any scrutiny.”

What doesn’t stand up to scrutiny? The fact that he’s free to print whatever he wants? How should he be held responsible? He should be sued and prosecuted?
Excuse me if I don’t think that is free speech.

“But, if you have created a publication and you aren't allowed to control what goes in it, where's your freedom of speech?”

Yes, exactly what I’m saying. Apparently some people want to hold you ‘responsible’ in such a way that it amounts to prior restraint of what you wish to allow, or not, in your publication and equating editorial standard or decision making with censorship and inconsistency.
Nice job dodging my questions in explaining yourself and trying to reframe my position to suit your pet argument though.

“How would this hypothetical newspaper that does not restrict or in any way exercise any editorial control over its ads function?”

Perhaps they could have some sort of consistently applied standard? Where an editor could – instead of arbitrarily pulling a decision out of their ass, or as suggested, in fear of reprisal, perhaps look in a book or code or manual wherein it says “no profanity in ads” or “no holocaust related advocacy items” and the deniers they can’t run their ad for the same reason the JDL, say, can’t run a big “Fuck Nazis” ad. Or maybe just say they run only what they want, like other papers. On the other hand, maybe it would run like a college newspaper? Like the one in question here? Where they only don't run stuff that's illegal?

“He's right that the Holocaust denier has a right to say stupid shit, but the denier's freedom of speech is not abrogated by the refusal of this publication to run the ad.”

True. But (some) people seem to be saying his right to refuse the publication of the ad means he should have no right to run it and should be held as an advocate for anything he chooses to run. Newspapers advocate buying certain used cars? Those ‘Great Deal!’ ads are legitimately great deals for you because they run in adspace – but it’s in a newspaper?
Silly.

“The Chronicle shall not be responsible for orders, cancellations, corrections or copy given over the telephone.”

Wait, I thought newspapers were responsible for everything they were associated with?
Many newspapers reserve the right to refuse any ad for any reason for the same reasons businesses reserve the right to refuse to serve any patron. Typically, unless they don’t want to get sued, the people a given bar will refuse to serve will only be causing trouble and won’t be of the same kind (religion, ethnicity, whatever).

Same deal for newspapers. Simply because you serve a skinhead a drink, does not mean you are a skinhead. Doesn’t sound to me like Jason Smathers was a skinhead.

And it’s certainly not his argument (from what I’ve read here and elsewhere) that he’s defending the right of Smith to be heard on free speech grounds. Doesn't look like he's weaseling out of anything.
It looks like that idea (right to be heard b/c of free speech) came from the FPP (whatever the cause, unintentional or whatever, doesn’t matter).

Smathers' actual argument seems to be that no idea is so dangerous that it should be restricted from being heard and if people continue to run from confrontation of them they may continue to proliferate. And he placed a link to the history of holocaust denial and those who fight it. (F'ing fascist that he is)

Apparently THE NEWSPAPER IN QUESTION has made a principle of accepting any individual or group advertisement submitted and would only reject one if it is libelous or threatening (I don’t know the paper, just going by what their editor said. I suspect he’d know). For good, or ill, or indifference.

So again - the problem from the 'it's not free speech side' is?
Because the only assertion I can see that stands past - given, y'know, the actual facts, is that he should have been restricted from printing it in the first place.
If that's not what's being argued by the contrary side - then there's no argument.
The paper has a 'print anything short of illegal' policy. He chose to print it based on that policy. People didn't like it. They protested. Held him 'responsible' (in the most acceptable way to free speech).
End of story.
Unless anyone wants to say he should have been stopped from printing it.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:37 PM on March 8, 2010


And it’s certainly not his argument (from what I’ve read here and elsewhere) that he’s defending the right of Smith to be heard on free speech grounds.

But he said ""As much as I hate what I think Bradley Smith [the man who bought the ad] was trying to say in that ad, and as much as I hate what the Holocaust deniers are saying, they do have a right to say it," said Badger Herald editor-in-chief Jason Smathers." Which sounds to me like he's defending the right of Smith to be heard on free speech grounds.

The only thing I could find on their advertising policy - which may be new or revised since this incident - is this: "The advertising director reserves the right to refuse any advertisement in the case of possible liability or offensive content. Please ask your advertising representative for a copy of our rejection criteria."
posted by rtha at 4:23 PM on March 8, 2010


Yeah, the point of this whole thing seems to be stirring up controversy around sensitive free speech issues, like the debate over hate speech. This is an attempt to spark up passions over a political wedge issue. The paper has never had, nor claimed to have a policy of accepting all advertising content until now, when implying it does offers a convenient defense against criticism for running an ad that many of its readers and others in the community at large find deeply objectionable.

Obviously, the editor knew it was a distinct possibility objections might be raised over the decision to run the ad. The paper hasn't run similar ads in the past, or else there would have already been an uproar over its advertising policy.

So why did the editor decide now was the time to make the paper's advertising policy more liberal, erm, "conservative" in its orientation?

Free speech vs hate speech issues generate way too much heat for people not to get fired up no matter what they believe. That's why they're so frequently used as wedge issues. I don't believe for a second this ass didn't fully knowingly intend to create a controversy in opting to run this ad.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:39 AM on March 11, 2010


I don't believe for a second this ass didn't fully knowingly intend to create a controversy in opting to run this ad.

Free speech = ass?

I suppose those chain link compounds of the Bush era were more than good enough.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:26 PM on March 11, 2010


All speech, whether exercised freely or not, still has to be judged based on its content. Otherwise it's not speech at all, but noise.

The content of this speech act is the kind of thing an asshole would say.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:41 AM on March 12, 2010


It's not the person who said it who's being called an ass. Yeah, Bradley Smith is an ass, but the people who think they have a right to silence him are worse asses. If they have a newspaper, they have the right to run or refuse any ad they choose. They don't have the right to make the Badger Herald refuse any ad, and that's what they are trying to do.

That's a thin edge of the wedge I will oppose.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 8:18 AM on March 12, 2010


They don't have the right to make the Badger Herald refuse any ad, and that's what they are trying to do.

The Badger Herald's readers and the general public has the right to press (or "make," if we're only going to use absolutes in this discussion) the Herald to refuse any ad, too. That's not censorship, that's the flip-side of the free speech coin.

People being spoken too have a right to angrily reject what a speaker says, to raise their voices to drown the speaker out, to ask the speaker to get lost, to denounce the speaker, or to respond in any other way they see fit. That's free speech, too.

Is it sticking up for free speech only to defend speech that directly or indirectly promotes the subjugation of the rights of particular ethnic or ideological groups? Shouldn't speech that advocates restrictions on speech be held similarly immune from criticism, on free speech grounds? Were I to advocate suppressing the speech of holocaust deniers, I would only be exercising my own free speech rights, so you couldn't criticize me for it. You could disagree but without violating your own professed principles, you'd have no right to question my right to try to encourage the suppression of holocaust deniers speech rights.

I don't want to limit anybody's free speech rights, by the way. I just think that free speech without personal accountability makes no sense. We're not talking about holding a paper manufacturer responsible for the contents of a suicide note here. Nor about holding Google responsible for content that turns up in its search results. We're talking about holding a commercial newspaper--a consumer product--at least partly responsible for the content it chooses to print, given that the newspaper already does exercise considerable control and discretion over the content it chooses to print, whether that content takes the form of advertising or not.

Criticizing a newspaper for running a shitty hate-group ad does not "lead down a slippery slope" to the death of free speech in our time.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:21 AM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


So you're saying, Jimmy, that you suppport free speech to post a hate advertisement, but not free speech to criticize the publication of that advertisement?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:12 PM on March 12, 2010


You may recall that I said you have the right to complain. What you don't have is the right to prevent the paper from running whatever ad it wants.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 2:50 PM on March 12, 2010


I'll have to read more carefully; I hadn't noticed anyone saying they have the right to shut down the paper.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:13 PM on March 12, 2010


I couldn't find anything about actually shutting down the paper. However, a lot of people seem to think that their editorial judgement should trump that of the editor himself. That implies that they believe they have a right to do that that exceeds his:
2 : something to which one has a just claim: as a : the power or privilege to which one is justly entitled [voting rights] [his right to decide]
Actually shutting the paper down over this issue would without question be an attack on free speech.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:44 PM on March 13, 2010


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