Warning: Column may be offensive

Published: 1991-04-12

A lot of complaints to The Daily in the past week have not been about misquotes, errors or bad headlines, amazingly enough.

Most regarded a full-page advertisement from Bradley R Smith that ran April 4, advocating open debate and free speech on the Holocaust. Others were about Bill Colwell's perspective Monday, which insisted that importing Iraqis to work off war bills was a good idea.

The calls and letters were right: Both pieces were offensive, inaccurate and downright terrifying. But the protesters were wrong when they demanded the censorship of such material in the future. Offensive views won't go away just because people plug their ears or cover their eyes.

Accepting the Holocaust ad was an advertising decision. Admittedly, it's a hard decision to defend, considering yesterday's Day of Remembrance ceremony in front of Norris and the ad's contention the Holocaust is a lie.

After the ad ran, many people wondered if The Daily would accept ads from the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations or phone sex services. The answer is it depends. The advertising staff has a set policy, reviews controversial ads case-by-case and can reject any ad. The Daily staff does draw a line-- but many times, not where people would want it.

Running Colwell's column was an editorial decision. Admittedly, this column is a study in stupidity offending anyone who has an IQ above 3. But I'd run it again.

With the "politically correct" movement, it's now in vogue to self-censor and pump out pablum papers that nobody chokes on. This catch phrase, offensive in its inoffensiveness, is empty and trite and would censor Smith and Colwell.

Offensive views exist. People can be stupid, anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, sexist and any other "-ic" or "-ist" words you can think of. Many strides have been made in the past 30 years to eliminate these prejudices. So many, in fact, that some people contend that they don't exist.

But like a bad rash, they won't go away-- the views are subtle these days, but they're still here. And because they are so subtle, they rarely surface in such blatant forms such as Colwell's column or Smith's ad.

If Colwell and Smith were hid behind a warm-and-fuzzy and inoffensive cloak, people would never read or hear their views. They would never be forced to think about, to discuss, the absurdity of them. It would be as if their ideas didn't exist.

The important thing is, they do. To raise awareness and consciousness, whatsoever-things-are-offensive must be heard. To beat your enemies, you must know them.

It offends me that Smith advocated free speech in his ad. He doesn't want free speech; he wants speech that restricts, stretches, confines and lies. It offends me that Colwell thinks that Iraqi citizens, ravaged by war, should have to pay the United States for its decision to use its bombs to destroy another country.

So I'm offended. But at least I know the idiots I'm up against.

The Daily Northwestern, Friday, April 12, 1991

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Kim Barker
Title: Warning: Column may be offensive
Sources: The Daily Northwestern, April 12, 1991
Published: 1991-04-12
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 15, 2000, 7 p.m.
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