As I opened the door to our office today, there were two notes slipped under our door. Here’s what they had to say:
Dear Oregon Commentator,
We would like you to cover the Pacifica Forum debate that took place today. My friends and I went, but what we found was not the free exchange of ideas but a circus, a shouting match that ultimately ended in nothing of intellectual value. The Nazis stormed out in the first 5 minutes, and the leader of the Pacifica Forum was harassed for the continuing 25 minutes of so. While the Pacifica Forum member spoke (who was not a Nazi) the protesters made coordinated pointing motions with their hands that looked shockingly like Nazi salutes.
What I saw today was a horrible re-enactment of what the Nazis themselves did; silence unpopular opinion, appeal to the basest part of human nature, and ultimately a crime against free speech. I hate the Nazis, both those of Germany and the ones I saw today at the Pacifica forum, both protester and speaker.
P.S. When my black friend went up to speak to the forum leader afterwards a cop came up and asked him, out of everyone in the group if, “they were cool,” it was bullshit.
P.P.S. I think you guys have a great publication
A second note was slipped under the door, presumably Mr. Callaghan’s friend.
Dear Oregon Commentator,
I attended the Pacifica Forum debate today to see for myself if the forum was a Nazi supporting hate machine or if what [the] ODE was saying was just liberal bias. I was presented with a 2-sided debate over the meaning behind the swatstika symbol. Before the debate could even begin, however, the speakers were interrupted by a chorus of protesters who were so unruly that the debate could not be orchestrated. Throughout the event, protesters yelled, stomped their feet, and made hand signals disturbingly similar to “Heil Hitler” motion to kill the “hate speech” (which was actually a speech about how the swastika has been used for centuries in other cultures).
I was far more disturbed by their attempts to kill free speech than the debators themselves (1 included a Neo-Nazi). At one point a protestor screamed “FUCK FREE SPEECH!” and was met with a loud round of applause. I left the Forum meeting in tears. I am deeply ashamed of my fellow UO students for their inability to support free speech. I came to the University not only to get an education but also to expose myself to different people whose viewpoints do not mirror my own. What went on at the Pacifica Forum was mockery of the 1st Amendment and intolerance in its purest forum. I do not support Nazis, Hitler or Communism but I do support debate and the opposing viewpoints that make healthy debate possible.
My purpose to writing you is to ask that you write an article on the Pacifica Forum in an unbiased way, showing that different views, no matter how much we detest them, must be able to be heard. It’s our right.
–Deeply ashamed UO student
First, to address the issue raised by our concerned students: The Commentator has sent at least one reporter to every Pacifica Forum meeting, and there will be a feature story with that coverage in the upcoming edition of the Commentator (1/27).
Secondly, and more importantly, is the editorial stance we have yet to take as an organization. Historically the Commentator has been an organization that supports free speech no matter what the subject, no matter what the context. Of course, the situation seemingly complicates itself when you take into consideration the nature of the Pacifica Forum, both in its viewpoint and its means of hosting a debate. Yes, the Pacifica Forum speaks harshly of “the Jews”. Yes, their members have led attendees of their debates in the Sieg Heil. Yes, Pacifica Forum supporters have left harsh comments about the Commentator on this very blog. Unfortunately, if we or the ASUO Senate were to react with a consequent emotional response, we would stand on no higher ground than the Forum itself.
Their views make the Pacifica Forum impossible to defend. It does. The organization’s trivialization of the suffering of an entire race of people makes their worldview one that we as an organization can never support. Unfortunately, the Commentator must and will stand by its defense of the 1st Amendment. The sanctity of that social contract should never be corrupted, even if what it defends is corrupt. The Pacifica Forum is full of bigoted, twisted individuals but by lessening their access to free speech we inevitably limit our own.
The Pacifica Forum’s right to free speech is the same right that gives those with opposing viewpoints–those protesters in the letter–the right to hold signs, gesture and engage in a back-and-forth with those they disagree with. Indeed, we believe that the Pacifica Forum should remain on this campus so that our students can be educated about what kind of ignorant, repugnant views many people in this world still have. But more importantly, we believe the Pacifica Forum should remain on this campus so that our students may always enjoy their natural right to free speech–whether they choose to argue against the Pacifica Forum or not.
Someone once said, “I disagree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”. That statement is as oft quoted in these situations as the situations themselves arise. Nevertheless, it is with that sentiment that we must support the right of the Pacifica Forum to remain on this campus–however ignorant, evil, misguided and wrong they may be.