More questions than answers
Dear Editor:The Aspen Times Weekly article “GrassRoots Hits the Stop Button” seeks to evaluate the recent decision of the GrassRoots board to not air the movie “Judea Declares War on Germany” in light of the First Amendment protection against government abridgment of freedom of speech; and concludes that the board’s decision might violate the First Amendment. For me, the article raised more questions than answers.Here are four such questions that I think deserve inclusion in this discussion:1. Does “stupid speech” equal “hate speech”? The Times essentially dismisses this movie because of its poor production quality and consequent lack of persuasive power, calling it “intellectually lazy.” But who is really intellectually lazy here? No matter how poorly produced, this movie is still hateful in its intent. This fact does not appear to enter into the Times’ evaluation of the movie at any level.If the movie was “intellectually vigorous,” might it be more persuasive to the Times? Criticizing it qualitatively simply begs its ultimate question … and invites continued debate over long-proven and settled facts. How many times must Holocaust victims and their families be subjected to this kind of shallow evaluative tripe before their injuries are factored into the analysis?2. Which community television station is more transparent? The one that would not “bat an eye” in airing anything and everything irrespective of how it may injure community members; or one that holds an open public meeting and actually meets with and talks to members of its community to help it determine the appropriate course of action? It is certainly simpler to make weighty decisions that affect real people in the absence of community input; but that does not make it right, and defending such “hands off” operational practices as somehow representing a defense of free speech is a real-life example of moral ambivalence.3. Is a movie denying the Holocaust the moral and ethical equivalent of a video showing your neighbors naked? Is a hate crime the equivalent of a speeding ticket? What kind of person considers hate speech less objectionable than pornography, and therefore appropriate for community television?4. What kind of person hides behind our most sacred individual protection against government-initiated injury, our freedom of speech, and attempts to air a movie whose only possible effect is to emotionally injure members of their own community? Even if such a position has legal merit, it remains an obscene manipulation of that constitutional protection.To those who argue that I should just change the channel if I don’t want to watch, my response is this: I would prefer to be part of a community that denies use of its public-access media as a conduit for hate, whether anyone watches or not.Paul MenterAspen
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