A True Forum?
THE CRIMSON should have printed the advertisement from Screw magazine. It should have done so with distaste but in the spirit of Voltaire, who once wrote: "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
At issue is not whether Screw is exploitative or offensive. It is both and we abhor it. The point is that The Crimson's editors should not intervene between advertiser and subscriber but should let readers form their own conclusions.
A newspaper has a responsibility to be a forum for all ideas--not just those of its editors. The Crimson fulfills this responsibility on its news pages by covering conservative speeches and on its editorial pages by printing opinion pieces and letters to the editor. This responsibility should carry over to the advertising columns, so that still another avenue is available to bring information or ideas to the public.
When a newspaper rejects advertisements it finds offensive or exploitative, it acts as a censor and constricts the flow of information. Instead of stimulating discussion, the newspaper quashes debate by limiting advertising space to approved customers.
Of course, a newspaper may set certain minimal standards--but not with the intention of excluding a particular point of view. Advertisements that would lead to immediate violence should be rejected, and language or illustrations that on their face are distasteful should be cleaned up. Furthermore, a newspaper may choose not to publish advertisements for certain commercial products--such as Krugerrands or cigarettes--that are just objects completely outside the realm of ideas.
But Screw is not just a product; it also is a publication that contains certain opinions, however warped they may be. For this reason, the courts have granted freedom of the press to Screw and its ilk. It ill becomes The Crimson to be less tolerant than the courts.
Where is the liberalism in crushing an ad that we despise? Instead of imposing on our readers a monopoly of our own views, we should contribute to a diversity of views, so that they may be debated in free competition. Liberalism and tolerance are meaningful only when they apply to that which we deplore, even hate--even Screw magazine.