Opinion » Mail

March 2, 2005

In Hot Water • Can't we all just get along? • 1984 or 2005?

In Hot Water

You are the recipient of the bullshitter of the month club. Thanks once again for printing the whereabouts of the hot springs (BW, "Get Hot in the Hot springs", Feb. 23, 2005). If people want to know where they're at they can find them on their own. All people do is go around and destroy them [and] leave their beer bottles there.

You can write all your little rules, but assholes are going to be assholes. You guys are the ones that printed where Skinny Dipper Hot Springs was. Now I don't go there because too many fuckheads go there.

I thought you guys would have learned from last time when you printed the whereabouts of hot springs in the Boise Weekly. I hope a big plane comes by and drops a load of shit on your house.

-anonymous voicemail

Editor's Note: For clarification, last week's feature was the first time we printed directions to Skinny Dipper. We have debated outing Idaho's "little secrets" for some time and decided that while some people will not respect the use of public lands, many more will be enlightened to their close proximity and help to take care of them. How can we deny the public's right to use public lands? To keep that information to ourselves would be self-censorship, something our readers would hate us for doing. That being said, we did not write about our own favorite hot springs. Those are our little secrets.

Can't we all just get along?

I appreciate the press granted to the group Friends of Art (BW, "Friends of Art", Feb. 23, 2005). I do, however, want to make a crucial point of clarification. I am quoted as stating "we're trying to create a youthful presence; Beaux Arts can be stuffy,"rather than saying "the art world can be stuffy and we're trying to get away from that, so that there is not an iron veil to the museum."

The museum offers several auxiliaries to appeal to the needs and interests of different groups of people. It does not make sense for one group of the museum to compete with or castigate another. The Beaux Arts Societe is the most established auxiliary group of the organization. These hardworking, approachable volunteers provide essential revenue for the museum's programs by offering special events such as the annual Holiday Sale and Wine Festival. Thank you for the opportunity to make this clear to your readers.

-Angela Thomas, Friends of Art Board Member, Boise

1984 or 2005?

In Jerel Thomas' letter to the editor last week regarding Ward Churchill's egregious comments, there were some interesting points that merit further inquiry. Mr. Thomas' main points were: 1. Freedom of speech does not imply freedom to any platform; and 2. Exercising freedom of speech does not mean the speech is intrinsically valuable and worthy of state protection.

As to the first point, Mr. Thomas is indeed correct. There is no absolute freedom to any speech. Freedom of speech can be limited if and only if the curtailment of this fundamental freedom furthers a compelling state interest. In other words, the limitation of a fundamental freedom can only be justified in times in which such limitations constitute state protection.

In regards to freedom limitation and the potential censorship of Ward Churchill, we must ask ourselves whether censoring Churchill furthers a compelling state interest. On its face, it would seem not to, unless Churchill's words may incite violence that may threaten the state.

This position, however, seems patently ridiculous. To be sure, Churchill's words were more than a touch distasteful. But they did not constitute "fighting words." This point is very important. When we are dealing with the curtailment of a civil liberty, the level of justification needed for such curtailment must always remain an exercise of these liberties that poses serious detriment. Otherwise, "freedom" is meaningless.

As to the second point, Mr. Thomas is without any sort of precedent to support his position that "valueless" speech is not warranting of state protection. If freedom of speech is to mean anything, it is the freedom to say things even when these things disagree with the values of others. To imply that the state should protect only valuable speech is to limit free exercise of speech to only those types of speech deemed favorable.

Thomas's argument is contentious on two points. 1. It falsely assumes the remote possibility of a universality of values in a heterogeneous society such as the United States; and 2. It limits speech in a manner that precludes speech falling outside the parameters of acceptable expression, thus making freedom an empty term suggestive more of Orwellian conformity than the exploration of human creativity.

Mr. Thomas, just because one disagrees with the "value" of someone's speech does not mean the speech is unworthy of state protection and must be censored. Yet by the same token, just because certain speech is protected does not mean the speech is inherently valuable.

In democratic and free societies, it is up to the individual citizen to decide the value of certain speech. The consequence of this fact, for you and me, is we must tolerate speech with which we disagree. This concept we need not concede grudgingly or with chagrin, for it is without question the sine qua non of free society. And as individuals who have chosen to live in a free society, it is a concept we must always confront and accept even when our personal values conflict with those of another individual has also chosen freedom instead of conformity.

-Alex McLaughlin

Boise, ID

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