Monday, November 29, 2021

Opinion page is here to address all issues

April 24, 2001

I don’t know what it is to be hated for what I am.

I’ve been disliked for who I am, my beliefs and ideals, but not what I am.

No one hates me because I have blue eyes. No one hates me because I’m taller than average.

But I have friends and colleagues who are hated for similar reasons, simply because they are gay. And I have friends and colleagues who hate others based on sexuality.

And I cringe every time one of my younger nephews uses the word “fag.” And my stomach knots every time my gay friends get dirty looks at a bar or while walking down the street. I don’t like having to worry about what kind of negative reaction one of my columnists will get for running a pro-gay column.

And truly, I don’t like running anti-gay letters to the editor in response to said columns. I disagree with them and would rather not read them.

But I don’t get to choose what runs and what doesn’t based on what I believe, or what I think most of our readers will agree with. Though if I did get to do so, my job would be a lot easier. And The State News would be a lot smaller. But it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

As journalism majors, many of my staff members learn about the marketplace of ideas. It’s a theory that says only when we get all the ideas - from the most moderate to the most extreme - out there can we then decide what is true and what is not.

And as a staff we try to contribute a little bit each day to the marketplace of ideas on page 4, the Opinion Page.

It’s not that we always agree with the ideas expressed there, but even if we thought they were ludicrous, we stand behind the right of everyone to be heard. Page 4 is a forum for discussion and opposing viewpoints. And the idea is through the exchange of ideas, eventually a truth will emerge.

Last week a column ran that was found offensive by some members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community and supporters of gay rights.

Was it extreme? Yes. Was it politically correct? Not at all. Did it make a good argument? Maybe. Was it a truth? Not mine, not The State News’, but it was someone’s truth.

And so this is our journalistic paradox. I could have pulled it and run a different column, one that wouldn’t have generated so many angry letters to the editor, one that wouldn’t have called my integrity into question. But how would that have contributed to my ideal of a marketplace of expression?

Not until we get all the ideas out there are we going to be able to justify the correct ones and quash the illegitimate and absurd ones.

The best thing about the marketplace theory is that everyone has a voice, a right to be heard. That’s also the principle behind an opinion page. Whether you agree with what you read or whether you think it’s absurd, please contribute to the marketplace.

As extreme as the column was - comparing homosexual behavior to incest and that of animals - I know there are others in this community who buy into similar ideas. I see it in hate crimes on this campus, hate speech in classrooms and violence across the country.

Even within the political community that opposes gay marriage, there are people who disagree with the argument presented in Friday’s column. People have a plethora of arguments on this topic - and everyone should have a chance to voice their opinions. It is imperative all ideas on this topic are heard, and even more importantly, that they are discussed.

Now, I could raise the bar at The State News and say I will never again print such extreme views, but that doesn’t mean they will go away. That doesn’t mean people will stop thinking what they think. That won’t make this campus a better place. That won’t help anyone find the truth.

I’ve never been hated for what I am. But if I were, I’d want to know who was doing the hating and what their justification was.

Then maybe we could start finding a truth.

Mary Sell, State News editor in chief, can be reached at sellmary@msu.edu.

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