Once again, the Eugene Weekly has made a mockery of itself and of the First Amendment, with yet another spittle-flecked column declaring the Pacifica Forum to be the enemy of all mankind:
Like unruly children playing with fire, however, they seem almost insensible to the fact that language in itself has the power to cause harm, and that extreme positions carry emotional weight that may incite impassioned responses. Either they are insentient [sic] to the painful reactions they provoke, or they do so knowingly and willingly for the sheer pleasure of the attention this brings into otherwise monochrome lives.
Soon after, ASUO President Emma Callaway [sic], speaking for the thousands of students she represents, demanded that PF “get out and leave the campus and never come back,” or at the very least meet someplace other than the EMU where students of every persuasion are supposed to feel safe and welcome.
Whether PF members were aware of it or not, in a single afternoon they managed to offend feminists, Jews, Muslims, gays, lesbians, people of color, and just about anyone who believes that our fellow human beings deserve to be judged on their actions rather than on their ethnicity, religion or lifestyle choices.
You know what? Tough luck. There is no right to not be offended.
The reaction of the people of Eugene to the Pacifica Forum’s latest outrage (and it’s merely one in a long line of outrages) is, sadly, all too predictable.
This is a city that likes to pride itself on its tolerance and diversity, its commitment to free speech and civil rights. Yet, as the reaction to the Pacifica Forum so amply proves, this commitment is only skin deep and applies only to ideas that Eugenians find comfortable and acceptable (or safely radical).
Fortunately, the reason the First Amendment exists is to ensure that groups like the Pacifica Forum (or CodePink or Pitchfork Rebellion or…) are protected, even if their ideas are unpopular or disgusting; a lot of people here in Eugene find that fact inconvenient.
That’s why we’re seeing increasing efforts to re-define certain kinds of free speech into “hate speech”, which can then be declared illegal. Accusations of “hate speech” are attempts at making an end-run around the Constitution in order to ban the expression of ideas that people find uncomfortable by branding them “dangerous.” We’ve seen this before in other countries and we know where it leads.
Frankly, the biggest problem with the Pacifica Forum isn’t their vulgar bigotry. It’s the fact that they’re extraordinarily successful in provoking our fellow citizens into figuring out ways to curtail our civil rights in the name of “not being offended.”
After 9/11, when the Bush Administration and Congress was busying itself with the Patriot Act, a common refrain was that if we let the government take away our rights in order to feel safe from terrorism, then the terrorists would have in fact won.
Sadly, the same logic is not applied toward the Pacifica Forum. When it comes to a room full of idiot white-power freaks led by a malignant old corpse in a wheelchair, all we hear about is how we have to shut them down so everyone feels safe and no one gets offended.
Pretty pathetic for a city that fancies itself a bastion of civil liberties, if you ask me.
[posted in slightly altered format on the Eugene Weekly blog]