Who is afraid of the opinion section? A conversation

Henry Mitchell

Scene: Person One overhears anguish from Person Two and investigates the source

Person Two has read the headline of a New York Times op-ed titled “The Curse of Affirmative Action” and appears to be in a fit of rage.

Person One tries to talk it out with Person Two, causing tension.

Person One: “Ugh, I can’t believe the New York Times is condoning racism and conservative BS. So much for truthful journalism, am I right?”

Person Two: “What do you mean? Did they actually say they support racism?”

One: “No, but they let someone say racist things in the opinion section. No one would do that unless they liked sharing racist ideology.”

Two: “So they never actually condoned it?”

One: “No, but if you give them a voice then you’re condoning racism. I wouldn’t let them speak a single word if I were in charge.”

Two: “But that’s not an opinion section. That’s just a blog or echochamber.”

One: “Yeah, but at least it’s not racist.”

Two: “But the whole point of opinions is hearing other people out. You’re supposed to hear their arguments and judge for yourself.”

One: “Well you can’t do that if they’re just racist idiots.”

Two: “Even ‘racist idiots’ are allowed free speech. That’s kind of the whole point of the First Amendment”

One: “The First Amendment is dumb. You shouldn’t be allowed to say horrible things and get away with it.”

Two: “I mean, in theory people are supposed to figure out themselves whether something is tolerable or not. However, that doesn’t mean you can just exclude people you think don’t have valid opinions.”

One: “But if they have objectively horrible prejudices, then surely they shouldn’t be allowed to just go around yelling at people? Why should we have to listen to them, when that just encourages them to continue?”

Two: “Because whether or not you like it, you have a duty to hear people out and acknowledge different perspectives. You can’t spend your entire life in a bubble shutting out people you disagree with. That doesn’t solve the problem of people being racist. It just puts the responsibility on people who can see the racism.”

One: “That’s why every paper should ban racist writers. Then they wouldn’t have a platform to be racist on at all.”

Two: “Ok, but again, racism will still exist, just not in your field of vision. Someone needs to cover these ideas.”

One: “Just make it news then. At least they’ll tell the truth and won’t condone nonsense.”

Two: “You can’t understand where people are coming from unless you hear from them. That’s why we let people we disagree with have a voice in newspapers. We even made a section for it called Opinion so people know that it’s not unbiased content.”

One: “I agree with giving them a voice, but they can’t be racist.”

Two: “… what?”

One: “Like, we should let them share their platform. But they have to agree to not say certain things or certain topics that don’t concern them.”

Two: “…”

One: “Plus, I feel like a lot of newspapers are trying to be too centrist. They won’t actually call out Republicans for who they are, which only …”