Campus Media Response: Keith Yost of the MIT Tech Outclasses his Peers on Muhammed Cartoon Controversy

Congratulations to Keith Yost, a columnist at The Tech of MIT, who recently put the editors of the paper to shame, by saying “I am Spartacus!” and publishing a statement of support for the free speech rights of Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park, and for the series of other cartoonists and writers who have been threatened with violence by Islamic totalitarians. Though there are a few muddled points in the article, Yost’s message shines through clear as day when he writes the following:

Muhammad in a bear costume (as South Park pseudo-portrayed him) may sound silly, but with this censorship what we are looking at is our core democratic principles under attack. Our citizens have the right to satirize Muhammad without fear of retribution, just as they have the right to declare themselves gay or to let their religious beliefs be known. A violent minority has, through the threat of violence, caused us to surrender this right. It is one thing for someone to decide, of their own volition, whether or not to say something. It is an entirely a different matter when someone wants to say something, but fears they will be harmed as a consequence.

I wanted this article, or something like it, to run as an editorial, a declaration that not just I, but this entire organization stood behind free speech rights everywhere. I thought it was our duty — aren’t we, as a newspaper, both the first and last line of defense against the Mohammed Bouyeri’s of the world? I also wanted to run an illustration, a respectful depiction of Muhammad. I felt there was no better image to drive home to point that free speech should triumph against political correctness and coercion. I wanted us to stand up and say, “I am Spartacus”— not to give a hollow statement of support or merely write an article bemoaning the state of affairs, but to actually share the risks that are born by those who exercise their right to unpopular free speech. Unfortunately, The Tech is unwilling to take this stand.

However, if any other media organizations are reading, I urge you to publish your own depictions of Muhammad as a declaration of the supremacy of free speech. We cannot, we must not, we will not allow our citizens to be browbeaten into submission. This is one point on which they, not us, must yield.

Hats off to you, Keith Yost. We stand with you.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.