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Tom’s Opinion: The Death of Freedom of Speech in Bozeman, Montana.

TAMPA, FL – AUGUST 29: Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks during the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

I was a very concerned when I opened the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and read the headline and article, “Professor Protests Condoleezza Rice As MSU Speaker,” written by Chronicle Staff Writer, Gail Schontzler. I had read the “Letters to the Editor” written by Professor Billy G. Smith voicing his concern of the damage that might be done to our impressionable Freshman class after uncensored exposure to Dr. Rice’s thoughts. He stated, “that many faculty staff, and students at MSU are appalled.”

Do We Still Have A Bill of Rights?

I had to go online to make sure that I hadn’t missed the constitutional amendment repealing the First Amendment. I was gratified to see, that in spite of Professor Smith’s constitutional ignorance, that free speech was still one of the few rights I had left.

A common term among the young is to send a “shout out” to a friend. That term indicates an appreciative mention. Professor Smith, and those faculty staff and appalled students prefer the “Shout Down.” A shout down is an unappreciative way to silence any speech with which they happen to disagree. Heaven forbid the freshman class and 6,000 expected guests might be able to make up their own minds as to the credibility of Dr. Rice based on her remarks. Thankfully Professor Smith is on hand to censor any thought that might conflict with his particular prism of acceptable discourse.

Here’s A Message Dr. Smith

Many citizens in Birmingham, Alabama were “appalled” at the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King. Many people in the south tried the “shout down” method to silence that message. Many people were “appalled” that women wanted to vote. Many people were “appalled” at the hippie movement and the anti-war protestors of the 1960’s. Perhaps you might remember the police battling demonstrators outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968. People were “appalled” that a Crucifix in a glass of urine was considered art.

America was built on differences of opinion. Are we not going to have three presidential and vice presidential debates? Are we not having two national conventions currently showcasing two opposing points of view to the American people for their November vote? Is the opposing party in the aisles shouting down the other party? Of course not. Why, because we still have the freedom to express ourselves that our founding fathers gave us over 200 years ago.

I’m Appalled

Among Professor Smith’s objections to Dr. Rice’s appearance include, “She was complicit in starting the war against Iraq by scaring the American public with false accusations that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons.” “She also still condones the use of torture of prisoners.”

I’m appalled that none of Professor Smith’s charges against Dr. Rice have ever been brought before congress or any court of law. Perhaps Professor Smith should change his name to “Judge Roy Bean.” Judge, jury and executioner.

Some Final Thoughts

I have free speech when I’m on the air. And in eight years, no one has ever told me that any topic was off limits. You, Professor Smith, have free speech in your classroom. I’m not sure if the university curtails your particular perception of history. If your totally unfounded statements, regarding Dr. Rice are any indication, then I’m not sure your interpretation of history and mine would jell.

In her 1906 biography of Voltaire, entitled “The Friends of Voltaire,” Evelyn Beatrice Hall wrote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Article 19 of the ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Provided you get Professor Smith’s OK first.

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