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Editorial: In defense of free speech and integrity; or, Scaramucci's reminder

Student newspaper are written by students — and student’s voices are ineffective and irrelevant.


Anthony Scaramucci sued his alma mater’s student newspaper, The Tufts Daily, on account of a less-than-complementary op-ed written by graduate student Camilo A. Caballero, which read in part:

“This is Anthony Scaramucci, a man who began his infamously short career as the White House communications director by uttering profanity-laced comments on national news outlets, the man who sold his soul in contradiction to his own purported beliefs for a seat in that White House and a man who makes his Twitter accessible to friends interested in giving comfort to Holocaust deniers.”

Caballero’s accusations are bold and extremely critical. According to a letter obtained by the Boston Globe, Scaramucci's lawyer demanded that Caballero and The Tufts Daily retract “false and defamatory allegations of fact” about Scaramucci, otherwise they would face legal action.

In response to Scaramucci’s lawsuit, Caballero wrote, “One day I’m sitting here writing an op-ed about something I’m passionate about, and a few days later we’ve got a whole team trying to defend free speech.”

Small student-run newspapers, such as ours, sit back and watch spats about the use of free speech with wide-eyes. We view it from an outsider's perspective. In the back of our minds we muse: A small platform for news — like ours — would never elicit a response such as Scaramucci’s lawsuit.

Or, could it?

Claims to free speech course through our American veins. It is the hallmark of American freedom. These claims, though, have often come at the cost of being punished by a higher power. Public figures and corporations generate opinion through advertisement, sponsorship and public relations, and jump to extinguish any spark of incongruence with their image.

This squelching of any dissent creates an intolerance for opinion that blurs the line between what is true and what is false. The credibility of personal opinion wanes with each voice that is discredited by public figures.

Opinions are not only thing in question these days, so are facts. "Fake news," which has been named Collins Dictionary's word of the year, has been one of the hottest two-word phrases since "free shipping." With the term comes the belief that facts can be disregarded or discredited if another so-called "fact" is contradictory to it. This creates a minefield for news organizations to cross even more carefully then before. Articles that may be well-sourced and fact checked must not slip up in the least lest they be stamped unfit for consumption.

Public organizations or individuals often try to combat unflattering opinion or unwelcome facts with their own “factual” information. When these facts are found to discredit the literal truth, who can we turn to for validity?

Perhaps the solution rests with small organizations like The Review. When quality control of the facts and critical opinion thrives in intimate spaces, we can hope that results will spread.

Facts are essential, and responses to facts are important. If personal opinions are not given the chance to be heard, generalized, corporate concepts control every political issue. Threat of legal action against personal expression stifles small voices and edge them further into a latent void.

Student newspapers divulge the thoughts of an upcoming generation of adults. Each op-ed or article foreshadows our forthcoming politics, economics and social life.

Students, don’t take our twelve-page paper for granted. Let your voice be heard. These pages are our space to energize free thought and cultivate our credibility as individuals — perhaps, a way to practice for the “real world.”

Let’s learn our integrity now.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla; Getty Images

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