Columnist Heppeard responds to Day’s rebuttal

ANDREW HEPPEARD, Opinion Columnist

This semester has filled our pages here at the Northern Iowan with those of us who exercise our free speech on the subject of free speech, and it seems like the dust stirred up has begun to turn to mud with the new article by Kyle Day, our self-described “resident straight, white, male, conservative columnist.”

In his article, Day charges my previous op-ed on our consistent subject with being “factually weak” and “misleading” in my academically supported link – support cited in my previous article – between slurs and defamation.

Day’s claims that the example of corporations taking out defamation suits falls short in light of absence of cases against those who claim the existence of “inherent greed and corruption of Wall Street and the corporate world in general.”

What Day seems to forget is that defamation must first be proven false, and I say good luck to proving absence of greed by large corporations where a single board member makes more than an entire fleet of their own company’s boots on the ground.

I apologize to the reader if the above idiom was so complex that it was as “barely coherent” as my last article was, according to Day. Perhaps Paul Hodgson’s June 2015 article in Fortune outlining the jump from a 1965 20-to-1 CEO-to-employee pay gap to last year’s gap of 303-to-1 might be more clear.

Just like Day claims for himself, I too have a word limit. This may have left some of my previous statements in murky waters for some readers, so it may be better to elaborate here.

Organizations such as the NAACP, the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ* Pride movements and Feminist Action Leagues exemplify in their formation that discrimination has played a negative role in the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans.

The fact that these organizations exist in reaction to consistent evidence of persistent oppression – Day’s anecdotal evidence of success stories aside – show that even in the wake of great progress in the 60’s and beyond, more is needed. True equality does not yet exist.

The fact is – as aforementioned articles state – that an objective descriptor term such as “black” or “white” is different from a subjective opinionated term such as “good” or “bad.” Furthermore, both terms are separate from derogatory slurs, which post the assumption of one group over another – as racist terms linguistically define the user as one who asserts that the targeted group is lesser than the speaker for being genetically different.

The fact is that our current political arena is filled with nationalist claims that amount human lives to skittles, condemning all for a “poisoned” few, and public discrimination like this should not be tolerated.

While I do not think that a university should be a center of censorship – in fact, safe spaces were designed to be areas within a university where respectful dialogue is expected, without regulating the whole campus – belligerency and hate speech should not be tolerated.

But for every organization fighting for an environment which does not impede a student’s progress and productivity with belligerency, insults and flat-out hatred, there are those who protect them with a shield of free speech.

For example, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) was in fact started by those who have very liberal-sounding previous experience, much like President Reagan’s union experience. Whether or not these founders are still as liberal, I cannot say, though I can speak to the funding of the organization as laid out in Cecilia Capuzzi Simon’s article in The New York Times this past August.

Funding sources for FIRE include the Bradley Foundation, whose mission statements include “strengthening American democratic capitalism,” and “supporting limited, competent government;” the Sarah Schaife Foundation, who also supports self-described libertarian and conservative organizations such as the Reason Foundation and Judicial Watch; and as stated previously, the Charles Koch Institute, which has obvious links to the infamous right wing lobbyists the Koch brothers.

I’m sorry that an organization which founder Harvey A. Silverglate himself described as “suddenly coinciding” with conservative agendas, is in fact funded by conservative organizations and lobbyists, and therefore is in fact conservative. I’m sure we can’t have that kind of “misinformation” just bandied about.

A careful consideration of my previous article will show that I did in fact suggest an avenue for civil rights groups in the vein of the aforementioned organizations who stand to fight systematic inequality. These organizations are representative of a people whose livelihood has been negatively impacted by racism, sexism, etc. and the perpetuation through public statements.

There is even precedent for exceptions to the first amendment’s right to free speech for hate speech, such as outlined by Lauren Carroll’s May 2015 article on

Not only are Chris Cuomo’s statements to this outlined, but the legal precedent of “fighting words” is as well. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase, “Them’s fightin’ words,” but surprisingly few realize that the legal term is a revocation of first amendment protection when statements are used to instigate another into a physical bout.

The fact is that hate speech – often deemed “fighting words,” though here proposed as defamatory – is not constitutionally protected (whether one understands what they are or not) and has not been since US Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy spoke outlining case law for what is not to be protected under the first amendment in 1942.

I hope that the plainer language above clears up any misunderstandings for our readers, as my last article proved to be too difficult for some to understand clearly.