Staff Editorial 11.16.2011

The important thing to note about the past few days since Suffolk Law professor Michael Avery’s comments criticized U.S. troops and the Suffolk GOP care package drive is that this came from a citizen of the United States expressing his First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Between Avery’s comments and the subsequent demands of those outraged by the comments, the Journal is wholeheartedly disgusted on all levels.

Avery, a constitutional law professor, has stirred up a slight ruckus at the university, not a “firestorm” as Fox News Channel has so politely pointed out on their front page. As much as the Journal believes that Avery’s remarks were out of line, he still has his First Amendment right to express his views, no matter how upsetting they may be.

He has since been harassed because of an action the Constitution protects. Some opposition is even going as far as to launch a Facebook campaign lashing out against Suffolk’s lack of action against the professor, to which we ask, what action is there to take? He did nothing illegal.

In an attempt to get Avery in trouble with the university, some students have urged other students via Facebook to fill out a “bias form,” which a student can find on the Suffolk website. We would hardly call a difference of opinion, no matter how incendiary it may be, a bias toward students, especially since it was expressed in an email, not in a classroom.

In writing the email, Avery opened himself to criticism, and those critics enjoy the same First Amendment rights. But trying to get him fired is extreme.

Fox News, which carries the slogan, “Fair and Balanced,” used the term “campus firestorm” in the first sentence of their online front-page article. Then, other blogs and media outlets used this phrase in their articles. Where is this campus firestorm? Most of the students at the university heard about Avery’s comments after Fox posted their article.

One of Fox’s viewers took to Twitter, messaging the Journal for Avery’s email address, to which we replied no because it is not our policy to give out personal contact information even if we had it. Nevertheless, the user told us to get our facts straight, and that “campus firestorm” was never mentioned by Fox News. Look it up. We have the screen capture.

The News Corp-owned cable channel quoted Veterans of Foreign Wars ex-“Commander-in-Chief” Paul Spera, who said, “The shameful thing is that he is teaching our young people.” Obviously Spera, whose interests lie with the military, would come out against Avery’s remarks, and Fox knew that when tapping him for the interview.

Spera talks about college students as if they don’t have minds of their own. In higher education, it’s totally appropriate for a professor to offer his or her opinions.

Finally, we at the Journal would just like to thank Acting President and Provost Barry Brown for standing behind free speech despite the pressure he must have felt to do otherwise.

To put it simply, Avery’s comments were inappropriate and sad, but he has every right to say them. Free speech is the first and foremost right in our country, and as members of the media and citizens of America, we must do everything we can to protect it. We are a melting pot of views and backgrounds, and there are bound to be those with radical views that most disapprove of. Let them say what they will and we’ll say what we will too.

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6 thoughts on “Staff Editorial 11.16.2011

  1. I’ve been trying to explain this to a lot of people all week. ‘Merica, get some constitutional education in yo’self.

    I also thought it was absurd when Scott Brown said, “I find it ironic [Michael Avery] is teaching constitutional law; which is something that our founding fathers have worked very hard to provide these rights for us.”

    Why is that ironic, Scott? He’s teaching constitutional law… so he KNOWS his first amendment rights, and is an expert on the constitution; unlike the people at Suffolk who are trying to get Avery fired.

  2. As a former student of Suffolk, I’ve watched this ‘scandal’ unfold exclusively via facebook and news articles. The critiques of Avery are doing more than simply calling for the abrogation of the Constitution. Avery’s point is nuanced, and the rabid attacks on him miss the nuance. This is to be expected of FOX News, but I would have hoped for better from college students. The blind patriotism and rabid criticism of dissenting views is what prevents us from being able to ever critically engage with why we go to war and why we are okay with this. The whole argument for ‘supporting’ the troops is a copout, they would be infinitely better supported if people who questioned power like Avery were running the Pentagon and not sending these kids off to die in the soils of Kandahar for no real reason. By not questioning why our leaders send them to die and instead feeling like you’ve done your part by putting a yellow ribbon on your car or sending them a care package but continuing to support a government that continues to engage in war, you are hurting our troops more in the long term than someone like Avery questioning why we send kids who are trying to pay for college off to die does in the first place.

    As for the second aspect of Avery’s remarks, is he not correct? Polls after we first invaded Afghanistan had a majority of US troops claiming we were there for revenge. The staggering amount of civilian deaths for no tangible benefits should not be ignored. It is as abhorrent to not question the actions of soldiers as it is not question the actions of our government. Waving the flag of patriotism to justify the wanton killing of civilians that bear no responsibility for any harm against our country or its people prior to our invasions is ridiculous and everyone who criticized Avery or called for the loss of his First Amendment rights ought be ashamed.

  3. A) If your claim is true, they are fighting for Avery’s ability to criticize them and denying him that right sullies any sacrifice they are making.

    B) Is your claim true though? It seems the people he is criticizing are the very ones trying to stop his free speech. Again, Avery’s argument is nuanced. Back in WW2 our soldiers did protect our freedoms. Somehow this has conferred every veteran ever some sort of imperviousness towards criticism and an inherent morality to their actions, when this is simply not the case. With the exception of humanitarian action in Serbia/Kosovo in the 1990s our wars since WWII have never been objectively moral. Killing women and children in Afghanistan doesn’t protect any of our rights. If anything it motivates anti-Americanism and terrorism that would violate our utmost right: life.

  4. Just a quick correction to Maranets’ comment:

    Avery’s opponents are not rabid patriots, but instead rabid nationalists. While some patriots may be nationalists, no nationalist are patriots. There is a big difference between the two.