October 1, 2004

Commentary

Censorship no more!

By Ramona Shashaani

I am appalled at the blatant censorship of Michael Moore by California State University of San Marcos administrators. Last fall, the university entered into a legally binding contract with this politically controversial oscar winning director for a speaking engagement. Due to the San Diego wildfires last October, the speech was delayed and then rescheduled for October 13, 2004. When the student government voted to help subsidize Moore’s appearance, President Karen Haynes revoked Moore’s invitation. In a statement posted on the campus website, she explained the basis of her decision: “As a public university, we are prohibited from spending state funds on partisan political activity or direct political advocacy. After discussion, we concluded that we had two choices – either delay his appearance until after the election, or balance his partisan presentation with an alternative point of view so we would not violate the law.” 

What is a more clear and shameful violation of the law is Haynes’ conscious decision to sidestep Moore’s first amendment right to free speech and the students’ rights to freedom of assembly and information. To cancel a talk due to the speakers’ “political activity” is not only unconstitutional censorship, but akin to spitting in the face of democracy! Freedom belongs not only to states or institutions, but to each and every member of our communities. It is not the private property of people in positions of power to abuse.

Haynes’ refusal to use university funds to subsidize a politically controversial speech must not be used as a shield for gross violation of the right of students to hear Michael Moore’s perspectives, even if his talk happens to be just before the November elections.

Had the speaker been a staunch Bush supporter, I doubt that Haynes’ would have had any qualms about funding, a red herring merely used as an excuse to silence any voice of opposition.

Through blatant abuse of authority as CSUSM President, Haynes’ censorship reflects her own political partisanship to such extent that it would not tolerate any criticism against the Bush administration. This conservative partisanship is further revealed in the excuse that since Moore was first invited last year, “he has completed and released a film, Fahrenheit 9/11, that he wants to be “the first big-audience, election-year film that helped unseat a president.” If balancing opposing viewpoints was a true concern, Haynes would have accepted Moore’s offer to get a conservative speaker. Notwithstanding, we are constantly barraged with one-sided unbalanced conservative views of Bush’s policies and actions. Isn’t it time we each lift our own voices and create an atmosphere where the true voice of freedom and democracy may be heard?

Through her futile attempt at silencing Moore, Haynes as a university president is sending the wrong message to the community: “Democracy is dead! You have no right to publicly dissent against the Bush administration! If you try, we will censor you!”

Fortunately, there are still some freedom loving students and teachers who protest against silencing free speech as well as private donors who agreed to fund Moore’s appearance to send a different message to Haynes and her cohorts: “Censorship no more! Democracy is yet alive in our hearts and minds!” I personally hope for a great turnout in support of free speech and democracy at the Del Mar Fair grounds when Moore addresses the San Diego community on October 12 at 7:00 p.m. I would also like to see how Haynes’ defends her illegal and unconstitutional actions when Moore sues the university for breech of contract.

Ramona Shashaani can be emailed at: r_shashaani@sbcglobal.net

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