Free Speech or an Overstep of Authority?

The Denver Post is reporting that a newspaper editor for the Colorado State University student newspaper is facing criticism for his profane editorial attacking President Bush. Despite requests for his resignation, he is refusing to resign. (SOURCE). According to the article, Rocky Mountain Collegian editor J. David McSwane issued a statement defending his editorial, which said “Taser this … (expletive) BUSH,” as an effort to exercise free-speech rights. (SOURCE). I can only imagine what the expletive was…

But does this beg the question about free speech and its conflict with school functions? This is a student run newspaper. As you might recall from my previous post concerning religious speak during a graduation ceremony in my”… Speak no Evil …” post (don’t forget about the Randazza Enlightenment, however) about the school’s ability to have some limited form of censorship to safeguard the students. I’m not sure if McSwane’s editorial falls into any category of speech that could properly be censored by the University. I’m sure a very broad reading of Morse v. Frederick, 127S.Ct. 2618 (2007) could lead one to the conclusion that he had no right to publish the remark. But, the First Amendment to the Constitution protects the ability to criticize our government. I don’t think that because this is a student run paper reduces the free speech rights to any degree. But what is the substance of “Taser This: Fuck Bush”? Is this really information meant for the public to evaluate and to help with criticism?

It will be interesting to see how this case develops over the next few weeks. McSwane is scheduled to be reviewed later this week by the school faculty.


2 responses to “Free Speech or an Overstep of Authority?

  • Ron Franscell

    Would I hire him in my newsroom? Not a chance. Not because he’s an inarticulate freak. Not because his vocabulary seems woefully limited. Not because he’s apparently incapable of original thought. Not because he’s a heckler who prefers to stand at the back of the crowd and shout profanity instead of leading a crowd to a positive conclusion. Not because he’s heckling Bush (I’d feel the same if it was Hillary or Obama.) Not because he showed disrespect for his publisher and his community. Not because he can’t seem to surrender his knee-jerk politics to the greater purpose of writing wisdom.

    But because he seems to have no ability to step back from his narcissism and say something that’s worth the price of ink and dead trees. This masturbatory little punk put himself first, not his readers.

    I won’t consume any more of your bandwidth. I blogged more fully about this at Under The News

  • Linda Ruth

    here’s an intelligent (and human) response to this story from another journalist’s perspective:

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