Letters To The Editor

Thursday, May 1, 2003 at 1:00am

Criticism is not stifling free speech


So many have again confused criticism or refutation of a person's statements as stifling free speech. Just because there is a backlash to what a person says, does not mean that any freedom has been denied.

Our system protects the freedom of speech. It does not guarantee a forum for anyone to speak or write their views. It does not guarantee that the consequences for what does get said or published will be pleasant or profitable.

Our American way of life is quite healthy in respect to free speech. If one has something to say or write, and can find some way to get it broadcast or published, there are no restrictions. No terrorist gang or government official has succeeded in changing this.

Joseph Perkins still has it right (April 23, "Robbins, Sarandon, other lefties just aren't getting it," p. 2). All of us must realize that there are consequences to our words and actions. I suppose that some of those who make public statements either through the spoken, visual or printed media might be replied to by criticism or boycott. This is an adult world with real consequences.

I don't see any actions of our government regarding any stifling of free speech - except for felonious content. It's prohibited. But we are not prohibited from making choices of whom we will support in media, movies or politics. And neither is Attorney General John Ashcroft. The last time I looked he was a citizen, too.



Photo, caption weren't good match


Proper word usage is a crucial component of journalism, especially when describing the feelings/emotions of two-dimensional pictures. Randy Tatel may have been "relieved to hear that Paul Reid signed his appeal process papers" (April 29, "Last minute reprieve," p. 1), but 10 randomly selected people came nowhere near to using the word "relief" to describe his expression.

What they did say is that he looked angry, confused, distressed, constipated, frustrated and surrendering. Perhaps a different picture would have been better suited to your caption, or just a better written caption.



Death penalty system: anti-victim


The lesson we should learn from Paul Reid's stay of execution is that the death penalty system is anti-victim.

The most tragic component of this is the unnecessary emotional roller coaster ride that we have forced the victims' family members on over the past six years. As you note, this is likely to continue for many more years with the survivors being forced to relive the most tragic event of their lives over and over again.

The second most tragic part of this is that it could have been avoided. By seeking an outcome of less than death at trial (minimum 51 years served) all of the seven victims' family members could have begun the healing process, and we would never have had, as your editorial board cynically called it, "Paul Reid Day" (April 30, "Paul Dennis Reid lives and eats his cake, too").

But let's lay the blame for the system where it belongs. Prosecutors convince emotionally fragile victims to equate the killing of the perpetrator with honoring their loved one. Nationally nearly seven in 10 death sentences get overturned due to serious constitutional error. Most people sentenced to death serve life sentences. The victims' family members do not get what the prosecutors promise them.

The death penalty system is anti-victim. The death penalty system further victimizes murder victims' family members by making false promises. The death penalty system increases violence in society and does not deter violence.

We need a moratorium (a timeout) on executions and a thorough study of how the death penalty system is administered in Tennessee. And that study ought to ask why we promote a public policy that intentionally and knowingly sets up victims' family members to experience more pain and denies them the opportunity to heal at the earliest possible moment.

Don't we owe them at least that much?



No immunity to cost of free speech


Good article by Joseph Perkins (April 23, "Robbins, Sarandon, other lefties just aren't getting it," p. 2). Look what happened to Trent Lott on the right. I agree that everyone is guaranteed free speech but not immunity from the consequences of such speech.

I don't understand why those who have our attention because of their artistic talents think they should use that forum for political purposes anyway. Thanks.



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Filed under: City Voices