The First Amendment guarantees American citizens freedom of speech and of the press, but what happens when these liberties push hateful and harmful boundaries?
On Feb. 7, the opinion editor for Central Connecticut State University’s newspaper, the Recorder, wrote and printed an editorial that has drawn strong protests from not only the community but the nation.
The editorial headlined “Rape only hurts if you fight it,” argues that rape has been a positive force in western civilization since the days of the Roman Empire. While his story was intended to be satirical, author John Petroski’s article was out of line as he and his staff are now facing opposition from a spectrum of people nationwide including rape victims.
About 1,000 people, some with signs, have rallied for Petroski’s resignation. What other response could be expected from an article with statements that glorify rape as a “magical experience” and argues that rape is the only way “ugly woman would ever know the joys of intercourse with a man who isn’t drunk?”
Jack Miller, the university’s president, issued a statement defending Petroski’s right to freedom of speech, but condemning the article as a “clear violation of responsible journalism and the community standards of this institution.”
“Rape is a profound violation of body and spirit, and to make light of this, even in satire, is abhorrent,” Miller said.
Miller was correct to say that Petroski legally had the right to print his story, but like the author is experiencing, the media are responsible for what they choose to say and print.
A publication’s purpose is to inform its audience, but when it deals poorly with such a sensitive subject as rape, it is forced to suffer the consequences of the public’s reaction. This is just.
In Petroski’s case, he was asked to meet with the university where he was asked to resign from his position, write a formal apology to the school and attend mandatory rape prevention programs.
Writing news in the form of opinion can be controversial, and the media has a history of receiving criticism from the public. This can be expected, and newspapers should be a place to stir new thinking and promote change. But this must be approached with great sensitivity, caution, and a knowledge they will be held accountable for the words by society.