By Isabella Rosario
Earlier this week, a columnist and I wrote a point/counterpoint on Wartburg College’s decision to deny Turning Point USA student-organization status. I actually reached out to my fellow columnist to do this story, because she is a leader in the organization and obviously had a different view of the situation from my own.
Shortly after the story was shared on The Daily Iowan’s Facebook page, I participated in a comment thread with a reader that has since been deleted. The reader felt that instead of presenting two sides of an argument, we were instead promoting Turning Point’s message and the “McCarthyism” of its professor-watch list. But it was one of the last comments I particularly had an issue with, which said something to the effect of, “Have an iota of journalistic integrity and kick Turning Point USA out of your newsroom.”
While my decision to respond to this so publicly may be viewed as an attempt to “stir the pot,” it isn’t. Rather, I feel these criticisms highlight a point of contention in modern discourse that I would like to address — do progressive people have a moral obligation to silence members of problematic groups as a precaution against endorsing them?
My answer is, fervently, no.
I’m very critical of Turning Point in my portion of our piece. In all my research on the national organization, I did not find one instance of it inciting violence or promoting obscenity (two forms of speech not protected under the First Amendment). Therefore, even if my colleague had chosen on her own to endorse the group unchallenged, I do not think it would be journalistically immoral like that Times Nazi-sympathizer article. While Turning Point members have been called Nazis, they simply aren’t.
Whenever any of our opinions columnists write about organizations they are involved in, we require them to be transparent about that bias, whether it be with greek life or a political group. Neither I, the section editor, nor columnists are obligated to agree with each other (as evidenced by our series of point/counterpoints). In this often-polarized political climate, I hope our impassioned but civil discourse does a small part in encouraging our readers to consider different viewpoints, while remaining critical and standing firm in their core beliefs.
I am the granddaughter of immigrants who came from a country without a free press — where ordinary citizens could not voice their political opinions without persecution. Fostering the free flow of controversial and opposing ideas is a job I take very seriously.
As always, we encourage you to comment on our stories and submit guest opinions. Your and our varying viewpoints are invaluable to democracy.