I’d like a chance to respond to Tom Kazenke’s criticism (The Mail, 10/15) of a letter I wrote to the Washington City Paper several weeks ago (The Mail, 10/8). Kazenke suggests I should be taken to task because I only want to read the opinions of people who share my views. This is not the case. Openness in debate is of great importance to me; in fact, the field in which I work (for better or worse, academia) is all about the free exchange of ideas, the promotion of what Kazenke calls “freedom of thought.”
However, there are certain instances when freedom of speech becomes a more complex matter. Discussion of the Holocaust is perhaps the strongest example of this. Do we give the neo-Nazi his freedom to tell us the Holocaust didn’t occur, or was a good thing? Kazenke might say yes here, I gather; but I feel we have a responsibility to tell the neo-Nazi that he is full of shit.
It was for a similar reason that I first wrote to the City Paper about the john’s piece. Among other disturbing things, the author of this piece (is it any wonder it was anonymous?) quite seriously was saying that the incidence of rape would go down if prostitution were legalized. I found this view troubling. Sane people know that rape can’t be explained away as horny men attacking women; it’s a terrible and complex crime that has more to do with power and domination.
Perhaps I was excessive in my previous letter. Perhaps the john should be able to give us his views on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. My point, simply, is that other members of this community have an (ethical/moral) obligation to respond to such nonsense in an appropriate fashion. And while I’m at it, let me add that we should be just as disturbed when someone like Kazenke informs us that he “really enjoyed it.” It’s clear that the john has substance abuse issues and severe psychological problems, which perhaps help to explain some of his skewed views. But I can’t for the life of me figure out what Kazenke’s problem is. What good is freedom of thought when a person isn’t really thinking, eh?
Chevy Chase, Md.