A Shadowed Right This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 28, 2010
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In April, the creators of South Park, a show infamously known for mocking every race and religion, released an episode in which the prophet Muhammad was depicted in a bear suit. Shortly after, RevoltionMuslim.com, a website that supports jihad against the West, sent death threats to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the show's creators. Stone and Parker decided to let the episode run, but Comedy Central quickly forced the creators to censor the episode. Disappointed in the channel, Stone and Parker responded, “in the 14 years we've been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind.”

Freedom of the Press is a right that is often overlooked and under appreciated, although it is an essential to the integrity of American democracy. It allows citizens to freely obtain, communicate and discuss information. It also gives them the opportunity to know the truth. Freedom of the Press gives power to the people, a promise made by our Founding Fathers. It is a right that is important for everybody, regardless of race, religion and views. However, as the power of capitalism continues to grow, more and more similar cases will appear. Large businesses will begin to continually overpower small journalists. Although Stone and Parker were eager to defend the episode, the larger and more formidable Comedy Central, owned by the even more intimidating Viacom, was able to force them to censor it.

If the same show had been released in a different country, for example, in Israel, there is a large possibility that the show would have been immediately censored by the government. However, the United States promises its citizen Freedom of the Press. Especially for a show that is running out of groups to taunt, the creators of South Park should have ignored Comedy Central's plead for expurgation. Stone and Parker could have argued that any person who found the show offensive could have changed the channel, which is part of the beauty of journalistic freedom. Perhaps, instead of bowdlerizing the episode, the channel could have provided Stone and Parker with proper security, ignoring the threat from RevolutionMuslim.com.

The same injustice took place at Dalton in November after Justice Kennedy's visit. Justice Kennedy, who, ironically, is often seen defending the First Amendment, insisted that he approve any article that was released about a talk he gave to the High School. By doing so, Justice Kennedy infringed upon the Daltonian's right to freedom of the press. Possibly more disappointing is the fact that the students agreed to his request.

Even if Justice Kennedy did not change a comma in the article, he may have, even subconsciously, influenced the writer's work, possibly by the means of intimidation. A simple request of his may have shifted the entire mood of the article. Whatever the reason for the request, other Daltonians may have lost the inspiration that they were looking to take away from the article. Justice Kennedy's request to read the article may have taken away readers, other student's and teacher's, freedom of idea, creating a lesser community.

Students are taught to express all ideas and feelings. One would think that the young journalists at Dalton would take a risk and release the article, embracing their right to Freedom of the Press. The question though, is if the right to Freedom of the Press should be held above other Civil Rights. Perhaps the largest challenge for all journalists is finding the proper balance between audacity and respect: making an impact while respecting the dignity of others.





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