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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Re: Freedom of Expression… How Far Can We Go

    In your recent editorial, “Freedom of Expression? How Far Can We Go?” you discussed Max Karson’s rant against Asians. You described Karson’s piece as “a highly inflammatory and racist editorial.” I felt intrigued enough to search it out and read it myself. I was left with only one question: are you serious? Allow me to quote a few sections.

    -“? I just say to myself, ‘Max, Asians are not evil cyborgs. They’re human, just like you. And if you were a minority student in a sea of walnut-brained business majors and skiers, you’d be crabby, too.'”

    -“That’s right — no more ‘tolerance.’ No more ‘cultural sensitivity.’ No more ‘Mr. Pretend-I’m-Not-Racist.'”

    -“? the Asians will then be forced to eat bad sushi from Hapa — with forks. When all the sushi is gone, they will be permitted to sleep for four hours, but the entire time I will shout through a megaphone, over and over, ‘Why didn’t you make enough Wiis?!'”

    The overriding tone of Karson’s writing is absurdity. I don’t believe for a minute he’s actually a racist. Someone who believes what he is writing does not make his words so easily ridiculed. Someone who hates Asians does not say they are “?jaded by [their] experiences with the whitebread, brainless tree sloths of CU.” Has anyone read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal?” Spoiler warning: he doesn’t actually want to eat Irish babies.

    I did a bit more research about this Karson character. As it turns out, he caused quite a stir with some comments about being “angry enough to kill people” the day after the Virginia Tech shootings. The cause of this pent-up rage? “All kinds of things from the fluorescent light bulbs to the unpainted walls.”

    There was an even earlier controversy after he put into print his views about sex, which can be politely termed barbaric. Then there was the time the police confronted him about distributing a newsletter containing a suicide note. What we have here is a man who loves the spotlight. And everyone knows that saying dumb things about minorities is a great way to get talked about. Or invited to speak at colleges, depending on which minorities you bash.

    So is Max Karson a racist? I don’t think so. Is he a massive [expletive deleted]? Almost certainly. Is his satire well-written? Not particularly. But none of that is really the issue, is it?

    Your editorial went on to ask a number of questions about freedom of expression and the role of campus media outlets in relation to the schools which host them, but mostly avoided answering any of them. Absent answers notwithstanding, the reader is left with the impression that you are advocating somewhat stricter limits on expression than were enforced at Karson’s paper.

    Yet it was only a few issues ago that I read in your very pages a sentence which shocked me a bit more than anything the aforementioned attention-seeker penned, if only for the fact that it was completely in earnest. In the Feb. 25 issue, in an op-ed addressed “To My Fellow Indians and South Asians,” Jeet Lund wrote “Look at yourself in the mirror for once, and realize one simple thing — that skin of yours dictates your identity.”

    My shock subsided as I read on; Lund’s article actually made a good point, encouraging people to think of how their lives can benefit others, not just themselves and not to look down on those who choose to hold onto their cultures. But I like to think we’ve progressed beyond the point of thinking that skin color dictates identity. Honestly, isn’t that the kind of thinking, albeit far less extreme, that you revile Karson for espousing?

    See what I just did? I criticized someone I disagreed with. I didn’t ask “Should that be printed?” Freedom of expression is a good thing. Sure, there are limits, but I think they can be safely held at a pretty high standard. I read Karson’s article. I disagreed. I criticized him. And I’m probably not going to pay any attention to him in the future. That’s the American way.

    P.S. Concerning the role of schools in campus media: prior restraint is bad.

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