By Tony Farina
To those of you protesting Artvoice’s “What Do We Want for 2017” list, which included Carl Paladino’s much-criticized response, let me refer you to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
By way of background, I have been a journalist for more than 50 years including working as an editor at several newspapers including the late Buffalo Courier-Express, and as an investigative reporter for the Courier and for Ch.’s 2 and 7 in Buffalo. My journalism career began in the United States Navy where I served for four years to protect our country including our First Amendment right to free speech.
In today’s world, I see, read, and hear much that I disagree with and find distasteful and ugly, and that includes Carl’s response, but while I may disagree with people on their views, especially when it comes to politics, I respect their right to hold those views and express them even though they may be totally at odds with what I feel and believe.
For those who would condemn Artvoice for publishing the 2017 Wish List which included Mr. Paladino’s remarks, would you favor restricting the publication of all views that you disagree with? Would you favor a kind of censorship imposed by whoever runs the paper, including the kind of bias and spin that permeates much of the coverage we see on various cable channels these days and even in many newspapers and websites?
The world of news has changed a great deal from my youth in the ’60s when the effort was focused on telling people what was happening, not spinning it to suit the editors. That new brand of journalism is unfortunate in my view but that’s where we are. While I am a contributor to several newspapers, including Artvoice, that does not mean that I agree with everything that is written in the name of news in those newspapers or, to take it a step further, in any of our local media. I watch and read and form my own opinion, and I can read and watch whatever I choose thanks to our First Amendment rights.
I’ve known Carl Paladino most of my adult life, and that covers many years. I don’t believe his response is an accurate picture of who he is. I’ve seen a lot of generosity and witnessed many good deeds for those less fortunate from Mr. Paladino and I’ve seen his vulnerability given the terrible loss he suffered not too long ago with the death of his son. He is a caring man even though sometimes he lets his political views get the better of him. I believe that’s what happened here.
Maybe he cares too much, and maybe he tries to convince people he knows what’s best for the country even if many might disagree. But I think that’s what drives him, not racism or hate. I certainly don’t condone in any fashion what he wrote but I’ll defend his right to express his views with all of my heart.
Artvoice is a small weekly newspaper fighting for survival in mostly a one newspaper town. It has taken on a different character in recent months and hopefully has become more involved in the matters of the day beyond the world of arts and culture. I view that as a good thing and am doing my best to contribute on issues of the day. Thankfully, I’ve still got a place to write at this late stage and I am grateful for that. Judging from the response I’ve received, so are many of you. It is, after all, another place to find views and opinion, and we should treasure that voice, agree or not.
Artvoice should not be punished for publishing Mr. Paladino’s comments even if the vast majority of us disagree with his words. He has a right to his views and can be held accountable, but he should not be restrained from saying what’s on his mind even if he now realizes it was probably ill advised.
The Wish List idea was something that the editors decided was an interesting end-of-year column and I think it was a good idea. Unfortunately, that good idea has been swamped by the reaction to the Paladino response and Artvoice must deal with a backlash and this is my effort to help them respond.
But remember, if you will, that censorship is far more dangerous than exercising the right of free speech, and I’ll take an ugly column and deal with it far easier than being restricted in what I read. The last I heard, I can still make my own decisions no matter what anybody says or writes, and that’s the real difference between America and much of the rest of the world.
Nearly all informed people agree that the First Amendment does protect the right for us to speak our opinion.
But when the sentiments and private thoughts revealed by the words are especially loathsome and vile the speaker must be expected to be resolutely unwelcome in normal society.
Reading Mr Paladino’s words in any context reveals extreme hatred of the subjects of his tirade and the framing of their fate something that belongs in private, never public places.
But in any case I cannot think of anyone exchanging views or discussing matters with Mr Paladino could exclude the images conjured by his words.
Any literate children of the Buffalo School System doubtless are aware of the diatribe and we can expect many wonder what adults will do about it. I hope we don’t betray this trust.
Sir…I agree totally with your point…the right to free speech. On the other hand I have always believed “rights” are universal. If something is a right it is a right for each and every one of us. So…I believe Carl can say whatever he wants. I believe folks can then go out and vote him out of his position based on his exercise of free speech. What haunts me in this is an apparent lack of even distribution of this “right”.
So let me ask you: How do you feel about columnists and talking heads being fired because they say something that might offend the employer’s advertisers? The comedian loosing his show because he used the “N” word? All the people in both the public and private sector who have been fired for exercising their first amendment right? In short…is it wrong to kick Paladino out of office because he has a right to free speech, but ok if the entity doing the kicking out is a corporation or employer? Is application of the first amendment properly abridged by economic and employment status?
Oh dear! How many lawyers do we need to interpret these statements: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press…” (US Constitution, Bill of Rights) and “Every citizen may freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right;” (NYS Constitution Article 1.8)
So it is very sweet for Mr. Paladino to say, “I take responsibility…” and “I have apologized to the minority community” but how shall he be held responsible? The court of public opinion may waffle how it pleases but the duty of the Board of Education and of the NYS Dept. of Education is clear, at least if they consider the example set for the children in our community.
The problem, Mr. Farina, is the practice of only printing the embarrassing comments made by political opponents, and ignoring the similarly outrageous comments of those with whom one is ideologically aligned. You know this is the case…everybody knows this.
Well it comes as no surprise that journalists, such as they are and now including Tony Farina, apparently, defend free speech like parrots but what does that have to do with Carl Paladino’s position on the Board of Education? Does the 1st Amendment guarantee speech by public officials without consequences? And does every single decision have to be deferred to a popularity contest when the electorate is too worn out by bullshit to vote anyway?
Nobody is restraining Carl Paladino from saying whatever bilge is in his mind and nobody is restraining any publisher from printing it. However, Carl Paladino willfully and deliberately ignored the Code of Conduct that he took on when committing to support the Board, and then he lied about doing so. When his mean-spirited brand of humor backfired on him he apologised to the “minority community” while saying to the community at large, “tough luck if you don’t like my answer.” If we support Carl Paladino’s new-found brand of patriotism by maintaining his position in an institution responsible for education, then we will get exactly what we deserve, which will be a lip-service to the law surrounded by politically correct tyranny.
What remains to be seen is whether the public (sic.) has any appetite for “newspapers” purporting to support the arts by printing corny red herrings about politics. While it is true that I would not be reading Artvoice online but for this rubbish, it is also true that I will studiously avoid all advertisers in Artvoice and I will encourage those who vote with their dollars to do the same.
Nobody is suggesting you do not have the right to publish this. But if, as you claim, what Carl wrote isn’t reflective of who he is, then why did you publish something you believed to be inaccurate?
The answer, of course, is that your publication is dying and controversy is all you have left to attract readers.