Leters to the Editor
Mark Smith's article ["Aid to Elderly Comes at Others' Expense", Feb. 4] is a perfect example of the 1980s' "me first" selfishness. His attitudes toward the benefits non-working seniors earn after their decades of hard work are immature. By decreasing these benefits, senior citizens are impoverished in their remaining years.
I do not think a sixty-five year old father who has house payments and two kids to put through college would accept Smith's proposal as easily as he does.
Richmond's Definition Of Free Speech Too Broad
In his column, ["Computer Nets Need Same Standards as Public Displays," Feb.4] Jonathan Richmond rightly points out that computerized bulletin boards and electronic discussion groups are often rude and full of offensive remarks. But his argument that free speech needs to be curtailed on computer networks is excessively broad. The right of free speech is not something the government or other institutions can weigh against other considerations, based on political judgments and prevailing views. If it were, then free speech would not be a right at all, but merely a privilege given to us by a generous authority. Under the constitution, the government has no leeway -- freedom of speech must be upheld. And under Massachusetts law, MIT may regulate no speech which a public university cannot restrict.
Richmond also feels that because some countries have laws restricting freedom of speech, the Institute must help to enforce those restrictions on network users from MIT. Does he believe, then, that if users in Iraq obtain network access, and the Iraqi government decrees that no posting may assert that the Holocaust occurred, that MIT should punish students who seek to preserve the memory of that horrible event?
Richmond's assertion that "people at MIT are entitled to exist in a non-threatening professional and educational environment" is worrisome. If by "non-threatening," Richmond means that no one at MIT should ever be made to feel uncomfortable by his or her peers, then I disagree. Yngve K. Raustein '94, who posted the anti-Semitic jokes to which Richmond refers, should be, and probably has been, made to feel very uncomfortable for having done so. If, for example, someone has racist views, I would much rather be given the chance to understand their exact character than delude myself that their views do not exist. We can fight prejudice most effectively when we understand it best.
As individuals, we can all speak out against ideas we consider dangerous or incorrect. But perhaps the only standard we can converge upon and define clearly as a group is one of respect for freedom of speech. There can be no mutual respect when one person sits in judgment of another's right to speak. Richmond says that "we must also deal with infractions of such mutual respect on the computer in the same way we deal with them everywhere else." If he means that as individuals, we must publicly criticize these infractions, then he is right. But if he means that we should put the Institute's politicized judicial procedures in charge of judging our speech, then I must disagree.
Lars E. Bader G
Free Speech Must Be Maintained
Jonathan Richmond should be applauded for demanding that we apply the same standards of free speech to computers as we do in other non-electronic media. However, to reconcile the current inconsistencies, we need more free speech in general, not less on computers. Richmond takes for granted that such an ill-defined, subjective, and dangerous notion of an "entitlement to exist in a non-threatening ... environment" justifies compromising our commitment to free expression if someone labels an idea "offensive".
The truth is that free speech is already a compromise that works like this. There are many ideas I express which Mr. Richmond finds repugnant and for which he believes I should be jailed, disciplined, or silenced. Likewise, there are many ideas Mr. Richmond expresses which I find repugnant and for which I believe he should be jailed, disciplined, or silenced. The compromise is that each of us is entitled to express our ideas, and no one is silenced.
Adam R. Grossman '87
All Speech Must Be Allowed on Campus
I have seen many things posted on campus that I have found deeply offensive, including the reprinted jokes in Dr. Richmond's column. It seems to me that by printing them, The Tech's constitutional protection of the press clashes with the reader's right, as claimed by Richmond, not to be offended. Fortunately, that right does not exist, as it would void the First Amendment.
By allowing all speech, MIT is approving, or disapproving, of none of it. That should be the role of a university. As soon as MIT starts censoring any speech on campus, then the implication is that it condones all the rest, and must start controlling everything that is published.
Unlike postings along the Infinite Corridor, no one is forced to see computer postings. The only people who read the jokes in question were people who went out of their way to find jokes to read on the network. When ideas are posted on a computer, it is very easy for anyone to respond, argue, agree, or "hang up the phone." The computer bulletin board is almost the ideal "free marketplace of ideas," where all ideas may be expressed, and only the good ones will win out.
Adam Dershowitz G
Christianity Cannot Be Reconciled with Other Religions
In his column, ["Religion Helps Some Survive Nuclear Age," Jan. 3] Swami Sarvagatanada writes, "There are so many different and seemingly contradictory religions in existence. Not only do we disagree about each other's beliefs, but we become disagreeable as well, leading at times even to bloodshed ... [this problem] cannot be allowed to continue." We wholeheartedly agree that this problem of intolerance does exist and should cease. However, he goes on to suggest the solution to these problems lies in accepting all religions as true. At that point, we are forced to disagree; Christianity cannot be reconciled with other religions.
Christianity is unique. It is not a set of "moral and spiritual values," nor is it about duties, rules, guilt, and virtue. Christianity is about a person, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the unique revelation from the Creator to the world He has created. It cannot be rightly said, as Swami Sarvagatanada claims, that Jesus was simply another prophet, or just a great teacher; He is fully God.
Lastly, Christianity teaches that we are condemned to eternal punishment because of our sins; no matter what works we do or how good we try to be, we can never free ourselves from this condemnation. It is God who saves us, by taking upon Himself the penalty for our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He offers this gift to us for free, but we can receive it only through faith in Christ Jesus. The road He offers is not one of "many paths"; it is the only one.
Alexander S. Chen '95
Eric J. Ding '95
with the support of Hong Kong Students Bible Study, Maranatha Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Black, Chinese, Korean, and Seekers United Christian Fellowships.