Cardinal View: Free Speech is not selective

State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, speaks in the Wisconsin state Senate chambers. 

Image By: Emily Buck

Free Speech is not, and cannot, be selective. This is an idea often, and ironically, overlooked by State Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.

On Wednesday, Nass released a statement condemning the ideas presented by UW-Madison student Eneale Pickett in a video the student released to promote his clothing line, Insert Apparel.

The video portrays a scene in which two police officers wearing pig masks hang a black man using an American flag. Later in the video, the same two police officers can be seen running from a black man, who is dragging a sledgehammer behind him. The promotion concludes with a shot of Pickett holding a bloodied pig mask and a machete, depicting the decapitation of one of the police officers.

“This vile and racist anti-police video is clearly a direct threat to the brave men and women that serve behind the badge,” Nass said in his statement. “UW-Madison must immediately hold these students accountable and that should include an investigation by the police and the Wisconsin Department of Justice.”

The Daily Cardinal condones no violence, such as that depicted in Pickett’s video or any other kind, but we do take issue with the nature of Nass’ statement.

Nass’ statement comes just over two months after he signed on as a cosponsor of Assembly Bill 440, an even more concerning alternative to the Wisconsin Free Speech Act. These bills are supposedly meant to promote expression and speech on UW System campuses, but in actuality would stifle discourse at universities across the state.

The Republican senator’s statement on Wednesday is hypocritical, as it illustrates his commitment to free speech only when said speech aligns with his beliefs — something that has become common for Nass over the last year.

In December 2016, he threatened funding to UW-Madison over a class titled “The Problem of Whiteness.” The class is meant to help students “understand how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced in order to help dismantle white supremacy,” according to UW-Madison’s African Cultural Studies department’s website.

To Nass, though, the class wasted the money of Wisconsinites “to advance the politically correct agenda of liberal administrators and staff.” It’s ironic how quick he is to advocate for free speech until said speech goes against his own beliefs.

Nass also criticized The Men’s Project, a group at UW-Madison which aims to promote reflection and discussion on the meaning of masculinity, as allegedly being a “war on men” — a further example of his hypocrisy.

As advocates of complete and total free speech for all, The Daily Cardinal recognizes Nass’ right to make the aforementioned statements, yet we cannot let the blatant hypocrisy of said statements go unnoticed.

If the senator were a true advocate of free speech, he would not be condemning a college student because of a video he produced. Rather, he would recognize Pickett and his right to create and share said video.

After all, Senator, we cannot be selective of what speech is free.

Cardinal View editorials represent The Daily Cardinal's organizational opinion. Each editorial is crafted independent of news coverage. Please send all comments, questions and concerns to editorialboard@dailycardinal.com.

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