Let’s not silence those who disagree with us


From virtually the very first issue of The Riverdale Press, founder David Stein wanted these pages to not only be a place where the great people living and working in our part of the Bronx got their news, but also a place where they could be free to express their opinions, no matter what they were.

For as far back as anyone can remember, The Press published any and all civilized discourse, especially in the opinion section, whether members of the editorial team agree with, or even vehemently oppose those opinions. And as you can see this week, we’re not even afraid to print letters calling us out when some readers feel we’ve done something wrong.

You know, like that advertising insert we included last week of a business legally selling, among other things, guns.

Proper journalism outfits, like The Press, erect a rather large wall between what we report in the news section of the paper, and what is sold in the advertising portion. Our advertising department stays out of what we’re reporting, and the editorial department stays out of what the advertising department sells.

While we will be the first to tell you how important the news and commentary is in The Press, we can’t forget the importance of advertising. Without the great businesses and community members who purchase space in our paper, there would be no paper coming to your door each week.

Advertising doesn’t only make the newspaper possible — it’s also an exercise in free speech, in very much the same way your letters in our opinion section are your exercise in free speech. Advertisers might pay for that privilege, but that does not diminish the degree to which we should protect that speech.

We certainly understand the problems guns create in our society. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, courtesy of the Brady Campaign, 309 Americans are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, unintentional shootings and police intervention each day. Of those, 93 will die.

Even more, 48 children and teenagers are shot each day, with seven of them dying.

Those are hard numbers to swallow, and a primary reason why the debate over gun control may never cool.

But how can we debate if we silence a side? Who will listen to these facts, to these emotional pleas, if they themselves aren’t invited to the conversation?

Far too often, we hear something we don’t like, and our first instinct is to silence it. “I don’t like it, so don’t subject me to it.”

True freedom of speech, however, isn’t protecting the speech we agree with. If that were the case, we wouldn’t even need that protection headlining the Bill of Rights. No, we codify freedom of speech because it’s designed to protect the speech that’s harder for us to defend — the speech we disagree with.

No matter what your feelings were about the gun advertising insert, you still must admit the ad re-opened the debate about gun control on these pages. And it’s a debate that must continue — but only if we’re willing to listen.

And that means not silencing those who disagree with us. Instead, we must stay engaged, listen, and hope the other side will do the same.