An editorial is, by design, an opinion. But on Wednesday, one Calgary Herald columnist’s article sparked a conversation about just how far free speech should go.
The column centred around sexual misconduct allegations levelled against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation hearings. Christine Blasey Ford is one of Kavanaugh’s accusers. The woman says that in the early 1980s, a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and groped her at a gathering of friends when they were teens.
The author of the Herald article, Naomi Lakritz, wrote ‘Kavanaugh doesn’t deserve this.”
“What happened in high school stays in high school,” she wrote. Lakritz went on to write “we’re witnessing a contemporary equivalent of the Salem witch trials and Brett Kavanaugh is very likely to get burned at the stake, whether the 53-year-old U.S. Supreme Court nominee is innocent or guilty.”
Watch below: Some videos about allegations levelled against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
The commentary compelled a cartoon artist for a website called The Sprawl to contribute to the narrative by shedding her creative light on it.
Sam Hester said despite her early reluctance, she felt that as a passionate observer, she wanted to enlighten readers.
“I feel like I’m a quiet listener and have a strong opinion who doesn’t weigh into the fray,” she said, “So this is my experiment, to feel like I have something to contribute and draw pictures to get some conversations started.”
Chelsey Mutter, a journalism student at Mount Royal University, was equally as moved to respond. Mutter reacted from a much more personal experience, having been sexually harassed a few months ago at a party. Her piece, published in the Herald days after the editorial, illustrates why women are afraid to come forward.
“My first thought wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I have to report it so justice can be served,'” Mutter said. “It was, ‘Holy crap, how do I get this six-foot-three, broad dude off of my body?’ And as I know rationally it isn’t my fault when I talk about it, I feel a hot, prickly shame and I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The impact of the article has reached advertisers. Cam Clark Ford in Airdrie requested that their ads be pulled from the column. But despite the fallout, Postmedia’s editorial vice-president said, “Ms. Lakritz’s opinion is not the same as the editorial position of the Calgary Herald. However, we defend her right to express it.”
“Freedom of speech is something that all of us in the media cherish,” Lucinda Chodan said. “Some readers will agree with the opinions expressed; some will not. But we believe it is important in a democratic society that readers have access to points of view that might be different from their own.”