What do you expect when you begin to read a column on this opinion page? If past experience is any indication, it is reasonable to expect that I will urge you to vote for my favorite candidate for president. You might expect to hear me rhapsodize about my hatred of turtleneck sweaters or Facebook marriages, flush with the prospect of finding another human being who might sympathize with me in this regard.
But there is one such expectation where the opinion page inevitably disappoints: That you, dear reader, will be enlightened in any meaningful way. Yet is this not the expectation that every reader holds when they open up the newspaper — that they will learn some new and exciting fact about the world?
As a regular reader, I am weary of “business as usual” on this page; of the pretentious, contentious frippery that bombards the News’ readers every weekday. Thus, I sincerely hope that the News will take the bold step of no longer publishing an opinion page. Only then will it have regained its rightful status as a leader among daily newspapers, having affirmed that there is no place for subjective opinion in a publication that purports to deliver the news.
If this need doesn’t seem sufficiently dire to you, consider the condition of the News’ op-ed section, which of late has been a menagerie of marginal and even offensive points of view. In just the past semester, readers have been subjected to pieces claiming that a child tax was needed to prevent poor minorities from reproducing, that we should defraud investors in American debt by printing out huge amounts of worthless currency and that illegal immigration was part of a vast Hispanic conspiracy to take over the United States.
Among the worst offenders last semester was one Jose Abrego who, in a series of increasingly deranged submissions, insisted the United States should institute martial law and that its schools should indoctrinate children with a single state religion. Reactions to Abrego’s work, gleaned from the comment boards of yaledailynews.com, included: “I honestly don’t know who lets this guy wright for the YDN. PATHETIC,” and “just when you thought the ydn couldn’t publish something more outrageous, it does.” I entirely concur with these sentiments.
Some might argue Abrego’s letters and columns were satirical, pointing to the fact that there is no such person as Jose Abrego. But even if these articles are satires published under an assumed name, it does not excuse them. Satire is not an acceptable means of communication; it is the province of those who are too intellectually lazy to form their own conclusions about the world and instead content themselves by tearing down others’.
If these columns are so toxic, then why, one might ask, does the News continue to run them? A cynic might answer by pointing out that the most wrongheaded columns generally draw the most attention, and that many readers seem to genuinely enjoy scoffing at the marginal opinions of others. But the cynic, as always, is wrong.
The real reason why the News runs such inflammatory submissions is the First Amendment. This amendment guarantees “freedom of speech,” which is the right of every American to have their views heard by every other American. If the opinion page were to discriminate against some pieces based on the bizarre sentiments they express, it would be a violation of the authors’ freedom of speech.
Though the opinion page clearly presents a moral minefield for the News, it is one from which they can surely extricate themselves. They must end their disgraceful practice of printing subjective argument alongside journalistic fact.
Once the opinion page has been eradicated, it can be replaced with material that informs rather than aggravates readers. I, for one, would appreciate a daily page of enlightening charts and statistics. Many Yale students do not even know the top three imports of Latvia, let alone the top 20. And why does the News not include a word search? I adore a good word search.
I further suggest we alleviate the loss of the op-ed page by introducing a separate Journal of Nonsensical Quibbling, which could then be politely ignored — much like the Yale Free Press. This happens to remind me of a debate topic in one of my philosophy classes: “If a tree falls in the forest and is made into the Yale Free Press, has its death served any purpose?” But I digress.
I urge the editorial staff of this newspaper to sear the hideous blemish of opinion from their publication. If all goes well, this will be the last column that I will ever need to write for the Yale Daily News.
Michael Zink is a junior in Saybrook College. His column runs on alternate Fridays.