CavDaily scribe: tear down speech wall

In a column headlined "Tear down this wall," Cavalier Daily columnist Christa Byker denounces Charlottesville's free speech monument, which was unveiled in 2006, as a trivialization of free speech, since its concept– anonymous scribblings– "is nothing more than a cheap, interactive platitude."

15 comments

What is referred to as anonymous "cheap, interactive platitudes" seem to be the mainstay of a lot of online communications, particularly blogs, newsgroups and chat rooms. That's part of its attraction to readers as well as writers.

It has been suggested to the staff of Whitehead's organization that if they are serious about protecting free expression they would 1) install a free wireless internet station in downtown Charlottesville at the site of their organization's monument, and 2) take UVA's President Casteen and VP Sandridge to task for their actions that prevented the Madison Hall Living Wage protesters from being able to log into the wireless internet during their protest last year. It wasn't just the protesters whose access was abridged, the folks outside of Madison Hall were also blocked from accessing UVA's wireless hub at Madison Hall. VP Sandridge is credited with the policy and he might now enjoy the ignominious distinction of having invented a whole new way to abridge our Bill of Rights.
Three cheers for Chrysta Byker for pointing out the pointlessness of Whitehead's sculpture. Maybe Byker can expand her sights and focus upon Mr. Sandridge and Mr. Casteen as well as Mr. Whitehead as it appears unlikely that the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression is ready to take on UVA's powerful VP Sandridge, so we might say that Whitehead's monument is built on a ridge of sand.

I think free wireless access at the downtown wall would be a wonderful way for Glo to contribute to the cause of free speech. Speech may be free, but wireless access isn't.
There's a great video of the wall on www.cvillenews.com that's well worth checking out for about 2 and a half minutes.

I doubt the author came up with the title, since she mentions nothing about removing the wall in the article. It likely came from her editors.

I stand corrected. I thought that Rutherford's group and the TJ Center were one in the same! I apologize for that one factual error ...below is the corrected letter (please disregard #10 above)--

It has been suggested to the staff of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression that if they are serious about protecting free expression they would 1) install a free wireless internet station in downtown Charlottesville at the site of their organization's monument, and 2) take UVA's President Casteen and VP Sandridge to task for their actions that prevented the Madison Hall Living Wage protesters from being able to log into the wireless internet during their protest last year. It wasn't just the protesters whose access was abridged, the folks outside of Madison Hall were also blocked from accessing UVA's wireless hub at Madison Hall. VP Sandridge is credited with the policy and he might now enjoy the ignominious distinction of having invented a whole new way to abridge our Bill of Rights.
Three cheers for Chrysta Byker for pointing out the pointlessness of the TJCPFE sculpture. Maybe Byker can expand her sights and focus upon Mr. Sandridge and Mr. Casteen as well as the TJC center as it appears unlikely that the Thomas Jefferson Center for Free Expression is ready to take on UVA's powerful VP Sandridge, so we might say that Thomas Jefferson Center monument is built on a ridge of sand.

With no disrespect to Outskirts Guy, the song lyric apprently being referenced is from the Jefferson Airplane track "We Should be Together" and the tune goes like this:

Up against the walllllllll

Up against the walllllllll, motherfu*cker, tear down the walllllll!

(Won't you tear down the wall).

The song then segues smoothly into Volunteers, then Hot Tuna was formed and Grace Slick started drawing ugly pictures and the 60s were effectively over.

Thank you for the digression. I feel better.

Actually I was thinking of Reagan since our wall is somewhat at the dividing line of North and South downtown.

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!."

I of course used the unedited version that would no doubt be on our wall :)

Tear that motherf*er down!!!!!!

I think Glo's ideas for the Mall is exciting and I would visit the site every week day.

Ah, the view from Jefferson's gardens at 22 ... emboldening the author to use fancy words to disparage something she sees for a few minutes out of every academic year, if that. Are there not enough concepts out there to attack with her ideals that she has to go after a friggin' blackboard? Tear it down indeed. The whole point of free speech is that it's controversial -- at whatever level people choose to use it. For the philosophers out there, you'll just have to take it as the sad commentary on our society that it is....

I gotta agree with fdr on this one.

Amusing that the columnist fails to discern the paradox in advocating the removal of a forum for free speech. Aye, there's a concept: advocating censorship for the sake of holding the First Amendment to higher ideals. And just whose ideals would those be?

It's also worth noting that not everyone has her own newspaper column as a forum for free expression; hence, a chalkboard.

Shall I be censored for opining that the very thesis of the CD column was concocted by a ding-dong?

Truly, the only thing more ludicrous than an arrogant undergrad is one who effortlessly combines it with ignorance.

Amen & pass the potatoes.

Aye, there's a concept: advocating censorship for the sake of holding the First Amendment to higher ideals.

That is a brilliant, brilliant way to look at the argument.

LOL. But of course. Nicely done.

It has been suggested, huh? You seem a bit mixed up in your facts there, GLO. Whitehead (assuming you're referring to John Whitehead?) has little or nothing to do with the Free Speech Monument, and is head of the Rutherford Institute, an often-conservative organization that takes on religious and civil liberties cases. The Monument is a project of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, which has nothing to do with Whitehead.

You can rant all you want about Casteen and Sandridge and their dealings with the student protesters, but at least get a clue about your facts.

The Monument could provide not just wireless access, but also super fast cable access or whatever is the most expedient internet connection; we could then replace some of the monument slate with high definition monitors/screens and build shelter for it from the rain to give it more unifying features;
Make it like a big billboard that you program yourself. It would be a multimedia kind of experience, interactive and free, it would be a visual and audio experience at the monument but also on the internet. The people can choose to display their expressions on the large computer screens and/or on the internet. Things like Happy Birthday, with a nice picture or digital film, or more esoteric or even political things. There could even be one of those fancy touch screens to make it easy to use.

The Free Speech Monument downtown could be like Main Street's digital bulletin board: the businesses downtown could advertise there with their deals of the day. Other groups like non-profit organizations could announce their events, the time would be shared equitably among the people.

Advertising? Well Cville Eye raised the question of how free the wireless internet would be. Some of the time could be designated for advertising. By the way, that might be a good use for a couple of the sides of the downtown Clock Kiosk (in front of the Paramount Theater), utilizing high resolution computer screens, there could also be computer access there as well.

The costs would also be covered by donations, especially from the organizations and shops who utilize it maybe the city could help.

What to call it? The Multimedia Post Office, maybe. But it is also a bulletin board and film screen. It could be used to show the Pavillion concerts too, for overflow crowds. It doesn't have to a singular medium it could show a multiplicity of expressions.

We can choose to have free speech with all the reasonably available technology, or free speech with 18th Century technology.

Note re: why I am proposing these changes to the monument;

At UVA during the Living Wage protests in April 2006 the UVA administration at Madison Hall purposefully cut off wireless internet access to student protesters as well everyone gathered outside. I'm hoping that the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression will intervene on behalf of the students and people and challenge UVA's apparent policy of denying internet access to student protesters and their supporters and witnesses. The students were not under arrest nor were the people gathered outside there illegally. Yet UVA leadership under VP Sandridge utilized control of the internet to deny the students and the public, access to the press, to expression, to assembly, and to speech. Maybe the Rutherford Institute will help, who knows, I had these two groups confused but now I know that they are two different organizations. I wonder if either one or both of them could respond to this public request for assistance. By revisiting the medium of free speech we might see a way to make it even freer rather than less. The Monument could continue to be a medium for expression but just improved for the 21st Century.