Apr 9 2001

Boston Globe’s Double Standard on Free Speech?

Conservative activist David Horowitz has generated significant media attention lately over his advertisement “Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks Is a Bad Idea for Blacks–and Racist, Too.” Horowitz has approached college newspapers across the country to buy space for the ad. Most papers have refused the ad, while at Brown University some students went so far as to steal the newspapers that published the ad.

Many media outlets have understandably defended Horowitz on free speech grounds. The Boston Globe, for example, wrote this editorial on March 20:

The ideas against slavery reparations contained in an advertisement placed in student newspapers around the country may well be insulting to minorities on campus. But they are only ideas. Far more dangerous than offensive ideas is their censorship, because censorship knows no ideology and will eventually muzzle the views of the minorities as well.

But the Globe does not necessarily practice what it preaches. Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman report in their April 3 “Focus on the Corporation” column that Forest Ethics, a group that advocates for the protection of ancient rainforests and endangered forests in the U.S. and Canada, was refused ad space in the Boston Globe.

The group wanted to publish an ad criticizing Staples, the office supply company, for using paper derived from old growth forests. According to Forest Ethics, it was told that the Globe would not publish an ad that mentioned Staples by name. Mokhiber and Weissman were told by a Globe ad manager that the paper was not comfortable with how Forest Ethics “expressed” its views.

At the end of its free speech editorial, the Globe lectured the offended students that “the only effective antidote to offensive speech is more speech.” So what is the lesson that readers should learn about the Globe‘s own censorious ad policy?

ACTION: Contact Boston Globe ombudsman Jack Thomas to find out why the Forest Ethics advertisement was refused. Ask whether the Globe‘s refusal to run this ad critical of a specific corporation conflicts with its editorial stance defending free speech.


Jack Thomas, Ombudsman

Boston Globe


Phone: 617-929-3022