R. Johnson Brouhaha

Ronn Dula (r.l.dula@MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU)
Sun, 12 Mar 1995 15:57:01 -0600

As a recent subscriber to this list, I have been reading everything for a
couple of weeks or so, including the Robert Johnson situation. As a human
communication scholar, rather than as an anthropologist, I have read all
sides as they have come through. This is, without doubt, a thorny
situation. The crux of the matter, however, is that no individual has the
right to engage in speech which can needlessly endanger others. We have
debated for years whther one has the right to yell *FIRE* in a crowded
movie theater. The overwhelming consensus has been that no such right to
so-called free speech exists. My appraisal of Mr. Johnson's discourse, both
as a scholar and as a former US Marine of the Viet Nam and post-Viet Nam
era, is that it is the moral equivalent of just such a reckless act. To
call people to arms in a foreign country, not knowing who will hear your
call, is both dangerous and wholly irresponsible.

The Internet is a unique medium, generally lacking in constraints on
discourse, but similarly lacking in nonverbal and immediate verbal
feedback. If Mr. Johnson stood on a street corner on the Hill in Boulder, I
believe it would be readily apparent to him that people were turning away
from his message. If, on a list such as Anthro-L, we merely delete his
missals without reading them, we deny him that social response. We do him
no crime if we say to him, *Say what you will, sir. Just do not say it
here.* At least, this is my humble opinion.

Professor Kuan Wang, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University
of Texas at Austin,Austin,Texas,USA 78712
(Phone and fax 512-471-4065),kuanw@uts.cc.utexas.edu.