Daily Cal ad sparks political controversy

By Carole-Anne Elliott, Special to the Daily Planet
Friday October 26, 2001



The UC Berkeley student-run newspaper is again the subject of controversy.  

An ad published in the Daily Californian Tuesday, which called for “taking out Iran” caused someone to remove Wednesday’s edition from the racks. It also resulted in the organization of outraged students. 

“At least a few thousand” copies of the paper were “stolen” from distribution racks around Sproul Plaza and Doe Library soon after they were delivered Wednesday morning, said Editor in Chief Janny Hu. UC Police captain Bill Cooper said police were investigating, but had no suspects Thursday. 

The full-page ad was written by the Ayn Rand Institute’s founder, Leonard Peikoff, and was titled: “End States Who Sponsor Terrorism.” It states the U.S. would be justified in killing people in order to overthrow states, which sponsor or harbor terrorists. Peikoff singles out Iran as a country the Bush administration should target in its military campaign to eradicate terrorism.  

The United States, he says, has appeased the Middle East for 50 years. Citing a 1999 State Department report, Peikoff calls Iran the “most active sponsor of state terrorism.”  

A version of the ad also appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and student papers at other universities including Stanford and Harvard, according to Yaron Brook, the institute’s president and executive director.  

In the Daily Cal, the ad announced a talk Thursday by Gary Hull, director of Duke University’s program on values and ethics in the marketplace. 

Additionally, the ad calls for the United States to engage in a “proper war in self-defense” and advocates “de-Nazifying (Iran), by expelling every official and bringing down every branch of its government.” It suggests the use of nuclear weapons and includes the phrase, “regardless of the countless innocents caught in the line of fire.” 

“He is accusing Iranians of being like Nazism while he has this idea that American people are more precious than people in any other part of the world,” said Behnaz Shahidi, an education graduate student, who was born in and whose entire family lives in Iran. 

“My jaw dropped,” said junior Maryam Gharavi, an Iranian student and member of the Stop the War Coalition. “I could not believe they actually made the choice to print this ad. 

“Paid advertisements are not free speech,” continued Gharavi, who was present at Wednesday night’s ASUC meeting where members of the Iranian Students Cultural Organization asked the ASUC Senate to demand an apology from the newspaper. 

Hu said the Daily Cal’s editorial staff does not see advertisements before the paper is published and referred questions about the ad to its general manager, Hubert Brucker, who could not be reached for comment. 

“Obviously these people believe very passionately in their cause,” Hu said of the ad’s critics. “I don’t think they understand really what the First Amendment is about and what freedom of speech is about. What they’re asking for is tantamount to censorship.” 

Whoever took the papers Wednesday, left copies of an unsigned flier calling on readers to “stop racist hate speech” and boycott the Daily Californian. 

“Yesterday’s ad was the final straw,” the flier said.  

It cited the printing by the paper last year of a “racist ad against reparations for slavery” by David Horowitz, and the publication this fall of a “racist editorial cartoon” by syndicated cartoonist Darren Bell, which depicted two Middle Eastern men celebrating terrorist attacks on America. 

“We must take a stand against the continuation of a systematic policy of eliciting and reinforcing hatred and racism from our student newspaper,” the flier said. “Until the Daily Californian shifts policy we will not allow business as usual to continue.” 

Gharavi said student groups, including the Afghan Student Association and the Sikh Students Association, are coming together to start a petition calling for the abolition of “racist, sexist, homophobic” material from the independent student paper. “This is not a new issue,” Gharavi said. “It seems like a perpetual cycle.” 

Hu said she did not view the ad as “hate speech,” nor did she think it was unconstitutional. Orville Schell, dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, said that, while he had not seen the advertisement, “the First Amendment strikes me as probably the operable principle for an advertisement like this. 

“It doesn’t seem like it’s necessarily hate speech,” Schell said. “I mean, if you call for the bombing of Iraq after they’ve invaded Kuwait, is that hate speech?” He said it was important for the media to “provide the proper context,” not only “so that there is not the suffocation of free speech or the First Amendment right,” but also to ensure that “extreme advocacy does not go unchallenged.” 

Thursday’s Daily Californian carried an editorial titled, “First Amendment Freedoms” which Hu said “was mainly to educate about the First Amendment.”