Stating opinions comes at a price

Information travels quickly in today’s society. A photo or status update posted online can go from only being seen by a few people to trending worldwide in a matter of seconds. In this era of Internet challenges and instant fame, it’s important for students to use discretion when deciding what they deem appropriate to share. Just weeks before the April 5 elections, the liberal political group One Wisconsin Now discovered several editorial columns, written by Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley for the Marquette Tribune in 1992. In addition to homophobic comments, Bradley was critical of those who voted President Bill Clinton into office in 1992. “We have now elected a tree-hugging, baby-killing, pot-smoking, flag-burning, queer-loving, bull-spouting ‘60s radical socialist adulterer to the highest office in our nation,” Bradley said. “Doesn’t it make you proud to be an American? We’ve just had an election which proves the majority of voters are either totally stupid or entirely evil.” She also wrote pieces claiming the feminist movement was “ largely composed of angry, militant, man-hating lesbians who abhor the traditional family” and suggested women play a role in their own date-rapes. It’s worth noting Bradley was a 22-year-old college student, attending a Jesuit university, when the columns were written. She has also apologized for the comments, stating they are no longer reflective of her worldview. “I was writing as a very young student, upset about the outcome of that presidential election and I am frankly embarrassed at the content and tone of what I wrote those many years ago,” Bradley said. “These comments have nothing to do with who I am as a person or a jurist, and they have nothing to do with the issues facing the voters of this state.” At any rate, she’s spent the better part of the last two weeks defending her younger self, instead of proving to voters why she should be elected to Wisconsin’s high court. The discovery of Bradley’s columns should serve as a warning to students. If 24-year-old editorials from a print-only, student-run campus newspaper can be found, there’s undoubtedly nothing that can stay secret in the digital age. Most students understand that and police their online activity accordingly. Still, apps like Yik-Yak provide a seemingly repercussion-free space for students to make threats or spew hate with the illusion of anonymity. Students can prevent a potentially disastrous unearthing of information by realizing not everything requires a response. People’s opinions are not valid simply because they have them. And unless a student feels they have something worthwhile to add to the conversation, whatever they’re going to say probably isn’t worth documenting publicly. Students should use caution or risk every emotionally motivated rant of their twenties coming back to haunt them when they’re applying for jobs and internships or running for public office. Students can no longer feign ignorance when they’re held accountable for what they say, whether it’s in a published editorial or on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.