Nevo: On the Oscars and public expression of opinion

Lily Nevo, Opinion Editor

Everyone seems to have an opinion on Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars: mocking someone’s chronic disease is unacceptable. Violence is never the answer, physical or verbal. Toxic masculinity was on full display, on both sides. Some even think the act was staged to increase Oscars ratings. 

The commentary and think pieces go on. 

As an opinion editor, I probably shouldn’t endorse this, but there are times when it is okay to not choose sides. It is okay to acknowledge that both men were at fault. Social media has commodified the inflammatory, snappy take to the point where everyone is expected to have an opinion on everything. Just because the most fiery take may be the one with the most engagement does not mean it is the most correct. 

Some professionals like to say an opinion writer should only have one hand — there is no room for “on one hand…on the other hand” arguments. I disagree. I think a strong op-ed must absolutely make a clear argument, but this does not mean it is weakened by introducing aspects of the debate that are not so black and white. In the case of the Oscars, an excellent op-ed could still conclude both men were at fault. 

However, I will say, there is some merit in the incident from the Oscars in Smith’s public ownership of his opinions. I definitely do not want to encourage physically assaulting the next person you disagree with — instead, I endorse vocalizing your concerns when they arise. 

In the age of the chronically online college campus, attaching your name to an opinion is undeniably vulnerable. When the majority of student communication occurs digitally, it is easy for a name that would otherwise be relatively undiscovered to be quickly circulated. This is particularly true with access to anonymous platforms, because it is easy for someone to call out another without facing repercussions. 

Anonymity is safe, and in many instances, it allows for important stories — especially ones that challenge authority — to be shared. In the context of broad idea sharing, anonymity is not a bad thing. It allows for unconventional or even unpopular ideas to be introduced because there is by nature less risk associated with expressing them. 

But as a student journalist, anonymous comments are terrifying. As much as I would like to say my writing is not driven by what I expect my readers to enjoy, when many readers are my peers, it is difficult to not want to appease them. Any student can imagine how hard it is to go to the dining hall or to class while constantly worrying about what those around you are thinking. It’s hard to continue to put yourself out there when your ideas have faced scrutiny in the past. 

Still, I continue writing, and others should join me. Criticizing a piece anonymously is one way to contribute to a conversation, but publishing an opposing piece preserves the argument in the original forum of debate. Furthermore, one op-ed cannot — and should not — capture the entirety of an issue. An op-ed sparks conversation, but subsequent pieces are needed to reflect other perspectives.

If you have something to say in response to a column we publish, I encourage you to leave the anonymous sites and voice your opinions here. If you have a full length piece — around 600 to 800 words — send it to [email protected]. If you have thoughts but no time to develop them into a full column, you can submit them as a Quick Take here. Either way, we want to hear from you. 

The opinion section is a time capsule of campus discussions; it measures and preserves campus climate for future generations. This is an important job, and I hope that those participating in discussions on other platforms will contribute to the section in order to capture current debates as accurately as possible. 

Lily Nevo is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.