Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


A dialogue continues

Freedom nearly always finds its way to the center of dispute.
Tracing steps along even a canyon of difference, one discovers the
gulf separating opposition from control, encroachment from
resistance, is the same avenue that unites each side as they face
one another from across the fence. Several years ago, this
newspaper found itself in what it claimed was a battle for freedom
of speech. In the meantime, its antagonists felt they were
struggling for a campus free from racial hostility. The turf over
which each faction fought, so to speak, was a separate
interpretation of freedom.

But the difference between “freedom to” and “freedom from” is as
narrow as a street curb, and either side might have stood as easily
on the other. The way in which the conflict brought polarized
perspectives together, if across a divide, is the same way that
leads from discord to discourse. Such is the relationship between
the word “free” and the word “speech”: each concept serves to
ensure and propagate the other. Ironic that The Badger Herald opted
to wave the first amendment flag? It chose for its mantra the
language of free-speech activists, even though such intellectual
mechanisms are rooted in and occasionally produce a disharmony very
like the activities that stirred the paper to life, out of apparent
disapproval, in 1969. Just as day turns into night, the connection
and direction of influence between the Herald and its agitator
counterparts blurred over the last 33 years.

On a warm Sunday this summer, as I sat at the editor’s desk
studying notes from the day’s U.S. Conference of Mayors meetings, I
was stirred from my seat by a loud drumming. Following the beat to
State Street, I encountered a swarm of marchers protesting the
conference. Some carried signs. One wore an octopus costume,
presumably trying to evoke the tentacles of corporate influence
that supposedly stained the event. As I courted the line between
activist and authority — I strode along at the pace of the
marchers even as I dug from a pocket my official conference media
badge — I tried to preserve every detail in my mind thinking, At
last! The event I’ve anticipated all week but I haven’t brought a


The images that followed were surreal enough to imprint
themselves as if my memory were a glass plate sensitized with
silver iodide. On Langdon Street, the demonstrators met a plank and
wire fence which, when they tore it away, was replaced by a line of
elephantine state troopers and eventually a platoon of shielded
riot police. Staring down the row — the inches-wide chasm
separating ideology from obligation — I could not help but be
reminded of the photographs I had seen, like the one on this page
from the Herald’s infancy, of armored national guardsmen facing off
against student fundamentalists. But there was nothing these padded
officers resembled so much as football players poised for the snap
and, in fact, at the far end I could see news photographers leaning
into the line of scrimmage hoping to recreate Neil Leifer’s shot of
Joe Namath against the Buffalo Bills. At that moment, as police
unexpectedly hauled away several disputantes from the crowd,
including the octopus, a hot rain began to fall and Namath blew a
jet of steamy breath and someone in 1970 flipped a squad car in the
snow. In my consciousness, at least, those moments are all linked,

A newspaper should consider itself quite lucky to have
documentary access to the social fabric that impressed into its
first newsprint copies. Significantly, a series of photographs from
February 1970 (the sixth month The Badger Herald was in print) have
been passed from editor to editor and provide unrivaled insight
into the newspaper’s original identity as a vehicle for, in part,
“the political agitation of activists on the left.” It is from
these photographs the Herald establishes its latest identity. The
images adorning the new “masthead,” which appears atop the front
page, are carved from images of sign-bearers and fist-shakers from
those 1970 riots. Ironic that the Herald opts to use as its logo
the same “crazy, delirious revolutionaries” it derided in the
beginning? Those old prints, apparently, are the only thing so
black and white.

Photographs themselves are commentaries on the complexities of
freedom and speech. The medium establishes an insular frame of
reference, pushing all other perspectives to the margins. But these
images are of marginality itself demanding attention: the so-called
radicals in the picture crowding to demonstrate, perhaps
unwittingly, that their anti-establishment views were much closer
to the American mainstream than anyone realized. The subjects of
the photographs are shouting for freedom and power, yet they have
been confined inside the frames for all these years. Back then the
Herald was the opposition paper, with editors who were mavericks in
their own way for defying the movements of the time. When
photographs are developed, black becomes white and demonstrators
and cops find themselves on the other side of the fence. When the
perspective in focus calls attention to other perspectives for
their absence, the incongruity presents a chance for discourse to
fill the gaps.

Symbolically, those adopted silhouettes are a tribute to and a
reminder of the dissent that not only gave life to the newspaper
but sustenance from then forward. The Badger Herald’s forefathers
were never enemies of alternative discourse — their most severe
and unpopular diatribes always carried reminders to abhor doctrine
and demagoguery. When night turned into day, the participants in
social discord that so offended those personalities became agents
of the same end. Speech, demonstration and activism built the
political, academic and professional bastions from which we operate
and someday may construct a lens that can expose to us what part of
freedom we want.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *