Censors want a comfy truth that doesn’t exist

Posted 8/21/19

Several species of censor want to water down The Leader these days.

The quiet sort fret, as one did in a recent letter, that schoolchildren will be traumatized by a newspaper that shares stories …

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Censors want a comfy truth that doesn’t exist

Posted

Several species of censor want to water down The Leader these days.

The quiet sort fret, as one did in a recent letter, that schoolchildren will be traumatized by a newspaper that shares stories of edgy artists and makes “crime and danger” prominent.

Another reader has written several times to say he is organizing a boycott to punish this newspaper for giving space on the Aug. 14 Opinion Page to a letter that repeated a common leftist critique of the GOP as war mongers, racists and greedy ghouls, with “Nazi” thrown in for good measure.

We wrote our outraged Republican reader back, inviting him to rebut the letter and commiserating that the competitive free market of ideas can be wearying.

“Blah, blah, blah!” he responded when we name-checked John Stuart Mill. “This is not liberal vs. conservative,” he wrote, “When you lose readership and revenue you will have more time to watch television.”

This isn’t Highlights Magazine. Newspapers try to capture what’s happening and are in the habit of printing letters like the offending item as part of that effort.

The Opinion Pages are the closest thing to a mirror held up to the community. Letter writers are a self-selected group and not perfectly representative, but they do show a wide spectrum of views.

Our goal is to censor as little as possible, not to make the Opinion Pages palatable as pablum.

Which is why a good Opinions Page sometimes shocks some readers.

The diatribe against Republicanism reminds us free speech can be pointed, angry and unkind, just like the political rhetoric of this era.

We don’t print attacks on immutable characteristics of people, like race or gender or physical ability. Beyond that, we allow adults to exercise their discretion and take their consequences.

Our wounded Republican reader wants us to impose prior restraint. John Milton would weep. “Let (Truth) and Falsehood grapple,” Cromwell’s polemicist argued against restrictions on the free press. “Who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” Time was, the party of Lincoln believed in that kind of classical liberalism on which  the party was founded.

Have a little faith, outraged partisans. What your side needs isn’t a safe space, but some grapplers.

The other sort of censor we’ve met this week is an advertiser hoping his money can stop this newspaper from using its editorial voice to prod and provoke, especially on behalf of those made voiceless by their slim wallet and despised condition: addiction.

The Leader dared disagree with him about the site of a treatment center for opioid addicts that the state and Jefferson and Clallam Counties plan to build in Sequim.

In the Aug. 7 edition, The Leader chastised Jodi Wilke (who has since dropped her legislative bid) and her “Save Our Sequim” allies for making the Jamestown S’Klallam the target of their “Not In My Back Yard” opposition.

We called them out for using made-up statistics about crime near medicine-assisted treatment centers. We noted the irony of the group’s name: “their” Sequim is S’Klallam homeland. And we challenged them to face this inconvenient fact: Clallam County’s per-capita pill use is off-the-charts among Washington’s counties and Sequim sits squarely between Port Angeles and Port Townsend. The two-county facility belongs there.

We might confess it was rude to call Sequim “lily-white-haired” if not for the fact that dozens at the meeting Aug. 8 in Sequim described their town the same way: elderly, retired and devoted to the idea that Sequim is Mayberry R.F.D.

Time after time, opponents made the classic NIMBY arguments: this project may be necessary, just put it someplace else.

“Each voice should be given a chance to express themselves without being demonized” he wrote, in the letter in which he took financial steps to punish The Leader...for expressing itself.

We know the scrum of self-governance is wearying and that censorship is mighty tempting as a way to get one’s own way, or even to just speed things up.We are sorry to lose partisans of any stripe from the community of Leader readers and advertisers.

But this is the job of a newspaper: to hold up a mirror to our community, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable and to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.

We don’t know any other way to do it and we trust most people would rather think for themselves than depend on self-appointed Taste Police to do their thinking for them.

-Dean Miller

(The Leader’s Editorials are the opinion of the Editorial Board: Publisher Lloyd Mullen; co-owner Louis Mullen; Editor Dean Miller and Leader readers who lobby The Leader. Each editorial is signed by the person who writes that editorial on behalf of the Editorial Board.)

Comments

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Tom Camfield

Personally, Dean, it soothes my weary soul—the manner in which you can calmly and intelligently inject the voice of reason, morality and integrity into your writing. I have a bit of difficulty restraining myself in that regard. I’m more inclined to rub individuals’ noses more severely in their own excreta. In any case I remain with you in championing free discourse and a Free Press in these “times that try men’s souls.”

Wednesday, August 21
HarveyW

Easy to support these well considered thoughts. Anyone inclined to should show support here on the record as well. There is no record of your silent nod. This community, the real broader community, not some interests, owe the Leader and Mr. Miller thanks for the course this paper has set. It is definitely a different course than in the past.

A local paper is the reporter and investigator of local events, warts and all. No airbrushing should occur. It chronicles and leaves for history what we do,and say. It, like all of us is flawed. Contribute and help stay the course of free flowing information by adding your thoughtful input. Then use that information to act as a true community. Warts and all.

Thursday, August 22