Sunday, November 18, 2012

I should not have published column by Floyd and Mary Beth Brown


Over there near my name it says "editor."
Some people have told me it should say "censor" or even "Nazi," when I've decided a letter or comment shouldn't be published.
I often work with the people, especially letter-writers, and help them re-do their letters into something that can run, and still convey their meaning.
The most basic rule is they can't accuse anyone of being stupid or evil, but they can say the people are doing stupid or evil things.
We also publish syndicated columns and cartoons. And we subscribe to more than we need, so I can choose a good mix of liberal and conservative voices for the Opinion Page.
I usually allow commentary on national issues a bit more leeway. After all, saying harsh things about those who run our government is not only an American tradition, it's the reason our Founding Fathers drafted the First Amendment and made it No. 1.
I do sometimes edit the columns, usually just for length, a misspelling or a grammar error. But we probably don't print even half of the columns we receive for many reasons.
I let one through on Friday that many people complained about. Written by noted conservatives Floyd and Mary Beth Brown, the column set out to analyze the reasons Barack Obama did so well and Mitt Romney did so poorly in the recent presidential election.
Much of what they said was interesting whether or not you agree:
•"The Republican Party has truly become corporatist. The next Republican to win the presidency must be a populist."
•"The GOP must stop coddling big business. Free trade is important, but it isn't so perfect as to be worshiped.
•"The establishment elite of the GOP must stop the war against conservative and Christian candidates lower down the ticket. Christians are the heart of the GOP, and we are not amused."
But the column also included a few statements several readers told me in no uncertain terms should never have appeared because they are disrespectful or are opinions presented as fact. I think this section is what they were talking about:
"Barack Obama isn't a good man. He is evil and corrupt. Romney didn't have the guts to say it. He didn't want to talk about Obama's associations with communists and socialists.
He didn't want to talk about Obama's associations with Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Romney never wanted to talk about Obama's sketchy past, his fictional birth story, and his possible ineligibility to serve as president. Romney didn't want to talk about Obama's receipt of corrupt and foreign election funds."
"...What about Obama's support for infanticide? What about his support for death panels?"
Whew! The Browns' column contained some strong stuff.
It certainly appears I didn't read the piece as carefully as I should have.
However, in my feeble defense, I will say some of that is opinion or spin.
For example:
•Obama supports abortion rights and many consider abortion to be infanticide.
•There are people who believe there has been a grand coverup about where Obama was born (though since his mom was a U.S. citizen, that shouldn't even matter). There are also people who believe in ghosts, angels, yetis, a faked moon landing, secret flying saucers in New Mexico and a secret conspiracy to kill JFK (I might believe that one).
• As president, Obama has attempted to restore, improve or establish U.S. relations with other countries around the world, including socialist, communist and Islamist nations. I suppose you could say he's had "associations" with them, even though that stretches the word in a most disingenuous way.
• And as for death panels, we've always had them. The insurance companies decide who we'll spend a fortune on to keep alive and who we won't.

So that leaves us with two statements:
1. "He is evil and corrupt," which is name-calling and , as such, breaks one of my basic rules.
2. "Obama's receipt of corrupt and foreign election funds." I didn't have a clue what that was about when I allowed it to be published, thus breaking another basic rule.
I have subsequently learned some conservatives were complaining that the Obama campaign was making it too easy for foreigners to contribute via credit cards. They didn't prove it was actually happening. 
So, it's clear I should not have published the column. I apologize to those whose sensibilities were offended.
I spoke to one reader who said she canceled her subscription and wouldn't restart it unless I could guarantee her that the Browns would never again appear on the pages of The Dispatch.
She said she was a teacher and such disrespect for the president is a bad thing for children to see.
I'm sorry but I won't make that promise.
While I admit my error and vow to be more vigilant, the Browns and some of our other strong conservative (and liberal) columnists do speak for a point of view that exists among our neighbors.
And I was frankly shocked this educated person would be willing to throw away all the important local news and opinion just because she disrespected the opinions expressed in one column. This is, in my opinion, a true case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
My goal is not to pick and choose columns that happen to agree with my personal worldview; I don't want The Dispatch to just be a mouthpiece of the left or right like Fox News or MSNBC.
No reader should agree or disagree with everything he or she sees in our Opinion section. I include lots of things that are far from my personal point of view; this was one of them.
I want The Dispatch to be a place where all hav a voice and show respect for their neighbors when they disagree.
The better we understand each other's points of view, the more likely were are to come together to achieve solutions.

The  column in question: http://bit.ly/RHGTGA
The letter rules: http://bit.ly/Pes27p
More about Floyd Brown: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floyd_Brown

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