Tag Archive for freedom of speech

Why censor, Times Call?

Times-Call handcuffs public opinion.

Readers of the Longmont Times-Call might be interested to know that what they read on the Opinion Page is not always what was written by the author. Our guaranteed Freedom of Speech was intended to apply to government censorship. Over the years it has come to mean censorship by anyone. That’s stretching things a bit. Certainly privately owned and operated organizations have the right to determine was is or is not communicated under their names. But newspapers and other media?! Aren’t they supposed to be the Fourth Estate?

Certainly freedom of speech is not absolute. The much-used example of not been free to holler “fire” in a theatre applies. But come on Times-Call. There is nothing in the Letter to the Editor by Ann Kibbey that appeared in the Sunday Times-Call, September 9, 2012, that justifies censorship. And, indeed, it IS censorship. (Censored items italicized in the letter by Ann Kibbey, republished below.) The letter came in under the Times-Call limit of 300 words. So that’s not an excuse. It wasn’t obscene, a personal attack, etc.. All the contents were valid and fair game. So TC — here’s my question for you, “Did you take out parts you didn’t like because you like the targeted oil and gas industry and want to serve as its de facto public relations watch dog?”

We’ll be watching Times-Call — especially over the next two months leading up to the election on November 6. Here’s what will be watching for: Where’s your bias? And how are you displaying it?

Editor, Free Range Longmont

I support the ballot issue that would ban fracking in the city of Longmont, and also ban toxic waste pits within the city limits.  There are way too many unknowns about the impact of fracking on ground water, on lakes, on the air we breathe and the food we eat.  The industrial use of roads in residential areas will cause noise pollution as well as damage to the roads.  The oil and gas companies are claiming that there aren’t any known dangers from fracking.  Anyone who has seen movies like Gasland knows that this is not true.  The oil companies, instead of doing the studies that are needed, just pretend that no studies are necessary.   They equate absence of proof with proof of absence. This is not credible.

Importantly, the oil and gas companies have refused to make a complete disclosure to the public of the materials they will use in fracking.  Since it is common knowledge that benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer, is being used in fracking, one can only wonder what chemicals are being concealed.   The oil companies claim that they need to keep secrets for proprietary reasons.  I find this impossible to believe.  They obviously collude with each other in many ways to get what they want, and anyone who showed up at a drilling in progress would have easy access to the materials being used by another company.  It seems, instead, that they just don’t want us to know all the chemicals being used.  In the 1970s, radioactive material was used to generate explosions.  Is this still being used?  We need proof of absence, not absence of proof!  We need full disclosure.  Without it, a ban on fracking is the only reasonable course of action.

Ann Kibbey, Letter to the Times-Call Editor

Longmont’s rightwing extremists damage discourse, and more

Norman RockwellFor years members of the Longmont community have discussed with me their distress at the level of discourse that they read and hear. They specifically reference the comments that appear at Times-Call Online.

Most have chosen to just stop reading the comments, if not the articles themselves. They talk to me about the lack of knowledge by so many who write comments. Some are just baffled at the unapologetic ignorance displayed.

They are perplexed as to why the Times-Call permits the personal attacks and the overall level of viciousness. “The T-C has a commenting policy but they don’t adhere to it,” they say. How do they know this? They tell me that they have reported certain commenters enough times to have those accounts disabled, yet those same commenters are still posting. They wonder if the Times-Call is selective about what they allow and what they don’t. I tell them to let the evidence guide their judgment.

They also have the similar concerns about the T-C Line.

Some wonder if most of the people who comment to Times-Call articles actually represent most of Longmont. Yet they personally know so many good, smart, intelligent people that they have a difficult time believing that these others could really be the real Longmont.

Recently, I’ve heard concerns that are much more serious than rightwing extremists “shooting off their mouths.”

I’ve had people tell me that they’ve written letters to the editor and then scrapped them because of fear of retaliation – either against themselves or their family. Others would like to speak at city council meetings but they know that attacks will follow.

I usually don’t tell them that they haven’t seen the worst of it. They don’t know about Longmont’s worst rightwing blogger. They don’t know about other attack sites, some active and some semi-dormant. Perhaps I should tell them. Perhaps it’s past time that they face the most unpleasant of political realities that have taken over the community in the last two years or so.

It has gone too far when members of our community don’t feel free to exercise their first amendment right to speak freely about issues. When they cower in fear of attacks. When they wonder if their families will be harassed. When they wonder if their jobs will be targeted. When they wonder if they will have to endure emotional abuse, if not physical abuse.

These are “ordinary” citizens of Longmont. They are not activists, some of whom have gotten used to a certain level of abuse. Most of the community’s activists recognize that some of this (though not all) is the price they pay for helping the community improve. For helping the community face its flaws. For creating a better Longmont for everyone.

It saddens me to know that this is happening. It saddens me even more to know that this is precisely the intent of the people in question. They intend that only their voices are heard. It’s called intimidation–at best, threatening–at worst.

And it will work, my fellow Longmonters. It will work unless you “screw your courage to the sticking post” and say, “No More!” “Enough!” This is your community, too. Your have both the right – and the duty – to speak, to shape your community, to cherish and protect the city you call home.