To print or not to print
Today I’m tackling a different topic. Sorry if you were hoping for a book review.
Although talking about books and writing is way more fun, there’s something on my mind that won’t let me sleep. The only way to tame these things, I’ve found, is to write about them.
Last week, our local newspaper published a letter to the editor that made, in my opinion, some crazy claims. You know the kind - the ones we hear parroted from the anti-mask, anti-lockdown crowd. Usually from someone screaming into the camera, so enraged I’m afraid they’re going to have a stroke and be turned away at a hospital they deny is experiencing anything out of the ordinary. Because, you know, they know about this stuff.
In addition to the usual rallying cries of hoax, conspiracies, freedoms, this letter writer asserted, not once, but twice, that all vaccines are made from aborted fetal cells. What?!
So, in addition to Bill Gates’s microchip and China’s 5G surveillance tactics, we can now add aborted fetuses to the list.
Something in me saw red. It wasn’t so much the content of the letter - if we responded to every whacky wing-nut, it would sap all our energy and we’d never get to sleep.
No, what riled me was that this editor chose to print it, to perpetuate baseless claims at a time when most countries are working to get people vaccinated so we can eradicate this disease and begin to live again.
Is it too late to give you a warning? Vaccines, or more precisely, people not believing in them or refusing to get them, is my pet peeve. I could write a whole blog on just this, but I won’t. I know, thank God, right?
But here’s my point. When so many people are reluctant, suspicious, or downright hostile, to the idea of getting a vaccine, I think the media has a moral obligation not to fuel their fears. So I called the editor out on it.
To say she disagreed would be an understatement.
I argue that while newspapers are free to print whatever opinions they want, excluding slanderous ones, they are also free to say no to viewpoints they deem are not in the public’s best interests. Yes, I got very high on my horse.
Of course, it’s her newspaper, not mine - as she so emphatically pointed out - but I believe that “truth” is in danger and media has a duty to protect it. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was called onto the carpet for allowing “fake news” to go unchecked.
The world has gotten smaller, we connect with others instantly, and the cesspool of conspiracy theorists, internet trolls, and other hate-spewers, grows by the day. Shouldn’t we call it out when we see it?
We hear a lot about freedom of speech these days. Is a newspaper or other media outlet infringing on this if they choose not to print statements based on dubious claims?
Should they be given space to air their views, no matter how insidious they may be, in the interests of free speech?
Now you know what keeps me awake. Was I off base in calling this to the editor’s attention? Love to hear your thoughts on this or any other issue of the day. Including books.
Stay safe, my friends, and get whatever vaccine is available to you whenever it’s available.
In the meantime, happy reading.