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One man's editor is another's censor

| March 26, 2021 1:00 AM

A recent guest opinion by a distinguished academic has brought readers from the left, right and middle to an almost unfathomable place:

Together at the table of debate.

Hallelujah.

Cornell Clayton crunched plenty of political toes, calling out what he perceives as the radicalized right and your humble neighborhood newspaper, too, for providing a platform hosting all kinds of opinions.

Clayton's words were music to some readers' ears. To others, they sounded like ominous footfalls in the dark hallways where censors roam.

Where we differ with the Oxford graduate is in our determination not to pick up where the First Amendment left off. That precious constitutional provision prohibits government censorship; we believe an even greater threat comes from within, from editors and publishers who would self-censor because they disagree with some of the opinions being expressed or fear reprisal from readers, advertisers or power brokers.

The Press defends the free expression of opinions that may be factually flawed, that could betray the writer as a victim of completely irrational thought or rumor, that push for agreement on the most disagreeable of topics and positions.

Sometimes stuff that some consider hateful.

"Speech that demeans on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, disability, or any other similar ground is hateful; but the proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express 'the thought that we hate,'" the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in 2017.

The Press editorial board recognizes “the thought that we hate” is in the eye of the beholder. He who would silence Hayden resident Jim Hollingsworth’s call to return to the good ol’ days of McCarthyism would also have to censor writers proposing something as outrageous as wealthy people being forced to relinquish their spoils until they’re poor.

To many moderates, radical and irresponsible views occupy branches on the far left of the tree, not just the far right.

In our opinion, the wider the scope of opinions published on these pages, the more citizens are encouraged to say what they really think.

The eventual harvest is more sustaining when others stand up and refute or rebut what's already been expressed. That's called discourse, and it is responsible for every positive step civilization has ever taken.