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Don’t like it? Write a letter

An e-mail arrived at The SUN recently, its author objecting to the content of some of the right-wing political messages in our Letters to the Editor section.

The author vigorously protested the “unbalanced” content concerning President Obama.

The writer stated that the reason such letters appear in The SUN is that the newspaper’s political leanings are exemplified by the rhetoric. The implication was that The SUN purposefully did not print statements supportive of the current administration.

A further implication was that The SUN should censor letters with negative content concerning the president and the writer’s particular political bias. The e-mail ended with the assertion that negative commentary printed in The SUN’s Letters section would lead visitors and those who read the paper from afar to conclude the residents of Pagosa Country are “idiots.”

The assertions and implications are false.

First: The SUN prints nearly every letter it receives, barring those that are libelous and that tumble over the word limit, occasionally holding letters for publication at a later date.

The reason is simple: the ideas and emotions expressed in the letters are real. The Letters column is a forum in which people can express their points of view on any subject. If a writer expresses an idea, you can be sure he, or she is not alone in holding that idea. The Letters column provides valuable and often entertaining insight into the cultural and political character of the authors.

In no way does the publication of a letter indicate agreement on the part of The SUN.

Further, if a reader is dismayed by the content of a letter, why not write a letter condemning the idea or expression? To complain that a certain point of view is over-represented is, in effect, to acknowledge that, 1) there is little if any contrary opinion or, 2) that those who hold an opposing point of view are unwilling to go public with their ideas.

It is not the job of a newspaper to censor political opinions — including the more odious ones. The task is to reveal those opinions. To assume that censoring or ignoring ideas you do not like will make them go away is inane. Some ideas are like cancers: They do their greatest damage when undetected.

Finally, the assertion that readers will judge Pagosans harshly after reading the letters in question is an offense to those readers. The assumption is that the reader lacks the critical facility to reject ideas he or she does not appreciate. We at The SUN do not believe this; we believe our readers are able to come to their own conclusions about the ideas they find in our Letters section. We believe, in fact, that the content of letters with a political slant allow our readers to gain an insight into how other people think, into their values. We believe our readers are intelligent enough to know not only whether they agree or disagree with a particular writer, but to ascertain how they should act in reaction to extreme ideas and positions. We would hope, upon reading an “objectionable” letter, a discerning reader will refine their own political position and determine to take action, if only at the polls, to reinforce candidates of like mind.

And, perhaps, to write a letter of their own, countering ideas with which they do not, and cannot agree. That is the courageous and civic way to do business in the marketplace of ideas, and The SUN will continue to support those writers whose character propels them to this end.

Karl Isberg

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