Study break!

(1) Now, this is George Bush and John Ashcroft’s kind of America. The Lone Star Iconoclast gets threatened and harrassed for speaking out against their “home grown” president (thanks, A):

The Iconoclast received considerable criticism this past week after its editors endorsed John Kerry for President. Several subscriptions and advertisements were canceled after the newspaper hit the stands Tuesday morning.

The editorial, co-authored by the newspaper’s publisher, W. Leon Smith, and writers Don Fisher and Nathan Diebenow, expressed the opinion that Kerry would take the country in a better direction. There have been both positive and negative comments.

We expected that perhaps a few readers might cancel subscriptions, and maybe even ads, but have been amazed at a few of the more intense communications, some of which bordered on outright personal attacks and uncalled-for harassment.

We have been told by several avid Bush supporters that the days when newspapers publish editorials without personal repercussions are over.* As publishers, we have printed editorials for decades, and have endorsed candidates, both Republican and Democrat. When Bush was endorsed four years ago, the Gore supporters did not respond with threats, nor did Democrats when we endorsed Reagan twice. Republicans did not threaten us personally or our business when we endorsed Carter and Clinton for their first terms.

In the past, when individuals disagreed with an editorial, they would write a letter to the editor politely expressing a different point of view in contrast to the views of the publishers, which we have usually published. Occasionally someone would cancel a subscription or an ad, but this was rare.

The goal of the editorial page has been to provide an arena for the expression of a variety of thoughtful opinions, some by the publishers, some by columnists, and some by our readers.

The new mode of operation, I am told, is that when a newspaper prints an editorial of which some sectors might disagree, the focus is now upon how to run the newspaper out of business. Out the window are the contributions the newspaper has made to the community in the past and the newspaper’s extensive investment in the community.

We do understand peoples’ rights to pull subscriptions and ads, and to express a differing opinion, but we have some trouble understanding threats and payback since in politics there are often a variety of options. For the publishers to herald one of the options should be no cause for persecution.

When you think about it, editorials are often displayed in people’s yards with campaign signs. These are endorsements by residents. Is it proper to persecute them for stating their opinions in this manner if you disagree with their choices? Should they be harassed and threatened? We don’t think so.

Unfortunately, for the Iconoclast and its publishers there have been threats — big ones including physical harm.

Too, some individuals are threatening innocent commercial concerns, claiming that if they advertise in The Iconoclast, they will be run out of business. We consider this improper in a democracy.

Several young members of our staff covering Tonkawa Traditions this past weekend were angrily harassed and threatened that they must leave, which cut short their ability to fully do their jobs and instilled in them considerable fear for their safety. These reporters had nothing to do with that editorial.

They were part-time college students working to pay their way through school and better themselves.

Although several members of the community are upset at the newspaper, there are still those who want us to continue with local coverage as we have in the past.

We do have concern for the safety of our staff, however, and find it troubling when they are bullied and cannot do their jobs.

From the period of Tuesday through noon Saturday of this past week, The Iconoclast has received over 700 letters to the editor related to the editorial which received more attention than we had expected. Some of the dispatches are very critical and some are very supportive of the editorial. And a few do offer a thoughtful, differing point of view on the issues, which we do appreciate.

Since The Iconoclast has a very small staff, it has been impossible for us to verify each and every signature as is our normal procedure prior to publication, but to provide the letters for the public to read, we are posting them on our website with the names of the authors listed as initials.

We have been told that some letters e-mailed to us did not get through, perhaps since our internet system became overloaded at times this past week. The letters posted are the ones we received that pertained to the editorial (as opposed to being simply questions or other correspondence).

A few have been edited slightly due to offensive language or the writer’s identity being revealed in the body of the letter, but we have attempted to publish them, with few exceptions, just as we received them.

To publish them in the print edition would require substantially too much space (about 30 pages, in our estimation). So go to http://www.iconoclast-texas.com if you want to peruse the letters.

Nearly a hundred individuals (including some Crawford residents) have purchased new subscriptions to help replace those lost, and a few have expressed a desire to become new advertising clients. For this, we are thankful.

The publisher has read every e-mail and letter received and sends appreciation to each and every letter-writer for expressing an opinion, pro or con, as this shows a passion for their positions and a keen interest in the upcoming election.

Whether readers agree or disagree with the recommendation rendered by the publishers, we do encourage them to vote in the upcoming election. We consider it more than a privilege, but a duty. — W. Leon Smith

(emphasis mine: I’m reminded of Bush’s former press secretary Fleischer ominously warning, when someone dared criticize the president’s judgement, that Americans would have to start watching what they do, and what they say.)

(2) This is how out of touch I’ve been; I had no idea British hostage Ken Bigley had managed to escape before he was recaptured and murdered. What an awful, savage, too-many-weeks-long ordeal for Mr. Bigley and his family.

(3) Jodi Wilgoren has apparently decided we’re not worrying enough about Kerry’s religiosity, and that she needs to rile folks up again. Man, this gets old.

(4) The people who think God is a Republican. (via The Revealer)

(5) Normally, I would side with the press in cases like this, so I’ve got to admit my flaming hypocrisy now: but we will all be smarter people if we don’t have to read Judith Miller for awhile. Lock ‘er up!

(6) Here is how to do business in France.

(7) If you can bear to visit Howard Stern’s web site, you’ve just got to see the anti-Bush resources he has compiled. God only knows what kind of “hot teen lesbians on farm animals”-type spam you’ll get after you visit, but you don’t have to read it. You can always “toss your cookies” folder, too.

(8) Do I have this right? Now, Bush says we invaded Iraq because Hussein was gaming the oil-for-food program?

(9) A Kenyan environmentalist wins the Nobel Peace Prize. I think that makes it a good time to reflect on Bush’s Crimes Against Nature with Robert Kennedy Jr. And then help the National Council of Churches make it a religious issue.

(10) (It just seems odd to not have a “10.”)

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