DAWG NOTE: Following DAWGS BLOG policy of letting people openly express their opinions, once again I am posting a letter from someone using a alter ego of Samson Clems. I have not confirmed this letter writers Identity, but I feel there is a need to let people express themselves openly.
Opposing opinions are encouraged and most certainly welcome.
Keep communications opinion or fact based based and everything will be posted. No trolling or garbage talk will be tolerated in letters or in the comments below.
Note: also the writer claims the Modesto bee has rejected publishing this letter.
From Samson Clems:
The Modesto Bee has made free speech and the First Amendment one of their rallying cries. They purport to uphold the principles of free speech and the First Amendment, protecting them from the adversarial nature of President Trump’s relationship with the press. They no doubt support the sentiment that Donald Trump is bad for the media, and they even seem to exclaim: ‘Stop subverting free speech Bad Orange Man!’ They even post pieces to remind us who the real journalists are; bloggers, like our own lovely Dawg, are not of course. But, the Bee is! And they’re standing up for the First Amendment and free speech!
But do they really? They no doubt care a great deal about their own speech and their perception of legitimacy — legitimacy being a benefit they don’t extend to Dawg’s Blog despite Tom and Marty’s coverage of the Frank Carson et al. trial. But they also seem to be stifling their own constituency’s free speech right here at home. And they seem to do so gleefully, under the guise of their no exception policy to pieces written under pseudonyms and pen names.
It’s hard to find a tenable justification for this practice. Perhaps they do so for copyright reasons. Maybe a piece written under a pseudonym causes copyright concerns, which could ultimately bite into their profits. But is this what they have in mind when Trump criticizes the news as being ‘the enemy of the people?’ Probably not. At least we’d hope that they are as principled as they want us to believe, rather than being angry at the Bad Orange Man for cutting into their profits. What a look that would be after they recapitulated their accomplishments to reassure us that they’re real journalists!
Perhaps another reason could be they want the writer to stand by their words. Of course, they’d say, this requires knowing who the writer is! But to entertain their line of reasoning, we should examine whether or not the Bee holds its own editorial board to this standard. If we turn to their most recent editorial on the Straight Pride March, in short telling Modesto leaders to condemn it, it’s written under the loose title of the entire ‘Modesto Bee Editorial Board.’ We don’t know who has written what, who agrees with what, or who is the pivotal person advocating for which policy. It’s a nice way for the individual editors to remain anonymous, importantly to what may be disagreeable and controversial, while still maintaining they agree with the general gist of the work. After all, no one has to cop to who wrote what. And we, as viewers of such articles, cannot even address our inquiries to the proper writers of any particular idea — something we’d hope the Bee would invite with letters to the editor.
We should hold the Bee to the ‘journalistic standards’ that they claim to embrace. Executing a no exception policy for pseudonyms, however, tramples on the heart of political discussion: the open and free flow of ideas. Similar to their most recent piece on the Straight Pride March, it shouldn’t matter who wrote what and why. What should matter is that Modesto residents can voice their political views freely. Who the idea comes from is irrelevant to the merit of the idea that’s discussed, and if the Bee doesn’t like a piece, they still have absolute authority to reject it. The Bee should be advocating for moving away from having our perceptions of ideas forged by the person they come from, and closer towards whether or not those are good ideas to begin with. If an idea is truthful, wouldn’t free speech demand that view be heard irrespective of the purveyor of the idea? This sounds more in line with what the Bee wants us to believe in their affirmation of the First Amendment and in their most recent piece on the Straight Pride March.
It’s worth noting that one can stand behind their words while recognizing that prudence dictates the use of a pen name in the current political climate. In fact, there’s been a long tradition in the United States of writing under pseudonyms and pen names. If the Bee really cares about the First Amendment, they should know that the writing of it took place around the founding fathers’ extensive use of pseudonyms — the Bee even quotes James Madison, who often wrote under the pen name Publius, in their defense of the “peoples’ right to speak.” This tradition has been persistent throughout our history, ranging from Mark Twain to even George Orwell. The point of using pseudonyms is to express politically controversial ideas, the ones that are unfavorable and incite shame or violence from the community-at-large and authorities, for the sake of the ideas themselves. And in our current political climate, it’s quite reasonable for one to use a pen name to author their ideas — lest they be the recipients of the repercussions from gross caricatures of their controversial ideas.
Underlying the First Amendment are principles we hold dear as Americans, to search for truth, criticize government, critique ideas, and to even rebuke our own local news sources. The editors at the Bee care a great deal about their free speech and First Amendment rights, but they seem to have no problem abridging these principles for us. And if they think President Trump’s remarks are ‘insidious,’ why wouldn’t their policy be, too? Whether the editors admit it or not, the Bee‘s no exception policy for pseudonyms stomps on these principles. When we get down to it, who is the tyrant here? Is it Trump, who the Bee‘s editors suggest uses tactics comparable to Stalin and the Nazis, or do we find a different answer when we turn the mirror onto the Bee? After all, Trump only has a track record of using his words against the press, but it is the Bee who actually enforces hard policies that subverts the principles of free speech.