Sunday, March 18, 2007



We will not tolerate intolerance!

Set fire the faggots (No, the first definition in the dictionary, not the current vernacular) and throw the heretic on the auto-da-fe.

Kill the messenger.

Burn the books.

Put the infidel to the sword.

Shun them. Silence them. Do not let them speak, lest they despoil tender minds.

Why does the first recourse seem always thus?

Perhaps it is the baser side of human nature. The raw animal instinct that needs to be mitigated by the nobler philosophies of rational and civilized minds.

First, the rabid left of the Democratic Party demanded a boycott of a planned debate of Democratic presidential candidates in Nevada because it was to be broadcast on the hated Fox News cable television network, the cable news outlet with the highest ratings. The state party acquiesced and canceled.

When the Review-Journal editorially criticized the state party, we got several dozen e-mails, most like this from a Californian: "Fox News is an agenda-driven operation more adapt at cheap shots than news gathering. For Fox to host the Democrats would be like holding a convention of postal workers in a dog pound."

Next came the thousands of e-mails from all over the country to editorial page editors demanding that they stop publishing the columns of conservative bombastician Ann Coulter after she quipped at a political conference, "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word faggot, so I -- so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards."

A number of newspapers, promptly complied, though she had never used such language in her column. The Review-Journal continues to publish Coulter.

People let us know they did not like Coulter's slurs and did so with a few of their own.

Another Californian offered, "Please drop Ann Coulter, a buffoon and proponent of hatred ... You should stop publishing ravings of psychosexual neurotics by calling them opinions. It is truly shameful to do so, like calling smut art. Your readers know it when they see it."

At least radical lefty Ted Rall, whose editorial cartoons and occasionally a column appear on the op-ed pages of this newspaper, weighed in with support for Coulter. As well he should, because he himself has been the target of boycott demands.

"As a fervent proponent of the First Amendment and an opinion monger who relies upon the right to free expression to earn a living, however, I must set aside my personal resentment -- and I ask you to do the same," Rall wrote.

But perhaps the best response came from a Las Vegas Army officer who said he despises Coulter but reads her columns and analyzes her claims.

"I have given the devil consideration, and dismissed her on the lack of merit in her claim rather than the lack of agreement with my own personal viewpoint," Ryan Jean wrote in a letter published Saturday. "Ann Coulter must be allowed to speak, even if it is worthless, because the First Amendment to that cherished document protects her right to do so. The real test of this right isn't what we do to the speech we agree with, but what we do with the speech we don't. If you want to secure liberty, this is fundamental."

And finally, when Review-Journal columnist Erin Neff suggested that Gov. Jim Gibbons' legal entanglements had mounted to the point that he should resign, we promptly received a letter declaring, "I've read enough, it's time for Erin Neff to go!"

I wonder if these people ever stop to consider that their demands to silence those with whom they disagree is in the same vein, differing only by degrees, as the demands of Muslims that Muhammad never be depicted and that the cartoonists who did so for a Danish newspaper be put to death.

As for this newspaper, we will not cower just because a few brats throw a tantrum.

I'm not saying that people should not call for bans on speakers and writers, that would be a tad hypocritical. Calling for a ban on bans, so to speak. But I will suggest that the civilized thing to do is to curb the animal instinct and answer speech we abhor with countervailing and superior speech, rather than boycotts or violence.

Thomas Mitchell is editor of the Review-Journal and writes about free speech and press. He may be contacted at 383-0261 or via e-mail at tmitchell@

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