NEW CASTLE —
“Why did you run that letter?”
It’s a question I’ve been asked many times over the years regarding various letters to the editor that appear in the New Castle News.
Typically, the people who ask the question are of one political persuasion, while the letter writer is coming from the opposite end of the ideological spectrum — usually the very extreme end.
My basic response is that we publish such letters because that’s part of what we do. Newspapers are supposed to provide outlets for expression, even if some people are unhappy with what they read.
I’ve always thought it takes some level of guts to read a newspaper. If you’re looking only for confirmation of what you like or believe, you’ve come to the wrong place. Read any newspaper long enough, and you will be offended.
Take me. I am offended by the fact the New Castle News publishes a daily horoscope. I think this is nonsense and an insult to rational thought. But there it is — because some people like it.
As for letters, these are the products of the people who write them. Anyone who reads this page can see the letters we publish cover a vast array of subjects and run the political gamut from far left to far right. Whether we agree with them or not is beside the point.
Allowing people to express their views is an important aspect of a free society. And letters to the editor play a big role when it comes to free speech. Anyone who supports free expression ought to respect the fact letter writers want to say something, even if that means not exactly respecting what they have to say.
I think it’s important to understand why freedom of expression in various forms is protected by the First Amendment. It’s not to be nice and it’s not to be tolerant of others. Rather, it’s out of recognition that no one person or entity holds a monopoly in the marketplace of ideas.
A free society advances and strengthens itself through open debate and discussion of ideas. The purpose is to test ideas to assess their merit. Theoretically, good ideas ultimately are embraced, while bad ideas are tossed by the wayside.
It’s not always a pretty or a smooth process, and sometimes mistakes are made. But it’s a system that allows a society to examine itself on an ongoing basis.
Does that mean any given letter to the editor has ideas or beliefs that others should adopt? Of course not. Some letter writers are flat-out wrong or flat-out silly.
But should we silence them if we come to that conclusion? I don’t think so.
Along with promoting the marketplace of ideas, free expression also creates the opportunity for fools to expose themselves. There’s real value in that concept as well.
NEW CASTLE —
“Why did you run that letter?”
- Mitchel Olszak
Mitchel Olszak: Personal skepticism is best defense against scams
The caller said she had been targeted by a telephone scam. She wanted me to put something in the paper to warn others. I asked if she had contacted police about the matter.
Mitchel Olszak: Autumn becomes the time to report for leaf duty
This time of year, I find myself frequently looking skyward. I’m not pondering the clouds, anticipating snow or scanning for NSA drones. Rather, I’m looking at the trees.
Mitchel Olszak: Questions abound in New Castle tuition scandal
With the release of names in the New Castle school district tuition scandal, a local drama comes to a close. Well, not exactly. Countless questions still hang over the matter of non-resident employees who failed to pay required tuition for their children who attended New Castle schools.
Mitchel Olszak: Increasing numbers of Americans are catching on to Congress
A new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll says 60 percent of Americans would like to fire everyone in Congress. When I read this, my thought was: What’s wrong with the other 40 percent?
Mitchel Olszak: Budget nonsense bugs nation
The other day, I was watching a stink bug as it tried to crawl up the inside of a glass lampshade. Looking at the trapped, mindless creature, I couldn’t help but think of the United States Congress.
Mitchel Olszak: Newspapers are still a mystery to some people
Newspapers have been around for a long time. So you would think people would have gotten the hang of them by now. Yet I constantly encounter folks who seem to have no idea about what we do and the role we play in providing information.
Mitchel Olszak: The heat is on for planet Earth
Warming temperatures are destined to wipe out all life on planet Earth. So human beings will need to find a new home in order to survive. That’s the conclusion of research released last week that calculated the point when Earth will no longer be habitable.
Mitchel Olszak: Pennsylvania’s gambling dependency
Privatization of public services can be a good thing. But not always. These matters always warrant a case-by case assessment. Ideally, privatization serves the public interest when it promotes innovation, efficiency and perhaps even some measure of competition.
Mitchel Olszak: NSA defenders miss bigger picture
The political establishment in Washington has circled the wagons around the National Security Agency. This is the intelligence organization tasked with a key aspect of national defense: Monitoring potential threats and gathering information designed to protect America and its interests.
Mitchel Olszak: Rolling Stone cover flap is much ado about nothing
Have you ever noticed how one silly incident can produce a series of similar nonsense? Take the current dustup over the latest cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It features a photo of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The image is of a mellow-looking young man with a mop-top haircut who looks perfectly harmless.
- More Mitchel Olszak Headlines
- Mitchel Olszak: Personal skepticism is best defense against scams