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Labels are for jars

by Dave Adsett

We walked into a bit of hornet’s nest last week. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before and surely it will happen again. It’s just part of the newspaper business.

There was a bit of a coincidence this time, as we had just spent an awesome weekend golfing with some fellow publishers from other parts of Ontario. As newspaper folk, known for lofty ideals and opinions, part of our supper hour happened to include talk of American politics and the current mistrust for the institutions on which their democracy was built.

Societal pillars – such as trust, faith, respect – are losing way to mistrust, disbelief and disrespect. It’s a dangerous time and one publisher not prone to exaggerations worried aloud that a civil war state-side would not surprise him. That’s a scary proposition, but it speaks to the volatility of our times.

As for the hornet’s nest at the Advertiser, we were filled in on some pretty graphic responses on social media to Dan Hammond’s cartoon last week.

Two thoughtful writers have letters in this week’s paper and we appreciate their feedback. Another asked nicely on Twitter if we could perhaps better explain our position as a news organization.

Fortunately, we can.

Our editorial pages are home to the opinions of our columnists and readers. We’re actually proud of offering such a forum and think most issues get a thorough airing.

The editorial cartoon, a century’s old art form, is a very difficult form of expression subject to interpretation. We all have a different lens and in this particular instance some readers were very sensitive to the idea the cartoon contained an implied message supporting white supremacy, hence the reference in one letter that the cartoon was a form of bigotry.

We don’t buy that, but as we mentioned at the start of this conversation, we are all fortunate to live in a country where we can have a difference of opinion or viewpoint.

Another letter perfectly described part of the cartoon as we saw it: a “hapless soul” standing up for free speech. We only noticed one character in the cartoon sporting the ANTIFA mark, and figured the rest of the crew were representations of countless other groups, whether supremacists or anarchists. She saw it a different way - and that’s okay too. Her letter still serves as a poignant reminder that if we value the freedoms we have, people need to rail against anything that resembles tyranny. She brought value to the discussion.

Where we were disappointed this week, is in how quickly the conversation descended online to name-calling and stereotypes. Labelling people or organizations is very much a fascist tactic. The irony of these accusers using such methods is not lost on us.

Certainly online, hiding behind the anonymity of a keyboard, such talk can turn very quickly into a moribund performance, laced with profanities unfit for print.

But, it’s a free world, as they say.

As for Charlottesville, it’s a scene we never hope to see in any community we serve – where people act out on the basis of irrational hate and emotional fear.

We much prefer the type of people like Centre Wellington resident Amy Weaver, who hosted a recent gathering in Elora (a story we covered on the front page last week).

“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling sick and powerless about what is happening in the United States and I feel the need to combat this anger and hatred with love and positivity and hope,” she said.

Lots of us share that sentiment and also hope for brighter days ahead.

 

September 1, 2017

 
 

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