Local Commentary

Editorial: From Negativity To Vitriol

Last week’s editorial in this space lamenting the decline in civility in this election cycle drew, as expected, more than ample proof of just how well our concerns are founded. Many scores of negative and “ad hominem” outbursts in the comments section of our website, including wild allegations as to the identity of some posting anonymously who did not join in the attempts at piling on, more evidence that, as many news organizations are coming to realize, allowing anonymous remarks, for which authors are entirely unaccountable, can be construed as a bit at odds with the responsibilities associated with the very notion of freedom of speech.

In many cases, we view it as the height of cowardice to hide behind anonymity while unloading attacks without regard for contexts, redactions or other distortions, while public officials or others like ourselves are necessarily fully identified.

While we are not yet prepared to make the probably-inevitable step of disallowing anonymous comment to be posted to our site (we have never permitted anonymity with printed letters to the editor in our paper), we will no longer quote in any other context the comments of anyone not willing to positively identify themselves.

Our problem is not with passion or even anger, but with dissembling, deliberate distortions, untruths and craven name calling hiding behind anonymity. Our concern is always for truth, and when we encounter attempts to kick that to the curb, to distort and intentionally mislead, then we are performing a disservice to our core mission if we let such go on unabated in our paper or on our website.

Our Constitutional republic represents mankind’s best effort to date to get at the important truths that matter in the conduct of public policy. We’re not perfect, nor will we ever be, but we’re relatively close. So, we renounce those, whether in the law, or journalism, business or government, who think the system works best when people try their hardest to abuse it. That mentality is a vile corruption of morality on both a personal and social level. While some take smug delight in skirting technical legalities, when held to an ethical and decency standard, they can be the lowest of the low.
We encourage our readers to remain above the muck, to consider the issues on their merits. While some of the 13 candidates running in the Nov. 3 local election remain untested, we can say with assurance that we know of no current incumbent who is not worthy of public confidence, even if they’ve not always made the best decisions.

Smart economic development and quality schools remain this election’s critical issues. In that context, mixed use is not skyscrapers, but the kind of classy and modest products we have so far.

If anyone is to be voted in, or voted out, it should be for the right reasons and not whatever sewage may be erupting out of, not your basement toilet this time, but perhaps your computer.