A welcome backlash

There appears to be a school of thought that if a newspaper publishes a racist meme at the heart of a news story, it somehow sanctions the racist message.

We disagree. The suggestion that we were irresponsible for printing an Internet meme that compared President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee dismisses the newspaper’s mission to accurately report the facts.

Nevertheless, we’ve received several letters scolding us, in essence, for not sanitizing the news. While we’re not thrilled for being taken to task, it’s clear that people’s hearts are in the right place. Good people are offended by bigotry. Reporting the story required some sort of description of the offensive meme. A picture is worth a thousand words. Why not let readers see for themselves the unvarnished ugliness at the heart of the controversy?

We’ve received a volume of calls. Some readers demanded an apology. Sadly, one caller thanked us on a misguided assumption that we were in agreement with the deplorable message.

That’s disheartening. The first sentence of Duffy Hayes’ story in Monday’s paper, “An overtly racist Internet meme ...” should make it clear that this isn’t a subjective matter. The meme is racist. People will either be offended by it or agree with it based on their own values. Our job isn’t to shape a response, but to present information as objectively as possible.

Our feeling is that it’s a disservice to omit something so vile and disgusting because it robs readers of a complete picture of what’s going on in their community. Should the goal of writing about such a controversy be to soften the outrage due?

If you’re outraged, you should be. But anger should be directed at the person who created the meme — not The Sentinel for pointing out that it appeared in the very public Facebook sphere for all the world to see.

As Hayes reported, the meme appeared on Delta County Republican Central Committee Chairwoman Linda Sorenson’s Facebook page. Committee Vice Chairman Vic Ullrey says Sorenson did not post the image and that her account was accessed by someone else.

Ullrey says it is unclear why Sorenson was targeted, but he thinks it was to make the Republican Party look bad. He says Sorenson is not racist.

Sorenson in an interview last week after the image was posted said she didn’t care if people were offended by it. She has not commented on the issue since, leaving the episode unresolved in our minds.

Whether Sorenson was “hacked” doesn’t explain the origin of the meme, which hijacks the image of Ronald Reagan, a revered conservative icon, and associates him with a racist mindset he would want no part of. 

As we’ve said before, coverage of local news is a reflection of the community. The newspaper acts like a mirror. If you don’t like what you see, by all means, set out to change things. But don’t blame the newspaper for exposing our faults, frailties and shortcomings. Still, we’re heartened by the backlash, because it means the majority of our readers feel there’s no place for this garbage, least of all their newspaper.


COMMENTS

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While I frequently disagree with the Daily Sentinel, I must concur with its decision to publish the picture if only to illustrate how far many will go in the name of “free speech”, allowing it to move into the realm of “irresponsible speech”.  Let the young, about whom many express such great concern, see what it is these supposed mature adults around them are doing in that supposedly “noble” cause and possibly learn not to make that same mistake.

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