Abbotsford’s proposed offensiveness policy is silly

A letter  I wrote to the editor of The Abbotsford News and choose to reprint here, appeared in today’s online edition. In a note to me, editor Andrew Holota defended the ink given to the pair of preachy Peacheys regularly appearing in Letters to the Editor.

He states that denying specific people the opportunity to air their opinions in the newspaper, unless they are obscene, racist or defamatory, as defined by law, would expose the paper to justifiable accusations of censorship, and would mute the dialogue that occurs between citizens on myriad issues. He also points out that if the paper didn’t report or print it, the public may not be aware of what silliness their council is engaging in.

Of course, he’s correct. Naturally, I didn’t intend that any one voice should be silenced completely, that the right to free speech should be compromised or that news be ignored, merely that less frequent publication of the same axe-to-grind individuals might be a welcome thing.

Here is the letter: Rhetoric from ‘polarizing voices’ not needed

Thank you, for your well-reasoned argument pointing out the futility of the new mandate given to city staffers [‘Offensiveness’ policy a futile exercise].

As the wise mayor Bruce Banman points out, drafting a formal policy to block the use of city facilities for everything that could be considered “offensive” is dangerous. Where does it stop? As you state, there are numerous sports, musical acts, art works or books which might be considered “offensive” by some segments of society. Vetting them all is pointless.

As I am sure many others do as well, I agree with you that the business of city council is to concentrate on matters of greater importance. One of those is to attract lucrative enterprises to the city’s sometimes underused and debt-riddled facilities. It’s more important to run the city, not establish an impossible policy or ask city hall to become morality police. The idea is ludicrous. Our citizens will decide what they do or do not support with their attendance. From time to time, in honoured tradition, they might even parade outside with placards. That’s perfectly adequate.

That said, The News is very much a potential solution to the problem. Your sound editorial is one step. However, there is another. Before I moved to Abbotsford almost three years ago, I had the understanding that “peachy” was antiquated slang for something nice. However, from the local papers, I soon learned that certain individuals repeatedly wrote to the papers with the same tedious and “preachy” message.

All too often “news” depends on creating a short-lived furor over issues. There is nothing that does this better than giving air to polarizing voices. Every paper has those same letter writers who spew their tired and repetitious rhetoric. My question is this: Why do they get printed? If editors had declined to give “ever present voices on morality” a larger forum, perhaps their unwanted influence would not have created the silliness now an issue at city hall.

By Abbotsford News Published: February 01, 2013 08:00 AM

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