Sunday, April 15, 2007

When first we seek to complicate an issue

The Linda Cook flap has truly taken some strange turns. The latest, and at least, better written statement comes from John Clark who castigates NIC over the "free speech rights" of Ms. Cook as well as her "independent thinking." What got left out of that pretty picture Mr. Clark drew was the following:

  • Ms. Cook happened to be a Republican staffer for extremist Representative Helen Chenoweth (later Chenoweth-Hage before she died in a car accident at the age of 60 or so).
  • Did Ms. Cook challenge Rep. Chenoweth's remarkable assertions about "canned salmon" or the U.N.'s "black helicopters," "my little Indians" or the migration patterns of African-Americans and Hispanics?
  • If Ms. Cook had she probably would no longer be a staffer of Rep. Chenoweth. So much for independent thinking.
What Mr. Clark also failed to truly note: but Russ Fahlgren of Worley, Idaho did; the Coeur d'Alene Press was in a pitched battle with NIC for months. There is no question that Ms. Cook would have been aware of it and could easily exploit such a situation for her own purposes. Is that "courage" and "independent thinking" or manipulation? Just as there also could be no question what knee-jerk reactions Ms. Cook would get. Vicious letters would be published in the Press, blogs would sprout discussing venomously the "leftist" thinking at NIC, Professor Bryan would be harassed. Was it entirely possible that a former staffer for an extremist from Idaho in the House of Representatives knew exactly what would and what should happen the moment she came to the Press with her "snippet of conversation?" (Fahlgren) Wouldn't that really argue that Ms. Cook suffered as much from political ideology as has been accused of Professor Bryan? To include Mr. Clark's guest editorial. That Ms. Cook wasn't prepared to be open to all views which is truly the standard of excellence in education. Which again, even Clark couldn't seem to get a handle on. Ms. Cook chose to be offended by off the cuff remarks. How will she deal with the rest of world outside of academia? Again, Clark makes no mention of that.

As for the sort of standard of excellence in education that Clark thought Ms. Cook best represented, it seems to have been lost on the writers of vicious tirades in the Press about Professor Bryan, the vicious blogs, e-mails, and harassing phone calls she received. Which puts Clark's guest opinion to the Press on truly earthquake prone ground.

On the other side of the aisle, "Free Speech sent to principal's office." Here Gene Policinski of the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Virginia writes of a student who gets an article published in the Woodlan Junior-Senior High-School student newspaper, the Tomahawk (Indiana) regarding why it is possible to show tolerance toward gays. Here, the school authorities were very upset that a student could not only think that way but also get such thinking published! They wanted "prior review" of such articles in the future, where possibly, such articles would probably never get published. The editorial is a good one and was republished in the Spokesman-Review. If the NIC or the Coeur d'Alene High school had a newspaper where "tolerance of gays" or "respect for minorities" especially of minority religious beliefs to include mine got put into publication, it wouldn't just be the school board being offended, the offending students would be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail by far too many of the offended residents of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. As Fahlgren noted, with the Coeur d'Alene Press being an active participant.

Fahlgren's letter: Press: Should put principles above politics.

I think your newspaper is off its ethical leash. It should be obvious to anyone that the comments made by Jessica Bryan to her English Comp. class at NIC were intended as an absurd over-the-top form of teasing her students. Since Bryan doesn't believe in the death penalty, logic dictates she wouldn't seriously suggest it be applied to anyone. There really is no story here. The Press has been waging a pitched battle with NIC for months, and when Linda Cook came running with snippet of conversation from Bryan's classroom, it seized the opportunity to stir up hysteria and paint the campus as a sort of anti-Republican sleeper cell.

Immediately, Bryan's e-mail is flooded with hate mail and death threats. She has to change to an unlisted phone number. Police sergeant Christie Wood says the FBI may be called in to help. The paper's response? Quote the death threats. (along with virulent letters being published that personally attacked Bryan--as mentioned on other posts.) This is more of an attempt to incite a riot than report news. (Here, here! Then the editor, also mentioned in a prior post, doesn't want to see "viciousness" posted on-line in the comments section of on any issue, including our increasing Hispanic population. That is after publishing nothing but viciousness in the print edition before the editorial.) A newspaper's functions are not to enflame, but to inform its readers.

A day after Vincent Foxx narrowly lost to John Gedde (2006 elections for the Idaho state legislature) in the race for Senator last November, his new home, in the final stages of construction, was heavily vandalized. Gallons of paint were thrown on kitchen counters and tile floors causing thousands of dollars in damage. The circumstances certainly suggest there may be very ugly things occurring under the thin veil of civility in area politics. A brief report of the incident, written with a hint of sarcasm, appeared on page two. I searched the paper for days for further reports. Was an investigation conducted? Were there any suspects? Did the attack cause Mr. Foxx to alter his plans for a political career in North Idaho? We'll never know because the crime was never mentioned again. The police were never interviewed. There were no outraged letters to the editor and no editorial comment from you. We didn't need the FBI sniffing around. After all, anyone bright enough to list James Joyce among his favorite authors should understand the dangers of running as a Democrat in this political climate. Tacit support for the vandal's ominous message of intimidation rang loud and clear through your paper's silence.

That is excellence in education.

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