[Vision2020] an opinion...everybody's got one
london at moscow.com
Tue Jun 21 12:47:24 PDT 2011
Moscow-Pullman Daily News - DNews.com
Henry D. Johnston
HIS VIEW: 'Visionaries' exercise freedom of speech
June 21, 2011
I believe the First Amendment, namely freedom of speech, applies to everyone. One of the things I enjoy about being a columnist is the interaction I get from readers either in person, through email or a letter to the editor. The readership of this paper is certainly diverse, and the feedback is usually cordial even when people are disagreeing with me.
Except for my last column.
Two weeks ago I sided with the Moscow City Council with regard to ExxonMobil's proposed megaload shipments. My position is that, regardless of what one thinks of the moral or ethical implications of the oil sands project in Canada, it is not up to Moscow to pass judgment and prevent legal, permitted loads from traveling through our town. If the loads are legally permitted to move then we can't change the rules just because we disagree with what the loads are or who they belong to. That is an issue for the state Legislature, not the city council, to take up.
Anyway, I received emails from readers complimenting me on my position and also took in comments from a few dissenters. And then, as I sometimes do, I checked in online to see what the Vision 2020 crowd was saying.
If you're not up on early '90s technology, Vision 2020 is basically a giant email list called a "listserv" where people share their opinions. In recent years, "The Viz" has become a platform where a rather small but egotistical group of pompous academics bloviate regularly about whatever fires them up on any given day.
Two weeks ago, I was their target.
Except it wasn't my stance on megaloads that caused me to suffer the wrath of these keyboard commandos. Oddly enough it was the fact that they felt I painted the anti-megaload crowd with a giant brush when I called them hippies.
But guess what?
Like it or not, Moscow does have a rather large and diverse population of people who could be defined as hippies, even if they don't fit the image from the 1960s. And it is our diverse culture that makes Moscow unique and, sometimes to my chagrin, flavors our political climate to something entirely different from the rest of Idaho.
At least that's my opinion, which is protected under the First Amendment, just like yours.
But the enlightened crowd of "visionaries" didn't see it that way.
One user called me an "offensive idiot," and another said my column was a "pathetic excuse for analysis." Some questioned why the Daily News can't fire me and hire better writers and suggested because we live between two universities that all columnists should be college professors or students, somehow producing a better opinion page.
One person went as far as to ask if anyone knew who I was, where I lived or what I did for a living. Why does it matter? Last I checked, I was Henry Johnston who lives in Moscow, Idaho, not Soviet Russia.
After reading all the vitriol from these self-proclaimed tolerant liberals, I was half expecting an angry mob to show up on my doorstep with torches and pitchforks, smelling of patchouli oil and singing "Kumbaya."
I'm not sharing this experience because I want to point fingers and whine about someone picking on me. I'm doing so because even as nasty as some of the comments were, they and this column are perfect examples of free speech in action.
Joe Reader has just as much right to call me an idiot as I do to call him a hippie. It's all part of being an American and exercising the rights we are so very lucky to have.
So I encourage everyone to continue to debate topics of every nature in whatever venue we have available, be it on the opinion page, online or in person. I'm tough enough to handle it and will chuckle and smile when we do because, quite frankly, not doing so would be un-American.
But, then again, that's just my opinion.
Henry D. Johnston lives in Moscow. He can be reached via email at moscowmoderate at gmail.com.
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