Page Two

Page Two
We're in the middle of this too-perfect, crystal clear lake in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal on a clear and ringing day. As we lazily swim across the lake, there are two rowboats circling. A group of friends have gathered at this house, including old friends who have spent time together before, and some new people we are just meeting. Soon we have evolved into a relatively efficient functioning unit.

For four or five days we just lay around reading, playing tennis, swimming, tussling with the kids and dogs on the sloping front lawn. The house seems way too small to contain, comfortably, as many as 15. It does. Mostly, we just stay put, going out to eat a few times, but no movies, day trips, or music. Just the simple, fresh pleasure of hanging out with people you like, not having to do too much to get by. One night, Sandy cooked an Indian dinner, and one night I made pasta for the boys while the women went out to dinner. (There is nothing quite like chopping peppers.) Later, into the early hours of the next morning everyone played charades, but I passed out early. Asleep upstairs, I snored so loudly that everyone commented on it the next day.

In the middle of the lake, in the middle of that afternoon, with a bunch of people splashing about, I began to think about this paper, about all the concerns, issues, pressures, rewards, and problems. In the past, in the middle of any vacation anywhere I've started to think of the paper and given into the undertow, sucked deep into my ongoing preoccupation. And then I stopped myself.

Currently, Lee Nichols is writing on media for the Chronicle and doing an excellent job. His recent cover story on Rich Oppel illustrated the intelligence and sensitivity he applies to writing. This issue, he examines the Sammy Allred and Bob Cole controversy and I wanted to take a brief moment to disagree with him.

Let us set aside the First Amendment/free speech argument because its use has become so unseemly (having talk radio declare itself a friend to the First Amendment is a joke). A society is healthiest when a broad spectrum of opinions are represented, regardless of the First Amendment, and silencing voices is bad for the health of the society. Even, if not especially, objectionable voices.

To hope that complaining to the government will help limit objectionable speech either by bureaucratic intervention (which seems highly unlikely) or by management pressure seems a goal from which we should always be moving away. One person's objectionable speech is another person's privileged, one person's Lenny Bruce is another person's Howard Stern. If we encourage pressure against speech we find objectionable then what happens when someone, legitimately, finds us objectionable? Certainly, this publication itself has its critics who insist we go over the line. More often, suppression of speech has affected progressive rather than reactionary ideas. Finally, and frankly, I'm puzzled by the people who faithfully listen to the show every day just so they can hate it and wish it goes off the air.

I used to think that Sammy Allred was the funniest man on radio and one of the wisest. I don't listen anymore because though it still funny, it is too mean-spirited. But that is its right. I don't listen, that is my right. And while I don't listen to Sammy and Bob regularly, I know many people who do. I hope this stir doesn't cause the KVET bosses to try and moderate them.

That's my tirade. Nichols covers the whole story fairly and in depth, but on this point, though I hate to disagree with him, I do.

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