I was pleased to peruse Al Diamon’s column concerning speech and its consequences (“Politics & Other Mistakes: The right to shut up,” March 16). His acute observations raise a most important issue: What is the value of speaking out against individuals and/or organizations that propagate misinformation and disinformation, lies, and harmful ideas?
It is quite safe and easy to avoid public or private confrontations with those who would disseminate ill-conceived and dangerous propaganda. Recently, however, brave citizens have spoken out against an individual who published his “fake news” opinions in a weekly newspaper appearing in Portland and the Midcoast area. These citizens for several years wrote letters to the editor with facts to counteract the propaganda offered by this political, right-wing expert.
This letter-writing campaign resulted in the removal of the right-wing writer’s column. But the question remains: was his removal justified in the context of free speech? Yes and no. Information is the lifeblood of a community, but when falsehoods replace the valid facts needed to discuss important and timely issues, the relevance of this tainted information is challenged. Facts can be unpleasant at times, but the vital requirement for factual data should outweigh any such difficulties. Citizens can and must undertake a most vital role in our society, becoming the pen that overcomes the power of propaganda.
John M. Mishler