Among the letters to the editor and opinion articles we receive from readers every week, there is occasionally a piece expressing views that most of us at The Press strongly oppose or even find unsettling. Moreover, occasionally there is a letter that we think may upset a significant number of our readers.
Every time that happens, we face a difficult question: Should we publish the letter, giving our readers a chance to have their voices heard—or should we decline publication, to avoid the risk of upsetting some other readers?
It has been our policy to decline publishing a letter if we find it racist, libelous or just heinously mean-spirited, or a letter that advocates for illegal or violent actions. But such outrageous cases are rare. A more common case is a letter that steers clear of any of the offenses listed above, but expounds a view that many of our readers may find distasteful and disturbing.
A possible example of that is a letter this week by Alvin Gordon about immigration and “illegal aliens.” A vast majority of Riverdale residents hold politically and socially liberal views, and many are likely to take issue with Republican and conservative views on immigration or with a verbal onslaught against undocumented immigrants. Some readers may take offense. A few may feel outraged.
Yet we still believe that socially conservative readers have the right to express their views, even if those readers are in a minority in Riverdale. And they have the right to have their views respected—but perhaps disputed, debated and disproven.
We published Alvin Gordon’s letter this week, as we had published other letters that some of our readers had found objectionable in the past. Although having a letter published is a privilege, we believe we should extend this privilege broadly and generously, and have done so. From time to time, a reader would get so angry that he or she would call to protest or to cancel a subscription. That’s a price we have to pay.
Many conservative commentators have accused the mainstream press of refusing to publish conservative views. Many conservatives accuse the press of censorship. We do not want to furnish evidence to validate such claims—and so, we publish our readers’ letters, regardless of the political views expressed in them.
One of the factors that helped Donald Trump get elected as president was the belief held by many socially conservative Americans that they could not get their views heard, except through a few fringe outlets and alt-right websites, which even many of President Trump’s supporters find distasteful. We do not want to uphold such perception of censorship—and so, we offer our readers a platform to express their views.
We hope that when our readers come across a view they find upsetting or one that stokes anger, the readers would respond by writing letters to dispute the views they found objectionable.