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vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Ignore or report on hate?

As you may have heard, the Westboro Baptist Church plans a series of protests in Vermont on Sept. 1.

The group, which sums up much of its point of view with the very title of its Web site (www.GodHatesFags.com), says it will make three stops in Montpelier and three in Burlington on that day, apparently to mark the first day that same-sex marriage will be legal in Vermont.

Here's the dilemma: What is the best response - do the media ignore the group or cover them so people know what it's all about?

It is truly a dilemma. As I mulled this today, an article came across my computer screen by Charles Davis, an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, prompted by the recent rage at health-care forums:

"Hate, shuffled off stage in the post-racial haze of the election of the
nation’s first black president, is back with a vengeance. Hate, if it ever truly
threatened to leave the political stage, is most definitely back, larger and
nastier than ever.

As a near-absolutist First Amendment advocate, my prescription for hate
speech is always more speech: Give the bigot a microphone as big as the hatred,
I say, and watch as the marketplace of ideas works its magic.

Perhaps that’s why I worry, as I watch an emboldened mob grow more
irresponsible with each passing day, that the mainstream media fails to give
hate the coverage it deserves today.

"My proposition is simple: Major news organizations need to cover hate the
way they once did — as a standalone beat."

I don't know that we're talking about hate as a full-time beat, but there's an argument for shining the spotlight, just as there are surely arguments for ignoring it.

- Terri Hallenbeck

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Shine the light on these people; let the public see what they really are. The ideal outcome is this small knot of extremists screaming their hate-filled jibberish at no one, save you journalists, who can report on how crazy they are and how everyone ignored them.
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