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 by Ron Cruger
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Hitler, the columnist
        I have this friend. Nice guy. A real newspaper man.
        He owns and operates a community newspaper in a pleasant area of southern California. He’s been publishing his newspaper for years. The pages of his newspaper are filled with news, photographs and advertising of his community. He sells the advertising and takes many of the photographs that appear in the newspaper each month.
        Something happened recently that has bothered my friend. Starting two months ago he started receiving an astonishing amount of letters to the editor.
        My friend publishes the letters to the editor and in most cases he personally responds, in print, to the letters.
         Most of the letters displayed anger at the contents of some of the columnists who write for the publication. Some of the columnists write from a far left stance and some from the far right. The columnists are mostly local people, living in the distribution area of the newspaper.
        Some of the letters displayed a deep anger at the newspaper for printing columns which were remarkably liberal. The content of other letters resented the printing of columns which were obviously slanted towards severe conservatism. These were not editorials, they were columnists that were writing their own opinions, not necessarily those of the newspaper.
        The amount of recent letters to the editor was larger than at any other time in the newspaper’s history.
        My friend said, “Something has happened in this community. It’s changed. People are angry now.”
        Perhaps the situation that our country is in – two wars, an economic recession, the Gulf Oil Spill tragedy and frustrating unemployment has finally started to get under the skin of the residents of the area. Perhaps the political obstruction by America’s politicians has finally irritated the populace to an emotional pitch.
        With the demise of newspapers across the nation growing, my friend has become worried about the negative reactions to the newspaper’s columnists. I don’t think that this flood of letters to the editor signifies anything other than the waking up of America, at least this newspaper’s area of America.
        This newspaper is good for its community. The advertising, the news, the photographs all represent accurately the newspaper’s distribution area. There is no way to tell, but I would guess the contents of the columnists writing represents a portion of the community’s thinking.
        My advice to my friend, the publisher is to let the columnists write, let the readers write their letters to the editor, print the letters, all of them, write an editor’s reply when he feels like answering. Most importantly, continue printing the columns of all views and convictions.
        I wonder what would have been the result if, beginning in 1933, newspapers around the world would have gone to Adolph Hitler and said, “Write a column for us, tell the world your beliefs, your dreams, your goals. Tell the world what you will do. Tell us how you feel about Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, the mentally ill and anyone who differed with you. Write about how you would deal with these Jews, Catholics, Gypsies and mentally challenged.”
        What would have happened in the world if Adolph Hitler would have written that he was going to kill 6 million Jews, Catholics, Gypsies and mentally ill. What would have happened if Hitler would have written that in a few years he wanted to attack Poland and Czechoslovakia, killing millions along the way? What if newspapers in New York City; London, England; Paris, France or Auschwitz, Poland would have printed columns containing Hitler’s real goals? What if Adolph Hitler would have clearly outlined to the world his insane hatred and demented mind?   What if the good citizens of the world would have read in 1933 a column by Adolph Hitler outlining his plans to conquer the world?
        Maybe if Hitler had written a weekly column the world would have sooner known what he was up to long before he invaded Poland and Czechoslovakia, long before “Kristallnacht.” Maybe if we dared to read more we could avoid the terrible mistakes we make in acting with late surprise.
        And so, my dear friend, print your columns, print the letters to the editor, answer those you want, fear not the slings of those who differ with what your columnists write. Realize that you are protecting all of us by printing all sides of a story.
        Perhaps what you print will awaken some of the citizenry and they will realize that you are bringing them the vital information they need to keep our democracy healthy and viable.
        You do more to protect our freedoms by printing the thoughts and goals of those we disagree with than publishing a newspaper that only contains what pleases us.