So, as we were looking through the Editorial Page of The Kansas City Star, we were amused to read two plaintive, annoyed hand-wringings by the dying paper's Public Editor, Derek Donovan, and its big-deal Editorial Page Editor, Miriam Pepper.
Seems the paper's editorial cartoonist, Lee Judge, had published a cartoon to which folks took exception.
Many, many folks.
And "exception" may be the wrong word.
Public Editor Donovan begins a commentary, "A newspaper publishes an editorial cartoon that many readers take as a mockery of a figure they hold in the highest esteem. The reaction is furious and includes histrionic language, intimidation, and many unambiguous death threats to the cartoonist and editors."
His comments actually are a symbolic allusion to a 2005 Danish cartoon about the prophet Mohammed, which Donovan uses as a stalking horse for the "literal hundreds of angry reactions" that poured into The Star the week following publication of a Judge cartoon that, according to Donovan's article, "depicted a grave marked 'American Sniper.'"
(If it's still posted, you can find the cartoon and Donovan's column here.)
Referring to a statement by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association, Donovan continued, "The caption on the cartoon read, 'If only there had been a good guy with a gun around.'"
Because cartoonist Judge's intent wasn't clear; because no one bothered to think through the cartoon's broader implications; because Judge is a highly predictable, liberal loose cannon; and doubtless because The Star is well-known as one of the most liberal news outlets in the country, Donovan and Pepper were reduced to sycophantic support of their cartoonist's right to do whatever the hell he wants to do, totally unchecked.
They each went to great lengths to explain Judge's point -- which job, obviously, the original cartoon had failed to do.
Pepper tried to protect the paper's cartoonist by offering a convenient, if unconvincing, after-the-fact claim that she was proud of Judge's work and that she had personally approved the cartoon.
And Donovan decried "the completely unacceptable tenor of the majority of the early messages." He said, "That type of vile conduct demeans the sincere and rational objections that sane and civil readers ..."
Well, you get the idea. If you object to something published, in a way that The Star doesn't like, perhaps you're insane, rather than freely exercising your First Amendment rights. (The Amendment requires neither civility nor good judgment, although we at CornerBarPR.com® encourage both; it certainly doesn't say anything about requiring the approval of Derek Donovan, Miriam Pepper, or Lee Judge.)
Anyway, someone might have thought about the public's reaction, rather than paying such scant attention to the possible interpretations of this poorly supervised, inflammatory effort.
Here's the deal: Once your paper has decided to adopt a reactionary, liberal editorial point of view, it is easy to speculate that no one on your staff bothers to think through, or give any credibility to, what they interpret, in lockstep, as uninformed reactions of the heathen, warmongering conservatives who might have another opinion or, heaven forfend, who might actually take exception to a cartoon ... one that is easy to interpret as a vilification of a decorated Navy SEAL.
Of course, if your only world viewpoint is through heavily tinted blue glasses, it is not surprising when you stumble into something you might have seen, had you bothered to remove those obscuring glasses for even a moment.