The Spirit of Jefferson recently received a letter announcing that the Ku Klux Klan would be holding a rally Sept. 8 at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
Park Police have since confirmed that the Klan has been issued a permit to assemble and protest on that day, as is required by the First Amendment.
This is not the first time a Klan group has held a rally in Harpers Ferry. The group that previously held rallies in the town disbanded to join the neo-nazi National Socialist Movement in 2006, according to reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors hate groups. A new Klan group appears to have formed in its place, and they will be the ones gathering next month.
Upon receiving this letter we were faced with a double bind. On the one hand, people in Harpers Ferry and throughout the county have a right to know what will be happening in their community. On the other hand, it is clear that the Klan is trying to create a news story that will raise their profile and help them to increase their numbers.
Objectivity is a core value of journalism. We understand this to mean that, even when a journalist strongly disagrees with the position of someone whose views they are describing, he or she must present those views upon their own merits without allowing his or her personal disagreement to enter the picture.
But certain ideas have no merit at all. The hate-filled lies that will be expressed in our county next month belong to this category.
Based on the fact that this group sent us a letter announcing the event, it is clear that they desire for us to cover their rally. The presumptive reason is that they would use such publicity to aid their efforts to recruit more people to their cause.
Usually, their targets are impoverished, disaffected white youths with few obvious prospects for a better life who do not understand the actual causes that underly this tragic condition. Hate groups step in to provide them with a narrative that – while categorically and obviously false – can be compelling to someone who holds little hope for the future.
This group hopes that by creating a media event they will be able lure more such youths to their wicked cause.
We are not going to play this game.
We will not allow this newspaper to be used as a forum for a domestic terrorist organization – one that bears responsibility for over a century of lynchings, intimidation, political corruption, racial and religious hatred, and numerous other deplorable acts – to express their views.
Evelyn Beatrice Hall, a biographer of the French philosopher Voltaire, wrote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
We support the free speech protection our laws afford groups such as this. The only telling mark of a government that truly protects free speech is that it protects speech with which it disagrees: even Hitler, Stalin and Mao supported free speech for those that agreed with them.
We are a free society if and only if hate groups such as the Klan are allowed to assemble and speak without hindrance by law.
But this does not mean we have to listen.