LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Rally can be opportunity to teach

I’m disappointed by your decision to not cover the Ku Klux Klan rally at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. I understand and respect your reasoning, but I wonder if your concern that coverage may assist the Klan in recruiting new members isn’t outweighed by a greater risk of public complacency because people may not be aware of the prevalence of hate groups and the threat they pose.

It was just weeks ago that a white supremacist shot and killed three people in an attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. In 2009, a similarly motivated attack killed a guard at the Holocaust Museum, just 60 miles from Harpers Ferry. And, of course, there have been more extreme tragedies such as the 2001 bombing of the Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.  

The Oklahoma City bombing wasn’t specifically racially motivated. However, it is an instance of American citizens choosing to pursue their ideological goals through violence when they feel government is unresponsive to their views. And at a time of extreme polarization when political opponents are routinely called traitors and even major party candidates cavalierly throw around rhetoric about possible “Second Amendment solutions,” I think the Klan rally provides a wonderful opportunity for the Spirit and other news outlets to report on the threat posed by individuals and groups espousing politically extreme positions and the degree to which many have armed themselves — trends that are documented by Southern Poverty Law Center.  

As you point out in your article, coverage doesn’t constitute endorsement. And if that coverage does nothing more than persuade a few politicians to moderate their rhetoric when condemning their opponents lest they contribute to the motivation of the lunatic fringe, then I think on balance it will have done us all a favor. 

Thanks for your consideration and thank you also for continuing to produce such an excellent newspaper.

Sean O’Leary

Harpers Ferry

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