Sunday, October 26, 2008

Kander Trashes Nasty Fliers

Jason Kander, an attorney and veteran of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan who is running for State Rep in Kansas City, has sent an email asking voters to let him know if they receive some of the nasty fliers being spread around his area.

The fliers apparently target homes displaying Obama campaign signs. The flyer is a garden-variety theocratic-style rant promising damnation to those supporting Obama, a pro-choice candidate. For those who happen to skim the comments sections of blogs, it's about the equivalent of the lurker who blasts away with bible quotes and fire-and-brimstone rhetoric.

What concerned the person who alerted Kander to the flyer is that they witnessed a person walking the neighborhood jotting down the addresses of residents sporting the Obama signs. It's likely it was merely to target their fliers, but it still unsettled the homeowner, especially since it came soon after several Obama yard signs were defaced.

Certainly there is a flip side to displaying your opinion for all to see, the occasional push-back or criticism that you may receive. Many people who put up yard signs don't expect to receive criticism-barring the occasional neighbor.

Yet this criticism came anonymously. Someone who plants a yard sign is taking ownership of their opinion. Dropping in to Kinkos to run off a rant and sending them out anonymously is not. That said, pamphleteers have been printing pseudonymously or anonymously since the days of Washington.  

The free debate of ideas is enshrined in this country's founding. Firing off scurrilous missives anonymously is, unfortunately, something that has also been with us since the beginning. 

In recent years it has been popular to quote Samuel Johnson's most famous line, that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Perhaps an appropriate accompaniment is that said scoundrel may also fall back on freedom of speech. 

- Murphy

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