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Editor defends Wandering Minds - readers will remain anonymous
A Column by the Editor
posted January 12, 2009
COLUMN – Edgefield Mayor Ken Durham has
published his personal disdain
for the public’s ability to make
anonymous comments in the Wandering Minds Section of
EdgefieldDaily.com, calling it “counterproductive” and “poison” for our
county. I vehemently disagree. Freedom of speech is one of the founding
blocks of our great Republic. Neither you nor I have to agree with what
someone says, but I defend their right to say it and support that
position with the Constitution.
Wandering Minds has been a thorn in the side of elected and public
figures in Edgefield County since it was offered as a way to make
EdgefieldDaily.com’s news more interactive to readers shortly after our
founding several years ago. Public officials and figures hate what they
Mr. Durham offers that many comments are from those who have not tried
to seek the facts and that is a bad thing. No, that is part of the
beauty of this type of free speech. If one person says something, asks
a question, or offers a visceral opinion of a public figure – there is
always at least one that will answer the question, deliver facts, or
offer a differing opinion. All things and people are equal.
That is another founding block of our freedom, everyone being equal.
Comments of late in the Wandering Minds that have drawn the ire of Mr.
Durham stem from what he deems a “relentless campaign” against Bettis
Rainsford. Well, Mr. Rainsford put himself out there as a public figure
two decades ago and as such he is fair game for scrutiny.
More so when he is publicly questioned about his failure to abide by
county and possibly federal laws in a public meeting in a very serious
matter that has the ability to mete out damages having to be paid by
the county taxpayer if the county is sued for negligence for not
enforcing the laws.
I suppose I should be shocked that people would read the news of the
situation at Mt. Vintage and then have a few negative opinions about
Mr. Rainsford. It seems Mr. Durham and Mr. Rainsford are obviously
shocked that others would speak out on the current situation.
Mr. Durham offers a compilation of reasons why Mr. Rainsford should be
respected. All good points and every one can be countered with at least
one reason why he shouldn’t. I am not saying people should not have
respect for him because I respect him. But I also respect fire.
Fire is a wonderful thing. It lifted man into the modern age. It
created heat, cooked food, fueled steam engines, and made the very
technological advancements we enjoy in the 21st Century possible. All
great things, wonderful things, respectable beyond compare.
But fire can be equally devastating, causing great losses to great
numbers of people at any given time. It can decimate tens of thousands
of acres in a matter of days. It can kill, and does kill on a daily
basis. Respect is not always given as an endearing thing; sometimes it
is done so out of fear.
Anyone who says fear does not squelch free speech in Edgefield County
has not been here very long. Our history is littered with those in
power using their political connections to punish those who dare to
speak out against the powers that be at any given time. When someone
offers their view on the way things are going in this county those in
power what to know who is saying it.
I have personally been attacked by an Edgefield County official that
was found guilty of the crime during a time when I spoke out against
the “powers that be” in this county. Former Edgefield County
Administrator Wayne Adams also published slanderous letters in the
local papers about EdgefieldDaily.com and me and signed them
officially, “Edgefield County Administrator” in an effort to bring the
demise of EdgefieldDaily.com. Don’t tell me that political speech in
Edgefield County is not dangerous to your existence or your personal
business enterprise. I know better.
Mr. Durham says that the anonymity of those expressing themselves is
detrimental, poisonous in fact, because there is no way to identify the
person saying them, thus preventing any debate or substantive exchange
Anonymity goes both ways. Obviously Mr. Durham, Mr. Rainsford, and
other public officials read the Wandering Minds every day. I know for a
fact most elected officials from local towns, the county, as well as
our Legislative Delegation read it. Yet some would rather censor the
comments rather than reply and answer them, even under the protection
of their own anonymity.
I’m sorry, that just has a bit more of a Joseph Stalin ring to it than
it does Thomas Jefferson.
The anonymity of complaints from the public has reined in a great deal
of what most rightly consider a “Good Ole Boy system of government”
that has prevailed in this county for far too long. That is not a bad
thing. Public figures are walking on a few more eggshells today than
they did four years ago and the only thing that is different now is the
huge popularity of the Wandering Minds and the people’s ability to hold
them accountable, expose misdeeds, or failure without having to worry
about suffering reprisals to their businesses.
No longer can public figures rely on a willing and fawning press to
toot their horns and proclaim Edgefield County as some sort of a Utopia
because of our political and politically connected leaders and the
citizens not cry foul. No longer are the people of Edgefield County
afraid to point out the elephant in the living room or proclaim the
Emperor has no clothes.
Are there great things going on in Edgefield County? Absolutely. Is
everything that goes on a scene from “Leave it to Beaver” or “Happy
Days”? Not hardly.
Just as every major media outlet in America, EdgefieldDaily.com will
continue to allow readers to express themselves without fear of
retribution for their personal and political opinions. That does not
mean I agree with their views, but I will always defend their right to
express them and will protect their anonymity by refusing to release
their identity even if under a court order.
Unlike some people, my word is my bond.
Respectfully I say to Mr. Durham, as well as all other public figures,
grow up. You wanted to be where you are, you put yourself out there,
and if there are those who disagree or have less than glowing opinions
of their actions… welcome to America. Some of the most vicious attacks
have been made upon me and I allow most without comment. But, I’m a big
boy and I can take it.
Amendment I of the Bill of Rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I can’t find where it says, “Only if you sign your name to your
speech”, in the First Amendment. It’s only 45 words long, but I will
© Copyright 2009
original material is property of
EdgefieldDaily.com and cannot be reproduced, rewritten or redistributed
without the expressed written permission of Edgefield Daily.com
JAM Straight Customs
We still need recipes for Cooking Section
WEBNEWS – Send in your favorite or
favorites. There is no limit to the number of recipes you can send in.
With the Editor’s wife being the driving force behind her own personal
section, help her create an exchange of local favorites, home cooking,
grilling, sauces, and deserts! Send in your submissions here.