If you do, you’ll end up like a polar bear set adrift in the Arctic Ocean, trying to balance four paws on an ice cube.
“Letters that have an untrue basis (for example, ones that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change) do not get printed,” Jon Healey wrote recently. Healey is a Los Angeles Times editorial writer and a big fan of printing truthful humans.
So is apparently fellow Times staffer Paul Thornton, who later clarified the paper’s position: “Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page; when one does run, a correction is published. Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”
Gentleman, please, I think people are full of crap all the time. I spend the majority of my time yelling at TVs and flipping off laptop computers — and that’s just in the electronics department at Target.
But sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “La-La-La, I can’t hear you!” works when you’re 5. It doesn’t work when you’re the fourth largest newspaper in the United States. And as editors of an opinion section, occasionally you’re supposed to ask other people for their —jeez, what’s the word for it, oh right—opinion. Sometimes you’re even supposed to put it in “quotes.”
Do I think global warming exists? Probably. Then again, I also grew up being taught Pluto was a planet and Christopher Columbus discovered America.
Here’s the thing about people you don’t agree with: Mostly they’re full of shit. But they also offer a different perspective.
Remember the first time somebody told you to wear khaki shorts covered in pockets, or that a drive-through could sell just coffee, or you should take Marky Mark seriously as an actor, or that Arnold Schwarzenegger would make a really good governor, and then a really bad governor? The first time you heard any of these statements, you probably thought they were utterances of a crazy person.
Crazy people say crazy things all the time. They have theories for everything. They think everyone is out to get them, everything is being poisoned and that somehow there’s a tiny camera implanted in their molars that can record MP3s.
And every day, no matter how wonderful or perfect, a crazy person thinks it’s going to end in misery with everyone finally pointing and giving credit to Nelson or Harold or whomever, and saying, “You were right, Crazy Harold. All this time! Oh how we should’ve listened to the man who drinks his own urine!”
Because here’s another thing about crazy people: Sometimes they turn about to be correct. For years, crazy people told us the government was stealing and reading our email. And it turns out the National Security Agency is stealing and reading our email.
Maybe the earth is getting warmer because of manmade pollutants and emissions. Or maybe we’re all suffering from the same low-grade fever engineered by the Pentagon and everything just feels warmer. Or maybe the Russians secretly flew into space while we were all watching the season finale for Breaking Bad and inserted a giant magnifying glass over the sun.
I’m not saying any of these scenarios are probable or should even be investigated. But newspapers were built on the freedom of the press, and that freedom includes talking out of your ass. It also includes the protection to have and express a dissenting opinion, no matter how vociferously two eraser-sniffing nimrods at the Los Angeles Times disagree.
This isn’t about global warming. This isn’t even about who’s right or wrong. If it were, every sportswriter who picked the Lakers to be good this season would be in trouble.
This is about one voice getting to decide for the rest of us. And whether it’s global warming, health care or Soup Plantation, you should have the right to choose.
The LA Times prints horoscopes, Beetle Bailey and Sudoku. The least they can do is publish Crazy Harold’s theories about global warming — if he’s not too busy looking for Hitler’s gold.
Contact Jeff Girod at firstname.lastname@example.org