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Tuesday, October 12, 2004
"But we can immediately read it anyway" Brian Micklethwait links to and comments on an article about Ken Bigley by Mark Steyn that the Telegraph refused to print. I think the Telegraph was correct not to print it. Seeing those words in a national newspaper would have caused vast offence to some people who have suffered enough already. Yet I also think Steyn was correct to put it on his website. Think of a see-saw with causing pain at one end and getting out a message that may save lives on the other. The size and type of readership it is going to get on a website tips the see-saw one way; exposure in the Telegraph would tip it the other.
Brian's comments about the fact that the editor's veto may have stopped Mr Steyn from being paid for it but didn't stop us (informed, obsessive, connected us) reading it are equally interesting. Expect more of this. Eventually people will become much more aware that a newspaper is a selection. This should have been obvious all along but hasn't been.
The way I hear it, there is a pent-up desire on the part of many to say the sort of thing Steyn did. Up bubble these thoughts and words like water from a thousand springs. Some streams taste sweet, others bitter. They all want to reach the sea - the public arena, if you will forgive me changing metaphors mid-sentence. Some of them join great rivers almost immediately; other rivulets divide and recombine and meander; water from some must even evaporate and re-condense many times before finally getting to their destination.
For the sake of the next hostage, and Iraq, and the world, I want the key elements of Steyn's message (which I stress again is not unique to him) to reach the sea. Having his column read by some atypical internet WoT wonks, then repeated and re-intepreted along a chain of increasingly normal intermediaries before it eventually becomes commonplace may be the way of doing that that involves least pain overall.
ADDED LATER: ... and, come to think of it, might also be the best way of spreading the message. Ineffective attempts at supression can get you a wider hearing. Suppression is not quite the right word; as I said, I think the Telegraph had a point - but I turned to the column with all the more interest knowing it had been pulled, and I'm sure you did too.