The right to have your Islamophobic voice heard

It is only relatively recently that social norms again seemed to allow the free expression of racist and Islamophobic ideas. In the recent past, such things were kept hidden.

Today’s letter to the editor in the Star Tribune, however, raises anew an ongoing question since the days the internet gave people a voice that — conventional wisdom says — they did not previous have. Ironically, this comes in the oldest of media.

Unquestionably, there is a right to free speech (the very concept of it was buttressed by a Minnesotan who was one of the worst journalists by any standard); that’s not the issue. This is: Does journalism have a responsibility to give it a megaphone?


  • KariBemidji

    Do newspapers feel obligated to print every letter they receive? I often feel this is the case reading my hometown newspaper.

  • BJ

    Right now, there are about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, working as advisers to the Syrian Defense Forces or providing other support to local militias battling the Islamic State.

    < 71,498 sq/mi
    total Syria boarder 1400 miles

    < 268,597 sq/mi Texas alone
    1,954 miles (3,145 km) with mexico (again only TX)

  • Jeff

    It feels like trolling to me. Maybe some people without internet access don’t have access to trolling and the paper is performing a public service.

  • Mike Worcester

    Even in the day of the Interwebz, many folks still do read the letters-to-the-editor. I’m glad when the lte editors (gotta be a thankless job some/most days) will demonstrate the attitudes of those who are writing. I’d rather have to read a letter that makes me gnash my teeth than not see any and be deluded into thinking that those points of view do not exist. They do. This is just another reminder. I’ll deal with it.

    (EDIT: Other commenters have suggested the letter is satirical. The thought did cross my mind also.)

    • Good point. And that’s the point that was made 20 years ago when the internet became mainstream.

      I just kinda thought pointing out that racism exists is a job that’s already been accomplished.

      • Mike Worcester

        Apparently folks need reminders. Why? I am almost afraid to ask… :/

        • jon

          If you need reminders I’ve got some twitter accounts you can subscribe too…

          • Mike Worcester

            No thanks. FB is enough.

  • MrE85

    If the intent of the editor is to show the good readers that voices of ignorance and hatred are as nearby as Edina, and we should rally against such messages, then fine. If a newspaper has a “voice,” and I believe they should, perhaps and editorial comment like this would have helped.

    “The Star Tribune is publishing this letter as a reminder to our readers that bigotry is alive and well in our community in 2018, and that we have much work to do to rise above these messages of hate and ignorance. We apologize to our Muslim readers who may find these words hurtful, as well as to the immigrants unfairly slandered by the author. — The Opinion Team.”

    • Jeff

      The cynical side of me says this is an effort to sell papers. They know most readers would find this offensive and keeps people stirred up and reading the editorial pages. I think this is why they publish Katherine Kersten periodically. She’s borderline racist and distorts facts or makes them up but that doesn’t matter, just look at all the reaction she generates.

  • jon

    On need not look to the borders to find bad people.

  • Guest

    WOULD this have been ok to state “radicalized Muslims who wish us harm” in addition to the list everyone agrees should not enter???

    Just trying to get at the UN-modified term Muslims versus a term relating to intent on harm.

    Was the sin simply too broad a term??

    • jon

      What are the reasons to say “radicalized Muslims who wish us harm” rather than “people who wish us harm”?

      I’ve only got one… you both want people who aren’t muslim who wish us harm to be allowed in the country, and you want muslims who do the same to be kept out… Only reason I can come up with for that is that they’d hate both america and islam…

      • Guest

        Yes, those who wish us harm stay out. NOW realize if asked for a show of hands, how many think God smiles on those who bomb non-believers all religions would have hands…..and Muslims the most.

        • jon

          In God we trust, all others must bring data.

          Show your work, and it should be from a reputable polling house.

          • Guest

            Read how many acts of violence done by Muslims (mainly against other “wrong” Muslims) and realize how they are taught God loves a Martyr……and their definition of Martyr is one who blows himself up trying to kill infidels.

            You don’t see whole armies of any other religion trying to kill non-believers. You DO know the Quran decrees death to one who leaves the faith?

          • Jerry

            Well, it’s a good thing the Bible doesn’t endorse violence against non-believers and there is no tradition of Christian violent intolerance.

          • Guest

            Not for hundreds of years (Considering Ireland was political rather than religious)…..unlike today and teaching currently going on for Muslims.

          • Jerry

            There might be some Jewish people who would disagree with you. And doctors. And gay people. And transgender. And Muslims. And Indians……

            People are very aware of the acts of other groups and blind to the actions of their own. Some Christians also seem to think theyknow more about the Quran than they actually know about the Bible.

          • Guest

            When was the last time a Christian locked a person in a cage and set him on fire?

          • Does forcing 909 people to drink poisoned Kool Aid count?

          • Guest

            Actually that does count. Valid point. Thank you.

          • jon

            So it’s not violence against US citizens you oppose, it’s the SPECIFIC act of setting caged people on fire?

            I guess we can keep those people out of the country, regardless of their faith…
            Let’s see last time some one died in a cage in the US…
            I mean there have been multiple high profile accounts of people dying terrible in police custody (prison specifically) recently.. I can’t recall any from fire off hand… and I’d have do do some research to see if the religious preference of the officers involved was published…

          • Guest

            Anywhere in the world, violence is committed by those thinking it pleases God concerns me. (Muslim, Christian, fill in the blank).

          • Jerry

            It wasn’t that long ago that Christians beat a man to death and tied him to a fence with barbed wire. Or shot a doctor to death in his own church. Relative peace in Northern Ireland is a recent occurrence.

          • Guest

            THAT was immoral…..according to the vast vast majority of Christians.

          • Jerry

            Hey, just like Muslims believe!

          • jon

            Nope.. Try gain… that’s not data that’s speculation. I want facts you gave me opinion rooted in your sampling based reading choices.

            In God we trust… you sir are not god and you should stop pretending (lest you anger him, I hear he got pretty mean in the old testament… killing the firstborn of every one who wasn’t jewish and all…) your perception of reality doesn’t make them reality.

          • Guest

            My comment on show of hands was NOT data and WAS speculation.

    • Rob

      Umm, no.

      • Guest

        Had the word Muslim been deleted entirely, would the letter have been a good one?

        • Rob

          Not in my opinion. : )
          I prefer to see reader letters that have a more factual basis. Our borders are not being overrun with rapers, killers and torturers.

          • Guest

            One is too many, but I grant there is darn near little that can be done to figure out who the bad guys are compared to just plain folks.

            Close the border does nothing unless visas are also shut down and that is a big messy can of worms.

  • boB from WA

    Is the sort of thing that gets to the “all voices have an equal standing”? Given the amount of space devoted to the letters of the editors, who have the discretion to print or not such letters, it seems that the editors in this case are attempting get to the all sides have equal voice. (As a side note, this may have been the “cleanest” letter of all they received).

    • Jack Ungerleider

      That was my thought. The may have received many letters of this type and decided this one was worth printing because it is relatively short and not overly vulgar.

  • Hamliner

    I could have lived with a version printed like this:
    “…to keep out (long list deleted) all bad people in general.”

  • Rob

    I wouldn’t agree that a paper’s occasional publishing of a sad, twisted soul’s letter to the editor equates to giving said person a megaphone. I don’t comprende why the paper feels compelled to publish such crap, but that’s what editorial discretion is all about, I guess.

    Now, if the paper were to hire an op/ed staffer whose columns traded in racism and bigotry, that’d be a different issue entirely.

  • RBHolb

    Is there an obligation to give everyone a megaphone? No. It is important to acknowledge frequently that everyone–however bigoted, hateful, or disguised as such to make a point–has the right to speak, There is, however, no right to force anyone to help anyone else make their point.

  • Ben Chorn

    Always be careful about what you say online…

    According to a quick search, he is a Team Leader for his company for Target. Target has smack dab in their “Purpose and Beliefs” page a whole section on “celebrating diversity & inclusion.” Other companies he is apparently a Team Leader for includes Kroger, who have been featured for their diversity ( ). Also found: “Kroger was ranked 8th in the Omni50, which is a ranking of the top 50 corporate buyers of multicultural products and services throughout the U.S. Kroger was selected by more than two million women-and-minority-owned business owners that are part of the Omnikal community.” Another company he is a Team Leader for? Supervalu who have a whole program for diversity: “An important part of meeting these needs in so many cities and neighborhoods is our Supplier Diversity program. This program provides minority, women and diverse-owned and operated companies equal footing to effectively do business with us.”

    With his high position in a large company I would be very careful about what he says online/in print, and also the companies he tries to do business with. It doesn’t sound like this Episcopalian’s views match those he chooses to do business with.

    • Kassie

      I think you are looking at Jack Mertes Junior’s profile, not Senior. There seems to be an 88 year old Jack Mertes who also lives in Edina.

      • Jeff

        This is one of several reasons why I don’t like vigilante shaming. It’s too easy to misidentify people.

  • Jodi Kvaas Rogstad

    I’m a couple days late to the party, but last week, the editor who selects LTE wrote a column that might be enlightening. Required reading.

    • I stopped reading that column after he said Kersten had segacity.