I did something a couple of weeks ago that I have almost never done: I refused to print a letter to the editor in my newspaper based on its content.
At first I was going to publish it with an editor’s note about how offensive it was and how I would be limiting those types of letters in the future. Then I thought, “If I’m limiting it in the future, why not limit it now?”
The thing is, I wanted a durable record of this person’s opinions. I still do.
Curt Devlin sent the letter. It has since run on his blog and the first half ran in the conglomerate across the river. They took out the second half. The first half tears apart a letter writer who said that the wind turbine opponents should prove their sicknesses. He is brutal in his criticism, but that’s okay. The letter writer is a big girl. When you write a letter to the editor on a controversial subject, you have to take your lumps. I would’ve let that slide.
Mr. Devlin then made some valid comparisons to PTSD, etc., and how it is real despite no “proof” for many years.
Then he veers off into the totally unacceptable, again comparing the wind turbines off Arsene Street in Fairhaven to the Nazi camps. He has done this before. I have run some of his allusions, although they were much less direct and detailed than this one. The first time he mentioned the Nuremberg Code in 2012, I thought there must be a Nuremberg in Vermont or somewhere (see archives page 1/26/12 issue). I could not believe he was using THE Nuremberg for a comparison, saying the spinning of two wind turbines adjacent to a residential neighborhood was comparable to the experiments in the death camps. All three local newspapers condemned the comparison.
He and others in his group have been defending the comparison over the last two years. But this letter went over the top, even his chosen title was “the banality of evil is alive and well.” Anyone who knows anything about the Holocaust knows that the phrase “banality of evil,” is a Holocaust reference (used by Hannah Arendt, a Jew who fled Nazi Germany, in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of evil).
Mr. Devlin’s insistence on using Holocaust references is beyond offensive. He cleverly uses “ghetto” and “chamber” and other phrases that are clearly meant to make comparisons to the modern world’s most horrific time. He even specifically mentions Dachau, and two specific human experiments and compares them to two industrial wind turbines about 1,000 feet away from homes in America.
These comparisons are so offensive both personally and professionally on so many levels that it would be impossible to address all of them short of a book-length response. To use in this manner the Holocaust, when the Nazis killed six million Jews and five million Romany, gays, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the disabled, is appalling and abhorrent. At Dachau alone, 41,500 Jews were killed and 200,000 were imprisoned. To compare this to living near wind turbines in 2014-America is ignorant and disturbing at best.
It’s just so hard to believe that he thinks it’s okay to compare a noisy factory in present-day America to the experiments at Dachau. It’s mind boggling.
When I started this paper, I wanted it to be a place where the disenfranchised could have their voices heard. I am not generally in the business of dismissing arguments or making value judgments on people’s opinions. I am still torn, to a degree, wanting people to know how this man’s mind works, but not wanting this garbage in my paper.
For nine years I have worked seven days a week, with serious lack of sleep, and embracing bad nutrition, to create a publication that would be valid and honest and not afraid to speak truth to power. These kinds of arguments and comparisons have no place in my paper, not in a letter to the editor, anyway. There may come a time when this garbage will have to be treated as news and will find its way between the pages of my weekly miracle, but not this week.