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“INCUMBENT PROTECTION” ALIVE AND WELL IN THE FOURTH ESTATE

A South Carolina newspaper is refusing to print letters to the editor that criticize elected officials – prompting a furious backlash from its readers.

The Summerville Journal-Scene – one of several newspapers affiliated with The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier – formally announced its bizarre policy this week in response to a letter criticizing a sitting Dorchester County councilman for his poor attendance record and support of tax hikes.

That letter – the original of which can be found HERE – offered specific information about the councilman’s attendance record and his efforts to get a local option sales tax passed during a low-turnout election. In other words it contained criticism that was exclusively based on the councilman’s performance in office – and supported that criticism with specific evidence and examples.

In other words, it’s exactly the sort of legitimate criticism newspapers and websites ought to put into the marketplace of ideas.

Two days after submitting his letter, though, author Steven Wright received a disturbing response from the Journal-Scene‘s editor Frank Johnson.

“We’re  putting a disclaimer in Friday and Wednesday’s SJS about the political letter guidelines, which I have spent the past couple of days deciding on (this is my first political season at the SJS),” Johnson wrote to Wright.

That disclaimer?

The Journal Scene is pleased to run political letters that endorse a specific candidate in local or statewide races. As election day nears, tell us who you’re voting for, and why! Be sure to include your name and address, and be sure the letters are positive in favor of a candidate; attacks on specific candidates, personal or otherwise, will not be accepted.

Attached to this disclaimer was a completely neutered letter to the editor which removed all criticism of the incumbent councilman (the revised letter can be found HERE).

Crazy, huh?

Wright was livid.

“I have never heard of any media source silencing it’s viewers from pointed criticism of any candidate running for office,” he wrote. “I believe that it is incredibly important for readers to see criticisms of candidates because it allows voters to see both sides of every issue and from their they can make their decision on who to vote for.”

Wright added that he viewed the new Journal-Scene policy as “censoring the electorate.”

He’s absolutely correct. This newspaper regularly publishes favorable content about incumbent elected officials – but the moment that a thoughtful, well-documented letter arrives to factually rebuke such pablum, the paper censors it beyond recognition.

This is nothing but thought suppressing incumbent protection, people – an example of the mainstream media using its power to mute criticism, silence debate and insulate elected officials from the consequences of their actions. It’s the stuff of state-sponsored media – not a free and fair Fourth Estate. It’s also yet another glaring example of how the media at all levels is in the tank for big government’s tax-and-spend agenda.

Residents of Dorchester County should be embarrassed … and afraid.

Their “watchdog” isn’t just asleep … it is actively aiding and abetting the elected officials it should be holding accountable for their actions.