I am mystified as to why the Xpress saw fit to publish on Dec. 28 the rambling, noxious letter from Alan Ditmore, a self-described trailer-dwelling Trump supporter, in which he advocates for the unprovoked bombing of Mecca [“A Reason to Hope With Trump”].
Were you simply short a couple of column inches of copy and needing to fill that space? Or have you, as journalists, forgotten that the First Amendment does have some prudent, historical limitations. Among them, the Supreme Court has ruled that one does not have the right to yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater. They have also held that “advocacy of the use of force” is unprotected when it is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action.”
What will keep America great is not the bombing of innocents in Mecca or anywhere else, but remembering the fundamental tenets upon which our country was founded, namely: That all people are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What will also make America great is for Mr. Ditmore to go back inside his trailer and stay there; and for you, as journalists, to use better judgment regarding what is — and what is not — fit to print.
— Michael Breck
Editor’s response: Since a core part of Xpress’ mission is to strengthen democracy by promoting thoughtful dialogue, we believe it’s important to provide a forum for a full discussion of civic issues. The exception to the First Amendment of falsely shouting “Fire!” in a theater (to avoid starting a panic) would not seem to apply to Mr. Ditmore’s letter, which advocated for President-elect Trump to take a particular military action. He was stating an opinion, not shouting false information that could cause a stampede. Likewise, the Supreme Court’s ruling — that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to speech that advocates the use of force that would likely incite imminent, lawless action — would also not seem to apply to the opinion stated in Ditmore’s letter. Even if the letter writer has Trump’s ear on the matter, launching a military action is within a president’s power, and to forbid discussion of such a possibility on these pages would inhibit our readers from weighing in about what our democratically elected leaders should or should not do in our name.