Madison County Opinion...

November 7, 2001


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
November 7, 2001

Frankly Speaking

I refuse to be terrorized
A number of people have asked me why I don't write more about the terrorists. The answer is simple. I refuse to be terrorized!
The purpose of terror attacks is to disrupt our nation and destroy our way of life. When they cause us to change the way we live, they have won.
For example, every time we find a small amount of unidentified powder, we go into an anthrax panic. Why? Our chances of being infected by anthrax are a tiny fraction of the chance of being injured in automobile wrecks. Every year, more property is damaged by hurricanes and tornadoes than by terrorist bombs.
Now don't get me wrong. Terrorism must not be tolerated. Those who deliberately set out to kill or injure our citizens for political reasons should be hunted down and properly punished. Full precautions must be taken at critical points such as power stations, major bridges and airports. But we the people should not go into a tizzy every time something happens.
If I refuse to fly because I am afraid someone may hijack the plane, the terrorists have won. If I am reluctant to open my mail because it might contain a poison, the terrorists have won. If our news operations ignore local news so they can give terrorism excessive coverage, the terrorists have won.
So, I keep up with the news about terrorism. I try to be aware of events around me. But I refuse to let the acts of a few nuts change the way I conduct my life.
The quality of life in my community is of greater importance. The ability of our elderly citizens to be warm this winter is an immediate concern that needs to be addressed. Reducing routine crimes like shoplifting, welfare fraud, car theft, assault and family violence must take up the greater amount of our attention.
President Bush is right. The best way that "We the People" can fight terrorism is to go about our lives as if nothing has happened. Let's keep flying when flying is appropriate. Let's use the bridges to travel in our great cities. Let's open our mail, (except for those unwanted credit card applications) without being concerned.
I refuse to be terrorized. I will have little more to say on the subject. I support our military in their fight against the terrorists, and willingly pay taxes to give them the best equipment and training possible. But there are many more areas that need public attention, and I will try to keep my readers informed about them.
Let's get back to living our normal lives. If we do that, we win and the terrorists lose.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His e-mail address is frankg@mcga.net.

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
November 7, 2001

From the Editor's Desk

On media and war
William Sherman hated newspapers so much he threatened to have several reporters hanged. And while the Civil War press was justified in some criticism of Sherman, newspapers were at times reckless in their war reporting and even ruthless in their portrayal of the famous general, calling him "insane" on several occasions. (See "Sherman's Other War" by John Marszalek.)
The Civil War and Sherman are a part of history. But Sherman's sentiment toward the press lives on in others.
And as our new war progresses, loathing for the media will increase as reporters push leaders for answers to difficult questions.
But keeping the big picture in focus is crucial during trying times.
Remember that some governments have total control over the media during wars - and otherwise. In these nations the press is viewed as a tentacle of the war effort, meaning that disinformation - or calculated lying - is not out of the question if it accomplishes an objective, such as controlling public sentiment.
America is different. We have press freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, an essential element of democracy. State-run media is a sure indicator of a population without any real control of its government.
So our press freedom is one of our greatest strengths, even if many feel our press is not.
But wartime tests this freedom. It puts journalists and military strategists in a constant grapple of truth versus consequence. Journalists demand the truth. Strategists demand that people realize that the truth may have grave consequences.
Just as a pitcher knows not to announce his next pitch to the batter and a football coach knows better than to issue a press release that he will run a double reverse on the game's opening play, a general with any good sense won't announce exactly where his troops will be arriving in a week.
But the public should expect the government and military leaders to provide enough information for people to establish a perspective on what's happening. The American public has a human and financial investment in the war effort. So a reflection of how the war is proceeding is due.
The press must continue to push for a truthful overview of what's happening, while considering how enemies might view what they report and how to avert any advantage they may get from this.
And the public should realize that they control their intake of information, not the media. Face it, there is no overplaying this story. The terrorist acts and the new war are the biggest events in a generation. No news organization can ignore what's happening. Turn on the TV, turn on the radio, log on to the Internet, pick up a paper, and news of the new conflict will be there.
Because it must.
While staying informed is important, people shouldn't become gluttons for punishment, tying themselves to a sofa in front of CNN for hour upon hour.
There's too much to live for to waste the days away like that.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

 


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