Compelling Energy Journalism

Guns, Energy and Free Speech

By Ken Silverstein • February 25, 2015 • Filed in: Energy, Free Speech

November 2013

With the holiday season upon us, it is time for joy and warmth. But it is also time to recollect — time to consider the tragedy of what occurred nearly a year ago when a deranged man gunned down small children and their teachers in Connecticut.

Like everyone else in this country and around the world, I went into a state of sadness and admittedly, depression. Children symbolize innocence and purity, and give hope to any civilization. Anyone with a connection to kids could feel the immense pain endured by each and every mother, father and sibling. The dark place from which I emerged — in the spirit of confession — transformed into anger, which in my case centered on the gun culture and the subsequent political clout that has rooted itself in American culture.

As an energy analyst, I don’t base my conclusions on emotion but rather, on an assessment of the facts. Any biases I might have are set aside in an effort to properly investigate a given topic. Because I do not earn a living covering guns and ammo, I’m able to loosen those restraints and to discuss those specific biases:

I despise the National Rifle Association’s leadership and especially its leader Wayne Lapierre, who dodged the Vietnam War by allegedly getting his doctor to say that he had a mental illness. To me, this man’s defiance and his inability to compromise represents the very worst in American culture,  making it impossible for me to fathom how he rest peacefully at night.

Suffices to say that my views on the subject and on this man are visceral. And, yet, I’m instilled with a sense of freedom and fairness — that doesn’t center on the right to bear arms but rather, on the right to free expression. Lapierre and his gang of highly paid cronies are at liberty to pitch the American people and to deliver their own messages, which I find to be highly objectionable. The First Amendment is absolute and it protects those rights despite my own sentiments. I recognize that good people will disagree with my views — those appreciative of America’s roots but also ones who understand that times and technologies have changed, necessitating much more moderation.

Through discussion and dialogue, We the People are able to reach an understanding and perhaps a middle ground. Eventually, free speech produces stronger societies. If it is important, people will tune in and make their voices heard, notably through their votes. Elected leaders will listen or they will get tossed from office. In this case, families love their kids above all else.

This is a circuitous way of making similar points with regard to the industry and the issues with which our readers are so deeply attached. The divide among readers is as apparent as the split is among the American people: Conservatives, liberals and moderates have different positions on everything from climate change to nuclear energy to hydraulic fracturing. And just as I think my views are “morally superior” when it comes to guns, others may think that their beliefs are also sacrosanct, no matter the issue.

I get that. Don’t forget, I moderate our forums and I speak with various sources on a whole host of topics. Being an editor or a reporter is not a perfect science. In point of fact, it is a subjective process that entails making judgement calls with regard to each story and how it is presented. As an analyst, I have more leeway when it comes to such construction. But I do not have the moral power to determine which views get elevated and which get rejected.

For that, a higher authority has determined the code: the U.S. Constitution, which says that Congress shall make no law that abridges the freedom of expression or the freedom of the press. We may not like what others have to say — we may even abhor their words — but we resolve matters through debate and elections.

To be sure, money can trump everything. One could argue that the gun manufacturers’ lobby uses its heft to keep weak politicos in check — even if a majority of their constituents favor reasonable controls. The same can be said for those who lobby Congress on other issues. And perhaps there is an argument to be made for major campaign finance reform to keep all voices alive — and not just those with the money and the power to be heard.

As your editor, my vow to you is to ensure that your reasoned convictions are printed. By extension, my aim is also to present a fair critique from readers. The overall goal is to be intellectually honest. And if there are voids or mistakes in my stories — certainly possible given the spacial and time constraints involved — then I welcome your comments. That’s especially true if you disagree with the premise that I’ve laid out, or that of one of our guest writers.

We live in a society that is committed to the protection of free speech — so very important when there are those around us who seek to intimidate and to snuff out competing views.

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