The Berkshire Eagle is a respected small newspaper in Western Massachusetts. Some of my friends got their start at this publication.
Earlier in June, before the shootings in South Carolina, the Eagle published this column from a “conservative activist” named Steven Nikitas who is affiliated with the local Republican Party in Pittsfield, MA, specifically the Berkshire County Republican Association.
It’s probably the single most racist piece I’ve read in a mainstream publication. Judge for yourself:
“After the burning and looting in Baltimore and Ferguson we are seeing endless media hand-wringing that somehow “we” must all do something more to help black America. And “we” means white people, taxpayers, businesses, the criminal justice system, the universities and the government. But blacks must now pull themselves up. “We” have done far too much already with tens of trillions in handouts in the last 50 years, and it has backfired badly.
Conservatives and Republicans have offered sure-fire solutions for black America and they have been rejected repeatedly. Our advice has been for African-Americans to discard the leadership of the Democrat party and charlatans like Al Sharpton. After all, far-left liberalism has obviously failed. The proof is everywhere.
End blame game
Conservatives have recommended over and over that blacks reform their culture from top to bottom by respecting marriage and the family and the law, returning to their churches, embracing education and hard work, avoiding violence and debased rap music, speaking clearly, shunning drugs and profanity, and pulling up their pants. And to stop blaming all of their problems on everyone else. That is immature, cowardly and counterproductive.
What respectable business owner would hire a young black male from the “hood” who won’t even show up for work? What successful enterprise is going to establish itself in crime-ridden inner cities? Isn’t looting and burning self-defeating?
Now some media commentators are lamenting that there are too many rundown buildings in Baltimore and that they must be demolished and rebuilt new. That is code language meaning that taxpayers should fund more free housing while the rational response is that blacks must rebuild their Baltimore neighborhoods themselves because self-reliance is their only hope. And it always works. White people in Baltimore are doing it every day.
The violence there is part of a self-destructive pattern that is largely a result of blacks following the wrong leaders. Demagogues like Sharpton merely incite rather than instruct. Democrats have constructed a fortress welfare state that has extinguished black self-improvement while Republicans have warned that it is a dead end and have stressed economic opportunity and a work ethic instead.
On the other hand elderly African-Americans often talk wistfully about their youths in those ostensibly horrible years before “civil rights” when they were vastly more conservative people and had their families, their churches, strong fathers and mothers, respect for hard work and education and the law, and their small businesses. These were priceless natural assets that required no taxpayer subsidy. They offered a solid social foundation to build on but have been obliterated instead, with predictable consequences.
“We” can’t fix black America — it must fix itself, and can do so only with a profound change of heart and decades of hard work. Today is a great time to start.
I left a rant out about Teacher’s Unions, but you get the idea. The paper came under considerable fire for publishing this piece and the comments on the original article are stunning to read. Eagle editor Kevin Moran responded with a column of his own and you can read it here as he defends publishing the story.
Since the vast majority of criticism has taken place on the Internet, let’s first clear up several assertions making the rounds on Facebook:
– Steven Nikitas is not an Eagle staff member; he is not employed by us.
– Mr. Nikitas is one of several people who, as members of the Berkshire County Republican Association, contribute columns every other week titled “Right from the Berkshires” on the Opinion Page of The Eagle. But we haven’t made that link consistently clear to readers, which undoubtedly fueled confusion; going forth, we will in the tagline of the column.
– About a year ago, the BCRA asked we allow their local conservative voices into The Eagle’s pages to provide a balance of political viewpoints. We obliged.
– We do not pay any of the writers from the Berkshire County Republican Association for their opinion columns.
– An opinion column is not a “news article.” It’s the author’s subjective point of view. They own their opinion.
No one here at The Eagle will defend Mr. Nikitas’ position and point of view as expressed in his column through the Berkshire County Republican Association.
For the record, we disagree with it. Completely. This stance should come as no surprise to our readers who know The Eagle’s editorial stances on our newspaper’s Opinion Page to be among the most progressive in the country — a vanguard of social and civil rights that’s consistently at the forefront of pushing this nation toward the changes it needs to make to achieve justice and equality for all.
So while you’ll not hear me agree with Mr. Nikitas’ views one bit, I will defend the decision to publish it.
And here’s why.
The Eagle publishes a variety of opinions — whether they be expressed in columns, letters to the editor, editorial cartoons, etc. — on the Opinion Pages. The role of a community newspaper’s Opinion Page is that of a town square: It’s a free-flowing forum of opinions and debate and praise and criticism. Readers will like, dislike, agree, disagree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree — the whole gamut — with all of these opinions.
Publishing an opinion column by any individual whose position is controversial and may run contrary to somebody or most everyone’s is not easy. The tough decision is to publish. It’s a fine line.
So why then publish it?
Here’s why: Views and opinions — whether they be considered by some, most or all people to be ignorant or brilliant or somewhere in between — tell us a lot about the community in which we live, work, go to school, vote, debate, worship, pay taxes, make choices and decisions, etc.
Such knowledge can spark a community discussion or debate and enact change, but it should never be held a secret. Some in our community have observed that publishing a controversial opinion does the community a public service. Therefore, we ought not sweep it under the rug. As we say in the First Amendment business, sunlight can be a great disinfectant.
I have two items to contribute here. Moran, the editor of the Eagle, is absolutely right to publish this piece. While Massachusetts in a pretty liberal state, Western Mass is far more moderate and downright conservative even for a progressive publication like the Eagle. And while the Eagle acknowledges their progressivism, they do what a good newspaper does — provide a platform of differing ideas for debate and discussion…something I wish the OC Register’s opinion pages would do a better job of, particularly on a Sunday (two “lefty” columns in a sea of red is apparently balance in the eyes of the Register’s editorial pages).
And secondly, when I read of Nikitas encouraging blacks to heed the Republicans who “have warned that it is a dead end and have stressed economic opportunity and a work ethic instead,” I immediately thought of the debate over eliminating Irvine’s Living Wage.
Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway talked about creating opportunity for low income workers and offered not a single detail on how to do this. Lynn Schott, bathed in the Blood of Christ, is convinced paying people less means minimum wage jobs won’t disappear when there is no evidence of this from any point in time when a minimum wage was increased. Christina Shea was offended that Pastors called her out for being un-Christian when its patently clear she’d rather adhere to those who paid more than $1 million for homes instead of those making $9 an hour.
There are clearly parallels with the Berkshires and Irvine on Republican schools of though. One is clear racism while the other is economic racism.