Friday, November 20, 2009

Anti-Hunting letter to the Editor

From the News Guy Blog:

Of Salmon and Moose

Enough of that. Now let’s turn to that other kerfuffle, the one about that letter to the editor of the Burlington Free Press, the existence of which the Freep is trying to deny.

The letter, by Ethan A. Sims (apparently the highly respected, much-honored professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Vermont, though the News Guy was unable to reach him for confirmation) which appeared to suggest that, while hunters were out trying to shoot a moose, anti-hunters might want to shoot the moose-hunters.

At least that’s how a great many hunters understood it. Preferring to be predators rather than prey, these hunters and their organizations not unreasonably became upset, deluging the newspaper with so many angry letters to the editor that the editors surrendered.

Abjectly. Not because they apologized, which was defensible if perhaps not necessary. But because they removed the letter from the newspaper’s web site archives.

It became, then, an un-letter, rather the way some one-time associates of Stalin who fell out of favor (and soon thereafter of sight) had their names and photographs purged from the history books, becoming un-persons.

Because no one here was killed, tortured, or exiled, the editors hardly sink to Stalinism, or other aspects of Bolshevism except in their obvious toadiness. Theirs is the spirit not of the independent journalist but of the ever-obsequious courtier.

Besides, this not being Soviet Russia, suppression doesn’t work. Anyone with a desire to see the letter and an Internet connection can find it. Here it is:

On this beautiful day we learn that about 1,251 hunters are taking to the woods with legal permits to “pursue prized quarry.” Certainly the members of various humane organizations do not approve. I suggest that before the next annual killing season, other residents be awarded legal permits to kill hunters who will be out to kill these beautiful, non-destructive animals. Or the government could just rule out all this primitive killing.
ETHAN A.H. SIMS
Shelburne

As another letter-writer noted last Sunday (a letter the Free Press editors, to their credit, printed), Sims obviously didn’t really want anyone to shoot a moose hunter. His letter was Swiftian satire, modeled on Jonathan Swift’s famous Modest Proposal (1729) suggesting Ireland’s poor ease their penury by selling their children to be eaten.

Not that hunters should be blamed for insufficient attention to Dr. Sims’ literary playfulness, which would have alerted them to his motivation. Hunters feel put upon these days because everybody does. It’s the American way to think everybody’s out to get us, whoever “us” may be. In fact, a very small percentage of the American people actively oppose hunting, and they have not been taken seriously by most of the rest of us (the News Guy is a very pro-hunting non-hunter) at least since the anti-hunting group PETA called for New Yorkers to change the name of the Fishkill River, apparently unaware that “kill” is Dutch for “river,” and so the name is not evidence of anti-piscatorialism (though perhaps of redundancy).

The editors could have explained that Sims was not in fact urging the murder of anyone, simply expressing his own anti-hunting views in a sardonic manner and with some literary flourish. Such a rational response, however, does not come easily to courtiers. Instead, the paper apologized for running a letter “advocating for violence against hunters,” which the letter does not do.

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