Explain use of the ‘V-word’
Dear Editor:On Monday I told the Roaring Fork Peace Coalition, “Here is an example of how our media regularly mislead us.” I pointed to the July 12 Aspen Times front page, and the blaring headline: “Bush Vitriol flows forth.” The headline had no relationship to ground truth and questionable connection to the story. Did the front page editor attend the State of the World Conference or read the article about the conference?On July 13, Henry Catto, who may be the Henry Catto who is vice chairman of The Aspen Institute and the former ambassador to Great Britain, wrote a letter to the editor titled “Whose vitriol?” That letter made me question whether Henry Catto went to the conference or carefully read the article, although he, like all of us, surely read the “V-bomb” headline.Vitriol is sulfuric acid, or acidic speech and more formally, “very cruel and bitter comments or criticism.”When I saw the headline, I assumed that our P. had copied the V.P. by dropping the “F-bomb.” Instead, the article is about a very progressive but conceivably disruptive liberal-leaning conference. This may explain Henry Catto’s mistaken assumption that vitriol was present, and his correct assumption that Bush was not. The article incorrectly reports that Wilson was “clearly seething with anger.” In fact, Wilson’s speech and actions were entirely calm and he spoke of his lack of stress.Maybe Henry was also “sitting around a lunch table at the Aspen Meadows Saturday” away from the conference. This is where the Times’ source reports conference speakers Wilson and Clarke “expressed deep concerns about what the source described as the fascist leanings.” Henry points out that “the implications of fascism are just what the speech bookers love. Joe McCarthy’s ghost must be smiling.” Did the Times choose the V-word to describe a discussion of “fascism”? Was there an overheated discussion at lunch among luminaries that merited a headline?The article says that neither speaker used the word “fascism” in their lectures. The article writes only of the two most news-exposed participants and nothing of excellent speakers, including former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm and Sen. Tim Wirth. I think I heard Kurt Gottfried, co-founder of the Union of Concerned Scientists, mention a “whiff of fascism” in his speech. At the inspiring and optimistic event, there was not a whiff of vitriol. I heard only grateful applause. Does The Aspen Times imply that the almost-use of the word “fascism” in debate deserves headlines of “vitriol”? Can overheard private conversation of conference speakers explain a totally off-base, bold front-page headline when the article below it refers to one of Aspen’s most responsible and aware conferences? Is the headline unjustified hostile political spin or just a mistake?Henry Catto and our community deserve an explanation from The Aspen Times for a pathetic and glaring choice of headline. Please print the correction as a headline. What chance though, when The New York Times printed a meek page A10 apology for Judith Miller’s repeated war-provoking WMD reports?If Joe McCarthy is smiling for Henry Catto, Edward R. Murrow is rolling in his grave for all of us.Harvie BranscombEl Jebel
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