Gratuitous free speech and yellow journalism

For decades critics of the entertainment industry have charged it with “gratuitous” sex and violence.

Did Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” really have to occur in front of a national audience? Is “The Passion of the Christ” a snuff film? Is there anything even remotely uplifting and entertaining about Madonna these days, or has “the material girl” become immaterial, that is to say, gratuitous?

Defenders of such material, of course, declare the primacy of “freedom of expression,” no matter how vulgar that expression may be in the eyes of some.

But even free speech can become gratuitous when its principal purpose is to be incendiary and injurious, as in yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

In the news media the use of “gratuitous” content has been referred to for well over a century as “yellow journalism.”

And this brings me to The Aspen Times’ front-page-center story on Dec. 29, “VP Mike Pence gets message from Aspen neighbors: Make America Gay Again.”

Anyone who doesn’t deem this story to be “incendiary” simply hasn’t poured over the many hundreds of online comments that the story provoked, the vast majority of which can only be characterized as ugly. It was designed to stir up a hornet’s nest of ill will, and it did.

It is just so well choreographed: The nice lesbian couple bring chili and cornbread to the smiling sheriff and his enlightened officers. This is how “accepting” and “loving” people behave. So why isn’t Pence the Grinch coming down the other driveway with a tossed salad and a couple of bottles of Bordeaux?

Gag me with a spoon.

Can’t we all set our sights a little higher? My resolution for the new year is to refrain from writing letters such as this and commenting willy-nilly on things that “outrage” me in this paper. Surely I have better things to do, and I will find them.

Chad Klinger