Censored speech isn’t free

A free, uninhibited exchange of ideas is vital in any democracy.
Indeed, it’s been a staple of our country throughout its long, nearly 250-year history.
And it hasn’t just worked at the national level, nor purely in government.
Surely the halls of Congress or the Minnesota State Legislature, the council chambers at Ely’s City Hall, and grassroots meetings held by local townships have all been better off because of rigorous debate.
Issues rise up, people discuss them, and governing bodies come to decisions that any of us are free to support or oppose.
It works that way in newspapers as well.
Readers often tell us, and we wholeheartedly agree, that letters to the editor and a lively exchange on our editorial page not only make for interesting reading, but get us to think.
And even challenge conventional wisdom or the decrees of government.
Whether it’s copper-nickel mining, permit allotments in the BWCAW, the merits of tax levy proposals, the actions of law enforcement, or any of an assortment of issues, we’re better off when the issues are discussed and debated freely and without limitations.
Dare we say, it’s what makes America great.
The freedom to address our grievances, to speak without fear of retaliation, to offer ideas void of censorship cuts to the very heart of what we are all about.
In these times, these rights need to be embraced, not rejected.
A couple weeks back this newspaper covered and reported on a presentation made by a longtime Ely physician relative to Covid-19.
The physician, now retired, offered insight and opinion that differed in a lot of respects to what has been espoused by many in the public health realm, as well as Ely’s active health care providers.
The presentation, attended by dozens of local residents, was clearly newsworthy, and the physician has a long history in Ely, even serving a term on the local school board.
In the wake of our coverage, we heard from readers who appreciated the differing perspective and others who were clearly outraged that the event was covered at all.
Some suggested that the physician’s remarks be censored or banned from the public domain.
That’s more than just troubling. It’s dangerous, and something we’re seeing far too often over the course of the last 18 months.
When only “approved” opinion is allowed, be it in the local newspaper or a vast social media network, it impacts all of us.
Who decides what is approved or not?
What’s the next issue that comes up against the censorship of Big Brother - who could take on the form of government or corporate conglomerate?
The current divide in our country over Covid-19 is obvious and clearly not one size fits all.
Approaches differ by state, by county, even by community. Ely and Babbitt are 15 miles apart, yet in one school students and staff are required to wear masks, while in another they are not.
These differences merit reporting and are certain to involve continued community debate, as they should, and just as with any of many contentious issues that have risen to the forefront over the decades.
Suppression and censorship have never been part of the solution, and that’s as true today as it ever has been.