We’ve gotten some strong feedback about last week’s issue, the “Red State Blues” cover. That issue held a scathing post-election analysis by a columnist for the Boston Phoenix, an “alternative” weekly like the Independent, but way bigger, and located in a blue-majority state. In addition to post-election teeth-gnashings by Molly Ivins and George Ochenski, that issue also held an Etc., in this space right here, compiling reported-elsewhere statistics to the cumulative suggestion that perhaps there was something funny about the Nov. 2 election. Perhaps there was. Perhaps there wasn’t. Let’s be clear: The Independent doesn’t know.
In aggregate, the issue struck some in the community as sour grapes at best, and irresponsible alarmism at worst.
One e-mailer felt that perhaps, by publishing the voter-irregularity factoids, we were spreading panic to increase sales.
Well, we don’t sell the Independent. We rely entirely on advertising for income. The point being that there’s not much of a profit motive for the paper to pursue extremity for extremity’s sake. There’s not much philosophical satisfaction in it, either. When loyal advertisers and readers both express concern that we’re playing a divisive role in our community, we’re inclined to listen.
It’s true. We could not personally research the veracity of the claims and speculations regarding voter fraud that came pouring in out of the blogosphere after Nov. 2. We did vet our Etc. list for bald speculation and passed along only facts that had been reported by what we judged to be respectable news sources. On Wednesday morning, an hour before sending the paper to the printer, we removed one Ohio voting-irregularity factoid from the list when that morning’s Cleveland Plain Dealer investigated and found the claim explainable without conspiracy, and apparently irrelevant to the outcome in any case. The next day’s New York Times published what is bound to be only the first debunking of a number of blog-generated theories about the theft of the election.
We published the reported and intriguing factoids—editing out the wilder of the blogosphere claims—and so, in fairness, we’re publishing this week the same sort of secondhand assurances from the same upper-tier media.
One of the seven items in last week’s Etc.—the 3,893 Ohio votes “given to George W. Bush by voting machines, not voters”—has since been debunked as routine bureaucratic error and the votes corrected, according to The New York Times. Another—the 29 heavily Democratic Florida counties that went for Bush—has been found, also by the Times, to fit historical voting trends in those counties.
On the other hand, the Green Party has raised more than $150,000 in fees necessary to request a recount of Ohio’s presidential votes in response to what it calls “widespread reports of irregularities.” The Democrat’s fabled 10,000 lawyers have so far been silent.
There are some in this country who will not believe that this election was legitimate, no matter what the evidence, so far are they disillusioned with the first four years of the Bush administration. There are those in other expanses of the political spectrum who think this paper, with its identifiable anti-Bush stance, is a communist hand tool for implying that the election—with its widespread use of new and unproven voting technology—could have been anything but legitimate.
Perhaps oddly, we think of ourselves as defined by neither extreme, and so hope to find something useful to convey to both camps, since we’re all living here together and all.
We will continue to pass on what of the national story develops, because we think voter enfranchisement is important news. But we want to make clear here that we did not—and do not—intend to be unnecessarily alarmist about a matter so dear, and so vital, and so potentially divisive, to so many.