The Aspen Times months ago published a thinly supported story suggesting that one of the local billionaires was in league with Vladimir Putin. The billionaire filed suit against the newspaper for defamation. The newspaper wanted to settle the case.
Meanwhile, the newspaper was recently bought by a family-owned group of several dozen small newspapers. Much of the family are Republicans, which may be the determinative fact in this story.
The new owners asked that the newspaper staff refrain from commenting on the pending litigation while settlement talks were ongoing. That’s standard and prudent in legal proceedings. You don’t want employees saying things that might become evidence at trial or disrupt the settlement negotiations.
The staff refused to follow instructions. For that, one was fired. Another quit, saying he had literally cried about being denied the “right” to say whatever he wanted to say in the newspaper, whenever he wanted to say it, regardless of the impact on the newspaper’s pending lawsuit and settlement negotiations.
OK, that’s how these things sort out. Bosses boss, children are childish, and crybabies cry. Life goes on.
But now it’s getting serious. A group of the Aspen progressive establishment – the leftist elite who control the town – recently sent a letter to the new owners demanding they reinstate the fired staff, publish the content (of dubious veracity) that was withheld while the litigation was pending, and promise that in the future they will follow the publishing diktats of the letter-signers. The letter to the newspaper and the newspaper’s reply are HERE.
The letter-signers include all five county commissioners, the mayor and a former mayor, numerous city councilmen from Aspen, Snowmass and nearby Basalt, and the challenger to the Republican representative for the Congressional District that includes Aspen. Every single one is a Democrat, as are over 70% of Aspen residents.
The letter-signers gave the newspaper owners two weeks to comply with their demands. If they don’t, then the letter-signers threaten “reactions.”
To make sure the newspaper owners get the message, the letter details the threatened “reactions.” They include:
“Directing our individual organizations to pull advertisements and notices from the paper; encouraging local businesses to do the same; refusing interviews with reporters at the Aspen Times; or calling for a boycott of the paper.”
This is astounding. Government officials explicitly referencing their government organizations are threatening to put a newspaper out of business as punishment for its editorial decisions about what to publish and when.
If these letter-signers as private citizens simply wanted to express their objections to the newspaper’s editorial decisions, fine. That’s what letters to the editor are for – to persuade or sometimes just to rant.
But they chose coordinated actions in their capacity as government officials to overtly threaten the existence of the newspaper.
That’s not persuasion, that’s not ranting, and that’s not legal. It’s a violation of the First Amendment because it’s governmental action abridging freedom of the press. The autocratic arrogance and legal unsophistication of these officials who should know better or at least be better advised, is truly breathtaking.
I hope they get their bullying butts sued.
Note to them: The case against you would be in federal court since the First Amendment issue is a federal one. You probably don’t know this, but there’s no federal court in Aspen. The forum would therefore be in Denver, presided over by a judge and adjudicated by a jury of people living in or near Denver. You may carry a lot of clout in your Aspen echo chambers where you’ve effectively banned dissenting viewpoints, but in Denver and the rest of the world they think you’re just a bunch of weirdos.
As an aside, this incident prompted me to reflect on my own firing from the Aspen Times a few years ago after I’d become a very popular conservative writer in a very liberal town. Perhaps the pressure to fire me culminated in a letter from these Aspen elites to the old owners something like this latest one to the new owners.
But the broader issue is not little ol’ me, of course, nor even the much bigger matter of the Aspen Times or its new owners. It’s the methodology of the left.
The left doesn’t seek to persuade. They abandoned the art of persuasion after losing most of the debates years ago. Now they coerce, bully and threaten. The conscious political strategy of the party of tolerance is . . . intolerance.
When the Supreme Court makes an abortion decision they don’t like, the left illegally leaks the opinion and threatens the Justices at their homes. Just for good measure, they burn down pregnancy centers.
When parents attend school board meetings to object to the woke curriculum, the left gets the FBI to investigate them as domestic terrorists.
When students or even tenured faculty challenge the politically correct dogma of universities, the left gets them suspended, expelled or fired.
And when Republicans purchase a local newspaper, the left threatens to put them out of business unless the new owners surrender editorial content decisions to the left.
The left bullies people in this manner not just because they enjoy it (though they clearly do) but because it works, for a while anyway. It intimidates everyone into pretending to comply – everyone from corporate boards to university administrators to not-for-profit charities to media outlets to cocktail party guests. Under such pressure, everyone folds as fast as Joe Biden trying to ascend the stairs of Air Force One.
But such victories are as unenduring as they are unearned. The left may successfully intimidate people in the public square, but not in the private voting booth. In November, they’ll see the limits to their methods.
Things worked out after the Aspen Times fired me. This blog now has over 800,000 readers, which is roughly 100-times the circulation of the Aspen Times. Join my readers with a free subscription HERE or by simply sending an email to theAspenbeat@gmail.com