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COLUMN - Plucking feathers from Chicken Little

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By Ben Carlson

Thanks to me abusing the power of the press, the judge-executive, mayor, city council and fiscal court can no longer do their jobs.

That is the opening salvo of an awesome letter I received a couple of weeks ago, blaming me for "stymieing" city and county government via my editorials and columns.

I lamented in last week's column that I could not print the letter in its entirety because when I called the supposed author, he denied writing the letter.

Frankly, I believe him and still do.

I asked in last week's column for the actual writer to give me a call and verify the letter, freeing me to print it.

That hasn't happened, which leads me to conclude that someone thought they could slip a slider past me and assign the blame for doing so to someone else.

Nice try.

Although my rules prevent me from printing it in full, I will share some additional content. And because the name the real author signed is apparently fraudulent, for attribution I will use the name Chicken Little, the poultry made famous for proclaiming that the sky is falling.

Here are some of Chicken Little's more salient points.

"Time and time again Mr. Carlson has used his newspaper to stop whatever he perceives as not good. Mr. Carlson, get out of the way and let the elected officials do what they feel is best for our community," wrote Chicken Little. "You screw and misrepresent facts to have it your way. It's time you stop interfering with government and run your newspaper.

"You probably need to quit your job and run for office. Apparently you know more about how to do their jobs than anyone else.

"Anderson County deserves a real newspaper, not the bias we see today.

"Award-winning editor and paper? That's funny! It's truly The Anderson Nuisance."

Well! Seems I've stirred Chicken Little's stew fairly effectively, and didn't need to bonk him on the head with an apple to do so.

I wonder, though, what Chicken Little's next step will be.

Will Chicken Little 1) follow his fairy tale verbatim and recruit friends such as Henny Penny, Cocky Lockey and Goosey Loosey to alert the King of my misdeeds? 2) Petition the King to do away with freedom of the press? Or 3) start a competing "Good News" newspaper that serves only as a mouthpiece for local government?

Any of the choices are fine by me, although I'm not certain which King (Beshear? Bush? McCain? Obama?) would waste his time listening to a bunch of cackling barnyard critters bemoan a local government being hamstrung by the press.

Option No. 3, though, does typically appeal to the Chicken Littles of the world. They are the types convinced that newspapers should only focus on good things, thereby giving the impression that our community is located next door to the Garden of Eden, or some such nonsense.

Well, Chicken, let me sprinkle some common sense into your feed bucket. The battle between good and bad news is as old as news itself. Ask yourself: Is a story about a big drug bust a good or bad news story? Chicken Little would likely say bad, because people will think we live in a drug-infested community.

Maybe, but it also points out that our police agencies are able to find and arrest people involved in drugs, which serves as a stern warning to others that, around these parts, drug dealers end up behind bars.

See? News, like, beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The same can be said for editorials, columns and letters to the editor. A strong editorial page keeps everyone including us - if chickens are brave enough to use their own names on letters - on their toes. A weak editorial page denies everyone, including chickens, a chance to have their say.

It's called the First Amendment, Chicken Little, and it's a grand thing.

Anyway, if Chicken can convince Henny, Goosey and Cocky to join forces and give me some competition, I say bring it on.

While you act like suckling calves trying to nudge your way beneath government's udder, old Foxy Loxey here will continue licking his chops and doing what he does best.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.