Criticism - by Gus Arguelles, 4F1EAA       May 22, 1999

Criticism is a "hazard" for every public or even private official particularly those elected. Presidents like Clinton, or Erap are subject to criticism, the UN Secretary General, the Pope or even the President of your Homeowners Association. Aside from persons, organizations too are subject to criticism, like the Church, police forces, Congress, or even the Supreme Court. It is an accepted norm in a democratic society where freedom of expression is valued. Newspaper columnists and editorials usually criticize almost anybody they fancy. Demonstrations and picket lines criticize government bodies and personalities for issues ranging from corruption and injustice to issues like the Visiting Forces Agreement. (VFA).

The nature of criticism is a statement of what happened and the critic's view of how a situation should be handled. Whether one considers this scandalous, libelous, or character assassination is quite subjective as we see in the papers. President Erap does not consider "Erap jokes" criticizing his intelligence serious but another President may consider it serious.

The subject of criticism, e.g., a politician or the Church, may reply to a criticism or keep silent. I cannot recall in these democratic time that our elected or appointed officials in the government telling the critics to stop criticizing them. Maybe this happened only during Martial Law days or in countries where there is limited freedom of expression. Similarly, in our democratic society, the subject of criticism does not get another entity to tell his critics to shut up. Will our elective or appointive officials ask the KBP to warn newspaper editors or publishers to stop a journalist to stop making critical comments to himself? Or will he file a TRO in court to prevent a columnist from writing critical columns about him? Taking the case closer to Ham Radio, I have read articles of Wayne Green W2NSD/1 in his 73 Magazine column "Never Say Die" criticize the ARRL on several occasions and issues. I don't think ARRL reacted negatively to those articles.

On this particular issue, the former District Director cannot stand criticism from an amateur and got PARA's Secretary General perhaps through the PARA Board to request our Club President  to disallow that member to criticize him and withdraw the publication of his letter from the internet website. This shows unfortunately how our elected officials in PARA think and how the organization reacts to criticism. I regret to say the least my profound disappointment on how they reacted to criticism.

There are two issues here. First the former District Director who cannot handle criticism and secondly PARA who decided to intervene in the case of criticism through the Secretary General's letter.

Individuals or governments may suppress criticism and the freedom of expression by declaring Martial Law or invoking the Internal Securities Act (in some countries). I think that the preferred and democratic option is to address the issues by publishing a rebuttal, or ignoring the criticism since all false criticism eventually die. When one tries to suppress the criticism, the more will people think that there might be some truth in the criticism. When a person or organization acts in accordance to his principles and conscience, he will not be deterred by criticism even if his actions are unpopular and are criticized. He may cite this as his reason for action. The Church for example is not deterred by criticism against its stand on abortion because it is based on a doctrine.

The other issue is for  an organization such as PARA to write to the Club President to " not allow the opinion of one as the opinion of all to be propagated and broadcasted in the Internet." This very letter by itself INCRIMINATES the PARA Board for getting itself drawn into a private conflict between individuals AND for attempting to subvert the freedom of expression over the internet. The letter is the Albatross that is now hanging in the neck of PARA. Can you imagine if the KBP asks in writing the editor or publisher of one newspaper to disallow one columnist from criticizing one of the officers of the KBP? My favorite quotation on the freedom of expression is " I do not believe in any word you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it!" The Internet is a forum of public expression and attempts to silence expression in this forum anywhere shocks most users.

My disappointment is greater in the PARA letter because as an organization it should have exercised more prudence in handling the situtaion. It should have attempted to informally mediate the conflict between the parties by perhaps inviting both to dinner and drinks or in case that fails acted with due process. What I mean by due process is after presumably receiving a formal letter of complaint from the former District Director, they should have furnished the critic with such letter asking for his side, downloading and reading the offending articles, BEFORE writing to our President to disallow such member to continue criticizing if ever that is a democratic option (which is not!).

What could have simply just died down has now been revived FULL BLOWN!

It is also unfortunate that so many comments and reactions are made by so many individuals without perhaps reading the original article(s) published in the Internet website.


73 de Gus

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