freedom of the press is a necessary pain

So Cherish Clarke has appointed herself as censor-in-chief of the Yukon. Clarke, the organizer for the territory's Idle No More protests, announced that she's helpfully come up with a list of publications that are appropriate for the public to consume.

So Cherish Clarke has appointed herself as censor-in-chief of the Yukon. Where does she think she lives, North Korea?

Clarke, the organizer for the territory’s Idle No More protests, announced earlier this week that she’s helpfully come up with a list of publications that are appropriate for the public to consume. The Yukon News is fine. (Whew!) So is the Whitehorse Star. (We grudgingly agree.) Ditto with broadcast stories by the CBC, APTN, CKRW and CHON.

She doesn’t say whether it’s kosher to read What’s Up Yukon and Up Here magazine, so you may not want to take the risk. (Sorry, guys.)

What’s most assuredly not fit for public consumption is the Midnight Sun News, an amateurish monthly news pamphlet that purports to report on the Yukon “unfiltered.”

Why is this publication beyond the pale? Why, they had the gumption to print a column by a B.C. conservative activist, Dean Skoreyko, who takes a dim view of Idle No More.

Make no mistake: Skoreyko is a first-rate bozo. He tactlessly mocks Attawapiskat Chief Teresa Spence for being fat (although we suspect many of the people upset by this wouldn’t object to the fat jokes aimed at Toronto’s former mayor, Rob Ford), insinuates that many First Nation protesters don’t have jobs, and dismisses climate change as an “invisible meteorite strike.”

Many lefties would find the column irritating, which is, we’re sure, precisely Skoreyko’s intent. But it’s bizarre that Clarke sees this as grounds for a far-reaching boycott against businesses that bought advertisements in the Midnight Sun News, as well as the print shop that produces it.

This is wrongheaded for many reasons. Pardon us while we state what we hope is already obvious.

The views of a columnist are not necessarily the same as those held by a publication. Nor are the views of a publication the same as its advertisers. And the owners of a print shop are by no means required to agree with all the competing viewpoints represented in the material that they produce for a living.

To fault Skoreyko for being “biased and negative,” as Clarke did in a tweet, misses the point that columnists are paid to have opinions – often negative ones.

This helps explain why, when our readers disagree with Al Pope’s views on trade on China, or Keith Halliday’s take on our MP’s performance, they don’t ring up the Nissan dealership and threaten to withhold business.

That would be silly. But that’s what Clarke has done.

Don’t get us wrong: boycotts have their place in free, democratic societies like ours. People have a right to vote with their wallets, and to decline to support businesses they view morally repugnant. But Midnight Sun has done nothing wrong, unless you believe that publishing a conservative’s viewpoint on Idle No More is somehow illegitimate.

It isn’t, and Midnight Sun has done no harm by publishing the column. That’s what makes this case different from the economic boycotts that aimed to topple South Africa’s apartheid regime, or fight segregation in the American South.

Skoreyko isn’t inciting a race riot. He’s complaining about protesters inconveniencing his commute. If you don’t like his writing, here’s a simple solution: don’t read him. Nobody’s forcing you.

Midnight Sun has even offered to print a rebuttal by Clarke. She’s declined, which only makes her appear that much more unreasonable.

Clarke recently wrote that “democracy can be loud, ugly and messy, but it’s about bringing together all voices.” We couldn’t agree more, and we wish her actions squared with this view.

The boycott is also probably the most wonderful publicity stunt that Midnight Sun’s advertising manager could have dreamt of. So, on a practical basis, Clarke has only strengthened her political foes.

There’s probably also a broader lesson here for protesters seeking to win the public’s sympathy. Boycotts, along with roadblocks, lawsuits and other coercive measures, are an easy way to alienate people.

If anything, the current melodrama has robbed Clarke and her supporters of a chance to clearly articulate how the federal legislation they’re protesting affects the Yukon. (So far, our best answer to that question is, by and large, it doesn’t.)

Clarke does raise an interesting question: is Midnight Sun a real newspaper? We aren’t sure. But we know this much: we’re not comfortable with letting someone like her decide. Why not leave that to readers, instead?

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