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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

What’s in a Name?

February 12, 2021

Why publicize gangs’ names and call it news? Call them what they are: neo-Nazis, racists, Know-Nothings, fascists, “Self-described White Christians.” In sum: today’s Republican Party.

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

Suppose an armed, violent gang is terrorizing a small town, using the internet to advertise its gang name to attract recruits. After the initial news coverage, and arrests, would it be legitimate for a newspaper, or any other media outlet, to omit the name of the gang from its daily reports? Not to suppress the news: to prevent the gang from using the press to advertise itself?

I believe it would be legitimate. In fact, as an editor at four daily newspapers, back when newspapers existed, we developed policies to deal with this. At one paper, we decided not to print the little punks’ gang “tags” after they were criminally charged, except in the initial report.

Why should we let “Cheetah” or “J-Rob” parade through news columns under false names? Name them.

Why let a gang of punks advertise the power of their gang in the middle of their criminal trial? Unless it’s to intimidate witnesses.

This is not “cancel culture” and it’s not suppressing the news.

After the punks were convicted, we’d print the name of their little criminal cult again in the final wrap-up, and maybe even print the tag names of the little bastards who did the crimes.

But not day after day. Why help them become Billy the Kid in their own minds? We reported the criminal charges against them under their real names.

That’s why, in this column, I will not mention the names of the criminal gangs that sacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, for which their hero is being impeached again.

What would be the point of repeating the gang names every day? Anyone who wants to know the names of the gangs who worship Their Peculiar Lord can find them online.

And I’m sick of reading about the so-called “beliefs” of these neo-Nazis. I know what their beliefs are, and so you do. That’s not what we need to know. What we need to know is who they are.

I thank The New York Times, The Washington Post, et al., for doing their homework and reporting on these gangs. But enough with the phony names. Name the people and tell us what they did.

Enough with what they claim to believe. Tell us what they have done. And don’t publicize gang names under the heading of news. Call them what they are: neo-Nazis, racists, Know-Nothings, fascists, “self-described White Christians.” In sum: today’s Republican Party.

(Note to Self: That ain’t gonna happen, Bob. Newspapers, and any other even semi-honest news — excuse me, media — organizations, know what a meme is. What ratings are. That’s one reason they keep mentioning the names of the gangs.)

So, am I asking the trade in which I have labored, lo, these 36 years, to censor itself? No. I am asking it to think just a wee bit harder about what it is doing.

It don’t take much time to think, and it don’t cost anything. As my Oma used to say: “It can’t hurt and it might help.”

We are in the midst of a trial that will almost surely result in no conviction. We all know why.

So please — New York Times, Washington Post, regional newspapers — don’t feed us any more thumb-sucking bullshit about the Constitution, Adam Burke and Thomas Jefferson. Name names.

Categories / Op-Ed

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