The marketplace of ideas
Last updated 7/26/2022 at Noon
A few years back, a colleague who works at another media outlet said, “You get spicy letters to the editor!”
This week’s tranche of letters proves her right.
As I told my colleague then, the “spiciness” of the letters reflects an engaged readership with strong opinions and passions, and the courage and capability to express them.
The Nugget has always believed that Letters to the Editor is a forum in the marketplace of ideas, defined as the concept that, ideally in a free society, ideas and beliefs should compete with each other in an open (preferably civil) discourse, uncensored by government or other nodes of social power.
The past couple of weeks have shown the marketplace in action.
Columnist Mitchell Luftig’s commentary “Inoculating children against conspiracy theories,” (The Nugget, July 13) drew a sharp response from some readers, including a guest op-ed this week from Charles Stephens. Last week, Dr. Wayne Schmotzer challenged Luftig, citing a U.K. study on vaccines. Other readers are challenging Dr. Schmotzer’s interpretation of that study. One reader, who preferred not to submit a letter to the editor, reached out to the author of the study Schmotzer cited by C.J. Reynolds et al.
Catherine Reynolds responded to the reader, who passed along her notes:
1. Our study only looked at individuals who had received three vaccine doses. The study was not designed and cannot make any statements about how three doses of vaccine makes you any more or less likely to become infected, reinfected, or chronically infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus compared to people who have received fewer doses or are unvaccinated. There are many other studies that show vaccination to be highly effective at preventing severe disease, even if it has proved less effective at preventing initial infection. To the best of my knowledge there are no studies showing that vaccination increases infection risk.
2. The main narrative of our study concerns how your immune response to the virus can be shaped by whether or not you have been previously infected by the virus. In our data, people that had been previously infected by the original strain of the virus (back in March 2020) had a weaker immune response to the new Omicron variant than people who had never been infected before (again –all – people in our study had been vaccinated three times). It was therefore previous infection by the virus that resulted in the “immune damping” — not vaccination. (All emphasis in original.)
Seeing local folks taking the measure of each other’s positions, and challenging their arguments or their interpretation of data, is a hopeful sign that robust competition in the marketplace of ideas is still a “thing” in 2022.
There are critiques of the concept of the marketplace of ideas, and it may be a flawed analogy in some respects. The internet and cable and streaming TV have the capability of developing a truly global marketplace of ideas, but instead tend to produce echo chambers and monocultures. But we believe that the marketplace of ideas still works.
In the spirit of John Stuart Mill’s belief that the free flow of ideas separates truth from falsehood and promotes liberty, The Nugget prefers to run as many as possible of the letters we get from readers, without letting one voice or another dominate the discourse. There’s always a line that has to be walked between allowing for the broadest possible discourse and dealing with commentary that is clearly intended only to be inflammatory and/or actually discourages discourse rather than promoting it, but our approach has always been a pretty light hand on the reins.
We appreciate you partaking of the marketplace each week. Keep it spicy, friends.
Editor in Chief