Why we published Nicholas Pell’s article on the Alt-right

 

There has been considerable adverse comment on our decision to publish an on-line article by Wicklow-based American writer Nicholas Pell on the Alt-right movement.

Rather than address the comments individually we feel it is better to set out the general editorial considerations behind the decision.

The first and main point is that the purpose of the Opinion and Analysis section is to inform readers about the issues of the day, offer insights and give them something to think about. Its purpose is also to stimulate and advance arguments about matters of public interest.

The piece by Nicholas Pell met these criteria. At a minimum it decodes a lot of the Alt-right movement’s language and at best it gives a clear indication of its thinking and ideology.

We took the view that someone reading the piece would be better informed about the Alt-right movement and what it stands for.

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There is a wider issue of to whom we should or should not give a platform in The Irish Times. There are limits of course, but fundamentally we don’t subscribe to the notion of denying a platform to people we don’t agree with or that will provoke strong debate, as the Nicholas Pell piece has done. We have, for example, recently run trenchant pro and anti-abortion pieces.

The existence of the Alt-right cannot be simply ignored. It was a factor in the US election and is closely associated with figures in the incoming administration. We would argue, moreover, that anybody who seriously opposes it should want the public to know what the Alt-right really stand for.

Ultimately we trust in the ability of our readers to make their own minds up. We believe they expect to read things from time to time that challenge them.

Some of the language in the piece has clearly offended people which was not our intention. We felt on balance that leaving it in gave a deeper insight into the nature of the Alt-right movement.

There is a wider question of balance, which will be addressed via publication of Letters to the Editor, further articles on the topic and the comment facility on the website.

Finally it is worth pointing out that the view of The Irish Times on any issue is expressed directly in the leader columns where the paper’s opposition to what the Alt-right stands for has been unambiguous.

John McManus. Opinion Editor

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