I haven’t a clue what any of the speakers said at this week’s Libertarian conference. I wasn’t there, so I don’t feel qualified to comment or report on what was said. I do, however, know a bit about some of the speakers’ backgrounds, due to all the media coverage and speculation the conference has generated in the past week-and-a-half. Colorado Senator Charles Duke, for instance, has been "linked" to the Montana Freemen, the group which holed up in a ranch and held the FBI at bay for nearly three months earlier this summer. One of the stories I read said Duke was invited by the Freemen to mediate between them and the FBI. He quit, the story said, out of frustration with the Freemen’s position. The Salmon Arm Coalition Against Racism reported that an American group that monitors extreme right-wing organizations says Duke is an avid militia supporter. That may be, but rather than stories based on third-hand information, maybe someone should put some facts forward. Would any one of us expect any less if we were the subject of such scrutiny? The danger here is not so much Duke speaking in public as it is calls for the censorship of public speech. Those calls are being tacitly supported by some members of the media — the so called defenders of free speech — who have given so much time and space to the "links" Duke and Fully Informed Jury Association member Larry Dodge are alleged to have. I repeat, I don’t know what they said at this week’s conference. I doubt that I would share many of the political or philosophical views of Duke or Dodge. And if they called for the armed overthrow of the government or persecution of a race this week then they can and should be prosecuted. But to condemn people by innuendo, as some media reports have done, is no less a crime (attempting to prevent free speech) than that which many fear Duke and Dodge will commit. If we in the media were truly interested in extreme right-wing statements we only had to look at hockey commentator Don Cherry’s nationally syndicated column this week, in which he stated "Russians and Swedes always cheat." Don’t expect Cherry’s column to be pulled.

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