As war rages in the Persian Gulf, a number of anti-war demonstrations are being held across the United States. Opponents of the fighting certainly have a right to speak their minds and demonstrate peacefully, and most in Utah have done so. But when dissent turns to bomb threats, damage to property and disruption of other people's lives, a line is crossed that has nothing to do with democracy and free speech.
Bomb threats were received this week at Utah State University, Brigham Young University and the University of Utah, causing some disruption. In other parts of the country, protesters have blocked traffic, tried to keep people from entering government buildings, disrupted public events, burned a police car and have threatened other acts of "civil disobedience."What gives these people the right to interfere with the lives of other peaceful citizens, to prevent them from going to work or traveling from one place to another? Do they seriously expect others to believe that their stance is so morally superior as to justify their threats and attempts at bullying?
One anti-war coalition has vowed to make the country "ungovernable" with a militant show of force. There is more than a little arrogance in such behavior that claims the right to impose a particular view even though most other Americans may not feel the same way.
Some people seem to believe that if they do not get their way, they are entitled to throw a temper tantrum, preferably in a public place, and cause the most inconvenience possible to others.
Bomb threats are particularly cowardly. Given the potential danger to innocent lives, they have to be treated seriously, at least to some degree. But those who pose the threats discredit their cause by skulking in the shadows, causing difficulties without having the courage to stand up and be identified.
Some people complain that the news media pay too much attention to protesters, all out of proportion to their numbers, and the resulting pictures and stories make it look like protest is sweeping the nation, when in fact, most Americans - according to polls - support the war effort.
There is some truth to that complaint. If 600 students on a campus of 30,000 gather for an anti-war demonstration, it gets covered. The fact that the other 29,400 students may feel differently is essentially ignored.
The press cannot simply ignore disturbances or demonstrations and still do a responsible job of informing the public about what it needs to know. But the press also needs to guard against letting itself be used as a vehicle to make more out of anti-war protests than they merit.