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In the comments on my last post, Carl DeMaio suggests that a lot of the letters to the editor are plants by operatives and that a better way to find out what The People are thinking is to ask them on the street.

Good point about the planted letters. I’m more than aware of the “AstroTurf,” as editors call those professionally written letters, especially since I’ve seen the same letter appear several times under different names during election season. But it’s pretty obvious from the malapropisms, syntax errors and general ineffective writing that lots of these letters are the real deal. Good AstroTurf shouldn’t be too erudite sounding, but you wouldn’t want it to sound as if it was written by a moron either.

But even planted letters are instructive. For example, a woman who wrote in after the assaults in Balboa Park following last year’s Gay Pride festival questioned why the paper didn’t write about the “hateful moral assault committed by the homosexual community against San Diegans of all ages through its degrading and indecent ‘pride’ celebration.” She even said the gay community showed “hatred of innocent children,” whom I guess she thought would be immediately transformed into homosexuals at the sight of men dancing down University in flamboyant costumes. (This letter was so profoundly loathsome, you really have to see for yourself.)

Whether this woman was a front for an organization or acting on her own, the sentiment is out there. We know that. I don’t care whose name was at the bottom vs. who wrote it, someone wrote it, and someone was willing to verify to the editor that he wrote it and have his name on it. That’s pretty much enough for me to know it’s a real opinion.

And sometimes, what a person is willing to say to more than 300,000 other people – 442,600 on Sundays! – truly astounds me.

RACHEL LAING

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