There's nothing "local" anymore. With the Internet, a letter to the editor, an editorial and even an editorial cartoon can sprout legs and trot across the globe to provoke protests.
Just ask Glenn Sheller, my colleague at The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, who recently published a cartoon by conservative Michael Ramirez in his Opinion section. Ramirez, a syndicated cartoonist, depicted Iran as a huge drain with cockroaches crawling in and around it.
The cartoon caught the attention of the Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which sent out an e-mail alert contending the cartoon demeaned all Iranians and was reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. Sheller received hundreds of protest e-mails from around the world. Their tone ranged from civil to threatening.
Sheller denies the organization's characterization of the cartoon and notes the irony of equating it with Nazi propaganda. After all, it's Iranian President Ahmadinejad who is calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and who denies the Holocaust ever happened.
It doesn't take much to trigger an international controversy these days. Letter to the editor writers in Bakersfield, who touch hot-button issues, such as animal rights, can provoke responses from people thousands of miles away. Their commentary is posted on special-interest Web sites, where visitors are urged to send protest letters. Sometimes the letters already are written for them. (MORE)