Because of the open nature of social media, The Neshoba Democrat has a policy of allowing readers to comment on news stories as well as on our Facebook wall without prior restraint or review.

What individuals say in the public square is their business and not for the Democrat to regulate or censor. The Democrat is in the news business, not the nanny speech business. Personal responsibility and civility are hallmarks of a free democracy and we expect better of our citizens than what is currently being reflected in Philadelphia and Neshoba County's electronic public square. 

The Democrat embraced social media several years ago because we saw Facebook and Twitter as the modern, electronic town square, a way to provide our readers with more information while allowing a broader, freer and more open exchange of ideas and information.

The electronic town square that is the Democrat's Facebook page leaves much to be desired at times - as it does this week - because of crude and offensive speech - speech with which we don't agree but is protected by the Constitution.

In a more quaint and responsible era, readers reduced their thoughts to writing, sealed the letter in an envelope and dropped it in the mail. Nowadays, people spout off behind a keyboard with very little thought. This is the nature of the Internet, which gives us plenty of reason for pause.

While we are sensitive to concerns, our advice is: Don't come to the public square if you're easily offended. The public square is brutal, but the alternative to silencing or censoring free speech in a democracy is worse. World Wars have been fought over it and thousands of Americans have shed their blood.

Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

Jefferson believed that ignorance and sound self-government could not exist together: the one destroys the other. And, to be sure, sound self-government requires a free and unrestrained press.

Where does a newspaper begin censoring speech in the electronic public square? Do we start with the Bible references? Do we allow only positive comments? Where does it stop?

Either the Democrat has a Facebook page or it doesn't. Either it allows reader comments or it doesn't. In the end, it's about individual responsibility - or the lack thereof. Facebook posts are not anonymous, so the authors are known.

Generations of American men and women have died defending the precious freedoms we enjoy, and it is upon those sacrifices and the notion of individual freedom and liberty for all that we stand humbly and reverently.

It grieves us mightily to see such a public display of depravity in a community this newspaper has loved and served for 130 years, but such is the age in which we live.

When good and decent people do nothing, evil flourishes and where there is no vision, they perish.