Calling Ken Burger to Task


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Let me open by saying that I am a huge Ken Burger fan. Have been reading the legendary Post and Courier columnist since I moved to Charleston seven years ago. Ken has been called one of the finest columnists in America and he has the plaques and awards to prove it. I also recommend his recent novel, "Swallow Savannah." I have a signed copy and thoroughly enjoyed it. He is a gentleman and a raconteur of great merit and these are both important southern virtues.

But I have to take issue with Ken over something he wrote recently. In fact, he devoted two columns to the matter of people honking their horns in the city, creating rude and unnecessary noise.

Well, I agree, Ken, most honking is rude and unnecessary. But I wonder why you singled out these miscreants when there are far worse offenders on the street all around us. I speak, of course, of motorcycles, "boom cars" and glass pack mufflers.

Yea, some jerk who leans on his horn when he gets in a hurry or somebody cuts in front of him probably deserves a lecture by the local gendarme. Maybe he should be sent to time-out for 15 minutes. But the fact is that he did not set out to be a jerk or make a public fool of himself when he got behind the wheel and put the key in the ignition. He just found himself in a fit of pique and punched the horn.

Motorcyclists are very different. Many of them spend hundreds of dollars on straight pipes to amplify the sound of their machines as much as possible. The same with people who drive boomcars and glass pack mufflers. Hundreds of dollars to make as much noise as possible on public streets. From where I am sitting by my open door on a beautiful Sunday evening in spring, I can motorcycles from three different directions — some of them a quarter-mile away or more.

Why didn't you write about them, Ken. Why did you pick on the poor guy who honks his horn in a moment of frustration? Maybe you knew from my recent experience what knid of reception you would get if you tried to criticize bikers. I got scores of nasty, mean, threatening letters in response to a recent column I wrote about them. But, you know, that's the risk you take when you sign on to be a journalist. If you are not outraging somebody, you are probably not doing your job. And by "somebody," I mean somebody who is able and willing to bite back. That definitely describes the biker crowd. But it probably describes the boomcar and glass pack muffler crowd as well. Both of those groups are backed
by a multi-million-dollar industry who would organize their customers, hire professional flaks and do whatever they had to if they thought you really threatened their business. But who speaks for the guy who honks his horn?

I think you've been spending too much time in the newsroom, Ken. Hit the street. Spend 15 minutes standing at the corner of King and Columbus, then at the corner of Rutledge and Calhoun, then at the corner of Market and Meeting. What do you hear out there? Who are the most egregious, obnoxious, obtrusive violators of the public peace. If you are honest, you will agree that it is not some guy honking his horn.


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