HOW APPROPRIATE that the "rally" of Klansmen in Montgomery County turned out to be as small as the minds behind it. Thanks to the reactions of authorities, politicians, civic leaders, ministers and people in general, this sideshow was put in perspective: there they were, an ungrand total of 24 robed adults standing in a field -- while others with better thoughts and better things to do turned out and spoke up elsewhere.

No gathering by any group wearing these sheets should be totally ignored, lest that be misread as encouragement. And, there is always some fear and suspicion that these gatherings are barometers of hatred in its many forms -- and that is a reason for monitoring them. But -- as is the case with many media-manipulating news subjects -- those who cover the news, as well as the leading figures in a county, need to balance the duty to monitor and report with the knowledge that the more public attention such doings attract, the more likely they are to lure the cowardly, bullyish and dim-witted who seek attention.

Police, having swiftly and loudly denounced the claim that this was a "support your police" rally, were there to ensure the isolation of the assembly-- and to repel an attempt by 100 members of another group to resort to rough stuff. There was a loud and clear response to the ugliness that the little rally symbolized. Elsewhere some 1,800 people rallied and/or marched in protest.

On Sunday, actions spoke louder than words, as several hundred Christians converged on Shaare Tefila synagogue, near White Oak, to help scrub away abusive words that had been spray-painted on the building last week. Said Kay Finan, a member of the nearby St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic parish, "We decided to bring our kids and show them . . . and to say no."