The founders understood there were many threats to liberty.
We tend to look at and cast blame on presidents for the things they do or don’t do. Occasionally, we will decide that Congress is inept and not operating according to the Constitution. These are certainly important and have without a doubt been a serious contribution to our national ills. However, I believe there is a larger problem. We all know about it, but do we really understand the danger?
The First Amendment lists five specific liberties: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
© 2009 Tony Fischer, Flickr | CC-BY
Paul Harvey frequently spoke of how increased liberty requires increased responsibility. Our Founders well understood this and frequently spoke of how important virtues and morals were to our form of government. Benjamin Franklin was likely the least religious of our founding fathers, yet he once wrote, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
Because we do not have a personal relationship with the politicians and bureaucrats who ultimately control our very lives, we must have a method by which we can be informed. Enter the First Amendment and the assurance of a free press.
“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the Constitution of a free society is dissolved,” wrote Franklin in The Pennsylvania Gazette. John Adams said, “But none of the means of information are more sacred, or have been cherished with more tenderness and care by the settlers of America, than the press.” He continued, “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state.”
George Washington, Revolutionary War General and first President, said, “If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep, to the slaughter.”
These statements, of course, refer to a government that would be oppressive to a free press. A government that would prevent the press from covering the truth would force the press to publish false or misleading information or otherwise use the press to cover its ill intent and deeds.
But what of a press that is willingly complicit in malfeasance? Is that any less a danger to the republic?
By now, you have likely heard of an exchange between NBC’s Chuck Todd and White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway over the weekend. The heated discussion was over the crowd size in attendance at the inauguration. This is a terribly petty thing in my mind considering all the ills plaguing the nation.
“You did not answer the question of why the President asked the White House Press Secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood,” Todd stated. “Why did he do that? It undermines the credibility of the entire White House press office on day one.”
© 2009 Leo Fung, Flickr | CC-BY
Now, I certainly have no problem with this question. In fact, why is this question not asked more often?
Let’s look at something like the Affordable Healthcare Act or Obamacare, and some of its claims.
Politifact ruled the statements “If you like your plan you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” as “Lie of the year” in 2013. President Obama or his surrogates told this verifiable lie at least 37 times. Did Chuck Todd challenge anyone one this? Ever?
I have found no such attempt made by Todd or any in the MSM. In fact, Todd even told former Gov. Ed Rendell on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, that it was not the media’s job to correct the White House. “But more importantly, it would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it,” Todd told Rendell. “They don’t repeat the other stuff because they haven’t even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”
It would seem that Mr. Todd likes to say it’s not his job when it serves his purposes, and bore in for the details when it suits him. When the video surfaced regarding Jonathan Gruber and the deliberate misleading that was used to sell the ACA in 2014, Todd dismissed the failure to cover it because it was a “political story.” Of course, in the first ten days after the revelation of the video the NBC Nightly News did not cover the story one time and the “big three” networks gave the story scant coverage – six stories totaling about nine and a half minutes.
I’ll admit, it is hard to cover stories without adding my personal take on the issue. That’s why I am an opinion writer. It is imperative, however, for those who claim to be true news people to be fair and balanced. Benjamin Franklin was himself a publisher. Franklin stated, “Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.”
A popular examination… If the press avoids stories it does not like, twists the story to change the perception of the story or picks stories that tell a desired narrative, we do not have a free press. We have a tyrannical press. The idea of a free press is to avoid the appearance of or an actual relationship between the press and government of politicians.
Today we have a nearly infinite number of places to find our news. This, of course, is good news/bad news. While we have lots of choices, it is incumbent on the consumer to verify the product. I have yet to find a place that I can count on 100%, but a few are close. Take the time to vet your news sites. Satire is fine, just recognize it is satire and not real news. Look for consistency. Do they put truth above the story subject? Do they call out people and issues on both sides of the aisle?
Just as justice should be blind, so should be our media.
Since we are a capitalist society (almost), media has to have a revenue stream to survive. Revenue is based on readership, whether online or over the air. I do not like boycotts, in the sense a group gets together to and demands their members avoid purchasing from a company. And understand this, when you watch or click on a site, you are buying the product (news) they are selling. If you want the MSM and others to clean up their act, report the truth and hold ALL politicians accountable, do not give your business to any who do not do that.
Face it- media has done more to undermine and destroy the republic than any foreign enemy. Any veteran, active duty military, elected official (and indeed every citizen should have) sworn to, “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” If the media is undermining the Constitution and our liberties, how can we support them?
Photo Credit: “Danger,” © 2007 Yaffa Phillips, Flickr | CC-BY-SA