A Recent Facebook exchange regarding Freedom of the Press and the President’s desire to pull licenses of media outlets he labels as “Fake” with a person taking the side of President Trump ended with this statement by the other person regarding the First Amendment “When that was written, it was thought the media would always be on the side of the people!”
I feel compelled to respond.
Press and Media Historically have been Negative
On the contrary, the press and media historically have offered controversial, often defamatory articles and opinion as the Founders well knew. Yet, they included freedom of the press in the First Amendment.
Since then, many have wanted to control the press so that nothing “hurtful” to the nation, or their cause, in particular, would be printed. In 1835 William Lloyd Garrison, a noted editor and journalist, was dragged half-naked through the streets of Boston where the mobs called for him to be tarred and feathered because he was an anti-slavery activist and writer.
In 1837, a mob attacked the warehouse where Elijah Lovejoy, another journalist and anti-slavery advocate, had his printing press and printed articles opposing the horrors of slavery. A mob who felt that his published works and anti-slavery efforts were “hurtful” to the nation attacked his warehouse and after a standoff where shots were exchanged, murdered Lovejoy with a blast from a shotgun
One might say that these examples are invalid because these men were anti-slavery activists and engaged in a noble cause. At the time, however, that was not the opinion of many people, and the anti-slavery movement was looked upon as dangerous to the country by a large portion of the population. Their desire was to shut down any press that spoke out in defense of freedom for African Americans.
These are just a couple of examples. Calls to control the press have echoed around the country since its inception. During the Revolutionary War, every state passed laws against the press publishing articles contrary to the revolution. That was a driving reason freedom of the press is included in the First Amendment along with freedom of speech and the guarantee that government would establish no state religion. Those freedoms were considered foundational to all others.
Pro-Liberal Bias of the Press is Not New
Yes, the press and media have had a pro-liberal bias for decades, since the late 1960’s at the very least. It can be frustrating, but it’s no surprise, and it didn’t begin with Donald Trump.
The truth is that both major political parties cry foul when the press reports something they don’t like and both feel that their cause is just, or at least justified, by their desire to retain votes and their lucrative seats in the halls of power.
Free Speech and a Free Press Are not What Hurts the Country
The reality is that free speech and a free press, regardless of what it prints or broadcasts, is not hurtful to the country. What is hurtful is the failure of citizens to recognize the necessity for complete individual liberty and personal accountability.
An effort to control the media and press is a dangerous path on which to embark. Who gets to decide what is hurtful? Many would not like it if I were the “decider” and I would not like it if you were.
Perhaps some panel or group composed of thoughtful people could decide what is hurtful. But then, who gets to be on that panel or group. Who gets to select the group of freedom deciders who are only trying to protect the nation from hurt? Eventually, they will decide that something you or I say or do is hurtful, despite our heartfelt belief that we speak for the good of the nation. What then? Should they have the right to silence us because they feel we are hurtful?
If any answer yes, to that question, then they don’t believe in true freedom nor do they understand the inevitable consequences of denying freedom to others regardless of the reason. Eventually, their own freedoms will be stolen from them.
Our President, who has taken an oath to defend the freedoms protected by the Constitution, seems to think denying protected freedoms and bullying the press may be a good idea. That is disconcerting. That one fact makes him unqualified to hold the executive power of this republic.
Lip Service to Freedom?
What is troubling is that some, who give lip service to freedom seem to agree with him. To those, I suggest that instead of looking to a demagogue to “make America great again” and being outraged by every negative word from his opponents, Americans must take personal responsibility for America’s greatness or lack thereof.
The politics of gain and personal aggrandizement practiced by both sides of the aisle and in the White House must end. Good citizens must put their hands back in their pockets and stop waiting for the next handout from their favorite politician or solution to their personal problem.
America’s greatness is directly proportional to its dedication to the principles of Liberty embodied in, and protected by, the Constitution, including unfettered freedom of the press. The nation will be secure and unhurt as long as its people believe in complete and ultimate Liberty as the greatest protection of our freedom.