Posts Tagged ‘freedom of the press’

“The Greatest Threat to Democracy”

February 26, 2017

“The fake news media is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people.”

— Donald Trump, President of the United States of America.

“The first thing dictators do is shut down the press.”

— Sen. John McCain, R -Ariz.

“We must challenge this statement that the news media is the enemy of the American People. This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”

— William H. McRaven, retired four-star admiral and Navy Seal, Commander of the bin Laden raid.

Truly news that really is “fake”is an enemy of a democratic republic,  but to apply that label to mainstream news organizations like CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post just because they ask tough questions is absurd. Without a free press a country cannot be free.

That is not to say that mainstream news organizations or any news reporters are above being criticized.  It also doesn’t mean I agree with the practices of some of them. However, to try to shut them down because they hold a presidential administration accountable and fact check what its representatives say, or oppose them editorially, in my view, is an unacceptable threat to democracy.

To me the most important amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the first one:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or of abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of  the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

(The Trump quote was contained in a Tweet. The McCain quote is from an NBC Meet the Press interview, and the McRaven quote is from The Daily Texan.)

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In Defense of The Hell Raisers

August 30, 2008

  The Ledger-Enquirer’s Ben Wright writes that Columbus Council may move the public agenda to the end of the meeting again. Naturally, the gadflies who make weekly appearances are raising hell about it, which is fine. It’s the hell raisers who often right wrongs. To name a few: Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Voltaire, and Martin Luther King, Jr. for a start. That’s not to say that any of the weekly complainers who come before Columbus City Council are in that league. It’s only natural to get the idea that they are seeking attention.  Whatever their motive, it’s their right to speak in my view.

  Which, brings us, as you knew I would get around to, the First Amendment, which guarantees the right of free speech to all Americans.  But, the big catch to that is that, as a number of thinkers have said, free speech isn’t free. What good does it do to speak freely about an important issue if nobody hears what you say? If you are T. Boone Pickens you can buy millions of dollars of TV commercials to tell the country that drilling is not the answer to freeing our country’s dependency on foreign oil. “Drill, drill, drill, but it’s not going going to stop the flow of American dollars to countries that don’t even like us.” He’s selling wind power and natural gas and he has the right idea, in my view, but that’s not the point.  The point is that he is being heard because he has the money to be heard. Also, I like this definition of freedom of the press: “Freedom of the press only belongs to those who own the presses.”

  One great answer to this inequity is what I am doing right now.  People all over the world can read this – that doesn’t mean they will, because I don’t have the money to promote the website address – however, some people are reading it and the cost is almost nothing. That’s why the Internet is so important to the concept of free speech and we can really be thankful for it.

  Power does need to be spoken to, because the old saw about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely has a lot of truth to it. So, we have to put up with those who sometimes seem to be gratifying their egos, and who were probably sent to the principals office a lot when they were young kids because they acted out to get attention, but that’s one price we have to pay for free speech.  It’s worth it.

  Council can move the public agenda to the end of the meeting, but it will be considered a move to stifle free speech, to prevent the speaking to power which is very important in keeping a society free, especially when it is speaking truth to power.