Freedom of the Press

This will be a biased blog post.  The bias will be mine.  The bias is formed by my life, my education, and my beliefs.

When the United States was young, very young, we wrote a document called “The Constitution“. The purpose of this document was to correct the many problems that were identified by our first attempt at starting a government with “The Articles of Confederation“. (For those who don’t remember these, they were an attempt to make the states the center of the country and to grossly limit the powers of the federal government).  Part of getting “The Constitution” accepted, was the creation of a the first 10 amendments.  These amendments are know as “The Bill of Rights“.  

The “First Amendment” was created, in my mind, as the MOST important amendment.  While the NRA and other gun rights supporters may feel that the “Second Amendment” is the most important, I tend to disagree.  

The first address a few issues that were critical for a representative democracy. Let’s look at the words:

“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.”

First, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”.  With much of the country being settled by families that had lived under monarchies (who were “legitimized” by god, i.e. by a religious fiat), removing this aspect and allowing people to worship in the matter which is aligned with their own beliefs and conscious, was critical to allowing ideas and thoughts to grow.  With no establishment of religion, people can also choose NOT to believe in a good or religion.  That is there right.

Second, “or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press;”.  Again, when your prior government was announced to be anointed by god, and therefore unassailable, the freedom of speech and the press phrase shows that the people are allowed and encoured to speak up, and have an advocate in the press.  We see this point challenged quickly with the “Alien and Sedition Acts.”  The idea of voter suppression was a key part of these acts, the Federalists were worried that too many people were becoming citizens and would change the direction of the company.  Three of the four acts will quickly repealed after Thomas Jefferson became president. 

And third, “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Governament of a redress of grievances.” And finally with a thoughtful and vocal populous, the writers of this amendment encourage us to question the government and petition for change.  

I am a supporter of the first amendment. I got my undergraduate degree in Journalism.  I podcast. I blog. 

When I see the behavior of government officials attacking the press, because they don’t agree with questions or stories, I look back at the first amendment and like to call BS. We have these right, and even when we don’t agree with people, they have the right to speak their minds.  Free speech, can be done thru words and actions.

Latest Musings (January 2017)

OK, this post may rub people the wrong way, but my goal for this blog has always been away of thinking out loud.  My thoughts are just that, my thoughts.

We have just witnessed a huge, tremendous, historic election and inauguration. Well, it wasn’t huge in turn out, with a lot of people sitting out the election.  In my opinion people sat out for one of three reasons:

  1. Frustration with the selection of candidates.  I was not a major supporter of Hillary Clinton, and I never understood the visceral hatred that she engendered with a whole swath of the electorate.  I was a fan President Bill Clinton, I even had the opportunity to see him twice… once when he was running for President in 1992 (got to shake his hands) and once a few years ago in North Carolina.  He oversaw an impressive era of growth and transition.  But he wasn’t running. I was never a fan of Donald Trump, to me he represents the worst of worst.  In my opinion, his public persona on his reality TV show is the epitome of the entitled CEO.  He ran a campaign appealing to the base hatred of the masses, racism, sexism, isolationism, and nationalism. All things, I believe, have driven horrible behavior in people since the dawn of time.
  2. Systematic gerrymandering of state election practices.  Both parties republicans and democrates have practiced this over the years, but the republicans have perfected this over the last two decades.  When we look at the results of the popular vote and the electoral college vote, there is a disconnect between what the people want and what they got.  I don’t believe we should only look at the popular vote, as this impacts minority and underrepresented voters, in the election of their representatives in congress, but this gerrymandering was set up to play to the extremes of both parties.  And now we see the results.
  3. Focusing on personalities instead of policies.  When the majority of the republican primary was driven by attacks and bullying by Donald Trump against the other candidates, “lying Ted”, etc.  This same behavior was passsd into the election with “Crooked Hillary”, which caused people to not engage.  The focus on email servers, which were proven multiple times to not be different behavior than the prior two Secretaries of State, seem to me to force people to focus on playing into the personality discussion instead of the policies.  On the Trump side, he once again played to fear, uncertainty and doubt instead of detailed policies.  I am wondering if in the next two years, we see a major backlash to the outcomes of the policies that follow.

Since the election is over, we now are seeing major backlash from the progressive supporters.  I expect given the systematic gerrymandering and playing to the extremes of both parties, we would have seen similar backlash on the far conservative right too.  

I went to Journalism School and have long been frustrated that cable news has gone from news to opinion.  My belief is that this “business” focus of news has been the cause of the loss of respect that the news has gotten.  It is why I don’t call it “the media”.  The media includes entertainment, the news is about facts.  Dan Rather has been doing a great set of blog posts on Facebook for the last year.  Reminds me of Walter Cronkite.  I enjoy NPR and the BBC. Both of which provide long form news stories and in depth analysis.  The Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC’s of the world to me are more entertinament then they are news.  I hope what we are seeing with the total lack of respect for the “forth estate” on holding our government accountable doesn’t cause even more people to bow out of the election.  If it does, I am afraid we will see more “Donald Trumps” in government.  Years ago we saw the rise of the MBA President (treating government as business) which I believe is a big mistake.  I’d hate to see what comes next with our current trajectory.