theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Biggest THREAT to the First Amendment is the PRESS Itself

Erik Root

The media has been deceptive and/or outright lying about Trump for a long time now. Mollie Hemingway detailed just a few of their whoppers in a recent piece. When the president exercised his constitutional authority to fire FBI Director James Comey, the New York Times published a story accusing Trump of pressuring Comey to end his investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who is also supposedly related to the story of the Russian collusion canard. Part of the problem with that story is that it was published just in time for the evening news push for “breaking news” and when such stories are rarely properly challenged. The object is ratings.

Never mind that the story was based on complete hearsay, that the reporters never secured the original documents in question (and still haven’t), and that we have testimony from Comey under oath and saying the exact opposite of what this report claims.

Recognizing the genius of the American Founding, Calvin Coolidge once said that democratic forms of government are an exercise in rule and ruled. He believed that the government was controlled by the consent of the governed. The people were sovereign.

Since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, the media have sought to undermine his legitimacy. So assured were they of their own superior intelligence about electoral politics, that even Fox News anchor Chris Wallace was astonished at the outcome. Even networks built to counter the left-wing bias of the legacy media could not counter the bias of the new class media elites. They were all certain Trump would be trounced by Clinton. In this our expert elites were all wrong, and that should cause us to pause and consider what else might they have wrong. Can’t we do better than the elites we have now?

Increasingly, the press cares more about competition with “Access Hollywood” than it cares about journalistic ethics, especially when it comes to the overuse of anonymous sources. It used to be a matter of practice that journalists would confirm at least one on the record source before running a story that only relied on anonymous sources.

The elite media, including Fox News, are making a mockery of our freedoms, and especially the freedom of the press. No one represents the mindset of elite media more than Fox News’s Wallace, who also took Trump out of context arguing that his criticisms of the press means that he wants to shut them down.

In fact, Wallace contended that Trump is worse than Obama when it comes to the press. This claim is astonishing in its blatant dishonesty. Wallace, of all people, should know that Obama is known to have spied on another Fox reporter, James Rosen, and then to have leveled an espionage charge against Rosen. In fact, Obama tried to jail more journalists and their sources than any other president. Wallace also said recently, that the press must be free to do its job because it is their right and because they are a watchdog for the people.

There are two significant problems with the Wallace mindset about the First Amendment: 1) the idea of the “press” never meant to imply an institutional right. Rather, the freedom it seeks to protect is an individual freedom. In other words, those rights don’t adhere to any official organization, they adhere to individuals, and 2) any person who speaks, writes, or prints, his or her opinions must also be held responsible for those opinions. The press, as a class, is not by virtue of that status granted a magical pass to utter untruths or to slander people.

It is revealing that Wallace defends his profession and not the free speech rights enjoyed by all, including the president. He sees only a right people like him enjoy by means of their employment and position in society. How oligarchical.

During the congressional debate over the Bill of Rights, James Madison proposed the wording this way: “the people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments.” In the original wording of the 1789 Amendment, these freedoms were thought of as “great bulwarks of liberty.” Freedom of speech or press are synonymous terms.

With all of the media’s hysterical bloviating about their superiority and unquestioned authority protected by the right of a free press, we should remind them that the First Amendment is not merely a natural right to comment publicly on politics, but that speech carries with it a duty to be truthful.

Since free speech is an individual right, it should be protected as long as it isn’t injurious. That is, in keeping with the understanding of natural right to speak freely, there is an equal and corresponding duty not to violate that right in another person. In other words, those who exercise a right must respect another person’s right to the same or void theirs. Since individuals have a right to free speech, there is a duty not to abuse it, or to violate another person’s right to speak.

There is no requirement for the government to protect injurious speech. In fact, punishing injurious speech is a means of protecting the natural right to free speech. Such false speech that harms others is punishable. And it is the province of the government to protect the natural rights of individuals in such cases. As Thomas G. West has noted, “freedom of speech is not freedom for licentious speech.” Injurious speech includes injury to the character or reputation of an individual. To engage in such an act is to abuse the liberty an individual possesses.

Far from protecting the First Amendment and exercising it in the manner it requires, the media and the elitist press have continuously flaunted the intent of that protection and absconded in their duty. With each fake news story, they have engaged in licentious speech harming not only the president in his reputation, but those of people who are associated with him.

They have breathlessly blamed Trump for revealing information that they cannot prove he has revealed even as they then reveal classified information themselves. Only the most irrational and propaganda driven press could defend such an indefensible act.

Hiding behind a limited and perverted view of the First Amendment, the press is trying to usurp the consent of the governed by overturning the election and by lying about the events of the day through gossip and deception. Their intent is to confuse the public so that they, in their infinite and superior wisdom, might choose our representatives for us.


No comments:

Post a Comment