With the birth of our nation just days away, I wanted to write about something I believe is absolutely sacred to the soul of this country, the fourth estate. In the last several months, this estate has come under heavy, almost constant fire from not just government officials, namely the President, but from some very powerful people who hold the reins behind those who govern us.
Fake news has become a regularly stated word and if you Google it, you get over 167 million results. Granted, there are some outlets out there that are not reliable and it isn’t just the Enquirer that should come to mind. That being said, just because someone doesn’t necessarily like the coverage or the stories that are being reported, this doesn’t mean there is not truth there.
Over the course of the last several years, more and more media organizations have being consolidated or bought by the powerful elite and this is a dangerous trend, my friends.
Freedom and the fourth estate go hand in hand. This is the last check in our set of checks and balances birthed by the minds and blood of our founding fathers over two hundred and forty years ago. It was the press that played a very critical role in the founding of this nation.
Thomas Jefferson said, “[t]he only security for all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed.” And here is my favorite part, “[t]he agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary to keep the waters pure.” “Necessary to keep the waters pure,” what a great quote and pure Jefferson. My friends, this constant attack on our free press is not in our interest as the many who are governed by the few.
Imagine this, if you will, if libel laws were strengthened two decades ago, perhaps the reporting which exposed the serial rapes of kids by Catholic priests might never have come to light. Imagine the harm that might have continued because media organizations were too afraid of lawsuits to report on these crimes?
Some might say, “but Doc, no one is taking away our constitutional right to freedom of press.” Sure, not right away, but these things happen slowly and over time to ensure there is not a shock to the political system, to ensure the compliance of the many. Authoritarianism isn’t something that happens overnight, it is a long process with freedoms eroding over time “for the good of everyone.”
Let’s use Germany as an example. Hitler was lawfully elected and the Nazi party gained power over time, not in one bloody coup. Now I am not comparing our government or our current administration to Hitler or the Nazi party but simply using what happened to Germany over the course of two decades to expose the path to which this Neo-nationalism can lead to. Suffice to say, placing pressure and constrictions on the press is one of the most vital steps towards diminishing freedom to the masses.
We desperately need a free and independent press not just to ensure the freedoms that were paid for in blood and tears but to keep those we provide so much power to in check. No matter who you are, power can be a very intoxicating drug and it is the duty of our press to ensure our politicians and the power brokers behind them are not driving under the influence.
So I will end with this quote by Jefferson, “I am… for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.” Hard to argue with that.
Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.