For years, FOX News has had an escalating feud with the “liberal establishment” that begins “The War On (fill in the blank)…” Most notably, “The War On Christmas” where everybody is “forced” to say “happy holidays!” instead of “Merry Christmas!”. Hyperbole being what it is, nobody put a gun to my head and made me say anything, the Constitution doesn’t deal with “big” issues like Christmas, and Santa (a particularly Christian/Capitalist icon) is still king at that time of year. Freedom of Christmas-calling is saved once again.
Now, though, we have the real deal — a war on a Constitutional right at the heart of democracy — a war on Freedom of the Press. To tone down my own hyperbole, no one’s fired a literal shot at a reporter to my knowledge, but freedom of the press is a bigger issue than political correctness ever was.
Our current President, two of his biggest surrogates– Kelly Ann Conway and Sean Spicer, and a member of his staff Steve Bannon — have all made statements to the effect that the Press should shut up, the Press lies, “the Press is the opposition party” and so on. This must stop.
First off, let’s be clear. “The Press” is not the administration’s issue. Opposition is. FOX News is the Press, Breitbart is the Press, just as much as NBC, ABC, and CBS are. A good Press tells stories. Yes, there is a bias because human beings bring bias to all creative endeavors like storytelling. Good Reporters back those stories up with facts.
We may not like those facts, or those stories, but there they are. The truth is the truth. It’s our job to feel what we feel about it, think what we think about it, cope with it, and make decisions based on it. When facts — reality– are in opposition to a person’s views, the person has the problem, not the facts. I don’t always want to hear the truth. Nobody does. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be said. For something more important than me — empowered leaders — to not want to hear the facts is an exceptionally bad idea. It nearly guarantees bad decisions.
When the President says “fake news” and it sounds like “la la la, I can’t hear you!” That’s a problem. For actual fake news (the story of MLK’s statue being removed, for instance) , he of course can — and should– hold the reporter responsible.in fact, the reporter shouldn’t have posted it in the first place, and maybe no retraction is good enough for printed lies. But holding the press to higher standards is very different than allowing no Press at all. We all should do that.
For democracy and debate to happen, we need a functioning Press. Take that away and we lose the very heart of democracy. A good Press is not “the opposition party”. It is the party. Let’s never forget that.
Resisting with peace,