We’re Going To Miss Freedom Of The Press When It’s Gone

You may not realize it, but our democracy is in danger. 

The warning signs have been there for awhile. Most recently, our president praised a U.S. Representative from Montana for physically assaulting a reporter who was asking difficult, uncomfortable questions.

This same president said he wasn’t overly concerned about the whereabouts and physical well-being (or, in fact, the life) of a Saudi journalist living in the U.S. because “he’s not an American citizen.”

You know, we’re going to miss freedom of the press when it is gone.

The Founding Fathers recognized that our fledgling country needed a free and robust press to survive and thrive — so much so, the very first amendment they made to the U.S. Constitution was one to guaranteed a person’s right to speak and write about topics that might offend or even anger those in power.

In fact, that freedom was used so…well…FREELY, that it’s often shocking to read what was printed in the late 1700s and early 1800s about those same Founding Fathers. (Ron Chernow’s Hamilton has many great examples of a press that went maybe a little too far. And yet, the brand-new country managed to survive, most likely because of that very freedom to call out injustice and corruption, no matter who was committing it.)

The Founding Fathers knew how important it was that journalists be able to investigate, and detail, and enumerate the various wrongs that had been perpetrated by kings and governments and free men alike.

Although the Founding Fathers sometimes strenuously disagreed with the things that were said, they recognized that it was important to have men (and now, women) who could call the government to account.

We ignore that tradition and bedrock right at our peril. It is time for each of us to stand up for our journalists, as they stand up for us, holding our elected — and non-elected — public servants to a high standard of integrity.

As the Washington Post masthead says, “Democracy Dies In Darkness.” Indeed it does. When power goes unchecked, it runs roughshod over everything in its path. Normalizing violence against the news media will make it that much easier to normalize violence against those private citizens who express unpopular viewpoints.

And that’s not American.






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