As a citizen of the United States of America I have never been more fearful for the future. I despair of a POTUS that appears to me to be two Buds short of a six pack. I am outraged by a Congress that is focused on obliging donors and not serving constituents. I am appalled by an Attorney General fixated on stripping protection instead of seeking to safeguard. I am sickened to see members of the Cabinet using their positions to destroy what they promised to preserve in exchange for thirty silver coins.
But as terrifying as any one of these things may be, the combination of all pales in light of my feeling of absolute terror at the possibility that government leaders may restrict or even eliminate our right to have a free press.
I don’t think I am the only one hearing the drum beat warning about the shift happening within our nation. What was unthinkable a year ago is being done. And we only know this because of a free press.
With Trump disparaging the press every other breath, I thought it would be good to be reminded by another president (that wasn’t always praised and was not always happy with the press) of their importance in a strong and free society.
Quote: "Our citizens may be deceived for awhile, and have been deceived; but as long as the presses can be protected, we may trust to them for light." --Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart. 1799. Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government https://famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff1600.htm
From the article: “….President Trump hates the press. He spends nearly as much time attacking CNN and the “failing” New York Times as he does attacking Democrats. He’s referred to journalists as an “enemy of the people” both on Twitter and in public appearances. In March, he asked then-FBI Director James Comey to examine options for jailing reporters who published leaked information.
A poll from the Economist/YouGov, released on Wednesday, pushed the president’s ideas even further. It asked Americans whether they would support “permitting the courts to shut down news media outlets for publishing or broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate.” …”
Break in article and quote: "No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter." --Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1792. ME 8:406 Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government https://famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff1600.htm
From the article: “…The results were scary for anyone concerned about the future of American democracy.
According to the poll, Americans are roughly evenly divided on whether the US government should have the power to shut down unfriendly media outlets: 28 percent favor, 29 percent oppose, and 43 percent are unsure. But the results become really striking when you break them down by partisan identification:
A fairly large plurality of Republicans — 45 percent — support allowing media organizations to be shuttered. A scant 20 percent oppose the idea; that’s less than half the number who support it. The remaining 35 percent of Republicans have not made up their minds.
By contrast, more Democrats and independents oppose shutting down media organizations than support it (by a 21-point margin among Democrats and 2-point margin among Independents).
Let that sink in for a second: More than twice as many Republicans support giving the government power to shut down media organizations that it deems either “inaccurate” or “biased” than oppose it. Such a proposal isn’t something you see in democracies, as it would essentially end freedom of the press entirely. It’s along the lines of what you see in Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan’s Turkey.
Experts say it’s not hard to draw a straight line between these results and Trump’s rhetoric. Basically, they say, Republicans are adjusting their opinions on press freedom to fit the kind of language they hear from the leader of their party…”
Quote: "The most effectual engines for [pacifying a nation] are the public papers... [A despotic] government always [keeps] a kind of standing army of newswriters who, without any regard to truth or to what should be like truth, [invent] and put into the papers whatever might serve the ministers. This suffices with the mass of the people who have no means of distinguishing the false from the true paragraphs of a newspaper." --Thomas Jefferson to G. K. van Hogendorp, Oct. 13, 1785. (*) ME 5:181, Papers 8:632 Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government https://famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff1600.htm
From the article: “… Will Jordan, a poll analyst at the Global Strategy Group public affairs firm, told me. “This poll seems to show one way how Donald Trump’s norm breaking is trickling down and shaping the opinions of rank-and-file Republicans.”
Imagine this happening in another country
These poll results don’t mean that Trump is going to tear up the First Amendment. …
It’s jarring all the same. …. You could imagine seeing something like this in a country like Poland, whose authoritarian ruling party has purged critical voices from its public broadcaster, or Venezuela, where journalists who criticize the government are jailed under “defamation” charges….”
Both of those countries are undergoing what scholars Yascha Mounk and Roberto Foa call “democratic deconsolidation”: wherein a formerly democratic country starts to slowly collapse into some kind of authoritarian regime. The ruling parties in both Poland and Venezuela were democratically elected but proceeded to crack down on freedom of the press and other basic democratic institutions after taking power — with the support of their own hardcore backers….”
Quote: "To preserve the freedom of the human mind... and freedom of the press, every spirit should be ready to devote itself to martyrdom; for as long as we may think as we will and speak as we think, the condition of man will proceed in improvement." Thomas Jefferson to William Green Munford, 1799. Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government https://famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff1600.htm
From the article: “…In either of those countries, we’d look at a poll result like this and think, “Well, of course.” We wouldn’t be surprised that supporters of the ruling party back attacks on the free press when that’s what their leaders are doing.
Donald Trump isn’t jailing journalists or shutting down media organizations he sees as hostile or biased against him. But he has threatened to come after Amazon financially as punishment for hostile coverage from the Washington Post (which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos). Some of Trump’s aides told the New York Times that they were thinking about blocking the Time Warner/AT&T merger to punish Time Warner, CNN’s parent company, for the television network’s coverage.
These threats, and the overall tone of Trump’s rhetoric about the press, are quietly altering the way Americans think about restrictions on press freedom, to the point where support for the kinds of actions being taken in actual collapsing democracies is growing among Republicans….”
Quote: "The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure." --Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823. ME 15:491 Jefferson on Politics & Government https://famguardian.org/Subjects/Politics/ThomasJefferson/jeff1600.htm
From the Article:“….It is yet another signs that the foundations of our democratic system may be more rickety than we ever would have imagined six months ago…”