“In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.”
– Justice Black NYT v. US 403 US 713
This quote drawn from the archives of Justice Hugo Black speaks to one side of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. But, the Bill of Rights is as much a policy statement demanding we look at the complementary meaning and its responsibility to speak to truth and fact. It suggests we must remember the role of the “free” press and the impact the press may hold to not only shape but potential distort the truth it claims to report. It’s when the commercial aspects of the business drive the manufacture of controversy to “sell” the product known as commentary as though it is truth and fact, becomes a lie in itself.
Such is the case with the Trayvon Martin case in Sanford, Florida. The politics of race has been presented to assure the sale of newspapers and other media advertising. Racism has become the issue rather whether a man felt the attack directed against him was a threat to his life or not. The issue has been twisted into an indictment of a Caucasian’s right to question the presence of a young man of color in a predominantly up-scale neighborhood; was it profiling led to the death of this young man? Or, was it because the Caucasian wanted to assure the young man belonged in the area? Did the young man have the right to “stand his ground” as well as the defendant?
The “free” press now decides the direction of the reportage of this incident. There were only two people at the scene may tell us what really transpired. One is dead. All of the news-readers, commentators and “experts” theorizing concerning the motive of one participant versus the actions of the other and then postulating on potential societal effects have muddied the waters surrounding this case. These people speak as though their thoughts are fact and therein lay the danger.
One group or another says there will be repercussions for the production of a “not-guilty” verdict. This inflames the communities of both races. One wants their concept of justice. The other wants to let it be known violence will be responded to with violence. And the “Free Press” inflamed the discussion.
The “Free Press” has morphed from the responsibility of being; “a free and unrestrained press … effectively expose(ing) deception” to becoming the progenitor of theories, innuendo and directive supposition. The press becomes the mutant cell grown out of control and malformed to the level of becoming a cancer destroying its host; the integrity and reliability as reporter of fact as opposed to being a director of society’s thinking.
Fact is truth in existence. It can’t be shaded without interjecting personal opinions having no place in the reportage. It can’t be misinterpreted unless the theory, unfounded and unrepresentative of the thought processes of the actual participants is allowed to suffer biased interpretations and direction of thought to ensure advertising dollars grow. The controversy ginned up by the reporters/commentators assures profits.
The Press is driven by the need for income just as any business venture is. Success is not guaranteed unless advertising is sold. The old adage of:”If it bleeds it leads!” still commands the battlefield for profits in journalism.
It’s when the “…the press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people” betrays that trust guaranteeing its protections, we the people, become endangered for the mind-control they seek to employ.
We must separate reporting from commentary and it must be understood where the one ends and the other begins.
The media is NOT doing this.
Thanks for listening (by the way, these are my thoughts and nothing more.)