BOOK REVIEW: Without a Free Press, There Can Be No Free Speech
by Doug Ross @ Journal
What is a ‘free press’?
Perhaps we can all agree that some of the goals of journalism are:
• A commitment to report the verifiable truth to the citizenry
• To serve as an independent monitor of those in power
• To report comprehensively and accurately issues of interest to the free and civil society
In his latest bestseller — already number four on Amazon’s list even before its release [update: it’s now number one] — Mark Levin traces the lineage of American media from the early Patriot Press to today’s disconcerting situation.
I call it disconcerting because it is clear that half of the country simply does not trust the ideological echo chamber that now makes up 95% of current media outlets.
Surveys indicate that few Republicans trust the media, while the majority of Democrats do.
In other words, today’s media has abandoned the interests of half of the entire country.
The Road to the Present
The printing press was the first vehicle in the early American experience to provide a forum for reporting the news. There were few such printing presses, and they often had to be moved to avoid confiscation and destruction by the British government.
The free press then advocated for the principles that became Americanism: liberty, private property rights, low taxation, and — most importantly — individualism.
From about 1780 to the Civil War, the Patriot Press indeed took sides on major issues, but they also clearly identified the views with which they sided and supported.
In the 20th century, the progressive movement — led by the likes of Woodrow Wilson — devoured not only the government, but also the media itself.
The progressives advocated for the ‘professionalism’ of journalism; that is, a handful of elites would decide what constituted newsworthiness. After all, they reckoned, the rabble was either too stupid or too busy to think for themselves.
This era led directly to the current state of journalism.
Levin highlights a fascinating litany of current day examples where news and opinion are blended so thoroughly that they are virtually indistinguishable.
Is Trump the Greatest Threat to a Free Press?
For more than two years, we’ve heard President Donald J. Trump depicted as a tyrant, a dictator, and a madman who represents ‘the greatest threat to a free press’ in American history.
But Levin conducts a graceful tour through American history that obliterates this assertion.
He reminds us that John Adams and his party installed “The Alien and Sedition Act”, that allowed the government to imprison those who criticized its activities and even gave it the power to shut down newspapers.
During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln shuttered 300 newspapers and imprisoned certain journalists as the great conflict unfolded.
Wilson went even further, instituting a new, draconian version of the Sedition Act in 1918; the federal government used it to imprison journalists and even political opponents.
The great Democrat icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt — and his wife Eleanor — used the IRS to attack media organizations with which it disagreed.
And Barack Obama, in a shockingly underreported set of activities — used the Department of Justice and the FBI to surveil journalists from the Associated Press and Fox News.
President Trump hasn’t done any of these things, so to call him the greatest threat to the media is both pure fiction and symbolic of the problematic state of journalism today.
The New York Times
The North Star for the media is, of course, The New York Times.
But the Times’ history is far more disturbing than most realize. In an absolutely brutal recitation of its legacy, Chapter Six (“The New York Times Betrays Millions”), Levin outlines the cold facts surrounding:
• Hiding the Holocaust; from December of 1942 — when it was clear millions of Jews were targeted for death by the Nazi regime — until the end of the war, the Times purposefully withheld and underplayed the ongoing genocide. It did so for several reasons, from pressure by the Roosevelt administration to its desire to avoid being seen as a “Jewish newspaper”.
• Concealing Stalin’s mass killings of Ukrainians; from 1932 to 1933, Times reporter Walter Duranty consciously covered for the Soviet regime’s mass starvation of Ukrainians that killed millions of innocents. Duranty, a long-time backer of the Communist regime, actually won a Pulitzer Prize for his “work”.
In other words, the “gold standard” for today’s journalists, The New York Times, whitewashed two massive genocides and has never fully accounted for its outrageous conduct.
Today’s media has taken its partisan activism a step further.
They are taught today in journalism school not to report facts, but to push a social agenda.
In doing so, they attack freedom of the press.
Levin uses a recent example to spotlight how the media has surrendered objectivity to promote the progressive agenda.
On NBC’s Meet the Press, the network’s top political journalist Chuck Todd, has banned guests who question the notion of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. There are tens of thousands of scientists who disagree with the so-called “consensus” on climate change.
Therefore Todd’s actions do not represent objective reporting, they are illustrative of the media’s focus on marketing an agenda that is indistinguishable from that of the Democrat Party.
Further, the media leverages “pseudo-events”, a concept first identified by Daniel J. Boorstin in his 1961 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.
Pseudo-events are pseudo-news; unverifiable, often circularly sourced stories that have little or no objective basis.
The Russian “Collusion” myth was a pseudo-event, promoted for more than two years by most of the media. When it collapsed, the media moved on to another: obstruction. And when that pseudo-story crumbles, they will find another faux story to promote.
Pseudo-events also manifest themselves in reporters promoting themselves; CNN’s Jim Acosta, for example, spends an enormous amount of time reporting on himself and his “mistreatment” by the Trump administration.
Meanwhile, the press underreports or censors real news that is of significant interest to most Americans, from the dangers of illegal immigration to America’s ominous fiscal future.
Among Levin’s important conclusions is a critical observation.
If newsrooms and journalists do not act forthwith and with urgency to ‘fundamentally transform’ their approach to journalism, which, sadly, is highly unlikely, their credibility will continue to erode and may well reach a point soon where it is irreparably damaged with a large portion of the citizenry, and rightly so…
The media will not only marginalize themselves but they will continue to be the greatest threat to freedom of the press today — not President Trump or his administration, but the current practitioners of what used to be journalism.
As Levin reminds us, the freedom of the press is ours, it’s not CNN’s or MSNBC’s. It doesn’t belong to corporate leviathans, it belongs to us.
“Unfreedom of the Press” is a precision-guided ordnance that obliterates the current state of journalism and is a critically important warning for all Americans: our own right to free speech hinges on a real free press. Click for more information about Unfreedom of the Press
(TLB) published this article and book review, as compiled and commented on by Doug Ross, at Doug Ross@Journal with our appreciation for the availability.
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