“Freedom of the Press” No Longer Means What We Believe It Means
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
“Freedom of the Press” No Longer Means What We Believe It Means.
Why “The Press” Must Now Include the Likes of Fox Nation and InfoWars.
Who in America should have any question about the basic importance of the rights of a free press? Certainly, Trump’s continuing assault on our free press brings defenders to the forefront with good reason. Yet, this is a far more complicated issue than one would first assume.
As guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, free press ideals were expanded under Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger when he wrote the majority opinion in the case of First National Bank of Boston vs. Bellotti, 435 US 765, 98 S. Ct., 1407 in 1978: “The courts or the government determine who or what the press is and what acts fall under its special protection.” That special protection has expanded over the years until 1987 when the Fairness Doctrine was revoked by the FCC, under President Ronald Reagan, opening the gates to Dante’s Hell, allowing the unleashing of all things unholy.
The advent of the open Internet multiplied those messages by the billions. What seemed like an opportunity for free and open exchange of ideas online became the most powerful vehicle the world has yet seen for indoctrinating people in the intimacy of their homes, insidious messages reaching out across the world into pockets. Suddenly, deliberate lies and incendiary memes of hate could find their way into every computerized, technological device.
The Internet combined with the revocation of the Fairness Doctrine were exactly the recipe for the final act of anti-democratic, white supremacist forces in the Republican Party to take-over. Out of that gaping and ever expanding black hole came Fox “News,” Breitbart.com (and its web-iterations), and American Renaissance, “openly peddling white nationalism,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Flowing from the Dante's Gates of Hell were Richard Spencer’s Redix Journal, avowed neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer, Peter Brimelow’s VDARE, the anti-Semitic The Right Stuff, and monoliths Sinclair Broadcasting and Newsmax.
Joining this amalgam of hate, vitriol, and old KGB-styled propaganda are Blaze Media, The American Network, InfoWars, WorldNetDaily, Free Republic, Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, American Renaissance, the Federalist, Free Republic, World Net Daily, American Thinker, and, of course, Fox Nation. Notice the patriotic sounding names of some of these propaganda outlets? Who could question the “rightness” of “The Federalist” or “American Thinker,” unless, of course, you actually read their incendiary words, spewing such biased and false statements as, “When you see the phrase, ‘liberalism is a mental disorder,’ it’s a statement of fact” (Altright.com).
Pushing into what is now called “mainstream media” outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post arena, the alt-right (or should be forthcoming and term them, neo-Nazi groups) launched “the Washington Times and the Washington Examiner. Most of the above sites and media outlets, trying to undermine legitimate news organizations such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, name themselves “ultranationalist,” a not particularly coded code for neo-Nazi. The Southern Poverty Law Center has termed many of these sites as “viciously racist” and “anti-Semitic.”
The explosion of "news" propaganda sites also put pressure on traditional media, monetizing information in a radically new way. Even traditional news organizations were compelled to jump into "entertainment" to try to compete with all of the alternative sources of information, much of which was pure propaganda.
Then, of course, there is the unleashing of hate-spewing, partisan agitators in the form of talk radio. We are all made less by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Alex Jones.
When the press is no longer the “press" is manifested when there is a concerted effort to undermine any attempt at truth telling, when propaganda is the only aim. Tucker Carlson who mouths white supremacist propaganda on Fox, launched a website named “Checkyourfact,” a seemingly fact-checking news site that is anything but what it appears to be. Checkyourfact is a for-profit subsidiary, wholly owned by the alt-right The Daily Caller, Inc. Majority owners of the Daily Caller are co-founder and publisher Neil Patel and Tucker Carlson. Rather than check facts, “Checkyourfact” appears styled after Russian propaganda, deceiving people who look up information on sites, hoping to find some semblance of the truth. By its own admission, The Daily Caller is a “right-wing news and opinion website.” They might have truthfully left off “news.”
Journalist Dan Froomkin places blame not only on politicians but on the legitimate media itself for its failure to expose these fraudulent “news” outlets, as he wrote in the December 10, 2019 issue of Salon: “Press Watch: There’s a war on truth—and the media isn’t an innocent bystander.” Froomkin critiques a New York Times article by respected journalist Peter Baker in which Baker discusses Peter Wehner, a former advisor to President Bush, saying, “We’re in a dangerous moment…The danger is people come to believe that nobody is giving them the facts and reality, and everybody can make up their own script and their own narrative.” Froomkin adds, “Baker [of the New York Times] knows that one side is lying and the other is not…But Baker backs off and writes…that’s the way things are these days, I guess everybody lies now and again, what’s the difference.” Cynical and not truthful.
Froomkin, in addition to other journalists who critically examine the role of the media, noted that all-inclusive freedom of the “press” and attempts to win readers with "false equivalencies" are deeply disturbing. Even the New York Times fails by printing Baker's quotation as if fact: “everybody lies.” This "bothsiderism" mantra is a recipe for nihilism and the beginning of the end of a truly free press and a bastion of our Democratic Republic.
Where does the average American start when confronted with such an amalgam of deliberate misinformation designed to look like the “free press” and outlets created to be an anathema to a democratic republic? We are not helpless, but we must read and read multiple sources with a discerning eye. We must support education that prioritizes and values reading and critical thinking. We must look at who sponsors “information,” examine it critically against known facts. We should advocate for reinstituting the "Fairness Doctrine." Finally, we must vote to put people into office who value truth once again.