Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The purpose of the First Amendment

By John J. Hopkins | Nov 4, 2015

“All the President’s Men” set the gold standard for movies about the news. It told the courageous story of how the Washington Post broke the Watergate scandal, and so doing, brought down a corrupt White House. It was a brilliantly told, true story that stayed genuine to the facts. It was in all ways a credit to the profession of journalism.

Some four decades later, Robert Redford appears again, but in the cynically named movie “Truth.” Its assumed name is so bad that it is the equal to a movie about Governor Chris Christie, and calling it “Skinny.” Attempting to re-tell history, it is the slanted and truly false story of how the reckless desire of Dan Rather and producer Mary Mape drove them to present lies in an 11th hour attempt to smear President George W. Bush, and assist his Democratic rival John Kerry. The film has neither the virtues of truth or impartiality, the same faults that cost the real life culprits their positions at CBS News. It does show however, how far the profession has descended.

“Good morning, young ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Journalism 101. Today’s lecture deals with a subject that you should all hold tight and learn, should you wish to become part of the mainstream media, and make the big bucks. It answers a fundamental question - what is the purpose of the First Amendment? Commit to memory this notion and your chances of employment with CNN, CBS or NBC rise exponentially.

“Now, the purpose is simple... to provide a shield to use against critics, no matter how unworthy be our intentions or prostituted be our actions. In short, to aid and abet in the indiscriminate bashing of Republicans and the praise of Democrats. Devote yourself to this simple mantra, and you shall go far. Class dismissed.”

Such is not the known syllabus of any real classroom, but it might as well be. The First Amendment, and in particular the Freedom of the Press, is one the hallmarks of American Liberty. As the noted reporter from the Baltimore Sun – E. K. Hornbeck - once observed, the purpose of a news organization is to “Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” Sadly, beginning with 2000 election, and certainly peaking in the Age of Obama, the so called mainstream media has tanked for the Democrats.

Their blatant bias, so long complained of, can now no longer be denied. It is a matter of common sense that FOX News, with its clear bias in opposite is but the obvious reaction to such poor journalism. What has happened to journalism today can correctly be called a prostitution of the rights granted by the First Amendment. It is an insult to the blood and tears shed to protect this most hallowed right.

In a free society, it is the duty of the press to be detached from the government, thereby to have the objectivity needed to properly report. To be seduced, used and corrupted by a blind allegiance to one side reduces Constitutional powers to partisan perversions. The electorate, notoriously ill informed, naturally depends on a free press for the truth. With no test of current affairs serving to prerequisite voting, such information is vital. When skewed in one direction, the unsuspecting and naïve populace accept what they hear from the tube, trusting those that repeat a narrative long enough to obliterate its falsity.

Nowhere does the twisted rational appear more than in the treatment of the Clintons, both the former and would be President. Bill Clinton committed perjury, and paid no price. It is irrelevant the subject, as the desire to avoid the consequences of misconduct is the driving force of almost ALL lies. Yet, the President of the United States lied under oath with impunity. Some two decades later, instead of having suffered a Nixon like disgrace, his influence, wealth and profile are at personal bests. No slave to shame, William Jefferson Clinton remains a media darling, a rock star of the political world.

If possible, Madame Secretary is even worse. The Benghazi hearings revealed she, along with the President, lied to the American public regarding the disconnection between the video and the attack. On that point, debate is no longer possible. Yet instead of being pilloried for such overt deceit, she had the “best week of her campaign.” Instead of being hounded about the failure to support the Libyan Embassy, to respond to the over 300 requests for more security, to account why Patrick Kennedy – a name apparently granted immunity from scrutiny irrespective of actual genetics – was not fired for his dismal performance as Deputy Secretary in charge of security, remarkably she rises.

The mob knows only what the town crier tells. If he slants, if he modifies and ignores, the mob moves in sequence. Controlling the message is the first key to tyranny. It is only a vibrant First Amendment that safeguards against such a disaster. When the shield falls away, as the recent CNBC debate disaster clearly shows, the gift of Liberty, warned by Ronald Reagan to be only a generation away from extinction, is placed in potentially fatal jeopardy.

Demanding impartial reporting as opposed to cheerleading requires effort; it requires commitment; it requires dedication. In the final analysis, the document that begins “We the People,” must be enforced BY the people. It may be painful, but worth the struggle. Be not afraid.

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