Endangered freedoms: speech and the press

Now, as we enter the twilight of the Obama administration, there seems to be a divide in this nation much like there were in the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations.  Just as with the Wilson and F. D. Roosevelt administrations, there is a desire to create a common consensus among all Americans that not only seeks to silence genuine critique and discussion, but that seeks to use fear and intimidation as a means to create such unity.  Since the first inauguration of Mr. Obama, his supporters, the administration’s cabinet members and advisors, and even the various White House Press Secretaries have put forth the notion that those who do not support the president and his policies are nothing more than racist, desiring to see the nation’s first black president fail.  It has not mattered what the object of criticism has been, anything from the Affordable Care Act through current drawdowns in military spending are branded with the same label of being racist.  The administration and its supporters have openly questioned the journalistic training and professionalism of any reporter, news network, or other media outlet that reports anything other than the administration’s desired narrative.

For the most part of the Obama presidency and with the exception of Fox News, the majority of the American press has been behind this president in a manner not seen in our nation’s history.  Numerous gaffes, un-presidential behavior, and flawed policies have been largely ignored. Some elements of the American media promote the idea that to criticize the president and his agenda are somehow un-American and creates division within the nation.  Truth is, just eight years ago, the media was regularly criticizing every element of the Bush administration, demanding that the American public hold him to a high standard of accountability; with that being said, the media is correct. Any president needs to be held to a higher standard of accountability by the American public regardless of his or her political party affiliation.  Instead of holding this administration to any standard, the media has been more than willing to promote the administration’s line.  Presidents Nixon and Johnson would have loved to have the support of the American media that President Obama has.

There are dangers brewing within our society that seeks to undermine the rights of free speech and press.  Although American resilience has always been demonstrated in the past, it was because generations of Americans believed in those rights and saw the benefits that freedom of speech and of the press had within American society.  Without either, the other rights contained within the First Amendment become meaningless.  You can have no freedom of worship if the freedom of speech has been removed.  You cannot have the right to peaceably assemble or to petition the government if there is no freedom of speech.  Gone is the ability to be a free-thinker; for the only political discourse that will remain is what is sanctioned by the state.  The freedom of speech and the freedom of press must remain firmly within the hands of the American people for if it is ever removed, then there are no rights that will be able to stand in the sights of an expanding bureaucracy driven by political ideology.  Once freedom of the press is removed, the ability to actually engage in political debate ends.

The danger is that now, since the 1970s, the American Left has been able to wrestle education from its foundation of being apolitical to now offering a Leftist agenda.  No longer are the rights of the individual heralded as being the most important aspect of American society. Just a hundred years ago, the idea of writing an editorial, such as the one by Korn, would have properly been met with criticisms of her having Communist sympathies since one of the hallmarks of the Communist movement was the desire to eliminate the very concept of free thought.  For decades, the American university has been widely known as the hotbed for intellectual debate and learning, now only to have its members proudly proclaim that freedoms of speech and the press must be abolished to further push the Liberal agenda.  Just one hundred years ago, the idea of a president wanting to pug “G-Men” in the offices of newspapers would have immediately been greeted with cries of political oppression, censorship, discontent, and quite possibly the demands that he be removed from office.  There would have been push-back from both Republicans and Democrats that understood that those two rights must never be abolished or redefined by any government agency – they must remain absolute.

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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