Free Press

In May of 2016, a research article was published showing the rising level of partisanship in Congress from the 81st Congress (1949-1951) through the 112th Congress (2011-2013). The video, posted by Business Insider in 2016, looks like some bizarre red/blue organism’s mitosis except the resulting two cells have nothing to do with the original host cell. It is less mitosis and more segregation.

But that was in 2BT, a time which only seems like 2,000,000 years ago on the geologic time scale. A time we now call Before Trump (BT). Now in 2ST (Since Trump), we live in the “post-fact” world, a world of “alternative” facts. A world where, according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, as of August 1, 2018, in 558 days of the Trump presidency, Mr. Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading statements (an increase of 978 in two months). For those wearing neither their 1970’s calculator watch nor wanting to do a quick calculation on their smartphone, that works out to an average of 7.58 false or misleading statements per day.

And while no president thinks the press treats them with the deference they feel they deserve, the Founding Fathers felt so sure that a free press was necessary as a check on power they acknowledged it in the First Amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Edmund Burke’s “Fourth Estate” was thus protected.

But now in 2ST, the president considers the press “an enemy of the people.” Although, let’s be clear, only those institutions who disagree with his positions. Today, over 350 papers across the country printed editorials restating their mission and discrediting Trump’s outlandish statements. Of the several places my family or I have lived and/or the newspapers to which I subscribe I give you a sampling of these editorials:

The Boston Globe

The New York Times

The Houston Chronicle

The Providence Journal

The Cape Cod Times

The Hartford Courant

The Austin Statesman

And before anyone rebuts with an argument of “well, if you’re such a fan of the First Amendment” how can you want every media outlet to remove Alex Jones?” Alex Jones, the InfoWars clown who once interviewed Donald Trump on his show and on which Trump said of Jones, “”Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”

Simple, the press is responsible for reporting facts. As longtime New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” In response to a different assault on reason, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson also once said, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

When newspapers get the facts wrong, they print retractions and corrections. The Wild West world of social media has no such disciplinary mechanism other than the individual organization’s self-government. However, as private companies, users of these social media platforms are subject to the organization’s guidelines. I find what Alex Jones has said and instigated, specifically to the families of the children and educators murdered in Newtown, CT, beyond abhorrent. Oscar Wilde’s once commented,

“I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself,”

Private social media companies owe Jones no such freedom. He remains free to spew whatever hateful, disgusting lies he chooses (in order to continue selling snake oil tinctures to tin foil wearing well-armed survivalists awaiting some impending race/religious/political philosophy/government Civil War redux), it’s merely that no platform is forced to publish it.

So today I stand with news outlets across the country to call out a delusional president living in his own, self-created echo chamber determined to silence critics of his “agenda.” And I sleep confidently that the First Amendment can withstand calling out the president while private companies exile Alex Jones.