#1 Why? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
07-04-2008, 02:16 PM
- Join Date
- Aug 2005
Editorial: All hail the First Amendment
"It is frightening to think that a "un-elected" human rights panel has the right to decide what can and cannot be published in a free country."
On the Fourth of July, the day we celebrate America's liberty and independence, it's worth contemplating how much more free America is than most other nations in the West. Why? The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
How very much depends on these 45 words:
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.
"The First Amendment really does distinguish the U.S., not just from Canada but from the rest of the Western world," says writer Mark Steyn, who's learning it the hard way. Mr. Steyn and Maclean's, the top-selling Canadian magazine, have faced human rights charges in British Columbia. Their alleged offense? Maclean's published a Steyn essay critical of Islam, which prompted Muslim activists to file formal charges accusing the writer and the magazine of violating Canada's hate-speech laws.
Last Friday, the national Human Rights Commission dismissed the charges, but they're still pending in front of a provincial panel. The victory is less than what it appears. For one thing, defending against the charges cost the magazine hundreds of thousands of dollars. For another, it is frightening to think that a human rights panel has the right to decide what can and cannot be published in a free country.
It's not just Canadian critics of Muslims whose speech is under attack. The Alberta Human Rights Commission ruled that the Rev. Stephen Boissoin had broken the country's hate-speech laws by criticizing homosexuals. Last month, the panel ordered the minister to pay damages, apologize and desist from criticizing homosexuality for the rest of his life.
Similarly, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recently ordered a large Christian social service ministry to abandon its statement of faith as discriminatory against gays and to send its employees to diversity training.
Free speech also is in trouble in Europe. Last month, a French court fined actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot $23,000 for violating hate-speech laws. Complaining about Islamic sheep-slaughtering customs, Ms. Bardot had said Muslims were "destroying" France. In May, British police arrested a teenager for calling Scientology a "cult" at a peaceful demonstration.
Also that month, police in The Netherlands arrested Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot on suspicion of incitement to hatred and discrimination for cartoons alleged to be anti-Muslim. The Dutch police, who have established a branch to investigate cartoons, recently brought in proprietors of a Website critical of multiculturalism to explain comments left on the site.
None of this could have happened in the United States, where the right to say what's on your mind, no matter whose feelings it may hurt, is considered vital to the self-government of a free people. The First Amendment means that in our liberal democracy, we have to tolerate speech many of us find obnoxious or offensive. But it affirms that enduring hateful or distasteful oratory is far less dangerous than giving taboos on controversial speech the force of law.
It is not too much to say that all of our freedoms depend on the First Amendment, for if we cannot speak and worship freely, we are on the road to tyranny. On Independence Day, and every day, we must be grateful for the foresight of the Founders, who understood as no others in their position had before or have since, how sacred freedom of speech is
When Thomas Jefferson famously said that he would rather have newspapers without a government than government without newspapers, he meant that freely and widely expressed opinions are the true foundation for a successful government of the people, by the people and for the people.
---------------"I wonder what Jefferson would say about our current 'Free Press'?"
In an observation that cannot be improved upon, the Colonial-era Freeman's Journal editorialized: "As long as the liberty of the press continues unviolated, and the people have the right of expressing and publishing their sentiments upon every public measure, it is next to impossible to enslave a free nation."
God bless America – and God bless the First Amendment, which protects and serves rich and poor, liberals and conservatives, secularists and believers, and all those privileged to call themselves Americans.
Last edited by megimoo; 07-04-2008 at 02:29 PM.
07-04-2008, 02:38 PM
- Join Date
- Aug 2005
Thomas Jefferson Wouldn’t Think Much of Modern Journalism.
Blogging - That’s Another Story…
"Clearly, when Jefferson said he would prefer “newspapers without a government” to “government without newspapers,” he did not imagine a journalism that was favorably disposed to government and that presented only one view.
In his letters, Jefferson regularly referred to “free presses” — i.e., free use of printing presses. No doubt, he would have preferred “bloggers without a government” even more."
Though journalism as we know it didn't exist when the First Amendment was written, today's reporters don't hesitate to make the case for their importance by citing a famous Thomas Jefferson quote. Steve Boriss contends that mainstream news is the opposite of what the third president thought it should be.
Many journalists are fond of telling us how central they are to our democracy. Some cite Thomas Jefferson’s quote, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” These self-important boasts by journalists deserve to be challenged. Modern journalism is not only different from what Jefferson intended, it is almost completely the opposite in three fundamental ways: the role of the press, the voices that matter, and the importance of opinions.
1. The role of the press — Jefferson’s vision for the role of the press was completely integrated with his vision for the country. He believed that each of us is born with God-given rights that must not be taken away — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The potential thief he had in mind was government. Accordingly, he thought that the single most important role for newspapers was to serve as a “fence” to prevent government from encroaching on individual rights.
But modern journalism has hopped this fence by tending to side with the government establishment, often protecting it from people and corporations.
Jon Ham notes that newspapers typically feature government as an enlightened class and make use of a “standard journalism template that the private sector has questionable motives, i.e., profit, whereas the public sector’s motives are pure, i.e., altruistic.”
PBS’ Bill Moyers now tours the country lashing out against the dangers of too much corporate control over the news media, while singing the virtues of
government-controlled NPR and PBS.
This anti-corporate attitude has its roots in Marxist, not Jeffersonian thought. As ABC’s John Stossel points out, corporations do not have nearly the same power as government entities, which are “coercive monopolies that spend other people’s money taken by force.”
2. The voices that matter — Jefferson’s insistence on a Bill of Rights was also consistent with his vision for America. It reaffirmed the equal rights of all, and the First Amendment explicitly guaranteed to everyone freedom of expression to protect themselves from government encroachment on their rights.
But modern journalism has so confused us about the true meaning of “freedom of the press” that only a few outside of intellectually honest constitutional scholars can tell you what it really means.
When the First Amendment was written, there were no journalists as we think of them now. Newspapers were produced mostly in one-man shops by those whose trade was “printer” - not “reporter,” “journalist,” “columnist,” or “editor.” It would be another 30 years before America had its first full-time reporter. Jefferson wanted newspapers filled with all of our voices, not just those who happen to make a living writing news.
3. The importance of opinions — What Jefferson really wanted in news was opinion and debate — a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. He wrote “nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics” than “the fair operation of attack and defense.” He himself threw his hat in the ring by founding his own highly partisan newspaper to attack Federalists like Alexander Hamilton.
Instead, modern journalism has attempted to create for itself a faux-scientific world, where facts are sacred, opinions are contaminants, and debate is a waste of time.
Allegedly, their methods are “objective” and their content is a pure stream of verified truths. But, new media has taught us that mainstream media often do not get the story straight and regularly masquerade center-left opinion as singular truths. Journalists also strangely insist that the public has an incontestable “right to know” these “truths,” and tend to recklessly dismiss the sometimes real risks that their exposure might threaten the survival of our Jeffersonian government at the hands of enemies who do not protect individual rights.
07-04-2008, 09:33 PM3. The importance of opinions — What Jefferson really wanted in news was opinion and debate — a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. He wrote “nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics” than “the fair operation of attack and defense.” He himself threw his hat in the ring by founding his own highly partisan newspaper to attack Federalists like Alexander Hamilton.
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