By Rod Thomson
There is plenty of finger-pointing going on right now over who is to blame for America’s shockingly rapid decline. Joe Biden, Donald Trump, radical Democrats, Trumper Republicans, public education, universities, Hollywood culture, woke culture in general and so on.
But Thomas Jefferson would point to something far more fundamental in the nation’s decline: the media. In 1786, he wrote from Paris to James Curry: “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” Freedom of the press has been lost by being willingly given away in service to a single party, rather than a watchdog.
Yes, it is the radicalized Democrat Party making it happen in government at the moment. But it is the media that has betrayed Americans by becoming a one-party propagandistic organ of both misinformation and squashing real stories, rather than being information providers to the American public that Jefferson understood to be essential to the Republic.
Jefferson keenly had so much more to say on this In one of the letters that Jefferson wrote from Paris to Edward Carrington, whom Jefferson appointed as a delegate to represent Virginia in the Continental Congress, he makes perfectly clear the critical importance of unrestricted avenues of information to the American people.
“The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and 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. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them.”
Jefferson saw the media as unfettered providers of information to the American public as more essential than the government itself. Of course, this explains why the very First Amendment in the Bill of Rights includes both freedom of speech and of the press, specifically that the government should not “abridge” either. “Abridge” means to curtail a right or privilege. And both free speech and freedom of the press involves the American public being informed in the public square. Newspapers were distributed at the time of Jefferson’s writings and for more than another century, largely in the literal public squares of cities and towns, where speakers would also stand to give opinions from religion to politics to anything else. Is it not clear that Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and the rest act now as the public square?
Jefferson wrote: “Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error…Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments. To make way for these, free enquiry must be indulged; and how can we wish others to indulge it while we refuse it ourselves.”
Yet top government officials, including White House mouthpiece Jen Psaki, openly call on all social media outlets, along with old-line corporate media, to ban “misinformation.” Let us be very honest about this, misinformation is the left’s euphemism for information they don’t want out or opinions they want squashed.
Psaki told reporters that any American banned from, say, Facebook (a major public square for free speech) for spreading “misinformation” should be banned from all social media outlets — all of the public squares of today. “You shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others for providing misinformation out there,” she said. All public squares must be closed to those who disagree with the government. Closed for good. Memory holed.
That is a powerful member of the government calling on the media to spread the government request (so far a request) that the gatekeepers of the public square block and ban information that the government does not want Americans to get. There is plenty of misinformation floating around. There always has been. But a core essential of America’s grand success is that the government was not allowed to determine what was misinformation and what was not because any sentient being should realize that will lead to government censorship in about five seconds.
How does this work? Psaki’s boss, the President of the United States, has openly lied to the American people dozens of times just regarding the Afghanistan fiasco. But of course that is not the misinformation she is talking about. Questioning the innumerable irregularities of the 2020 election is the misinformation she is talking about, and the social media public square along with the corporate media immediately oblige. Reporting Hunter Biden’s laptop that could incriminate the Democrat running for President is misinformation. Reporting on it minimally now that the Democrat President is in the White House is not. This is also true of Covid, masking and vaccines. So epidemiologists at Stanford, MIT and Harvard who question the government’s pronouncements on Covid are literally banned by the public square of social media and mostly by the corporate media — in the same way Hunter’s laptop was and questioning the 2020 election remains — because they do not align with the CDC, which is part of the federal government.
But of course this is the whole crux; just some people are to be banned from the public square. WrongThink people, to use Orwellian terms, will be silenced. By the government. And the media is not just compliant, but act as censors themselves working in league with the government. It’s possible that Jefferson was so worried about the government infringement, rightly so, he never considered that the media would voluntarily give over their First Amendment rights to the government.