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A Free Press

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.

That, as you know, is the first amendment to the US Constitution.  It is what allows the press (and, of course, radio and TV as well) to say pretty much what they want.  We hope it will be honest, we hope it will inform.  Sometimes it is. Sometimes, it does.

Freedom of the press is very important to the functioning of a free society.  We depend on the press to better understand what our government is doing to/for us.  If the press is subverted, well, there goes our democracy.  Our press is composed of human beings who, for the most part, are trying to do the right thing.

It was a free press that was able to inform us that President Nixon, the chief of the executive branch of the government was breaking the law.  It was the press that discovered that President Nixon’s Vice President, Spiro Agnew was collecting bribes.  They didn’t impeach the president or vice president, they simply provided information so that we the people could decide.

In more recent years, some of the better newspapers have done a good job of analyzing politician’s quotes and assessing their veracity.  If we decide to have Mitt Romney as our next president, we will at least know that he and the truth do not get along very well together.  We will be able to decide how much his activities at Cranbrook School near Detroit are relevant.

In the case of President Obama, we do know, thanks to our free press, that he attended a church that had a very radical minister.  We Americans analyzed that fact and decided that it wasn’t such a big issue.

When the press fails, we are in deep trouble.  A lot of the press feels that we had George W Bush as our president because the press did not do a good job of showing that Bush really didn’t know much about anything and was a failure at most everything he did in life.  If you had to depend on his intellect for anything, you were in deep trouble.

OK, so what is my point?  Well, I have been following the goings on of Rupert Murdoch in England.  Mr. Murdoch, as you know, is the owner of Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and lots and lots of other media.  He has the ability to create and form public opinion, not only in the United States, but also in Europe and Australia.  His ownership of the media is enormous and frightening.  He is not a very moral person!

His stations that concentrate on entertainment are generally quite successful.  I don’t know what news media he owns in Europe but his ownership of Fox News in the US is cause for worry.  He calls it a news media but clearly it isn’t.  The people who depend on Fox for their news live in their own parallel universe.  Time after time, survey after survey it has been shown that people who claim that they do not have any particular news source turn out to be better informed than those who use Fox for their news.

Recently, conservative columnist David Frum (a former speechwriter for President George W Bush) blasted Fox news for “Immersing their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.”

A former British Prime Minister, John Major, accused Rupert Murdoch of trying to use his newspapers to force the British government to change its policy on Europe.

I wonder if it is too late to inform Mr. Murdoch that the press should be REPORTING the news, not CREATING it!

As Frank Schaeffer, a former evangelical writer  said, “Maybe one day soon Murdoch will go to jail as might his son, as will several of their United Kingdom editors if many alleged and disgusting and illegal acts of his sleazy journalism  are proved true — ranging from bribing the police to hacking the phones of bereaved family members of killed service men and women and child murder victims. Make no mistake: when it comes to the Murdoch media “empire” we’re talking about the lowest form of journalism.”  We are talking about people who rely on what Fox News says as the dumbest of the dumb.

Murdoch’s publishing empire was instrumental in spreading “birther” and “death panel” lies about the president.  He is the one who gave Glenn Beck his megaphone.

Though this is not likely as long as there are so many Republicans in government,  our nations telecommunications laws must be overhauled.  To allow literally one person, by virtue of his huge wealth,  to have so much power over our society is looking for trouble.  Unfortunately, I fear we have already found it.

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