Self-Government Requires an Unfettered Press

Senator Mark Green MD - August 2017

As the story goes, on the last day of the writing the United States Constitution, Dr. Benjamin Franklin exits what would become Independence Hall, and is nearly immediately asked about the proceedings.  A Mrs. Powell, knowing of the efforts transpiring in the Hall, stops Franklin and asks, “Well doctor, what have we got?  A republic or a monarchy?”  Benjamin Franklin, rarely short of words shoots back, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”  In that sentence Dr. Franklin predicts the incredible challenges facing the nascent country.  The unique creation of this convention is a government of the people, self-government.  Benjamin Franklin’s implied concern is that self-government will require diligence to maintain.  The critical element of the success of self-governance is, two-fold.  First it requires an informed populace and secondly one that puts the interests of the country above their individual desires.1

When Joseph Stalin died in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev came to power making a significant break from Stalinism.  In February 1956, he made a private speech to the communist party leadership denouncing Stalin and advocating reform.  At the time, the speech was revolutionary and incredibly bold.2 The following year Khrushchev survived the first Stalinist led coup attempt to over throw him.  His reforms were intended to push the envelope as far as possible without getting himself killed.  He opened up the arts, allowing plays and literature to discuss the plight of everyday Russians.  The one thing he failed to do, however, was to untether the media from the government. 

From its beginning, freedom and the involvement of the Soviet People in government was blocked by state control of the media.  The Bolsheviks created a “monopoly over printed words.  Words were used to conceal facts and to construct an alternative reality.”3  It was the beginning of Fake News!  The result was a totalitarian regime from the start, and one that despite Khrushchev’s attempt to create freedom, ultimately won over him because the press remained under the control of the state, the Stalinists in the state.

In 1989, under Gorbachev’s rule, the press was unleashed.  The state ordered the jamming of foreign press to stop allowing a multitude of positions, perspectives, and ideas to greet the average Russian.4  The result was a freedom that even Gorbachev failed to predict.  To have a government where the people play a role, a republic, the people need unbiased, truthful information.   When they have it, whether the United, States, Russia or any country, the people have the capacity to make the best decisions.  They do so with their vote, controlling whom is elected, and thus controlling what happens in government. 

The hoopla over Russian interference in the US election gives us the real enemy of freedom, and self-governance. Clearly those investigating have acknowledged there were no votes changed.  The question is, did the Russians change American’s opinions by the information or news their infiltration revealed?  The answer to that may never be known, but there are lessons to be learned.  When there exists a “monopoly over printed words,” the media so monopolized works “to conceal facts and to construct an alternative reality.”

The media in the US has clearly picked sides.  We are not talking about what the Russians leaked because it is so damning to one particular party.  We are talking about collusion that no one can seem to find.  But the leaked information shows the media squarely in the democratic camp.  CNN’s Donna Brazille’s sharing of debate questions is collaboration.  The continued fake news leading to the firing of reporters who completely fabricate stories shows the heights to which personal bias, in the main stream media attempts to “to conceal facts and to construct an alternative reality.”   With only 7% of journalists claiming to be republican, the likelihood the press will soon represent two opposing views is small.5 So, they need not jam the other side because there simply isn’t another side.

If there was any Russian influence it had to be from the old Russia.  The self-tethering of the media to the left, takes us back to Russian when, the truth failed to reach the people.  What happens under these circumstances is tyranny.  If we want to keep this republic based on self-governance we need truth in our media.  We need an unbiased press that pursues all ideas, investigations, innovations and individuals with the same fervor for the truth.  Until we get there, our Republic remains in jeopardy.

 

Sources: 

1.  Metaxis, Eric, If You Can Keep it, The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, Viking Press, New York, 2016, page 9

2. https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/apr/26/greatspeeches4

3.  Ostovsky, Arkady, The Invention of Russia, Penguin Press, New York, 2017, page 7.

4. ibid, pg 66.

5.  http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2014/05/survey-7-percent-of-reporters-identify-as-republican-188053