Dear friends, today I’m going to ask you to stretch with me exploring a subject I don’t usually cover. You may feel a little uncomfortable reading this kind of post, but if you give me a few minutes of your time, I hope you will leave feeling enlightened, empowered – maybe even inspired. This subject has been weighing on my mind for a long time, and I feel I cannot stand by in silence.
There is a disturbing trend sweeping our nation – a lie – which is canvassing the world at large. It conjures fear, distrust, hatred, mockery and even violence. It is pervasive, insidious and gaining in strength and momentum. It is a lie that is threatening our way of life, our Constitution, and our core liberties.
It is a lie which threatens all of us.
The lie says that those who report on what is happening in our world are “the worst possible people.” They are “liars,” “despicable,” “disgusting,” and “the most dishonest people,” and therefore we should fear, distrust and “hate reporters.”
This isn’t a new lie. Journalists have been vilified for centuries, but the severity and scope of the lie today is magnified. There are many people who promote or believe this lie. Some of them are your next door neighbors, or your friends and family members. Others are people in positions of power.
This particular lie was couched in humor – but not-too-subtly promotes the alarming belief that those who express ideas which you do not agree with cannot be trusted, and therefore should be feared, mocked, and even “hated.”
One must wonder how much a person who directly benefits from reporters actually “hates” them? The complexity of deception…
This particular video I just shared is simply a sampler, and not the primary focus of my post. So, please don’t miss the forest for the tree – or, in other words, please keep reading.
TAKE IT PERSONAL
It is ever so easy to demonize an entire group of people based on the failings of a few. This is a recurring theme in our current world. It is never acceptable, and I think it’s dangerous. I am not a professional or freelance reporter [i.e. one who is “paid” for my observations] -but I still consider myself very much a human being who gives public “reports” on my beliefs, my observations, and the world around me. I am a writer. I am an artist. I am a communicator. My roots stretch deeply into the soil of self expression, and I depend on the rights of my government to protect and give light and nourishment to those roots.
And so, I take this lie, and the ensuing attack on “reporters” very personally.
And so should you.
In today’s world, there is a very broad spectrum and definition of who to include in the “media” box. Who are the “journalists”, “correspondents”, “reporters” and “sources”?
If you are a person who ever writes, blogs, takes photos, makes video recordings, uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media platform for sharing your ideas – or, if you simply send emails – then yes, YOU are a “reporter”; as in a person who observes what is going on in the world around you, and shares the news of what you see with others.
Definitions of REPORTER
- n. A writer, investigator, or presenter of news stories. (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition)
- n. One who reports or gives an account. (The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia)
- n. a person who broadcasts news (Merriam-Webster)
I think this defines all of us in some way. Because in today’s world, reporting is not confined to a small set of professionally trained or paid individuals. We all share news, opinions, ideas and stories each day.
Now, what if the news/opinions/ideas/stories you chose to share was not something people in power liked? What if they wanted to silence you? What if you and even your family were targeted and made to suffer for what you shared?
If that hasn’t happened to you yet, it certainly could. It is happening daily at home and abroad. We have witnessed[repeatedly] the serious things that happen to regular citizens expressing dissenting views, whether officially or unofficially, like here, here, and even today here.
We are all dependent on our right to protection when we speak up and speak out. It’s probably safe to say that you and I take for granted on a daily basis to be able to exercise freedom of speech and expression without fear. But, if the current lie continues to grow and become accepted – the lie that those who speak up and speak out are the “worst people” or the “most disgusting people” and therefore should be distrusted, even “hated” – then we could all be in danger of losing our freedoms if we choose to be a person who speaks up and speaks out.
An attack on one “reporter” is an attack on us all.
There are no bounds to hate. Hatred, left unchecked, always destroys liberty and creates chaos and cruelty.
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.”
FIRST AMENDMENT, THE BILL OF RIGHTS
The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights of The Constitution of the United States of America protects the following rights:
- Free exercise of religion
- Freedom of speech
- Freedom of the press
- Right to peaceably assemble
- Right to petition the government for grievances
Each of these freedoms are sacred, and fall under the protective umbrella of Freedom of Expression. I am writing this blog post utilizing my First Amendment Rights. You are freely reading this blog post and if you choose to share it, or express your opinion in the comment section, then YOU will be exercising your First Amendment Rights. [although, I do retain the right to censor inappropriate comments or delete anything foul; because my blog, my rules].
But, despite the inalienable rights and importance of those who publicly express opinions, there are those who are viciously, actively, relentlessly attacking any who report things they do not agree with or do not like. In fact, individuals are regularly harassed, arrested and even killed just because they are “a reporter”.
“The freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic Governments.”
– The Virginia Declaration of Rights (precursor to The US Declaration of Independence) 1776, James Madison author
Please read that quote again.
The only way “freedom of the press” can be restrained is by a “despotic Government.”
And, what is a “despotic Government”? How can we recognize a “despotic Government”?
So, isn’t that what people in far flung nations controlled by Communism, or Radical Islam or Mob Rule have? It’s certainly not here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, right?!
Well, we may not have completely fallen into a despot “autocracy” yet – but I believe we are balancing on a very slippery slope, and systematically moving toward oligarchy.
Here are some thoughts to ponder from three leaders who have offered their voice of wisdom regarding protecting freedom, and rejecting despotism:
A Catholic Perspective
“Hitler did not steal power, his people voted for him, and then he destroyed his people. That is the risk. In times of crisis we lack judgment…the case of Germany in 1933 is typical, a people who were immersed in a crisis, who were searching for their identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened…
… That is why I always try to say: Talk among yourselves, talk to one another.”
– Pope Francis, January 21, 2017, El Pais Interview (Spain)
A Latter-day Saint Perspective
I now speak of one of the challenges that face us—the meaning and application of the vital constitutional guarantees that government authority shall make no laws or regulations “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Those rights are fundamental to our constitutional order—not just to protect citizens against repressive government action but also to foster the cherished open society that is the source of our freedom and prosperity. Beyond that, the free exercise of religion is vital because it insures citizens the rights of worship and action that are fundamental to their being. …
I believe the freedoms of speech and assembly are also weakening because many influential persons see them as colliding with competing values now deemed more important. Some extremists have even opposed free speech as an obstacle to achieving their policy goals.
-Dallin H. Oaks, current LDS Apostle and former Utah Supreme Court Judge, Elections, Hope and Freedom, September 13, 2016
An Historian Perspective
“The best way to know where a country is going is to know where we’ve been. …We are losing our story, forgetting who we are and what it’s taken to come this far. …Who’s to blame? We are. Are we ready to accept the reality that in a government of the people it is not some longed-for leader who will save the day? If we’re looking for leadership, the place to look is in the mirror… History shows us how to behave. History teaches, reinforces what we believe in, what we stand for, and what we ought to be willing to stand up for. History is-or should be-the bedrock of patriotism, not the chest-pounding kind of patriotism but the real thing, love of country….
How lucky we are, how very lucky we are, to live in this great country, to be Americans.”
– David McCullough, Author and Historian, excerpts from Reader’s Digest 2002
According to Latter-day Saint scripture, “governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man” and should never “bind the consciences of men” or “suppress the freedom of the soul.” Such space is sacred and transcends human authority.
It’s easy to take these freedoms for granted. After all, it is the ground many of us have walked on our entire lives. How often do we look down and appreciate that ground? Laws and rights inscribed on old parchments have little value if we don’t maintain them every day. Practicing our religion, speaking our minds, reading a newspaper, writing a blog, freely associating with fellow citizens and critiquing power are tender plants that require constant cultivation.
THE IRONY IS REAL
When someone attempts to spread the lie that reporters are all “despicable” and “dishonest” the irony is that they are relying 100% on the diligent work of those very same “despicable” people to share their message. The First Amendment of the Constitution is protecting the accuser’s right to speak out and “report” their opinion and [mis]information, all the while they desire to curtail those same rights for others.
“Whatever the individual opinions about the merits of the various instruments of the media, freedom-loving people everywhere should be willing to stand up for the protection of a free press, because everyone deserves the right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
– Editorial, Protect Freedom of the Press, 1995 [emphasis added]
Assuming that you actually read this far, let’s say you share my concerns. You want to defend the First Amendment. You want to protect our Freedom of Expression and the right for all to “report.” But, what can you possibly do?!
Here are some ideas. [Feel free to share any others in the comments]:
- Know your Rights – Read the Constitution & Bill of Rights.
- Exercise your Rights! Speak Out. Speak Up. Worship. Create. Express.
- Be Well Read – from a diverse array of news sources [and not just what pops up on your Facebook/Twitter feed].
- Support independent News, Media, & Journalism – consider donating or subscribing to papers and online media outlets that are doing an honorable job of presenting intelligent, reasonably balanced and thorough investigative reporting.
- Contact reporters or editors to praise them for their good efforts, or to remind them when necessary to spend more due diligence in their reports.
- Do not endorse or share “fake news” & sloppy reporting – this includes articles, videos or other media items that are sensationalist, lacking in sources, unbalanced, or “click bait”. Review tips on how to spot “fake news”: here
- Support watchdog groups such as Stand Up Republic.
- Pace Yourself – It’s not all bad news. The world is still a beautiful place.
- Take a walk or try some yoga (or whatever else helps you to de-stress)
- Be a Seeker of Truth! In today’s world, there is a lot of information to sort through. It takes some time and effort to fact check, and consider multiple sources of information. But, those who are willing to seek will find treasures of knowledge.
A Few More Ideas
“In these distressing times, our freedom and hope can best be fostered by five actions:
(1) We must concentrate on what we have in common with our neighbors and fellow citizens.
(2) We must strive for mutual understanding and treat all with goodwill.
(3) We must exercise patience.
(4) We should all speak out for religion and the importance of religious freedom.
(5) We must, above all, trust in God and His promises.”
-Dallin H. Oakes
If you made it this far, thank you so much for taking the time to read. In conclusion I leave you with a popular LDS hymn which is an anthem to truth seeking. I’ve included the lyrics below. And, you might enjoy reading the history of the composer: here – who was a newspaper editor and reporter by trade. 🙂 – MoSop
Lyrics: Oh say, what is truth?
Oh say, what is truth? ‘Tis the fairest gemThat the riches of worlds can produce,And priceless the value of truth will be whenThe proud monarch’s costliest diademIs counted but dross and refuse.
Then say, what is truth? ‘Tis the last and the first,For the limits of time it steps o’er.Tho the heavens depart and the earth’s fountains burst,Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,Eternal, unchanged, evermore.
The sceptre may fall from the despot’s graspWhen with winds of stern justice he copes.But the pillar of truth will endure to the last,And its firm-rooted bulwarks out-stand the rude blastAnd the wreck of the fell tyrant’s hopes.
Yes, say, what is truth? ‘Tis the brightest prizeTo which mortals or Gods can aspire.Go search in the depths where it glittering lies,Or ascend in pursuit to the loftiest skies:‘Tis an aim for the noblest desire.Text: John Jaques, 1827-1900Music: Ellen Knowles Melling, 1820-1905