Saturday, May 25, 2013
Edward R. Murrow, Roger Ailes, Barack Obama and Freedom of the Press
Most Americans who recognize the name Edward R. Murrow probably saw the George Clooney film, Good Night and Good Luck, which traced the determination of the first great American TV journalist to expose Senator Joseph McCarthy for the charlatan he was. Murrow did it in the face of the fears and misgivings of his network, CBS, and of his commercial sponsors. He paid for the telecast without their sponsorship. Murrow was right and he started the process that brought down McCarthy. Americans flocked to his point of view, forcing a reluctant President to intervene. The next time you feel inclined to lump all reporters into one bag or another, depending on your own politics, pause to think about the courage of Edward R. Murrow. It was his courage that Dan Rather said "...separated him from other reporters." Here are a few of the many memorable Murrow quotes. ~~~~~ "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.....We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home....We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it....A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices....We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men – not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular....To be persuasive, We must be believable, to be believable, We must be credible, to be credible, We must be truthful....Most truth's are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit.”― Edward R. Murrow. ~~~~~ In the latest challenge to the supremacy of the US Constitution's First Amendment, Fox News President Roger Ailes blasted the Justice Department for targeting journalists as if they were criminals and said the government's seizure of reporters' emails and phone records would not stand "the test of law....The recent news about the FBI's seizure of the phone and email records of Fox News employees, including James Rosen, calls into question whether the federal government is meeting its constitutional obligation to preserve and protect a free press in the United States....We reject the government's efforts to criminalize the pursuit of investigative journalism and falsely characterize a Fox News reporter to a federal judge as a 'co-conspirator' in a crime....We will not allow a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era, to frighten any of us away from the truth,....I stand with you, I support you and I thank you for your reporting with courageous optimism. Too many Americans fought and died to protect our unique right of press freedom....We can't and won't forget that. To be an American journalist is not only a great responsibility, but also a great honor. To be a Fox journalist is a high honor, not a high crime." Roger Ailes. ~~~~~ I bring up Edward R. Murrow and Roger Ailes, dear readers, because America is facing a frontal attack on First Amendment rights to freedom of the press. AP and Fox News journalists are being harrassed, and in the case of Fox News being criminally charged with co-conspiracy, as part of the Obama administration's effort to stop the leaking of secrets. The witchhunt is a B-rated copy of McCarthyism. It seeks to chill the right of reporters to seek information and the equal right of Americans to receive that information. Freedom of the press is not a post-publication post-censorship determination. It exists at the very heart of the need for a free and informed society of responsible citizens that the Founders placed in the Constitution. To squelch the First Amendment is to disarm Americans just as much as to suppress the Second Amendment is to leave them helpless at the hands of a powerful, faceless federal government. Whether you agree or disagree with Obama's politics or his defense of state secrets is not the point. Americans are constitutionally guaranteed a free press and no one has the authoriry to take away that right.