Our Unfree Press – -UPDATED

I have written often and often about the dangers a nation faces when its press is not free:

It’s so tiring, you almost don’t want to bother saying it. But we have to keep pointing it out, this mad descent of the press, and not grow weary or complacent. The only way to keep the press honest is to keep it accountable; that is our responsibility – yours and mine – a free press is an unencumbered, detached, open and honest press. And we must have it; we must insist that our press be free – unaligned with any cause or movement – because a free press is the hardy spine of liberty.

Our hardy spine, burdened by the demands of corporate interests, excessive attachment to distinct agendas and heavy competition from all sorts of media, is bending and crooking. It is not, at present, healthy, straight and strong. There is cause for concern.


We must repeat, over and over, that Liberty is the means by which we created creatures are meant to live and to grow and be. That Liberty lives in the Truth. That Liberty lives where people can speak freely, without fear of injury or reprisals. That Liberty lives only when the press is free and unencumbered – when it is detached from events instead of entwined in them. That Liberty lives when people refuse to be intimidated into silence or acquiescence, whether in the workplace or within the community. That Liberty is the fragile thing that diminishes whenever one refuses to acclaim it for oneself.

But I’m a lowly, barely-read blogger, so who listens to me? I had hoped that someone like Tim Russert would see journalism going out of control and yell, “hey, let’s pull back the reins,” but that didn’t happen. I still want to believe he’d be appalled at the galloping disintegration of our free press – now fully beholden to every leftwing concern, and to their Lord Barack Obama.

I have a pal who was a journalist for over 20 years who has said “goodbye to all that” because he was beginning to feel unclean, and ashamed of his profession.

Now Michael Malone talks about his shame in admitting his profession

You need to understand how painful this is for me. I am one of those people who truly bleeds ink when I’m cut. I am a fourth generation newspaperman. As family history tells it, my great-grandfather was a newspaper editor in Abilene, Kansas during the last of the cowboy days, then moved to Oregon to help start the Oregon Journal (now the Oregonian). My hard-living – and when I knew her, scary – grandmother was one of the first women reporters for the Los Angeles Times. And my father, though profoundly dyslexic, followed a long career in intelligence to finish his life (thanks to word processors and spellcheckers) as a very successful freelance writer. I’ve spent thirty years in every part of journalism, from beat reporter to magazine editor. And my oldest son, following in the family business, so to speak, earned his first national by-line before he earned his drivers license.

So, when I say I’m deeply ashamed right now to be called a “journalist”, you can imagine just how deep that cuts into my soul.

Glenn Reynolds is hearing from journalists who identify.

I personally believe that the press is going “all in” on Obama because they figure it’s the best way to shut down alternative media – which is killing them – and go back to being the only game in town. The only game in town, and completely beholden to the government. That’s scary as hell.

At this point, I – like Bill Kristol – would be happy to see a McCain win just to watch the press’ reaction. I want to see the press defeated, and set right. Not victorious and forever destroyed.

UPDATE: And when someone in the press does make the Obama camp the teensiest bit uncomfortable, they get punished. Nice. The shape of things to come: Silenced. Don’t challenge us or you’ll pay. Remember…George W. Bush was supposed to be the big fascist.

What was it journalists used to like to say?
“Our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I’m thinking nobody named Obama, Pelosi, Kerry, Reid, Franks, Dodd, Gore etc feels particularly “afflicted” by the press, these last few years.

Related: ACORN, Media & the Angry Right
Gore’s religious fervor goes hyperbolic

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • http://irasciblechef.com irascibleChef

    My dear humble narrator…
    Free Press has always meant free from government control to me. I wonder if what’s going on right now is even more frightening.

    Certain mind control—Individual faction control of the Press, by the Press and niche groups, inside and outside government factions (the Soros factor).

    A controlled mob no doubt, but when our news is manufactured, twisted, contrived, and not questioned and EVERYONE on the train AGREES—we ALL LOSE!

    —It’s already happening. The Press is no longer free (but NOT yet controlled by the government) However, the Mob Press (made up of these individual factions could all be brought together and)could be handed over to Obama, Soros, Pelosi, Sean Penn, Harry Reid, Bill Ayers—you get the picture! Who will control it as the government and that will be that—until the next revolution.

    That’s how 1984 happens!


  • http://oraculations.blogspot.com veit2

    Well, I’m voice number ten thousand in a chorus of barely read blogs, but I’m getting personal blowback from a few (very few)liberal friends who also recognize the corruption of the press… only they approve because the Republicans must be defeated and buried. Ends justify means for far too many of us.

  • Joseph

    I would point out that there has never been a time when the majority of the press here has met your high standards. They were just as tied to the political opinions of their sole proprietor owners as they are to any political, social, or economic pressure right now.

    You participate in one of the venues that attempts to hold the press accountable, Pajamas Media. I would suggest you take an honest and hard look at how well they are prepared for this job. If it were me, I would suggest that they take a page from Drudge and offer access to non-NYT/WaPo newspapers and raw news. At the moment, they are an op-ed page in search of a newspaper. They could become much better with a little judicious purchased syndication.

    Why the current press is relatively immune to political criticism is that they provide news for people to read. News is what happens, it can be slanted, but it cannot be turned into fiction. If the press is “unfree”, you and your cohorts are still free to present an alternative, which is actually the only way anyone can “hold the press acountable”. But it needs to have real news.

    There are news operations out there that cover with far less slant than the ones you are used to. Three I would suggest as starting points: WSJ, UPI, and McClatchy Washington Bureau. I would also suggest Reuters Alert Net–this is not the regular Reuters–it is an operation solely devoted to keeping humanitarian aid workers and foreign affairs journalists apprised of all worldwide crises.

    Take a look at these for a week, and see how unfree you think them compared to the sources you are used to. It can’t hurt, and, with a little cooperation of your like minded bloggers, you might be able to use them to offer something better.

  • tim maguire

    It used to be that the major media provided the news and the blogosphere provided the commentary such that even the media’s worst critics realized how important the media is and hoped for its reformation rather than its demise.

    But with each passing year, that becomes less and less true. The blogosphere is doing a growing and improving job of providing original coverage and if the media doesn’t reform itself within the next few years, its demise will not be lamented. In fact, it will hardly be noticed.

    IMO, if Barack Obama wins this election, then 2008 will be the last year the major media plays a meaningful role in politics. If John McCain wins, then 2006 was.

  • http://irasciblechef.com irascibleChef


    It used to be that the news held the government in check… Now the NEWS needs to be kept in check—it’s no longer news! That’s the sad commentary.

    Drudgereport puts up articles from many different perspectives—and they are putting up articles not doing the news reporting. I’m guessing you don’t really read the DrudgeR, but have heard from your news sources about the DrudgeR.

    “Why the current press is relatively immune to political criticism is that they provide news for people to read.” I feel like Botox-Joe—are you kidding?

    “News is what happens, it can be slanted, but it cannot be turned into fiction.” Sorry, but that statement is fiction…

    —Irascible on Saturday

  • BackwardsBoy

    We are indeed in trouble when the press refuses to tell us the truth. In this election, there are far too many questions that surround Obama that deserve to be answered. I contend that in a normal election, just one of the scandals in The Vapid One’s camp would have resulted in his disqualification from office. However, this is no ordinary election.

    There was one bright spot this morning. One of our local anchors down here interviewed Joe Biden and asked him some real questions for once. To see and hear how it used to be done, watch this:

    I sent Ms. West a congratulatory e-mail.

    [Edited to admit link - admin]

  • maryd

    I called WFTV and left a highly laudatory message about Barbara West’s interview. The lady really kept her cool and I thought Biden was close to blowing a gasket. A real joy to watch!

  • Joseph

    OK, Irascible Chef, here are five headlines, three from AlertNet and two from UPI:

    Israel’s Livni weighs coalition options

    Iraqi party suspends ties with U.S. over raid

    Cold spell to hit England, Scotland

    Tribal fighting displaces thousands in south Darfur

    Wis. officials say they’re ready for snow

    Now do you seriously mean to tell me that somebody just made all this stuff up? That there is no fighting in Darfur? That Wisconsin officials don’t know that snow is on the way? That Isreal is not on the edge of a major government change? And that reporters are sitting around every day writing 30 to 50 fictional stories of this kind which are then put through all the news services?

    Give me a break!

    This is what I mean by “news”. For the moment, I mean the everything else in the world besides Obama/Biden/McCain/Palin/JoeThePlumber. People read news outlets for the sort of stories headlined above, and not just for Obama/Biden/McCain/Palin/JoeThePlumber. This is why the Mainstream Media are mainstream–they provide a variety of this kind of simple reportage of events.

    Now when I go over to Pajamas Media, I find nothing like this. I merely find op ed articles of greater or lesser quality, and commentors of greater or lesser quality. When I want news, I have to go back to news sources in the MSM.

    That is the problem. I certainly have read Drudge, and I am not suggesting that PJM turn itself into Drudge. But what I am suggesting is that nobody is going to make any impression whatever on the MSM or its readers by merely going off in a corner of the Internet and boo hoo hooing about how biased they are–particularly, as in the case of PJM, where the opinion pieces are so boringly repetitive and virtually interchangable with one another–because of the incredibly tiny news base out of which everyone is writing.

    It is also, apparently, all their readers are reading. The point of taking on a little careful syndication is to get some more information into this rapidly contracting loop which will shortly reach the point where everyone over there will have nothing to write except, “OhNoObama!” over and over and over.

    Go back in their archives sometime and make yourself read every story with a headline that includes “Palin” in chronological order. Then tell me that I am wrong.

    If you do not wish to merely follow the MSM then, perforce, you must lead by example, and PJM, as it stands, is simply a dreadful example. There are other ways it could be improved, but a couple of good syndicated primary news sources would be a start.

    Your point of view is headed toward a major disaster. The storm is coming and it is perfectly clear where it will land. I tell you straight from the shoulder, and from outside your point of view, that the only road to recovery will be to stop merely reading each other and stop preaching only to the choir.

    There is really not likely to be anything like a “suppression of your freedom” to write and offer your point of view to the public. But, as matters stand right now, even for the nefarious gang of Obama/Reid/Pelosi, there isn’t any need for it–you have already marginalzed yourselves.

  • Bridey

    News is what happens, it can be slanted, but it cannot be turned into fiction.

    Wanna bet?

    I’ve been a journalist for years, albeit in a rather specialized area, and turning facts into a fairy tale isn’t particularly difficult. I could do it myself. And I’m watching it happen now, with a story that is of the first importance in the industry I cover.

    In the industry trades, the matter is being reported quite capably and fairly (one advantage of an informed audience; it’s tougher to be whimsical with the facts). But in the mainstream media, the identical story is being covered with such blazing bias that I’d be astonished if anyone who’s not in the industry could form even a generally accurate picture of what’s really going on.

    This matter happens to touch on issues that are very dear to many MSM hearts, and their position is very clear. Yet the MSM reporters could say, quite truthfully, that they’re reporting nothing but “what happens.”

    If the press is “unfree”, you and your cohorts are still free to present an alternative, which is actually the only way anyone can “hold the press acountable”.

    Whether, or for how long, that will be allowed to continue under an Obama administration is a pretty key issue, then, isn’t it? If I had a blog of my own, I’d put a clock or calendar on it the day after Obama was elected, to count the days until the first American is prosecuted for expressing his or her political views in what the government considers an inappropriate forum. (I do think it will be a blogger — maybe I’d be the lucky winner!)

    [Joseph - I'm not getting into this - I'm still sick and I'm cooking for almost 20 people tomorrow, so I haven't time, but I would ask you what you think about the LA Times having a tape that could damage Obama, and not releasing it. I wonder if you think the same tape, featuring McCain or Palin, would be held back? Of COURSE news is slanted and biased, and Bridey is quite right. I've linked many times to Pelosi talking about regulating free speech on the internet (and even out of congress) and there is no question that Obama's first order of business will be to suppress dissent (remember when dissent was patriotic?). He's already doing it where he can! -admin]

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  • http://jmbalconi.stblogs.com Jean Balconi

    Joseph, I spent a very, very wearying few years assessing newspaper coverage of political and historical events. I did both quantitative and qualitative analysis. I never read more than two newspapers, but that was exhaustively, including measuring column lengths and counting the number of sources used in each story.

    I also had to use a different rating for stories coming off the wire or cross-reported because they were usually being written to sell. (Funny yet sad aside: After the death of Pres. Garfield, there were two accounts of his widow’s bedside reaction. In one, she was stoic and in the other she collapsed sobbing. In one Michigan paper, both of the accounts were run because obviously the editor and publisher didn’t know for certain which was true.)

    I can honestly say that comparing international news on wire services and regional weather reports to US political coverage is apples and oranges. It’s like trying to prove that a household budget is balanced by using a recipe book and a collection of Simplicity patterns. They may all be a part of domestic economics, but they aren’t the same. Or to use an example near and dear to my heart, just because the weather reports in Venezuela are accurate doesn’t mean the press is free and unbiased.

  • TheHobo

    This article below is also along the same lines.

    Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights? By Orson Scott Card

    For those who do not know, Orson Scott Card is an author best known for his novel “Ender’s Game”. He also writes at The Ornery American.

    More about Card from The Ornery American:

    “Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.

    Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker (beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and scripts.

    Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs plays. He recently began a longterm position as a professor of writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.”

    If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

    “We’ve all been waiting
    We’ve been wondering – will we ever know the truth?
    What it’s like washing windows
    When you know that there are pigeons on the roof?”

  • Joseph

    What do I think about it? Just what you and everybody here thinks about it. That, if it exists, it should come into the open no matter what effect it might or might not have on the campaign.

    But that is not my point. Nor is the notion that the press is unbiased. In fact to make my point I am assuming the contrary and I am always willing to assume the contrary. I do this under the presumption that we might want to try and do something about it.

    We all operate at a base level of raw information no matter what our views. That’s how we know that there is such a person as Sarah Palin or Vladimir Putin or whom or whatever. Providing this information is what I am suggesting that PJM add to their mix.

    My point can be put in the form of a question: Based on the comment pages, there, who is actually reading PJM? To answer my own question: people who already are convinced about what the articles generally have to say. Who reads the New York Times? Everybody at some point or other, if only through links.

    Why? Not because some Svengali called MSM has hypnotized us to do so, but because, on one level or another, the Times delivers basic information, beyond its particular political bias, that we need or want to know.

    So what’s my problem with PJM? Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. Everybody who is paying attention to the horserace knows the name William Ayers, and that he is a questionable character somehow connected to Obama. The Republican candidates themselves have gone out of their way to bring the matter up again and again. The McCain campaign has put up commerical after commercial drawing attention to this relationship.

    But, after all that, one of the national polls [I forget which one, they're all starting to blur together] had an internal question somewhat like this: Do you think Obama’s relationship to William Ayers is important enough to influence your vote? About 60% said that it wasn’t important.

    The 40% extra are basically the people who read PJM. And what do they read there? That finding out about William Ayers will convince a majority of Americans to vote against Obama, because by gosh it IS important! So they keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    This is operating on a basis not grounded in reality. To 60% of the public it is not particularly interesting and there is essentially nothing more to say that will make it interesting. Okay, that’s how it is. We want to convince people to vote against Obama so we’re going to have to find something else.

    If you act as if the world already shares your views, you will convince them of nothing. In fact, that 60% doesn’t even know exactly what your views are, and, frankly, your candidates are not doing a very good job of telling them. Of course, they are far too busy telling people why they should vote against Barack Obama!

    The only problem is, people have been trying to do that since January to no significant long term effect. All the variations have been tried, at all the levels of aggression in speeches, in debates, in high budget commericals on television.

    It isn’t working.

    Why? Well the dastardly MSM, of course. They’ve hypnotized everbody but is to believe that Obama can walk on water.

    All I am suggesting is that you take a second look at this hypothesis, because the only place it leads to is one form or another of this repetitive, non-realistic course of action, and it isn’t working.

    Why? Well one thing I think very suggestive is that the Obama campaign has produced a highly effective set of ads with nothing but Obama talking straight to the camera. People who see them come away convinced that they know who and what Barack Obama is. Whether that conviction is right or wrong is beside the point. It is there. And no amount of portentious commercials with scary voiceovers ["Who is Barack Obama?"] is likely to erode that conviction, which seems to them to be based on first hand experience.

    Do you think John McCain or Sarah Palin could do this successfully? Or do we merely have to wait for all the “real Americans” to come out from somewhere and finally get the idea that Barack Obama is a bad man?

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    Are we sliding into the abyss?

    Are we in the midst of the act of slow national suicide?

    Is there some self-inflicted disease that is continually eroding and degrading our social body?

    If so, is it any surprise? Can a people survive when they have been killing their children for 35 years?

    I don’t know. Maybe we are.

    The one thing I do know for certain — it is folly to place your trust in man. If we look to any human institution to be our savior, we are only ensuring our demise.

    We must remember that we are a pilgrim people in a strange, foreign land.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    One of the few reports from CNN that I believe (mostly).

    I told you that the McCain insiders, idiot pieces of **** that they are, also despise Sarah Palin.

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  • http://www.plumbbobblog.com philwynk

    A small but, I believe, crucial correction:

    The problem is not an unfree press; the press remains free, for now. The problem is a dishonest and partisan press, one that is uniformly refusing to serve its proper function in a free society.

    In fact, partisanship in the press is not necessarily a bad thing, and it appears frequently in American political history. What is unique and dangerous in the current situation is a combination of three things:

    1) The press has developed a reputation and professional tradition of objectivity (this was not always the case in the past.)

    2) The press has become nearly uniformly biased in one direction.

    3) The press is using its reputation as an unbiased, objective news source to deliberately mislead the public.

    Uniform political leaning does not happen by accident. The demise of the press is probably the result of a long-term, deliberate take-down, possibly initiated by the KGB back in the 1950s, but certainly perpetuated by closet radicals through the ensuing decades, so that today, the press is almost entirely the puppet of 60s campus radicals and their seedy step-children.

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  • nan

    Joseph – I hear ya. We are totally immersed in this election and aren’t paying attention to what is going on in the rest of the world right now. In my case, it’s because I’m terrified of the guy with the big ears. I’m sending out e-mails to people who may not like me anymore to try to sway their votes. Futile, you say? Probably – but I can’t sit back and let a disaster happen without at least trying to derail it.

  • http://none Darrell

    We are doing something about it–putting them out of business.
    You have sunk pretty far when the Russian newspapers start
    saying that you have lost all credibility and become a house organ for the
    Democratic Party. Even Socialists need a safe haven, I guess.
    The point is that Obama is sticking to his story that Bill Ayers is just a guy in his neighborhood, someone he hardly knows. That is an outright lie, one that should have been exposed long ago if we had a functioning Press.

    Obama–Let’s Not and Say We DID

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  • http://deedledee.wordpress.com/ deedledee

    I was looking for a story on the news and chanced upon MSNBC this afternoon. I couldn’t believe what I heard and turned the channel. I was curious and turned back at least twice more in between football games and such. What were the MSNBC reporters and anchors doing? Sarah Palin was introduced by Elisabeth Hasselbeck at a speech today. She and Elisabeth made some pointed comments about her clothes and called out the media. So the MSNBCers, who all last week, were the ones obsessed with her clothes dollars, now were basically saying that SHE is bringing up this subject when there are more important issues John McCain wants her to address. I called in my mother and said are you hearing what I’m hearing? Do they think we are morons and have forgotten that they are the ones that were pursuing the clothes story when they could have been reporting on real issues last week. Now when Sarah is putting it all in perspective they are dismissing the relevance of the story. Gosh, I hope she wins just to make them crazy for the next four years.

  • Bridey

    Uniform political leaning does not happen by accident. The demise of the press is probably the result of a long-term, deliberate take-down, possibly initiated by the KGB back in the 1950s, but certainly perpetuated by closet radicals through the ensuing decades, so that today, the press is almost entirely the puppet of 60s campus radicals and their seedy step-children.

    Yes, indeed it is, philwynk, and I think your second hypothesis is the correct one: It’s the “I Won’t Grow Up” ’60s generation and their offspring who have brought us to this terrifying pass, and I don’t think they needed the assistance of the KGB to get us there. I believe this is a 100 percent home-grown disaster.

    Indeed, someday someone will have to write the book (assuming that’s still permitted) that explains what the h*** the Greatest Generation did to their children, to produce such an insupportable number of selfish, immature, pigheadedly ignorant bullies and malcontents.

    For decades most of us have just sighed and gone along as the press, and, just as critically, the universities were taken in hand by the worst of us. And we’re paying for it — perhaps, very soon, a higher price than we ever could have imagined.

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  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com/ Bender B. Rodriguez

    someday someone will have to write the book (assuming that’s still permitted) that explains what the h*** the Greatest Generation did to their children

    No need to write a book. It is clear.

    It was the hell that was World War II that permanently left, not only American parents, but people throughout Europe permanently scarred down to the core. After enduring such horrors, the so-called “Greatest Generation” (Tom Brokaw’s term, not mine) basically tuned out, not willing or caring to get involved in cultural disputes, especially within their own families.

    Meanwhile, not a few of them bought into the cheap allure of hedonism and materialism themselves. Before Roe opened the bloodgates to unthinkable slaugher, the parents of the baby boomer generation led the way in the destruction of the family and culture with increasing demands for easy divorce.

    It is not all that surprising that they should drop the ball. After witnessing unimaginable horrors in the war, they simply did not want to have to play the savior anymore, they did not want to have to be the responsible ones anymore. So they didn’t.

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