Of all the extraordinary and disturbing news out of Washington, the current administration’s blocking of news coverage hits nearly closest to the bone. Compounding the occasional and increasing selective admission of certain journalists and exclusion of others, yesterday’s pronouncement that recording of briefings would be barred sends a shiver through the heart of America.
The framers of our Constitution pronounced these principles:
“The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press. The importance of this consists, besides the advancement of truth, science, morality, and arts in general, in its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of Government, its ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and its consequential promotion of union among them, whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs.”
Source: The Heritage Foundation, heritage.org, quoting Appeal to the Inhabitants of Quebec, written by the First Continental Congress in 1774.
Think about those words. “The importance . . . consists [of], besides the advancement of truth. . . its diffusion of liberal sentiments on the administration of government. . . ready communication of thoughts between subjects, and . . . promotion of union among them.” And what is the purpose of these endeavors? To “shame or intimidate” oppressive officers into “more honorable and just modes of conducting affairs”.
Conversely, inhibiting the freedom of press allows for less honorable and less just modes of conducting the affairs of government. These nefarious developments result from prohibiting the “ready communication of thoughts” and preventing “the promotion of union” among the subject of governmental action.
Can you identify any Constitutionally defensible purpose for a wholesale prevention of open reporting on our current administration? I do not question the careful and selective protection of certain actions which, if publicized, would unduly threaten state secrets or national security. But such items do not appear on the agenda in White House briefings. Rather, the ordinary business of governance receives air in those daily affairs. The people have a right to be informed as to such matters, and we look to the press for information.
The curtailment of a free press promotes governmental corruption, tyranny, and fascism. We must not tolerate these dangerous actions by our government. Citizens must protest, or risk watching the America which we love become a distant and wistfully regarded reality.
The English words “the pen is mightier than the sword” were first written by novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. Though originally intended as a way of describing a cleric’s defense of himself by peaceful means, nonetheless the phrase reminds us that we can keep our American experiment alive by speaking. Do not let the pen be stilled as it writes of truth.
John Adams wrote in 1765 in his “Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law:
“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers. Rulers are no more than attorneys, agents, and trustees, of the people; and if the cause, the interest, and trust, is insidiously betrayed, or wantonly trifled away, the people have a right to revoke the authority that they themselves have deputed, and to constitute other and better agents, attorneys and trustees.”
One of the first principle taught in law school directs attorneys to attend to their fiduciary duties. The fiduciary duty is an obligation of loyalty and good faith to someone or some entity that is the highest duty known to the law. Our elected officials owe no less, but without the accountability inherent in a society with a free and unfettered press, their exercise of this duty cannot be monitored.
I lament the shadow thus cast on the integrity of our great nation. Anyone who does not share my outrage either lives beneath a rock or welcomes the descent into intolerance and the limits of freedom which tyranny demands. The rest of us must resist. When the emperor strolls past, block his path and loudly remark upon his nakedness, with the cameras rolling and the mighty pens poised.