Freedom of the press

The funny thing about being free is that what it really comes down to is the right to criticize and be criticized. And by that I simply ...

The funny thing about being free is that what it really comes down to is the right to criticize and be criticized. And by that I simply mean that our ability to think and speak as individuals is one of the great superpowers of humanity and the exchange and the rejection of ideas is paramount to liberty. Also the ability to disagree with, and even outright challenge authority.

This is what freedom of the press is truly all about. It is the ultimate check and balance to those in positions of power. Perhaps we've come to expect that some lily-livered senator or MP can be controlled by his or her party, or a corrupt congressman bought by the unions, or a middling bureaucrat bullied by special interest groups, but the true journalist has only one master - the truth. 

Or so it ought to be,

A nation's freedom can reasonably be judged by its freedom of the press. Any totalitarian society begins and remains by punishing, then hampering, then blatantly censoring the media. It cripples the people's power to criticize, to disagree, and to challenge. You've heard the modern expression "information is power" and that is a fact. Those who control the narrative, hold the power - but only if those who seek truth are too chicken to fight back. 

One way we fight back is by using media. To reach, to inform, and to invigorate. 

There are plenty of examples of attacks on freedom of the press throughout history, but let's set those aside for now because we actually have two very powerful issues to deal with right here in our progressive midst. We can actually witness the degeneration with our own eyes.

Problem one: the decline of the sacred creed of journalistic integrity.
The journalist has traditionally been a proud ensign for truth, putting away biases and loyalties for the sake of getting the real story. The true journalist must report the facts, whether they raise or degrade their favourite candidate, hero, or philosophy. But in recent years we've experienced a drastic shift of mainstream media to the far left where pragmatism is overwhelmed by idealism. And because ideals then become more important than truth, journalists bent on shaping the narrative fail to report news that does not support the held ideals. In other words, they don't report what they don't like.

For example, you will never hear the leftist media report that far more white males are shot by cops in America than blacks. Or that many blacks shot by cops were shot by black cops. This does not support the favoured narrative of systemic racism. Neither will you hear leftist media report science that challenges climate alarmism. They are no longer committed to unbiased truth, but to social and political ideals. And in order to push their chosen and carefully edited narrative, they actually self-censor. The media has become its own worst enemy. 

Problem two: the compartmentalization of dissent.
Yes, that's a deliciously long word. Basically, it means that any media outlet, large or small, that dares to report anything other than the popular narrative, is set apart from the others. It is put on a separate plane, often with kindly labels like "extremist" attached. These are journalists that are accused of being bought, of  pandering for attention, of ushering in anarchy, or betraying some perceived loyalty, when they are in reality sticking their necks out to report another side of the story, or in some cases, the real story. These are journalists who struggle to be heard because they own the "wrong" ideas. They don't toe the progressive leftist line. And the establishment refuses to recognize them as real journalists.

They are classed separately from all others in order to de-legitimize and trivialize.
Just bloggers, podcasters or commentators.
Mere fear mongers and rabble rousers.

Plain and simple, we live in a world that grows less and less reliant on print and network news. And it is the traditional hold-outs scrambling to stay relevant that try to limit voices of dissension by diminishing the importance of independent media. I'm not talking about the disgruntled lay-about who complains about the government on his personal blog. I'm talking full online magazines and newscasters who have earned themselves the title of journalist through hard work and chutzpah.

As is often the case these days, we have a prime example of this in Alberta. One of  my personal favourite rogue media outlets (in a nation that hasn't seen journalistic integrity in decades), the Rebel Media, has been banned by the provincial NDP government from all press junkets. Literally banned. As in armed guards will escort you off the premises. Why? Because, like so many other demonized news sources, the Rebel has chosen to fill a void left by mainstream media. They criticize the NDP government relentlessly. They dissect the narrative without mercy. They dare to contradict and challenge. One of their reporters even wrote a book about NDP corruption. Note that all of these "crimes" are the right and the duty of the legitimate press. 

Now let this sink in a moment. The government chose a media outlet that speaks against them, declared that they are not recognized as journalists, and banned them from the legislature. This is completely illegal. It is also a blatant attack on human rights in Alberta. Remember, the reason we have freedom of the press is to maintain the right to speak out against all human rights violations. We have freedom of the press to fight against injustice and tyranny. If all other journalists are led to understand that they will lose their credentials if they say the wrong things about the wrong people, then we may as well rename the Calgary Sun "Pravda" and start calling this the People's Republic of Alberta. Maybe that sounds overly dramatic. But if the government controls the narrative, then how can that government answer to the people? It can't. That is the point. It ceases to be accountable.

We have entered an age where inconvenient truth is treason. This is seen most obviously in the treatment of whistleblowers - even at the hands of journalists who are supposed to be the champions of those who bravely come forward. Consider Edward Snowden, who had to flee to a country where the US government could not retaliate. Or David Daleiden who is being charged for imaginary crimes for uncovering an act of brutality. Consider the media in Sweden and Germany, who were required to cover up incidences of rape, even mass sexual assault, to shield their pro-migration governments from criticism, even at the risk of further violence against women. A clear message is being delivered right now across the western world: speak out of turn and you will be punished.

Now that you are properly worried about the state of western journalism, I can assure you that the solution is simple. We as consumers must demand journalistic integrity. We must call out bias and false narrative. We must reject journalism that hides, lies, and deflects. And we must support media and journalists that tell the side of the story that is neglected or ignored. Tyrannies are built upon the notion that they can convince us of what to think, in spite of truth. We must, as individuals, obliterate that notion by the news we choose to consume and our reception of journalism that just doesn't measure up.

Talking Points:

Media is a key instrument in the defense and maintenance of all human rights.
Journalistic integrity is a commitment to seeking and reporting the truth, convenient or not.
All tyrannies are born from censorship and control of information.
Alternative media often fills a void left by mainstream media. 

 Questions to Ask:

Does my news source present mostly facts, or mostly opinions?
Does my news source shy away from politically incorrect ideas or words?
Does my news source fairly present both sides of controversial ideas and policies?
Does my news source habitually defend or attack certain ideas, policies, or people?
Does my news source question the status quo?
Is it time to look for an alternative news source or perhaps an additional news source?

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