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Blupete's Weekly Commentary

November 7th, 1999.

"Freedom (Licentiousness) of The Press."

Except for a sense of professionalism (which we all, at every level, must promote) there seems to be nothing, to keep in check the press, who, cloaking themselves in their righteous mantle, go about, -- and, in too many instances with disregard of any rule or correctness -- spreading stories around which are ill researched, and with, little or no balance. In too many instances the press come nearer to licentiousness than they come to good journalism.

Now, there can be no doubt that the liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state1; but this liberty has never been free from censure for matters that constitute a crime against the state, or a civil wrong against any particular citizen. Journalists and their employers have regularly been hauled into court; and, will continue to be when they step over the line -- as long as the aggrieved party (citizen or government) has the money, the perseverance and the guts to prosecute a legal suit. Lord knows whose around that will take them on when they do harm to certain of our social institutions such as the traditional family unit, or the free market system. It seems to me when a "journalist" spouts, with absolutely no qualification, that children have "rights" or that men and women are equal; well, he or she have not made much of a study of it. And for the market system: well, everybody should just have what they want, for free. I do not know where most of them received their education. But, then, maybe, that's the problem: our schools are sadly lacking in teachers who can teach fundamental truths.

Journalists all too often do not rely on their own intelligence; but, rather, on some expert2 that has happened along at a convenient moment. People who wish to see their particular group given an advantage over the rest of us -- and this lesson has been learned very well by the multiplying "interest groups" -- dress up their appeal in language specially addressed to, or adapted to exert influence upon, some particular principle of conduct, mental faculty, or class of persons. They appeal to "humane feeling" or more generally to humane passion. When their views have dramatic appeal, they take them to the public through media campaigns. Groups promote their pet experts, the battle goes public, and quiet scientists and engineers are drowned in the clamor.

Do the important issues get debated in the mass media? Some things seem to work well enough without any notice being taken by the public: and, often, these are the most simple and important workings of society such as family cooperation. In the media, as in human consciousness, one concern tends to drive out another. This is what makes conscious attention so scarce and precious. Our society needs to identify the facts of its situation more swiftly and reliably, with fewer distracting feuds in the media. This will free, public debate for its proper task - judging procedures for finding facts, deciding what we want, and helping us choose a path toward a world worth living in.



1 In Plato's scheme, opinion was to be regulated for the good of society. This would be achieved by having the state take over the business of raising children, men would thus be free from the dissentions that arise among men from the pressures of raising a family. But more important to Plato in his scheme as was set forth in his book, the Republic, was that the state could then proceed, unhampered, in the necessary task of inculcating in the citizenry the necessary beliefs and virtues. Of course, in this Platonic system, "censorship over our story-makers" was an essential part if the "noble lie" was to be maintained. In Plato's view "opinions divorced from knowledge are ugly things." Plato had a low opinion of citizens, and, in his view, men just too easily get drowned out in the racket of false opinions, they would just "lose themselves and wonder amid the multiplicities of multifarious things."

2 The man of the specialty cannot describe the large outlines; he is too close upon the minutiae; he does not know the relations of other knowledge, and no one else dares to infringe on his province -- on the 'study of his life' -- for fear of committing errors in detail which he alone knows, and which he may expose. Certain men will, of course, say two things, if we do not take their views: first, that we don't know anything about these matters; and, secondly, that we are not so good as they are.

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Peter Landry

November, 1999 (2019)