Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Disquieting Conundrum

I have a problem, a difficulty, a disquieting conundrum.  It has to do with the First Amendment of the US Constitution which reads:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

President Trump tweeted just the other day, “Fox News is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly…The outside world does not see the truth from them!”  CNN fired back—“It’s not CNN’s job to represent the U.S. to the world.  That your’s.  Our job is to report the news.”  

With Oscar Wilde I would say to Mr. Trump, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.”  With G.K. Chesterton I would quickly add, “To have the right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”  And,  for good measure, I would also say with Noam Chomsky, “If we do not believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we do not believe in it at all.”

On the other hand, I would say with Winston Churchill, “Everyone is in favor of free speech.  Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.”  If the Press speaks back to Mr. Trump or tells a different story than Mr. Trump, he  reacts with yet another tweet about how CNN is “fake news” “garbage journalism” and “the worst.”  Again, I could say with Noam Chomsky, “Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked.  So was Stalin.  If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise.  Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”  

The suggestion that building a wall will give us security and then to ignore and argue against Thomas Jefferson’s admonition, “The only security of all is in a free press,” creates a disquieting conundrum within me.

Joshua Tree National Park, CA

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