Jan 26, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

‘The Post’ reminds us: A protected press protects the public

The Pentagon Papers revealed how four presidencies misled the public about an unwinnable war.

A friend of mine who admits to applauding at the end of movies said she was in good company at a recent showing of “The Post.”

“What do you think,” she asked her politically conservative husband as the credits rolled, “is the audience full of liberals?”

“No,” he replied. “Patriots.”

A round of applause!

I wouldn’t give “The Post” a best movie Oscar; despite a terrific cast and riveting premise, it was a bit sappy. But I shamelessly and spontaneously whooped when the Supreme Court recognized the crucial role of the First Amendment and a free press in holding government accountable. I love the film’s snippet of Justice Hugo Black’s eloquent opinion about how press freedom must be protected so that it may “serve the governed, not the governors.”

I’m hopeful that “The Post” will inform a new generation about the Pentagon Papers (of 18 students in my University at Albany journalism class this semester, no one had seen the movie, one had heard of it, and only a couple were at least vaguely familiar with the Pentagon Papers).
Besides, it’s never been more important for people to appreciate the role of the press.

My stomach churns every time the president says “fake news.” When he called the press the enemy of the American people, it felt like a punch in the gut. And his flip comments and tweets inciting violence against journalists scare the heck out of me.

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker (whose column appears in The Saratogian) this week addressed the connection between Trump’s relentless demonizing of the media and a disturbed 19-year-old’s recent calls threatening to kill CNN staff. “Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down,” he said in one of the milder rants.

Writes Parker: “One could reasonably argue that Trump isn’t to blame for what others do or say. On the other hand, one could also posit that when the president targets journalists or media institutions by name in his frequent ‘fake news’ rants, he bears some responsibility for what happens as a result. … When a pattern of incitement can be demonstrated, should the inciter be held accountable?”

Trump’s incitement, Parker continues, “doesn’t make him culpable if someone goes off the deep end, but it does make him a despicable human being, which is bad enough. In a president, it’s unpardonable.”

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