The Press Defaults On Its Duty

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Here is a brilliant article by constitutional scholar Henry Holzer, which I discovered on Robert Bidinotto's blog.

The Press Defaults On Its Duty

by Henry Mark Holzer

Unfortunately, the recent spectacle of worldwide mindless Muslim riots -- supposedly caused by a Danish newspaper’s publication of the Muhammad cartoons -- has obscured a phenomenon even more dangerous to this nation than the rampages themselves: the capitulation of America’s free press, which almost universally has declined to publish any of the drawings.

The issue is not that the press has a right to publish the cartoons. That’s undeniable. It’s Constitutional Law 101.

No, the issue is the duty of the American press to publish the Muhammad cartoons. It’s not a social or political duty, but rather a moral duty, rooted in the legacy of the Founders and the self-generated principle the press has wrapped itself in for over two hundred years: the public’s "right to know" about such stories as the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, looting of Iraq’s museums, Abu Ghraib, NSA surveillance, alleged torture of terrorists, secret CIA prisons, and much more.

Indeed, it was the perceived moral duty of the press in service of the public’s right to know that brought us editorial cartoons like Joe McCarthy climbing out of a sewer carrying a bucket overflowing with slime, and of Richard Nixon dressed like a plumber.

Now, in the matter of the Muhammad cartoons, virtually all of the American press has suddenly done an about-face in the name of "restraint," "sensitivity," "respect," "tolerance," and other out-of-context bromides. Yet there was none of this, or any reluctance to "offend," when the media showed a South Vietnamese policeman shooting a Vietcong killer in the head, or allowed Jews to be caricatured by making them look like Shylock, or depicted Christ immersed in urine, or in publishing other stories that were, certainly as to some members of the public, unrestrained, insensitive, disrespectful, intolerant, and, yes, even offensive.

But then, the press had no reason to fear the South Vietnamese, the Jews, or the Catholics. And therein lies the explanation of what has happened to the media in the United States.

The American press that has ignored the Muhammad cartoons -- cognizant of the fatwas against Rushdie and others, the murder of van Gogh, the burning of diplomatic enclaves, and the rash of death threats -- has cut and run for at least two reasons.

One, much less important than the second, is that most journalists in America today believe, or at least purport to believe, in the "multiculturalism" gobbledygook that all cultures are equal, that they all deserve respect, etc., ad nauseam.

The more important reason is because they are cowards. In capitulating to the irrational mob, the American press has done much worse than expose their hypocrisy, betray their European and domestic colleagues, and default on their moral duty as custodians of the First Amendment. Much worse.

The compliant American press has shamefully, and dangerously, reinforced the belief of Osama bin Laden and his minions that, like Nixon’s pullout from Vietnam, Reagan’s retreat from Beruit, Clinton’s flight from Somalia, and Bush 41’s failure of will in the Gulf War, Americans can’t take casualties.

Now, despite the sagacity of the Founders and the many First Amendment battles to keep America’s press free, the guardians of that legacy have left the field -- not because of actual harm to them (which, had it occurred, they should have proudly accepted and soldiered on) -- but because of the mere risk of danger. They have capitulated to mere threats from political zealots who worship nihilism, and who in millennia have contributed little to the civilized world but hatred, destruction, and death.

Throughout American history, the principal enemy of a free press has been government. Now, sadly, it is the press itself.

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This subject has been present on many Internet sites recently as a kind of backlash against the cowardice people are seeing the American press display. So I am very glad to see it here also as our small voice of protest.

However, I believe that there is even more uneasiness going around than merely thinking that our reporters are yellow. There is the thought that, "If the most all of the major press vehicles can make a decision amongst themselves to refrain from publishing some cartoons, what else are they deciding amongst themselves?"

I can't speak too much about American press, but I know Brazilian press well. In the early 1980's, I produced a couple of shows in Paraguay with a Brazilian artist named Geraldo Vandré. He was famous as Brazil's most radical protest singer and he was reviled by the right-wing pro-military faction (Brazil was still a military dictatorship at that time).

Geraldo, who was enormously popular when he was active, had been absent from the stage for over 10 years, ever since he took off for other lands. Had he stayed in Brazil back then, he would have being exiled. Even so, several of his songs were banned by the Official Censor during his absence.

So his return to the stage was a major event, publicly charged with political dynamite. To make matters worse, he wanted to present his return at a hall in a recreational area of the Itaipu Binational Dam (a joint Brazilian and Paraguayan undertaking), but on the Paraguayan side.

He stated to the public that since his music had been prohibited in Brazil, he was prohibiting Brazil from his return to the stage, and that any Brazilian who wanted to see it would have to cross the Friendship Bridge on the frontier and leave the country.

(I almost got my ass shot off - literally - during that project, but that is another story.)

As I was working for the success of my show, I started following the press. Then I started noticing the differences between what was being reported and what I was doing. Basic facts that were completely wrong were being published - and I knew it. I was the one doing them.

Because of the mess the press made, the Paraguayan government felt uneasy about the show and canceled our permit. I had to go to Asuncion and speak to the No.2 man in the Ministry of the Interior to straighten the matter out.

I did and the shows were finally presented. During the problems, I was hounded by press people, all clamoring for statements and insinuating that I had the force of the press on my side. But all I could see was that I would say or do one thing and it would come out backwards in the papers and magazines or on TV.

In the final press conference we held, I decided to raise this issue. I was fed up. I asked them - Where was their commitment to the truth? Were they newspaper vendors or reporters of events? They were doing no good for us. They were doing no good for Brazil. They were not even doing any good for their papers.

The answer I received was that I was an American, so I didn't understand properly.

I have never really respected the press since.

I am very sad to see that my jaded outlook on the press is valid for here, but it figures.


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