Monday, February 04, 2019

"Democracy dies in the darkness"

I don't watch the Super Bowl. The last time I watched the big game with interest was Super Bowl IV, when Kansas City defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7. I've been to three or four Super Bowl parties over the years at which the games were on the TV; I've paid enough attention to be polite.

But I read about the Washington Post Super Bowl commercial and decided to look it up this morning.

Journalists, like the rest of we who make up the human race, aren't perfect. But they play an important role in seeking to ferret out and share the truth each day. I'm grateful to the lion's share of journalists who seek to simply tell the truth. I honor journalists killed in the line of doing their duty.

I like the words of former president, George W. Bush: "I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy...we need the media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power, whether it be here or elsewhere.”

In a letter written in 1816, Thomas Jefferson said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe."

Freedom of the press, respect for the press, and protection of the press is as essential for our democracy as the military, intelligence services, law enforcement, and agencies that safeguard our health, environment, transportation, and drugs. And I respect all these institutions that work for us within government, even though they don't always get things right. I also respect the press, the media,  as that outside entity, the "fourth estate," which also doesn't always get things right and is accountable to news-consumers and the market when it gets things wrong.

President Kennedy, borrowing phrasing from a prominent coffee commercial of the early 60s, once remarked that he was reading newspapers, but enjoying it less. Our disappointment with what we see, read, and hear from various news outlets probably has a lot more to do with them telling us the truth that we would prefer not hearing than with falsehoods that sometimes are told.

I've been misquoted by newspapers and other journalists. It can be frustrating. But rarely do I find journalists getting the story completely wrong. And I have to remember that I mess up in my work too. But for all the risks, we will not long have a democracy without a free, inquiring press. Democracy does die in the darkness and a free press casts a bright light so that we can all see the facts.

The message of this ad is powerful and important.

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