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Monday, February 1, 2010

Freedom of the Press

The freedom of the Press seems to us to be an uncontestable right of society, especially if it is expected to be seen as 'free'.  But is this freedom really what we want?  think about all the things written on the internet, or in the media.  How much of it is disputed, or derided as partial, or incorrect?  Anyone can publish anything if they have the means, and it can then be read and believed by anyone, no matter as to its validity.

I have the freedom to write and say whatever it is that I want - truth or not.  Now of course there are laws that tell me I can't say certain things that harm people or slander them.  But what of concepts, of grey areas, or of the fact that this type of lawsuit may just be to late to change an oppinion already entrenched by the misinformation?  The bottom line is that in today's society if you have the money or the platform to print something, you can print whatever it is that you want.  It is great that the internet gives a platform to a poor person such as myself, but what is to say that what I am saying is fact or fiction, as both are subjective for the most part given point of views and perspectives.  This is no great threat to society as there are as of yet very few people reading this.  But think about it in terms of Fox News, MSNBC, and all of the other thousands of partisan publications and messages out there (think swift boats).  The bottom line is, that in my hands an observation - even when written online for anyone to see - does not have much power, but in the hands of someone with capabilities, money, and establishment these things can change the course of elections, the path of society, and public opinion.  Now of course I could subject myself to an investor and try to make my voice more visible, but then I become beholden to the investor's wishes.  Would I then be able to say things that ran against their principle profit maximizing motivation?  Which is likely a big part of why they have the ability to invest.

Freedom of the press is a wonderful thought, and it would work phenomenally if there were equal resources for everyone to promote their ideas.  But this is not the case, the system is actually set up in a way that those who have the financial means to publish can make their message heard.  However, those without the means, do not ever get their voices heard (at least not yet;).  This is not freedom of the press, I am not free to publish whatever I want.  I can't walk into a publishers house and say, ok, I want 20,000 copies of this book printed and destributed.  They either have to come find me and say my work is good (or good with certain 'changes'), or I can self publish at a huge price in both publishing and marketing.  This is freedom within the confines of capitalist economic constraints, not real freedom.  Within current day context this basically allows for people with money to get their voice heard and those without to most likely not, especially if it is not the type of message those in positions of power want heard and will fund. 

But the true kicker of all of this, is that even with this system, it doesn't say that any of the information being published has to truely be accurate.  I just saw a commercial about the republican senate victory in Massachusetts and said that as Massachusetts had 'government-run' health care, that this loss meant that Mass voters had "just said no" to this type of health care.  Now how is it possible to sum up an entire election in this one issue?  Like there was nothing else invovled? No unemployment, no economy, no candidate personalities, electoral funding, whatever.  This election wasn't performed in a vacuum, yet the freedom of the press allows an organization to project conclusions upon the national electorate (on CNN) that needless to say leave a little bit 'wanting'.  Yet, its unlikely anyone is going to take it off air.  More likely it is just going to promote an equally biased response from a democratic leaning organization.  Neither side is innocent.

Things certainly are going to get worse now that the supreme court has declared corporate money ok to use in elections.  Think of all that money spent 'freely' by people with specific agendas, and interests in twisting information towards their specific cause.  All the money in the world, and the freedom to print whatever it is that you want.  Dangerous.  And not going to help empower anyone but those who already have it.

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