The Peril the “Free” Press Poses for Our Republic

Written by Nicholas Wishek

President Trump has come under continuous attack for his comments at a recent rally when he again criticized the mainstream media. He is absolutely right to do so.

The nursery rhyme about ‘sticks and stones’ got it wrong. Words can definitely hurt you. Our Founding Fathers were well aware of this. They crafted the Declaration of Independence to sway public opinion. The writings of Thomas Paine and others like him certainly influenced many colonists to support the revolution. The Founding Fathers believed that freedom of speech and freedom of the press were so important that they included both in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. The problem is that they expected there would be, if not an impartial press, at least multiple opinions to compete in the public arena. This hasn’t always been the case. In 1860 for instance, the Southern anti-abolitionist, anti-Lincoln press far outnumbered opposing points of view in the South. Many believe this was so influential that it helped incite the citizens of Dixie to opt for Civil War.  

A more alarming misuse of freedom of the press is when those responsible for the news are neither fair nor honest. There is little doubt the yellow journalism led by major newspaper owners, William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, spurred American intervention in Cuba by their slanted and often outright dishonest reporting.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton got it right when he coined the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” And that was before the invention of radio, television, and the internet allowed the spread of ideas to an extent that could not have been imaged by our Founding Fathers.

The journalistic ideal as envisioned in the First Amendment would be a pillar for a free republic. Differences in ideas and policies would be debated fairly and honestly. When this doesn’t happen, as is increasingly the case today, the abuse of power by the media is instead a danger to our freedom. The liberal slant to the news by the major media outlets has become more and more obvious. In 2011 Dr. Tim Groseclose a political science and economics professor at UCLA published Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind. He spent years of research proving that liberal media bias is real. It should be remembered that he wrote this before Obama’s second term and the election of President Trump.

Now we have most of the major media openly allied with the Democrat Party and the progressive left against President Trump. They basically hope to undo the election results and if they cannot remove President Trump they at least hope to at prevent him from implementing any of his policies. They do it in a number of dishonest ways. For one, they choose the stories they cover. After his first 100 days a Harvard study concluded that, “In no week did the coverage drop below 70 percent negative and it reached 90 percent negative at its peak.”  It has arguably gotten worse since then. Another tactic used to sway public opinion is the legion of “experts” who disparage anything the President says or does. In propaganda 101 this is called the bandwagon tactic. Conversely the media under plays anything negative about the people they support. And everything Trump says is given the worse possible motivation or interpretation.

All that is bad enough, but it is the “fake” news that is the most reprehensible and dangerous to our nation. Stories based on “unnamed sources” (If they even exist.) can’t be vetted for accuracy or potential bias. It’s like asking a defendant when he stopped beating his wife. The perception is now out there that maybe he was beating his wife, true or not. That’s just wrong.

A free press is essential for a republic, but it must honest and be held accountable for what it reports. And it is not just those in power that can be attacked. Anyone in the country can be unfairly targeted when the media abuses its power. Remember the Duke Rape case? The lives of three innocent young men were trashed. Even worse was the Zimmerman/Martin case. The media ran with a picture of a much younger Trayvon Martin next to a mug shot of an adult Zimmerman. In reality Martin was an athletic 17 year old who was bigger than George Zimmerman. Worse ABC actually edited Zimmerman’s 911 to the police to make him sound like a racist. When they found out he wasn’t white they referred to him as a white-Hispanic.

The media coverage of the shooting of “the gentle giant,” Michael Brown, in Ferguson left Officer Darren Wilson out of a job and forced to move. These are ordinary people whose lives were turned upside down by an abusive media.

In the final determination a “free” press is only free if it’s impartial. We don’t have that now. We must hold the media accountable for their actions and for how they impact our country and the lives of its citizens. President Trump should be applauded for calling them out for their shameful behavior. 

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Nicholas Wishek

Nicholas Wishek. Retired teacher. 40 years classroom experience. Served in California National Guard 6 years. BA in history, MA in education. Married 35 years. Two sons. Many columns published in OC Register 2009-2014.

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