Pity the plight of poor Anthony Comstock. The man H.L. Mencken described as “the Copernicus of a quite new art and science,” who literally invented the profession of anti-obscenity crusader in the waning days of the 19th century, ultimately got, as legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield would say, “no respect, no respect at all.”
As head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and special agent for the U.S. Post Office under a law that popularly bore his name, Comstock was, in Mencken’s words, the one “who first capitalized moral endeavor like baseball or the soap business, and made himself the first of its kept professors.”
Continue reading “The Censor’s Dilemma”
The First Amendment is one of the cornerstone principles that define this nation. There is no such thing as freedom if we cannot speak freely.
Today, however, our nation seems less interested in protecting free speech than at any time I can recall. Major advocates of free speech like the ACLU are wavering in their support of our First Amendment, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are fighting for the government to censor online speech.
Continue reading “Attacking Free Speech Doesn’t Just Hurt Tech: America Must Stay True to Its First Amendment Principles”
In a single swipe, Twitter and Facebook have done what the U.S. government and the Constitution could not: delete the power of an irreverent president to rile and rally Americans to violent action.
Twitter announced Jan. 8 that it permanently suspended Trump’s account, while Facebook announced Jan. 7 it had suspended Trump’s account indefinitely.
Continue reading “Big Tech Must Self-Regulate To Protect Public Safety”
One can scarcely remember the time, only a few short decades ago, when life moved along without the array of personal digital devices that have come to define today’s culture. All of that changed, of course, with the advent of the Internet and the ability to access a burgeoning number of websites (which themselves were rapidly evolving).
Personal desktop computers, portable laptops, tablets, cell phones, and “smart phones” would fuel the tech revolution. Who could imagine that someday one’s phone, tablet, and computers would all be synchronized into a seamless whole. Or that millions of Americans would spend vast amounts of time engaging each other via something called “social media.”
Continue reading “The Role of Targeted Advertising In Supporting First Amendment Principles”
In the 40 years since The Media Institute began, it’s difficult to recall a national environment quite like the one we’re in today.
Basic principles of free speech are being challenged in multiple ways and by multiple forces: foreign governments distorting the “truth” through social media, and varying outlets promoting wildly disparate views of the “news.” Divisiveness and contention are at an all-time high in our politics and our national discourse.
Continue reading “First Amendment Values and a Voice for Everyone”
Two hundred and thirty-one years ago this week, Congress passed a collection of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 10 of which would become the Bill of Rights. Foremost in the Bill of Rights is the First Amendment, which allows Americans to worship how they please, speak their minds openly, and have their voices heard by their government.
Our Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, also included in the First Amendment the right to a free press. They understood that our democracy could not survive without the freedom to report the news without fear or favor. The times may have changed; that principle has not.
Continue reading “First Amendment Still Shines During Toughest of Times”
Hyper partisan politics and our divided nation make it easier than ever to vilify anyone, any time, in any way. In the words of Michael Corleone, “If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.”
Used figuratively here, of course, but that is what cancel culture has wrought in today’s society.
While cancellation may seek to stifle speech, it causes social and economic destruction as well. It projects permanence and public shame for its targets whether deserved or not. And it promotes a kind of techno tyranny against which we all should be vigilant.
Continue reading “Cancel Culture Is Techno Tyranny”
Whatever happens with police reform legislation in Congress, there is no reason to expect that protection of reporters and media will figure into the proposed “best practices” of how journalists should be treated during tense and often violent situations such as we’ve seen in the past month. Generalized protections already exist in the First Amendment, but as the brutal incidents of the past month show, law enforcement officers can recklessly bypass those enshrined barriers.
A slew of reports – some of them admittedly self-pitying – emerged in recent weeks with frightening details about how print and electronic journalists have been attacked by law enforcement officers. It appears that sometimes reporters were singled out as they sought to cover the protests and demonstrations that erupted around the world after George Floyd’s death-by-knee in Minneapolis.
Continue reading “Ending the Media Versus Police Tumult”
are living in challenging times for those who depend on the work of a free
press. Every day, journalists across the
globe encounter censorship, harassment, and violence. In every part of the world, authoritarian
rulers are increasing their grip on the press, trying to prevent reporters from
holding the powerful to account.
The Washington Post
is sadly familiar with these attacks.
Our reporter Jason Rezaian was arrested and held inside Tehran’s
notorious Evin Prison for 544 days, even though he had committed no crime. We are grateful that he is now free and back
at The Washington Post, where his
writing often focuses on the importance of press freedom.
Continue reading “An Independent Press: Essential to Our Democracy”
Free Speech Week has always been a time to celebrate freedom of expression. This year, however, perhaps there should be an element of somber reflection amid the festivities. It’s worth remembering, after all, that the exercise of free speech can have life-or-death consequences in certain parts of the world. How thankful we should be that freedom of speech and freedom of the press can be exercised in this country without fear of such extreme retaliation.
The sad case of Jamal Khashoggi brings this into sharp relief. The disappearance and murder of the Washington Post contributing columnist, which the Saudis now admit occurred at the hands of their own operatives, happened just three weeks before Free Speech Week, October 22 – 28. He joins a long list of journalists from around the world who have disappeared or been killed while working in pursuit of the truth, who spoke out too stridently or too frequently against corrupt government leaders and their abuses of power.
Continue reading “Free Speech Week: Celebrating, Reflecting”