* The Media’s Assault on Free Speech

  • The following text is excerpted from “Journalists Mobilize Against Free Speech,” by Armin Rosen, Tabletmag.com (January 24, 2021) American journalism once thought of itself as being inherently and institutionally pro free speech. Visitors to the Newseum, the media industry’s temple of self-glorification on Constitution Avenue in Washington, were once greeted with the First Amendment inscribed across […]
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The following text is excerpted from “Journalists Mobilize Against Free Speech,” by Armin Rosen, Tabletmag.com (January 24, 2021)

American journalism once thought of itself as being inherently and institutionally pro free speech. Visitors to the Newseum, the media industry’s temple of self-glorification on Constitution Avenue in Washington, were once greeted with the First Amendment inscribed across 74 vertical feet of lofty marble. The Newseum has been closed since late 2019, its operators having discovered the hard way, that the public doesn’t share the media’s heroic level of regard for itself.

The museum was an anachronism in more ways than one: The idea that journalists themselves look upon the constitutional right to free expression with quasi-religious awe is nearly as quaint as the idea the media could be the basis for a major D.C. tourist attraction. A publicly beloved press that earnestly believes in free speech now feels like it belongs to some fictive era of good feelings. These days, the American public distrusts the media more than it ever has.

Confronted with this crisis of legitimacy, today’s corporate media increasingly advances ideas that would delight would-be power trippers of any party—like establishing novel forms of government control over what you can see, read, and hear and identifying people with a broad range of unpopular or unapproved views as domestic terrorists. […]

The notion that free expression is sedition’s handmaiden, or that the prevention of treason should be a higher goal than the open exchange or exposure of allegedly dangerous arguments, are not controversial views anymore; they pop up frequently, among putatively liberal-minded commentators in The Washington Post and The New York Times. […]

In a 2019 Washington Post opinion piece, Richard Stengel, the former managing editor of Time magazine and co-author of The Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s now-classic autobiography, argued that the U.S. was in need of hate speech laws, contending that “the First Amendment … should not protect hateful speech that can cause violence by one group against another.” […]

Here’s a look at other outlets and media figures who have gone into hall monitor mode, revealing themselves to be skeptics of the very system of law and custom that enables their profession to exist in the first place.

ANAND GIRIDHARADAS: “It’s time for this question to be front and center: Should Fox News be allowed to exist?,” the author, MSNBC talking head, New York University journalism professor, and former New York Times writer, Vice talk-show host, and Aspen Institute fellow recently tweeted. “Brain-mashing as a business model shouldn’t be legal.” He continued: “I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t understand why you’re not allowed to manufacture bucatini that doesn’t have a certain threshold of iron in it but you can broadcast brain-mashing falsehoods and goad people toward terrorism.”

To read the rest of this article at Tabletmag.com, click here.


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