Our Basic Freedoms: Exposing Hypocrisy, Lies and Arrogance
The founding fathers recognized early on that in order to have an effective government in which the people had a say in their governance, a number of things had to be present. I want to discuss several and the siege upon them. The basics are:
First, an educational system which allowed individuals to be cognizant of how the government worked and the history behind the system was necessary to have voters who had a sense of what the goals of the nation were and how it became what it was.
Second, individuals needed to be free to express opinions publicly so that all sides of a discourse were presented and debated.
Third, the press needed to be free to expose dishonesty, scandal, and the political process so that a ruling class could not operate in their own self-interest without being revealed.
The United States is not a democracy; it is a republic. Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying something to the effect: “a democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what is for lunch; liberty is a well-armed lamb disputing the outcome”. In order for any representative form of government to be viable, an informed and knowledgeable electorate is required. Let’s look at some recent developments and see where we might be heading.
Education – the public education system in the United States has been declining over the last several decades by most measures, especially in urban areas. The basic skills required over the first several centuries of the countries existence (the three R’s: reading writing, and arithmetic), and the concerted study of our nation’s founding and history have been mostly replaced. Courses centered on “life skills” abound. Children are passed despite poor performance because we don’t want them to “feel bad”. There are no winners and losers. Everyone gets a trophy. The study of early American history and the moving parts of the government have less priority than contemporary study of the Civil Rights movement and homosexual rights. The Constitution is presented in essence as “someone wrote it and it passed”. There is no discussion of the effort and great contentiousness of the debate. Most cannot tell one Founding Father from another except to spout out sound bites. Samuel Adams is a beer. John Hancock is an insurance company. It seems the purpose of a public education is presently not to teach basic skills but rather to make people feel good about not knowing those skills. The teachers unions vote for Democrats because they are liberal. The Democrats pass legislation helping teachers unions. Teachers are then obligated to be liberal. It is incestuous. By dumbing down the population, politicians can operate without intellectual confrontation and debate. It is in the powerful player’s interest to stifle an educated population. It is easier to control the uneducated. Moslem countries and dictatorships have done this for all of history. Since test scores and measures of education keep getting worse, why expand the same policies which have contributed to the decline? If my walking was getting worse, I would stop hitting my foot with the hammer.
Individual Expression – Individuals who express opposing opinions can be dealt with in several ways. The most reputable way is to debate publicly on the issues and attempt to convince the populace that your side is correct. Politicians who are pursuing questionable policies or self-interest which will not hold up to public scrutiny use the second method which is to marginalize or demonize the critic. Using character assassination to dispute the reputability of your critic is common practice now. Recent episodes (i.e., Joseph Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, an unknown prior to asking an opportune question) have shown that anyone critical of those in power can expect to be crucified by the supporters of the powerful. Politicians even set up media teams whose specific job is to destroy an opponent’s credibility. The third method, mostly used in dictatorships, is to have your opponents “disappear” to either a gulag or a grave. Fortunately, the United States doesn’t usually use that method. Using any of these methods to intimidate an individual citizen fly in the face of the founders expressed intentions.
Freedom of the Press – The way to fight corruption is to expose it. The central weapon in that regard is the press. Investigative journalism is the bedrock of acquiring information and shining the light of publicity on government practices. One of the first things a totalitarian regime does is to muzzle press freedom. There have always been and will always be people in the press and, more recently, broadcast media with agendas and political viewpoints. Anyone can watch CNN, NBC, CBS, etc. and easily see the liberal bias. Anyone watching Fox News knows that there is conservative bias. There is much more liberal television than conservative television. There are liberal newspapers and conservative newspapers. There is conservative talk radio and some, albeit a lot less, liberal talk radio. Those who constantly complain about the bias are unrealistic. It will always be present. The founders view was that the more media outlets there are, the more likely there was to be exposure of some semblance of the truth. One side can print biased stories or opinion pieces or even lies but the other side can confront those biases, opinions, and lies and publish or broadcast opposing views. There is now movement afoot to stifle public debate by controlling the media’s political viewpoint under government control under the guise of “diversity” and “fairness”. There has never been anything fair about the media. The Hearst papers essentially started the Spanish-American War. Grover Cleveland was called an illegitimate father. The papers of the colonial and post-colonial period, as well as the Civil War period were much harsher than anything seen today. For the government to attempt to control media is dangerous and is a first step toward totalitarianism. It should be avoided at all costs. Trying to control media output is tantamount to accusing the population of being too stupid to recognize nonsense when they see it and is disparaging. If you are going to have representative government, you can’t say the people are too stupid to participate.