There is no need here to do a recap of the 2016 election season. Our country is in no small amount of turmoil, and we’ve each had to decide what role we may or may not play in our civic and community lives as we move forward.
I’ve chosen to make small donations to those organizations which I feel are fighting the good fight in terms of the issues I care about. However, there is one issue which I am prepared to be involved in publicly for as long as it takes, and that is the First Amendment to our Constitution. Here’s how it reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
There is an excellent site for a wealth of information on this: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/about-the-first-amendment
I am particularly concerned that Donald Trump is not well informed about First Amendment rights, and as such, would like to dismantle most of them. I would like to think that as he becomes educated about what the presidency involves, he would re-think his stance. However, to date there is no evidence of that. His willingness to deport Mulsims goes against our freedom of religion; his frequent attacks on the press attack freedom of the press; when he disparages people gathering to address their grievances against the government (for example, the Electoral College). he attacks freedom of assembly and the right of people to redress the government for their grievances.
Unfortunately, however, deliberate lies are, for the most part, protected as free speech. Here is an article from the Atlantic about it:
This puts the burden on the media as well as all of us to call out lies when and where we see them, and to be able to discern the difference between fake news and real news. It’s widely known that a number of fake news sites have proliferate on social media, and it can be quite difficult to tell which ones they are. We’ll have more on that in another column.
Meantime, a related issue involves the state of journalism today. Our “Fourth Estate” generates as much criticism as anything else in this era. Top reporter Christiane Amanpour has a lot to say about it in this video:
As a colleague notes, Amanpour may not be everyone’s favorite reporter (though she is one of mine), and she may not be as much at an objective distance as some would prefer, her speech here is tremendously important.