Almost no average Americans like the idea of Russian bots infiltrating our social media. There is overwhelming bilateral agreement on that – and for good reasons.
First and foremost there is the idea that foreigners might not be loyal to the United States and their messages might be tainted and favor another nation-state. That’s why you have to be born here to be president. Granted that many foreigners respect the people and institutions of the US and I am sure there are many US citizens that don’t. Still there is something to be said for investigating the motives and influences of foreign contributors to the media stream. We can’t let ISIS run ads on our media. We all get that. So there should be standards for disseminating information. The new congress has work to do.
There will be those who say freedom of speech is something that cannot be challenged in any way, under any circumstances. I remind them you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater if there is no fire. Why is that? Because it can hurt people! When freedom of speech can hurt the people or institutions of the US, it can and should be restricted, censored or edited – so it does no harm to the actual people that live here.
This may seem strange – but caring about outcomes for ordinary Americans was built into the constitution from its very first sentence! There is an enabling clause in the Declaration of Independence. ( bolded below) Let’s look it over.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I guess they could have left out all those bolded words and it would just say “we the people … do establish this Constitution”. – But the founding fathers told us why they were doing this. And the whys are the largest part of their enabling clause. Let’s not lose sight of the six reasons they set forth to substantiate the creation of the USA.
- in Order to form a more perfect Union – There was a loose union in 18th century America – and the founding fathers wanted to define that union more precisely.
- Establish Justice – They knew justice needed to be defined and established. This was true then and it is true now. This also speaks to no man is above the law.
- Insure Domestic Tranquility – And here we get to those media bots and Trump’s divisive messages. There is no way Trump cares about domestic tranquility. He had even said he would not surrender if he lost to Hillary. We’ve heard from him there would be a revolt from his base if he was impeached. Trump’s attitude is inconsistent with the spirit of the constitution and many see that attitude as a disqualify-er for the job of president. But I also see this as a reason to question the right of Fox News – which is not owned by an American – to hinder domestic tranquility with dis-information – just the way most think of the Russian bots.
- Provide for the common defense – I don’t see how what Trump is doing with Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea as being helpful to our defense. I say leave this to the generals and the experts. Winning a popularity contest – which is what the 2016 election was – does not qualify anyone as a military expert.
- Promote the General Welfare – If there is one thing Trump has convinced people he has done right it is promoting welfare. My position is that he has allowed big companies to grab as much as they can through lower taxes and less regulation, and there will be a clean-up cost down the road. I see the phrase “general welfare” as more inclusive than favoring the rich or connected. General welfare was the 18th century way of saying “the 99%”. – Trump’s policies overly favor “the 1%”. People are beginning to catch on to that now – two years into his presidency,
- Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity – I’d like shine a light on that Posterity word. Caring about the next generation is built into the constitution. How thoughtful of the founders. And how thoughtless and unconstitutional it is to ignore the dangers we are leaving to our children. That word “posterity” in our constitution should inform our climate science policy. The founders had that vision – why have we lost it? Not smart. Not caring. Selfish. But very Trumpian.
Fox News was created by Australian-born media mogul Rupert Murdoch in October of 1996. Fox News quickly grew to become a dominant subscription news network in the US. As of February 2015, approximately 95,000,000 US households (80% of them) received Fox News. Murdoch is the current executive chairman of Fox News.
We are currently looking into ways make sure Russian bots don’t spread dis-information over the public airways and on social media. Why then do we allow a foreign-born person – Rupert Murdoch – to spread non-factual information over our airways to our American citizens? That is not consistent thinking.
I remember when news used to be just news. But now there is something called spin. On the night before Charlottesville I recall Janine Pierrot rallying her listeners to go to Virginia and stand up to defend democracy. She had fire in her voice. The haters that went to Charlottesville felt they were called on a mission. Some said it was their duty to be there. And Trump said ” I could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and my supporters would not leave me.” These are examples of dog whistling for haters to act out. This is shouting fire in a crowded theater. There must be standards.
Reporters just go to the places where news happens – and with video and audio media they re-port ( literally re-carry) what they see and hear. However, if the news presented is not truthful or it’s spun to distort the truth, then how is that in keeping with what our founders wanted when they created the 6 reasons to form this beautiful country?
Media is a big deal these days. It’s certainly bigger than it was in 1776 or even 1976. If we are trying to make sure our media are free of Russian bots, it’s because of the divisiveness they cause – not just because they are Russian or bots. And so, if Fox News is not reporting truth and their agenda is dividing or polarizing the country – which seems to be the case – why do they get the blessings of the FCC? There has to be standards for media. We’ve got plenty of examples of how media can affect our every day lives. Plenty.
There could be standards set for media before they can call a produced show “news”. There is precedent for that. Many supplements can’t be called vitamins and are sold with this disclaimer. This product is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. That’s there to protect the public from false expectations. It’s also consistent with the spirit of the Constitution.
So I can imagine a TV show – which is also a product or something that is produced – might also need a disclaimer. We don’t want people to have false expectations about the information they are about to receive. That’s also not how the founders wanted it. Media regulation should be part of the Green New Deal. Get on it. Thank You.
Joseph Aronesty is an e-commerce pioneer, author, songwriter, etymologist and father to five sons. He went to Penn on scholarship and was in a class with Donald Trump in 1967. He has been writing about Trump since he entered the race.
Keep reading. Stay vocal.
Relevant prior posts:
And if all else fails, we can use technology to replace politicians.