WWW Opinion Times

Friday, October 29, 2004

Freedom, The Press and This Election

As a conservative who has worked professionally and as a volunteer in Republican politics for the last 20 years, I cannot remember a time when I didn't want to give the liberal press a good kick in the shin on a daily basis. This election year is no different and in many ways underscores those unrelieved frustrations. But there is a much brighter side to the emotions I feel. It's called the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

No, I am not about to go off on some "anybody can say anything about anything in any manner for any purpose under any circumstances with any bad intention providing for any destructive end" sort of defense of free speech. There are reasonable limits like slander, defamation and libel and others which this commentary is not intended to address. (Go here if you want to delve deeper into that subject). But I will say that the limits to free speech should be significantly small--falling within the range of negligible to none. This allows for a media frenzy which is uncomfortable to all of us. I believe that is a good thing. And I don't believe it is unfair to any candidate--whether I like him or not--to endure the scorn of any media outlet whether they are disseminating truth or falsehood. This was difficult for me to accept in the 70's and 80's when the broadcast media were consolidated among clearly liberal choices. But--as far as my concerns needed to be addressed--Reagan won, so their actual effect was more limited than my perception could perceive. And I am sure those with a different perspective than mine can find their own examples of winning their cause despite oppressive media criticism.

So now we come to the election of 2004: the press has deconsolidated into multiple cable outlets; Rush Limbaugh has spawned dozens of radio talk shows (mostly conservative but some liberal); and the moonlighting Blogsphere is uncovering valid stories which traditional advertisement-supported media usually miss. This is much like it was when our country first exercised its free speaking muscles, and as it always does it will sort things out for us again.

It's clear that the New York Times desired an October surprise with its errant article about missing weapons in Al Qaqaa, Iraq. The story is falling apart all around us because they took the first bit of bad information they could use against the candidate they opposed. This is always to be expected in a political season, and it happens on both sides of the issue. It's the nature of the political "game." Great campaigns adjust for these eventualities with excellent long and short term planning as last-minute attacks reveal themselves. The Bush campaign gets a B-, in my opinion, on how it has handled the Al Qaqaa story. They're not out of the woods yet, but when the real information is uncovered in the broadcast media and circles around the blogsphere, our guarantee of a free press will once again play its proper role as the protector of our freedom--even with all the mess necessary to do so.

I still want to kick The New York Times in the shin. But I take solace in the fact that the truth is quickly coming on the heels of artifice. And this is the wonderful, disquieting beauty of our political process.

Long live The Truth!--and the ENTIRE First Amendment.