The whole concept of free speech has undergone a tremendous amount of change since the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. To the Framers of the Constitution, including Benjamin Franklin who was a printer, remember, the idea of free speech was to protect political speech … by politicians. England had a long history of members of Parliament being harassed or killed by the monarch of the time based upon what they said in the halls of government. This was addressed in due time by the concept of free speech … applied only to politicians. The concept of free speech was designed to protect politicians from such abuse and wasn’t considered applicable to ordinary folks, especially not to newspapers. (The newspapers of revolutionary times would be referred to now as “tabloids” or “scandal sheets,” since they were.)
England still has a set of libel laws that would make us blanch, over the pond. If convicted of libel, you can find out the actual cost of your words. Our libel laws are not so draconian, but we have expanded the right of free speech to include ordinary speakers. This, I think is a qualified “good thing.”
Currently, our news media have become corporate and governmental mouthpieces. The Fox Network, exists only to support a political ideology and has no commitment to the truth in anything. Most of the rest of the news organs in this country have been taken over by corporations seeking profits. Gone are the days in which TV Networks supported independent news rooms, with no need of a profit being made, because the networks had “Jack Benny to make money.” Now, a news show that doesn’t make money is scrapped in short order. So, the goal of such programs is #1 to make money. All of the idealistic-sounding goals like: support the republic, contribute to society, etc. are way down the list. (This all began in earnest, by the way, when Ronald Reagan shitcanned the “Fairness Doctrine.”)
So, now an aphorism I was taught comes into play. That is “in the absence of good communication, people will make things up and it is always negative.”
Enter the Blogosphere and its minions, the Twitterverse, and whatever the fuck Facebook is … Narcissismland?). Yes, I am aware that this blog is part of the chatter. The problem is: if one looks at the chatter, how much of it is worthless to the support of our society and culture? If you aren’t convinced that only a tiny fraction of the blah, blah, blah is serious commentary, go onto YouTube and do a search for “Cat Videos.” Without cat videos YouTube would be less than half its current size.
Free speech in this country has become mindless chatter. Our politicians never say anything of substance (if they do it is labeled a “gaffe”). So, the role free speech plays in maintaining our country has dropped to almost zero.
There are two ways you can control information: provide nothing but silence, a la Soviet Russia, or you can, as the saying goes, “if you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” Since we are already up to our hips in 24-hour news cycle bullshit, I thought by now the smell would have given away its presence, but apparently not.