Sunday, July 23, 2017

For Those Content To Sit On The Sidelines ...

... I have one word of advice:  Don't.

I realize I say that, having just declared myself possibly ready to leave the Democratic Party over its signature combination of fecklessness and betrayal.  But that is not an excuse for doing nothing.

It never is, of course.  But that's never been more true than it is now.

You see, there are two fundamental rights each citizen in a democracy has.  Two rights that are essential to the effective operation of a free society.  Those are the right to know, and the right to choose.

And both of those rights are under massive, unprecedented assault by the Trump White House and the Republican Party's unobjecting support of him.  As well as their supporters.

I'll start by inviting you to look at this.  It's the column from which I admit to lifting the phrase "the right to know."  Well, I didn't lift it.  I took the liberty of paraphrasing the late, great Ben Bradlee, the editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate era, who spoke of "your right to be informed." However it is phrased, the right exists.  Information is what empowers us to make the right choices, the ones that citizens in a democracy are empowered to make and responsible for making.

The media, in whatever form (legacy or digital) plays an essential role in providing that information. This is why they're referred to as the fourth branch of government.  This is why they're protected by the First Amendment.  And this is why any government action hostile to their interests should always be viewed with the deepest suspicion.

Usually, those hostilities are perpetrated by people and organizations that have the common sense to do it covertly.  But Donald Trump cannot, and probably never will, be fairly accused of having common sense.  He is, I am sorry to say, the type of New Yorker who will punch you in the nose if you even look like you want to do the same to him.  And so, in his dealings with those media outlets that he perceives as not worshiping him sufficiently, you get episodes like this.

Or, in reporting accurately in the public interest about someone prominently connected to one of Trump's constituencies, you get stories like this.  (This one, by the way, is really fascinating; I suspect I'll have more to say about it in a future post.)

This is why you should never take "your right to be informed," as Bradlee put it seriously.  He took it seriously enough that he risked his career and the Post's reputation on getting to the bottom of Watergate.  And he did.  We should always be grateful.  And we should all, always, be equally vigilant.

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