Anyone who doesn’t believe that the US is an incipient fascist state needs only to consult the latest assault on civil liberty by Fox News (sic). Instead of informing citizens, Fox News (sic) informs on citizens. Jason Ditz reports (antiwar.com Dec. 28) that Fox News (sic) “no longer content to simply shill for a growing police state,” turned in a grandmother to the Department of Homeland Security for making “anti-American comments.”
The media have segued into the police attitude, which regards insistence on civil liberties and references to the Constitution as signs of extremism, especially when the Constitution is invoked in defense of dissent or privacy or placarded on a bumper sticker. President George W. Bush set the scene when he declared: “you are with us or against us.”
Bush’s words demonstrate a frightening decline in our government’s respect for dissent since the presidency of John F. Kennedy. In a speech to the Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961, President Kennedy said:
“No president should fear public scrutiny of his program, for from that scrutiny comes understanding, and from that understanding comes support or opposition; and both are necessary. . . . Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed, and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law makers once decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment.”
The press is not protected, Kennedy told the newspaper publishers, in order that it can amuse and entertain, emphasize the trivial, or simply tell the public what it wants to hear. The press is protected so that it can find and report facts and, thus, inform, arouse “and sometimes even anger public opinion.”
In a statement unlikely to be repeated by an American president, Kennedy told the newspaper publishers: “I’m not asking your newspapers to support an administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people, for I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.”
The America of Kennedy’s day and the America of today are two different worlds. In America today the media are expected to lie for the government in order to prevent the people from finding out what the government is up to. If polls can be believed, Americans brainwashed and programmed by O’Reilly, Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh want Bradley Manning and Julian Assange torn limb from limb for informing Americans of the criminal acts of their government. Politicians and journalists are screeching for their execution.
President Kennedy told the Newspaper Publishers Association that “it is to the printing press, the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: Free and Independent.” Who can imagine a Bill Clinton, a George W. Bush, or a Barack Obama saying such a thing today?