The New York State Writers Institute, a local treasure, offered a two-day, six-panel “symposium of topics crucial to an open democratic society” called Telling the Truth in a Post-truth World. The session I attended the evening of Friday the 13th of October at Page Hall on the UAlbany Downtown Campus, was “Presidents and the Press: Trump, Nixon & More.”

This turned out to be extremely timely because the Washington Post had just published Trump’s threat to NBC’s license is the very definition of Nixonian.

The moderator of the panel was Bob Schieffer, moderator of three presidential debates and former anchor of CBS Evening News and Face the Nation
The panelists included:
*Douglas Brinkley, CNN Presidential historian and biographer of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford
*Amy Goodman, investigative reporter, host and producer of the award-winning news program, Democracy Now! that airs on over 1,400 public television and radio stations worldwide
*Harry Rosenfeld, Times Union editor-at-large, and former Metro Editor at The Washington Post who oversaw the paper’s coverage of Watergate
*Shane Goldmacher, chief White House correspondent for POLITICO, who previously reported on the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign

There were some interesting moments, such as when Schieffer, who I’ve watched for decades, suggested that Goodman, who had a LOT of fans in the audience, was positing her opinions as facts, citing Daniel Patrick Moynihan. However, Goodman did note that it was important that the corporate media defend itself from attack from the regime.

Americans tend to think of freedom of the press as a uniquely American ideal that has spread throughout the world. But that value was codified more than a century earlier.

From here: “In 1644 the English poet and man of letters, John Milton, published the Areopagitica as an appeal to Parliament to rescind their Licensing Order of June 16th, 1643. This order was designed to bring publishing under government control by creating a number of official censors to whom authors would submit their work for approval prior to having it published. Milton’s argument, in brief, was that precensorship of authors was little more than an excuse for state control of thought.”

Although the freedom expressed took a half century to come to pass in Great Britain, the Milton argument regarding prohibition against prior restraint, or pre-publication censorship, is fundamental to the US Constitution. Threatening censorship prior to publication, as the current regime is suggesting, would have a chilling effect on expression and speech, and would interfere with the pursuit of truth.

One Response to “Areopagitica: press attacked well before Nixon”

  • CGHill says:

    And of course, NBC isn’t actually licensed at all, though its handful of owned-and-operated stations are. The best possible spin on this was that Trump did this deliberately to sound like he was making more of a threat than he was. I don’t know anyone who’d buy that, though.

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