Opinion: The Need For Free Expression

Search form

Opinion: The Need For Free Expression

Opinion: The Need For Free Expression
Wed, 5/9/2012 - by Chuck Wentworth

Recent governmental attacks against journalists as a response to revelations of government malfeasance, as conveyed by whistleblowers, should be a serious concern to all of us. Freedom of thought, voiced and placed into action by the freedom of expression, is the most basic principle on which our country is founded, and the most important brick in the foundation of democracy. If the freedom to question and criticize is suppressed, and journalists and artists of all disciplines are made to conform to an ideology that demands a uniformity of thought punctuated by intimidation and accented by fear, where then will we turn?

Fundamentally I believe that people want to know the truth. Subconsciously they are adept at discerning inauthentic news and literature, even as they remain apathetic towards seeking better truths elsewhere. I choose to think that people prefer understanding over secrecy, yet, strangely many remain indifferent, perhaps because they've resigned themselves to the belief that they are powerless to create meaningful change.

This makes the necessity for honest artists, journalists and the Occupy Movement all the more apparent. The need for them to remain vigilant in pursuit of universal truths—like the need for economic justice, accountability, fairness—has never been more necessary. Dissent, whether it be political, social, educational or religious, is one of the primary necessities of democratic dialogue; it offers alternative perspectives, perspectives that create dialogue, dialogue that promotes change, change that in theory can reflect the attitudes and beliefs of a larger swath of society which might otherwise languish in voiceless timidity.

Ideas are powerful. There must be, in a functional democracy, an atmosphere that promotes the challenge of ideas. If such an atmosphere is oppressed, than democratic dialogue cannot evolve. Perspectives are necessary, and to offer only one without anything to the contrary reeks of an authoritative influence that attempts to beguile us from understanding fundamental truths.

So it goes currently in the United States with an ever-pervading surveillance state, Orwellian in concept, which involves the suppression, prosecution and manipulation of facts and historical precedent to fit the script of national security. What began as the punishment of government employees, as a means to deter other whistle-blowers from coming forth, has transitioned into an underground, quasi-covert war on journalists and the free press—that is, a war on our First Amendment. We accept this veneer of transparency because, in part, we refuse to accept that the political tyrants and the tyrannical policies of other nations and other times can also exist today in America.

One might ask how, if we live in the proclaimed beacon of democracy, could our government be targeting journalists and other truth tellers for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech? The mark of a democracy, as George Orwell stated, is how a government treats its dissidents. If free inquiry and criticism is permitted to have voice, and if open discussion and the opinions of the populace are shared and considered, then democracy is exemplified. One cannot, after all, expect to be taken seriously "promoting" democracy as an ideal and an agenda, both at home and abroad, if one contradicts the very essence of democratic philosophy. Specifically, in a functioning democracy, writers cannot be coerced into regurgitating untruths; they cannot be threatened into suppressing their inclinations, thoughts and ideas, or conscience. Dissident commentary is necessary to challenge authoritarian rule; without that commentary, the few control the interests that should include the many, while open political debate is overrun by an elite minority which creates policies and re-writes history without accountability.

One effect of governmental pressure is self-censorship. Journalists invariably succumb to various institutionalized pressures. A media outlet has a certain agenda, based on party politics and corporate sponsorship; the writer must earn a living and therefore finds himself curving his criticism in such a way that casts the object being critiqued more favorably, thereby pleasing the sponsor, resulting in the journalist gaining exclusive access to the elite power structure. The writer believes his brilliance is what landed him this access. He fails to understand that it was his willingness to “stenographize” the script of corporate power which granted him the coveted access he now possesses. The very thought of being a real journalist, an adversary to power, is removed. Thus he discards his integrity and in the process misleads the public, allowing the cycle of misinformation to continue. Journalists and/or artists cannot be censored and if their right to self-expression, free inquiry and the revelation of truths is infringed upon due to fear and self-censorship, then democracy is lost.

A human being who can preach about morality, human rights, civil liberty, freedom of speech, equality and, ultimately, democracy while simultaneously acting out in clandestine fashion, living the very opposite of those ideals professionally, takes a special breed of liar with a special ability to rationalize what they're doing and saying, and why. Part of the problem is indeed the individual, of course, but one cannot undervalue the degree of brainwashing instilled in them by the system. Irrational behavior, the kind our current "leaders" in Washington are displaying in shocking form, is psychopathic by definition and in the least should be classified as delusional. There can be no other explanation for the blunt neglect of law and democracy. The only other possibility I can imagine is that the taste of power is such that it makes even the most well-intentioned man helpless once he’s ingested it.

And what’s lost in all of this, of course, is the truth. One can argue truth is relative, that sometimes it can be illusory. My argument, however, is that we must deal with “our truth”: a collective understanding of reality as it relates to our immediate experiences and involvements with one another as a society. This includes written history, government accountability and the current actions and events that shape our modern world. Within these parameters, there is truth and there is fiction; there is the weak and there is the strong; there is justice and injustice; there is accountability and lack thereof. People have the right to know and express the truth. They have the right, particularly when their government claims to be morally upright, to question whether or not those claims can be verified, and to hold those espousing rhetoric and pushing policies accountable for their actions.

Free thought is something that we must protect and nurture and give room to grow. If we censor or allow our government to punish people who dissent, raise questions and attempt to shed light on opaque governmental policy and action, then our surveillance state will continue with the vicissitudes of exploitation and deceit—all to manipulate and justify its means of control.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Help us provide honest, inspiring, action-provoking independent media from the Occupy movement to the rest of the 99% - please donate now!

Article Tabs

FarmDrop and Open Food Network stress the desire to create positive, systemic social change that disrupts the existing dominance of supermarket provision of food.

Republicans are arguing that Wall Street should have the constitutional right to influence politicians and the investment decisions those politicians make on behalf of pension funds and pensioners.

As the outrage in Ferguson takes on new forms and becomes less openly confrontational, the shooting of Michael Brown has started a nationwide dialogue about race, class and American law enforcement.

The vote on Independence is a moment of unprecedented possibility for Scotland to peacefully reject the U.K.'s failed neoliberal agenda.

Grassroots organizations that once made American democracy strong plummeted in the Reagan era – when political parties stopped representing the views of constituents and turned instead to money.

Charlie Hardy, the 75-year-old former Catholic priest now running for Senate, wants to halt NSA spying on ordinary citizens and overturn Citizens United with a Constitutional amendment.

Posted 3 days 15 hours ago

A group of watchdogs at Maplight has introduced an interactive tool to track not only the level and location of political donations, but how the money impacts specific pieces of legislation.

Posted 4 days 10 hours ago

From clashes during the Occupy movement to violence this month in Ferguson, Mo., researchers say protests get ugly when officers use aggressive tactics, dress in riot gear and line up like military.

Posted 3 days 14 hours ago

Choiseul, a township of around 1,000 people on Taro Island, is less than six feet above sea level.

Posted 4 days 10 hours ago

Borrowers with federal student loans appear to be buckling under the weight of their debt, as more than half of Direct Loans – the most common type of federal student loan – aren't being repaid on time or as expected.

Posted 2 days 14 hours ago

Hawaii is the world’s ground zero for chemical testing and food engineering, with companies like Monsanto executing thousands of open-field-test experiments of pesticide-resistant crops over the last 20 years.

Since California passed a Homeowner Bill of Rights earlier this year, foreclosures fell 63 percent across the state. Why are Minnesota's Democratic lawmakers siding with banks to block the bill in their state?

Gone are the days when U.S. billionaires accounted for over 40 percent of the global list, with Western Europe and Japan making up most of the rest. Today, the Asia-Pacific region hosts 386 billionaires, 20 more than all of Europe and Russia combined.

Revealed: Hundreds of Former SEC Employees Representing Clients Before Agency

Hundreds of former SEC officials are representing clients before the agency, sometimes helping them score significant regulatory victories - among them UBS and JPMorgan Chase.

The development nationwide of "TPP-Free Zones" sends a clear message to Obama and Congress that communities will not allow a secretly negotiated trade deal by transnational corporations to undermine the ability of local governments to legislate.

Sign Up