As Dwight Eisenhower was leaving office, his last televised message to the nation was a warning about the growing military industrial complex and what the aftermath of that consolidation of power meant for us all. An industry so powerful, so connected, and so forceful that few could affect any real change in the face of the monster.
And of course, now we know he was right. With secret missions & prisons spread around the world in the name of freedom, we rarely even question whether the sausage we make is kosher, let alone if it is made out of USDA-grade meat.
And as much as the politics around war is so divisive, what holds us together as a nation is the idea that whether right or wrong, good or bad, for nobility or greed, we can rally around the bravery & unwavering commitment of our brothers & sisters on the battlefield. Here in the United States, it is through their collective sacrifices we even have a chance to judge the toll & aftermath of our decision to fight.
Thank goodness the conversation is alive & well.
“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.” -Thomas Jefferson to Lafayette, 1823
But today, as corporate America continues to evolve & further intermesh within our country’s DNA, we see other industries following the same path that General Eisenhower so presciently warned about. Whether it is media conglomerates owning the voices of TV personalities, or multiple forms of print, and online media or even gossip – or in our investment houses & banks – or even the hand full of companies that now control our food chain — we continue to consolidate power further into the hands of those who have.
We do it with such frequency, that the lines between truth & narrative have now blurred into a seamless production of reality. Where entire careers are dashed with a ten second sound byte taken out of context, and other voices are silenced, while years of obvious wrongs are pushed aside with piles of cash & connected persuasion.
Today, media outlets are faxed talking points from our political parties and corporate PR departments, holding steadfast to embargoes of information, while the industrial complex continues to grow. Today’s news mills crank out variant templates of the same story for multiple sites and the newswire, before the candidate has even won.
But on the back of all of this we, the free, smugly point to the internet as the new great hope for democracy around the world, where someone with an idea & a connection to the network can share freely with the world. We, the free, point to the Arab Spring in the Middle East as a case study as the success of Social Media helping project the cries for freedom. Where the oppressed, can finally find a voice to affect true change.
But now in London & even here in the United States, we are beginning to question the right to this freedom, as new and even wrongheaded destruction unfolds, cutting off access to mobile phone networks & social media in the name of keeping the peace.
Of course it is their right, but it’s a slippery slope indeed.
And, this is why we write.
|“On the Freedom of the Press” is reprinted from Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1757.|
HILE free from Force the Press remains,
Virtue and Freedom chear our Plains,
And Learning Largesses bestows,
And keeps unlicens’d open House.
We to the Nation’s publick Mart
Our Works of Wit,
and Schemes of Art,
And philosophic Goods, this Way,
Like Water carriage, cheap convey.
This Tree which Knowledge so affords,
Inquisitors with flaming swords
From Lay-Approach with Zeal defend,
Lest their own Paradise should end.
The Press from her fecundous Womb
Brought forth the Arts of Greece and Rome;
Her offspring, skill’d in Logic War,
Truth’s Banner wav’d in open Air;
The Monster Superstition fled,
And hid in Shades in Gorgon Head;
And awless Pow’r, the long kept Field,
By Reason quell’d, was forc’d to yield.
This Nurse of Arts, and Freedom’s Fence,
To chain, is Treason against Sense:
And Liberty, thy thousand Tongues
None silence who design no Wrongs;
For those who use the Gag’s Restraint,
First Rob, before they stop Complaint.