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What to do about the fake news? Part 8

During this course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the Press has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever it’s licentiousness [without moral or legal restraint] could devise or dare. these abuses of an institution [a stable and productive government], so important to freedom and science, are deeply to be regretted … they tend to lessen it’s usefulness and to sap it’s safety. they might perhaps have been corrected by the wholsome punishments [of] … the laws of the several states against falsehood & defamation. but public duties more urgent press on the time of public servants and the offenders have therefore been left to find their punishment in the public indignation.
Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Realistic leaders know there will always be serious detractors!
Thomas Jefferson’s naturally thin skin was rubbed raw by the unceasing attacks of his political opponents in the Federalist press. He thought their baseless charges were disrupting and degrading, an attempt to undermine the people’s government.

There was no pretense of an “objective press” in Jefferson’s time. To be fair, there was a Republican press sympathetic to the President that could be equally savage toward its opponents.

The First Amendment protected the press from any federal action, but there were state laws against libel. Those might have been used to correct an abusive press, but public servants had more important things to do than to pursue them. “Public indignation” would be the newspapers’ only punishment.

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2 Responses to What to do about the fake news? Part 8

  1. Brian Terry says:

    This edition really hits home with the behavior of the media (print and video) today. When I was young, I recognized the media as a lifeline to what was happening around us and throughout the world. I was taught by my parents and grandparent how to distinguish the difference between news and opinion and the two were mostly kept separate except in a few circumstances. However, these days that separation has become terribly blurred. The practice of repeating an idea until it is accepted as fact seems to be the norm and goes unnoticed by many in the public. The injection of personal bias into reporting is so commonplace that finding the actual news is a tiring endeavor upon which most have given up. Hopefully, the populace will see the issue and reign in the media before it becomes totally useless.

  2. How many Americans believe “fake news” began with Trump’s election? I don’t know the ratio of pro-Federalist to pro-Republican newspapers 200 years ago, but in 2019 (including TV) it seems to be about 80% favoring Liberal views. That’s not necessarily “fake”, but as it was in 1800, the public need to understand a political slant of their news sources.

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