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The "Free Press" Doesn't Exist

GrayDreamsAug 16, 2018, 3:31:48 PM

We hear a lot lately about the so-called "free press." Today, in a coordinated exercise in sanctimony and gas lighting, a large gaggle of news corporations are writing in defense of said "free press," mostly in response to criticisms made by President Trump and other personalities in the alternative media against corporate giants like CNN, NBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. "Fake news" and "enemy of the people," are the en vogue epithets among the alt crowd at the moment. The latter is purely a Trumpian invention. The former, ironically, was originally used by CNN's Brian Stelter as a label to denigrate the alternative media, but was instantly appropriated by the president to use right back at CNN and all the rest. 

Anyway, it's never been all that clear just what the corporate-media talking heads mean when they refer to "the free press." I know what freedom of the press is. That's a constitutional legal concept contained in the First Amendment. But the phrase "the free press" exists nowhere in the constitution and would seem, on its face, to refer to some specific group of individuals. I mean, sure, I gather the talking heads are referring to themselves and the corporate giants that pay their salaries, but why not just call themselves "the press" instead of "the free press"? Is there an "un-free press"? 

Let's have done with the wordplay. "The press" simply refers to print-based, electronic, or televised media. And if "the free press" also refers to that, let's drop the "free," and just call the press the press. Let the legitimacy of the press stand or fall based on the content of its news and reporting.

But this won't happen, of course. Or, at least, not if the corporate media can stop it from happening.

Firstly, the press isn't what's actually being attacked; no one is attacking all print, electronic, or televised media. Rather, the president and the alternative media are attacking a subset of that. (It should also be obvious here that the alternative media are themselves a subset of the press.) Call it the mainstream media. Call it the legacy media. Call it the dinosaur media. Call it the corporate media. Call it whatever you want. But it's not "the free press"--or even, simply, "the press." It's part of the press. That's it. In reality, it's an information cartel of theoretically competing news corporations that pose as impartial information couriers, but functions as a sort of super PAC for the Democrat Party and a secular-evangelist bullhorn for the left in general. They push the same stories, approach them from the same perspective, and all walk away with the same conclusions. They push the same conventional wisdom, enforce the same taboos, give airtime to the same opinions, and deny airtime to the same opinions. And they, along with their apologists, will never allow their legitimacy to stand or fall based on the content of their reporting, because what they report is a combination of total lies, half lies, and things that are real but either unimportant or given undue emphasis. 

So, "the free press" doesn't exist. There's just the press. Within the press is a subset of corporations with enormous power over the information the public receives. This cartel of corporate giants wishes to be insulated from criticism by political dissidents and other elements in the press. To accomplish this, they have chosen to equate criticism of them with an attack on freedom of the press by dubbing themselves "the free press." 

This is a form of cynical, rhetorical, chicanery we shouldn't let any part of the corporate media get away with even for a minute. We should reject their assertion of privilege and mock them for claiming they're entitled to it. The corporate media has no special rights under the constitution not enjoyed by anyone else engaged in reporting or opinion; they're not "the free press" anymore than Breitbart, The Weekly World News, Infowars, or some asshole you've never heard of who runs a blog (like me). The First Amendment insulates the corporate media from censorship, not criticism. The same amendment also insulates the corporate media's critics from censorship. We should remind them of that in no uncertain terms, and continue to mock and deride and delegitimize them at every turn and every opportunity.