The era of bad feelings

A Sparks businessperson named Kelly Smith recently penned an essay for the Reno Gazette-Journal:

“The number one purpose of the press and the news media is to keep government officials in check. To keep them honest and hold them to their word. It’s a constitutionally guaranteed right that the news media has been blessed with, unlike almost any other industry. But what has happened? The news is now almost totally in bed with government and most noticeably, almost completely sided with the current political left. … There are numerous stories that are always slanted against [Trump]. … Why does [journalism] take sides? Because they get rewarded for doing so. They get special perks, access, privileges and money. … You want to be trusted again? It’s easy: do what you’re supposed to do. Speak the truth and bring down all of those high-minded government officials, pointing out where they’ve gone wrong, showing them what they were elected to do. And if they weren’t elected to do the right thing, point this out. … Use that power in the manner it was intended and build our country as the founding fathers envisioned.”

It should be noted that Mr. Smith objects to journalists being “in bed with government” but faults journalism for its coverage of Trump, the head of government. It is apparent that his objection is not really to taking sides, but to journalists not taking his side.

He has an incorrect view of the intent of the first Congress in writing the First Amendment. It was not “to keep government officials in check.” That’s one function of the press, nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. The First Amendment says it is the right of the press to publish without interference from government. Mr. Smith should consider the nature of the post-colonial press as it existed during the first Congress. It was irresponsible, often vicious, and partisan, sometimes subsidized by parties or politicians—and the first Congress wanted it protected that way, believing if all have their say, the public would be well served. The notion of some that the First Amendment was written to protect objective reporting is silly. It didn’t exist then.

The second president, John Adams, was the first wag-the-dog president, stirring up a war hysteria against France based on invented grievances to curry favor with Britain. Adams also put government in the service of religion, sharply offending the sensibilities of the founding generation. Public protests resulted. Adams and his allies pushed the Alien and Sedition Acts through Congress and used them to punish his critics and force newspapers out of business. One editor died in prison, his case never heard. It was, in other words, a time of presidential excess like now. And journalism responded strongly, as it is doing now. Few of us want to be players in today’s awful politics, but dangerous men call for stronger scrutiny than usual.

Stories slanted against Trump? One person’s slant is another’s scrutiny. Trump is uninformed, immature, has a poor mind, is contemptuous of women, plays our people against each other, demonizes religions and races, all of which fit the conduct of today’s Republican Party. Intense scrutiny is the appropriate response to such behavior.