The best cleansing agent to keep government accountable is a free press. Before the United States was created, the colonists recognized the importance of and necessity for a free press.
The trial of Peter Zenger in 1733 points to that. Alexander Hamilton defending him, Zenger won the right to print freely, even articles critical of the New York governor and his corruption. The Founding Fathers protected freedom of the press in the First Amendment.
Today, the president attacks the free press unless it praises him. He says that the free press is “frankly disgusting” and threatens to revoke the broadcast licenses of media airing negative comments about him. He blames the media for “fake” news and calls them the enemies of the people. His disdain for the Constitution undermines his oath of office.
Senator John McCain recently noted the following: “if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, . . . we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started. They get started . . . by suppressing free press.”
Hannah Arendt understood that without a free press, “anything can happen.” This modern philosopher said, “If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer…. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people,” a dictator can then do what he wants.
Freedom of the press is our best guarantee for a democratic government.