Sunday, June 15, 2008

Freedom To Blog Under Fire

With the advent of the Internet and the absolute freedom and ability to garner information from multiple sources, there was bound to be controversy in what many people who began 'blogging' had to say. For many many years before the web ever existed, people who felt compelled to shout out warnings of situations they believed to be wrong, or of persons they thought to be acting in a criminal manner, (such as politicians), would literally stand on boxes, loudly telling everyone within earshot of their grievances.

Called 'standing on one's soapbox', the practice was widely accepted for what it was. A person giving their opinion on any given situation or of any person. Someone exercising their right to free speech. Today's blogs, or at least the ones that are run by individuals, are the modern equivalent of yesterday's soapboxes, but the mainstream media, in one of their thinly disguised scare the populace pieces, loudly echoed an Associated Press story proclaiming the notion that individual bloggers must be afraid to write their articles for fear of being sued for libel.

Laughing as I read the warning, I instantly thought in my rebel brain of writing a story of how the Associated Press was little more than a make believe news organization comprised of a conglomeration of news organizations from around the country. I was going to tell everyone that it is none other than far right extremist Rupert Murdoch who sits on their Board Of Directors, and who imposes his will on the slant of their news reporting, kind of like he does over at Fox Noise. But I decided to get on my soapbox against what I believe is the attempt by the media to not only take control over the flow of information on the Internet, but to try to suppress the voices of dissent with terror tactics, in much the same way that an insane president has Americans looking under rocks for the boogeyman.

Not satisfied with taking absolute control of how information is disseminated and perceived by average Americans, the media now attempts to make it seem as if every person that is blogging is being sued by greedy corporations, and that so many are terrified of writing anything out of this fear, that bloggers should and must go through a training course in order to learn journalistic skills. Let's examine the journalistic skills part shall we?

The New England Courant was started by the brother of Benjamin Franklin. Contributed to by a group that jokingly referred to themselves as the 'Hellfire Club', they posted essays and satire on their front page that set all of polite society atwitter. Not one of the contributing 'editors' had any journalistic training, and Benjamin Franklin himself went on to incorporate several Philadelphia newspapers into one entity called the Pennsylvania Gazette. While he headed the Gazette, Franklin became essentially the country's first self proclaimed blogger, writing biting satirical pieces about people with whom he disagreed, telling everyone that he was just having some fun. Although the Gazette flourished under Franklin's hand, he himself declared that journalism was the forte of fools, and left to pursue other interests. Did Franklin have a university degree in journalism? Of course not.

One of the Founding Fathers and Framers of the Constitution of the United States was one of the first and well known bloggers in the history of our country, recognizing that in order for free speech to be truly free, all had to be allowed to say what thoughts were in their minds, and not be hamstrung by petty thinkers determined to impose their will upon the masses. He also said that for a free and unencumbered press to thrive and for the people to get the actual truth, media must never be consolidated in such a way that only the few control the information received by the many.

But yet today, here in Franklin's America, the U.S. media is owned and operated by mostly defense contractors, consolidated into massive corporate entities, answerable to no one, and in admitted collusion with the government to either with hold information from the public in order to not affect the outcome of elections, or to outright lie to the people. The AP alone consists of 1,700 U.S. newspapers, 5,000 radio and television outlets that use AP content as Gospel Truth, and 850 AP radio franchises.

It is because the people of this country can not get a straight story from the mainstream media that many have turned to the blogosphere to try to obtain other points of view. Imagining the world today, with the instant access to information, as a world where people must be afraid to write what they think for fear of being financially ruined is nothing short of the institution of a thought crime mentality, and must be resisted at all costs. MSM does not want you or I to be writing articles that run contrary to what they, the official gate keepers say, and run these scare tactic pieces to try to silence media critics.

What exactly is the difference between someone who works at Fox and the average citizen journalist? Well, to start with, most citizen journalists are better educated, more informed, will tell you that they lean left or right, and will tell you the truth as they see it. Secondly, citizen journalists are OPINION writers, whereas Fox and Newscorp tout themselves as official media sources.

If bloggers should be liable for libel, should not Murdoch then be open to the same exact standard? Can Obama sue his corporation for slander for insinuating time after time after time that he and his wife have some sort of terrorist ties? Or should Bill O'Reilly be able to sue Keith Olberman for what are clearly personal attacks? In the case of the former, they get away with it by phrasing it in the form of a question, as in "Terrorist fist jab"? In the latter, it's a case of satire and no suit would apply. But what about the people who post personal attacks and lies in response to the blogger's posting? Should they not then also be liable for some form of compensation for the damage they attempt to inflict on the blogger's reputation? Should Internet bullies who try to use terms of service twistings and the badgering of website administrators into barring people with whom they disagree be cause for a lawsuit?

This entire attack on the freedom of ordinary people to express their opinions is yet another insidious attempt to stifle dissent, regain control of the flow of information, and stamp out the voices of those who are shouting from the rooftops and using the net as their own form of soapbox, one that can effectively reach a massive audience with their message. Already taking what mainstream media says with a grain of salt, and then double checking what they report as truth, I for one will tell you that in my opinion, Rupert Murdoch can take his slanted to the extreme right scam media multi-national conglomerate and go back to Australia. The Associated Press can keep spewing propaganda pieces for the corporate elite, and threaten bloggers with lawsuits in an around a bout way. I, and millions more of us, will continue to call a lie a lie, and if MSM doesn't like it, then they should clean up their act, start telling the whole truth, and stop pandering to the government and corporate interests. Blog attackers who use rules like a weapon to try to silence those with whom they disagree are usually no talent riff raff bent on rabble rousing. Let the lawsuits commence, and we shall write about those too. We shall remind the media and the seekers of the destruction of Freedom of Speech about Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code. Bloggers uphold the First Amendment, MSM, Murdoch, and anonymous web attackers seek it's destruction for everyone save themselves.
And the other point that those who would stifle the voices of the people should remember is that the web is akin to being the replacement of the people marching through the streets by the millions. Should this attempt to destroy any semblance of autonomy of the internet by those who can not stand to hear views other than their own succeed, what alternative do you leave to the millions upon millions of bloggers who will have nowhere to vent their feelings again? Something to think about for those who seek to trample on our rights.

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