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Life and Times of a Working Cowgirl

Because I Said So!

Finally, this morning I had some time to sit and write. Not much time, but enough to at least get a start on the things that have been rolling around my head. This is always a busy time of the year on the ranch and this year seems to be busier than most. Thankfully, after a tremendous amount of work last week the hay barn is nearly full and there are only a few short weeks left before the summer crowds begin to wane. Although I’m tired and sore I somehow feel refreshed knowing things will be winding down soon. As I look forward to cooler quieter days my mind wandered through all the events of the summer looking for connections, solace, and motivation. One of the things my mind stuck on recently was a criticism, certainly not what I normally focus on and generally not a productive use of my time but somehow this particular critique had settled into my psyche and grown into something more. The crux of the debate in my head was the First Amendment vs the Thumper rule (if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all).

The First Amendment states: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This covers a lot of ground between freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and protest. I wondered at first why there weren’t different amendments for religion and the press but it occurred to me that our founding fathers understood everything in this group is a matter of opinion and sentiment. What the first amendment protects is our right as a citizen to feel, believe, talk or write about whatever we want. The reason the press and religion are both included in the same amendment is they are both subjective. There is no journalist code of ethics in the constitution. The constitution recognizes the press as just another matter of opinion. In todays technological world anyone can print a newspaper, blog, book, manifesto, magazine or hot firemen of the month calendar. What separates the press from these items is not the protections offered by the constitution but the confidence and trust we place in our free press. Everyone is protected by the first amendment but not everyone is considered a member of the press. So how do we know who to trust and how do we determine what is news and what is a matter of opinion? Furthermore what is our role in maintaining a free press?

Currently there are 25 companies that control all the media and press in this country. Yes, you read that correctly 25!  Ten control T.V. and Radio, six control Print and finally, nine control Cable and Telecommunications. Not surprisingly the C.E.O’s, members of the board and major investors of these companies are also the same people who occupy the top .01 % in wealth in the US. I know it’s not surprising that rich people control major US companies, however it is concerning that single members of this group control more wealth than millions of Americans. Less than 400 people sit on the boards or have controlling interest in these 25 companies that control all of our media and press. How free, balanced or ethical can we expect them to be? What benefit do the rich receive from controlling the media and press? The answer to that question is hard to quantify but since the only group of Americans gaining wealth since 2007 are the top 5% and the largest group gaining wealth are the top .01% and there hasn’t been a revolution, I think it’s safe to say it’s been a good investment for them.

So where am I going with this and what does any of this have to do with Thumper? Well, although there are only 25 companies that control the media, none of them have the ability to control the content of the internet. They can make it very difficult for anything other than cute puppies and kittens to be found and they can flood the internet with content that supports their versions of the News but no one has figured out how to effectively censor the internet. All over the US and the World people sit down each day and write about their news, what’s happening out their window. The Arab spring was the first display of what can happen when real citizens take over the press and report on actual events. They caused a revolution with smartphones instead of guns. Meanwhile back in the US we were shown the same footage over and over of a young woman shot as she lay dying on the ground while the news anchors explained this is what can happen for participating in a protest. Was I the only one who thought the handling of that horrific scene seemed more like a thinly veiled threat or at the very least a “this is what happens when you protest” than actual reporting? Maybe I’m out of line for even suggesting such a thing but that’s the great part of the first amendment. This entire article could be crap and I still have the right to publish it. The key here is do you, as the reader trust me? Have I proven myself to have journalistic integrity? If you fact check this article will my facts be accurate? These are the hallmarks of good journalism and these are the standards for judging the press. It doesn’t matter if you agree with me, it doesn’t matter if you like my writing, what matters is the content and how it’s presented. Is it presented as fact or opinion? Editorials are just that, me editorializing my opinion, reporting is meant to be factual and an unbiased account of events.

With so few people controlling our media, supporting anyone who takes the time to write about their world and what they see and feel has never been more important. These precious few people are our only connection to an uncensored, un-manipulated  view of this country. Their stories are systematically buried deep inside the internet where only the lucky or tenacious can find them. These stories may not seem like news but they are factual accounts and editorial comments from real Americans by real Americans which is something seldom seen on the evening news. So when you are lucky or tenacious enough to find an article, blog, book, song, poem or any other form of media that is not under the control of a corporation, remember the Thumper rule. Silencing just one voice as a result of an unkind or unnecessary comment takes us one more step away from a free press. A right so important to our founding fathers they made it the first amendment to our constitution.

 

 

3 Comments

  1. I wish blogs had a “like” button.

    • Thanks Leiah. You can hit the Facebook button at the bottom of each post and share it then everyone can like it, otherwise you just need to say something nice like you you just did. Thanks again for all the support.

  2. Hey Leiah look what I found. Stars! Now you can give a blog stars to show your support.