Freedom of Expression
A. J. Liebling
It all began here, you know. Not just the Revolution, although your deadbeat John Hancock and your intemperate Sam Adams saw to that. No, I was referring to the designation of Independence Day, the Fourth of July, as a holiday. The first "official" state celebration of the Fourth as recognized under resolve of a Legislature occurred in Massachusetts in 1781. Boston was the first municipality to officially designate July Fourthas a holiday, in 1783. Boston has worked assiduously to create further holidays, especially for state workers and labour unions, but their creativity began with the Glorious Fourth.
The first, and perhaps most important, Right which was created in your Bill of Rights was that of Speech and Expression. The Amendment reads, “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.” It is worth noting that freedom of religious expression was first over freedom of speech and the press, but nevertheless, Freedom of the Press gave me a career as a Pamphleteer. Here in the New Fleet Street of the Blogosphere, we can all be our own Pamphleteers, and express our thoughts and sentiments without Fear or Fetter, perhaps as never before.
I wrote in my paper, The Political Register, in August of 1830, the following remarks about the supposed Freedom of the Press:
I perceive that you want very much to be enlightened on the state of our press, which you appear to regard as being free, and which, as I am going to prove to you, is the most enslaved and the vilest thing that has ever been heard of in the world under the name of press. I say, that I am going to prove this; and proof consists of undeniable facts, and not of vague assertions.
Advertising is the great source of revenue with our journals, except in very few cases, such as mine, for instance, who have no advertisements. Hence, these journals are an affair of trade and not of literature; the proprietors think of the money that is to be got by them; they hire men to write them; and these men are ordered to write in a way to please the classes who can give most advertisements. The Government itself pays large sums in advertisements, many hundreds a year, to some journals. The aristocracy, the clergy, the magistrates (who are generally clergy too) in the several counties; the merchants, the manufacturers, the great shopkeepers; all these command the press, because without their advertisements it cannot be carried on with profit.”Little has changed in 176 years, as the New York Times recently proved by publishing the classified state secrets of the hated Bush Administration in order to appeal it its Manhattan Mandarin ultra-liberal base, and possibly run up the subscriptions a little. Yet, as your President Franklin Roosevelt said, sortly before he began supressing stories, "Freedom of the press is essential to the preservation of a democracy; but there is a difference between freedom and license". For the New York Times, it appears that is a distinction without a difference, and they shall probably continue to merrily yell Fire! in crowded theatres.
You people today are shocked by the ‘division’ and ‘extremism’ of your talk radio, and yet here are only some of the names which I called by political enemies, the Jeffersonian Jacobins: "refuse of nations"; "yelper of the Democratic kennels"; "vile old wretch"; "tool of a baboon"; "frog-eating, man-eating, blood drinking cannibals"; "I say, beware, ye under-strapping cut-throats who walk in rags and sleep amidst filth and vermin; for if once the halter gets round your flea-bitten necks, howling and confessing will come too late." I wrote of the "base and hellish calumnies" propagated by the Jacobins, and of "tearing the mask from the artful and ferocious villains who, owing to the infatuation of the poor, and the supineness of the rich, have made such fearful progress in the destruction of all that is amiable and good and sacred among men." Among the milder examples of my description of Jacobins was the following:
"The sect of the Jacobins have attached themselves in every country they have been suffered to enter. They are a sort of flies, that naturally settle on the excremental and corrupted parts of the body politic. . . . The persons who composed this opposition, and who thence took the name of Anti-Federalists, were not equal to the Federalists, either in point of riches or respectability. They were in general, men of bad moral characters embarrassed in their private affairs, or the tools of such as were. Men of this caste naturally feared the operation of a Government embued with sufficient strength to make itself respected, and with sufficient wisdom to exclude the ignorant and wicked from a share in its administration."
Gad, but I did dislike that snooty Jefferson and his Francophile cabal! But, it strikes me that much of this description would admirable fit the reaction of puffy, fifty-something liberals, condescending intellectuals, and multimillionaire Hollywood players and songstresses to your President Bush, especially his unforgivable proclivity to “exclude the ignorant and wicked from a share in its administration" and his inability to comprehend the superiority of their wisdom.
I raise a glass to you all, for 230 years of Free Expression, and God grant that none shall ever be afraid to bay at pieties and bark at curs!
An Exemplar of the Freedom to Cavail that Porcupine is praising can be found among the members of the Life, Liberty and Property Community - jealous watchdogs of our Common Freedoms. The Carnival of Liberty is one year old today, and the Anniversary Carnival can be found at The Unrepentant Individual by clicking HERE. A motlier crew, and more diverse range of opinion, would be difficult to find - and better reading and writing than in a month of New York Times is merely the Norm.