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Jan-21-2009 08:44TweetFollow @OregonNews
Op Ed: Freedom Attacked:
By Henry Clay Ruark for Salem-News
(EUGENE, Ore.) - “Free speech” is the pure-gold coin of democracy. Like any other valuable coin, this one has two sides: The second-one is responsibility coupled with accountability --deeply engraved wherever the freedom-side is found. President Obama’s inauguration spells out --in dollar and volunteer depth-- what honest democratic dialog, via the Internet and every other possible channel, can achieve.
Many reporters/recorders agree that his potent mandate --so widely recognized it defies denigration-- demonstrates wit, wisdom and will of the American people as still operational. Yet “formative change” is hampered, delayed by the same people -- driven by private-gain profitinterests --as for many decades.
Press, critic, historian reports provide evidence this open democratic direction, depth, diversity has never been achieved previously, even in New Deal days. Yet “confrontation vs cooperation remains the heart of politics”, while “pursuit of the commonweal is more hampered, delayed and denied than ever before”.
“Win by ANY Means” has become demanding of any statement possible, UN/truth-documented. Nay-saying is supported by personal/professional attack, name-calling and worse. The First Amendment is abused --reduced to refuge and final-retreat-- by those caring little for conscience, cogency, OR Constitution.
Responsibility and accountability --creating credibility-- exist when demonstrated by documentation and desire to protect, preserve and project its powers. The first principled-pattern of all communications is “WHO says WHAT to WHOM in WHAT channel”.
Every element must be present if clear cogent communication is to occur. When any element is missing --hampered or even removed-- confusion occurs; cogitation is damaged, sometimes fatally. That’s WHY malignities are inserted: To confuse and kill, if possible, clear essential citizen communication.
Pseudonymn-name or anonymity are too-easy shelter for those who do not wish to reveal their true interests by identity. ID-denial, when requested, is potent proof of that reason-for-use. “Convenience” is no reputable excuse; nor is near-impossible “retaliation for dissent”.
Cogent, responsible, accountable dissent is driving force for which the First is fervent acknowledgment, by our prescient Founders, from deeply personal experience shared in The Federalist Papers. John Dewey declared that “Conversation is the heart of democracy”.
He referred to fully-responsible dialog denoting great diversity of views and visions, surfacing among responsible citizens sharing learnings accomplished. Another wise philosopher has long ago pointed out “the wisdom of crowds”. It is from that turbulent flood of ideas, feelings --and further philosophy-- the very essence of democracy emerged over many centuries.
Summed in a single sentence, that may well be seen as the essential underlying foundation principle: “the consent of the governed”. That’s reflected, however reluctantly, in the actual operation of free speech across ever-broader fronts.
All these characteristics must be clearly seen as pragmatic, essential in today’s wildly radicalized, too often verging-on-malignant public-opinion/building exchanges, themselves often-overwhelming elements of 21st Century communications technologies. There are only two sources for “public opinion” in any democracy: One is free dialog of ideas, feelings and meanings for citizens, in “everyday exchange recorded at multiple levels” --face-to-face, in highly diversified community encounters, at least as essential as print/broadcast channels.
The other is our vaunted American “free press” -- notably not nearly so free as in earlier days. Both reporting and Editorial statement are now heavily influenced by “the powers that be”; impacts on advertising lineage flow determine economic survival. The second, famously, has never mirrored the first - -a lamentable, damaging fact of complex cultural, social, economic realities.
With advent of rapidly-growing Internet capabilities opening to millions every year, the traditional print-side is forced into futility of past technologies, too rapidly for the health of our struggling democracy. Under unavoidable pressures both citizen-side and printed-press side is feeling the hot breath (sometimes also foul !) of what must be described as “malignities on the fair face of free speech”.
Those indulging baser characteristics invariably do so from supposed “single-name” shelter; others choose to be ostensibly “anonymous”. Neither group understands that disclosure of origination point even of computer-used, is available when demanded.
Danger-creating content irresponsibly or malignantly created can and is now being traced. Technology exists, in use by some government agencies and technology-dependent users-in-depth of Internet facilities. Currently cumbersome and highly costly, it is not widely applied to cut off and condemn damage clearly occurring.
It’s easier for channel-sponsors to require one-time registration --sure to come as legal protection for owners’ high costs for electronics-demanded. They face liabilities costly to defend even if immaterial --as many suits, often settled out-of-court to avoid lawyer-costs, have proven. Damaging impacts draw major attention, not only from editors but from print-owners-hurt; from alternative website dailies; and from citizen/community groups.
Irresponsible. casually-damaging abusive behaviors, as easy-excuse for action difficult to justify, are the norm on far too many blogs and websites. Ominously, government attention is inescapable, with unavoidable impacts on formation of public opinion.
Some few politically-motivated governmental agency operators have engaged in similar falsity by supply of pseudo-”news” and perverted pundit-statement reports. They seek advantage from pseudo-anonymity as for individuals on Internet.
WHY remedial action will soon be undertaken, for all concerned: Far too much is at stake --economically, socially, and culturally-- for irresponsible, unaccountable malignancies to prevail. Most simply vent feeling, bias and prejudice. Others are meant to injure, delay, and damage what must NOW be achieved.
Strong citizen understandings of mutual problems, issues, events, and ongoing historical happenings are now essential as never before. Broadening usage of Internet sites and responsechannels by government and political groups has proven that fact-of-life.
That distorts, perverts, and can prevent the intent of the Founders on pragmatic process, provided by their First Amendment. The same kind of irresponsible malignancies first was felt when democracy was being born. The famous Federalist Papers were not entirely immune, in less damaging form. Many were presented “written-by” with historical name, but recognized from the originating source then known to most.
How seriously these situations were viewed-then is demonstrated by Alexander Hamilton’s assassination by Aaron Burr over the mild phrase: “dangerous man”. Similar assassinations plague our American history.
It is wise to see possibilities of basic motivations for horrendous actions. Words have underlying force within the limited understandings of disturbed, driven persons already mentally lost. Public declaration is often found.
We need to be well aware that anger-to-the-death has resulted from such serious similar situations in our historical past --with huge loss to the Republic for the person and the potent powers thus silenced. But nothing like “flaming” or “trolling” was then in vogue, nor would it have been permitted as hidden by any unknown or unidentifiable perpetrator.
Famed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s inaugural speech is widely honored for fateful declaration that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. He was proven right by productivities and progress renewed, widely shared; “fear” was defeated, It is ironic that multiple malignities --encountered, in the most potent communications channels we’ve ever enjoyed-- still play on continuing impacts of fear.
Furious flourish of denigrating attack-language, factual distortions, refusal of essential identification, perversion of obvious realities --all provide malign, monstrous tools for political panderers.
They damage the very Constitution to which they turn for protection when their destructive activity is proclaimed.
Henry Clay Ruark is the one of, if not the most experienced, working reporter in the state of Oregon, and possibly the entire Northwest. Hank has been at it since the 1930's, working as a newspaper staff writer, reporter and photographer for organizations on the east coast like the Bangor Maine Daily News.
Today he writes Op-Ed's for Salem-News.com with words that deliver his message with much consideration for the youngest, underprivileged and otherwise unrepresented people.