A New Jersey Star-Ledger guest editorial by Linda Stamato titled JOURNALISM IN DANGER ran last January (2017), or thereabouts. It was a strong defense of freedom of the press. Unfortunately, the article was not to my knowledge posted online, only in the print edition, which I didn’t save.
But the point of the article was to highlight the importance of a free press to democracy.
I don’t agree with everything in this article. But I agree with the main point; the principle that freedom of the press is indispensable to the democratic process in a constitutional republic. But more importantly, freedom of speech is crucial to a free society. America is not a democracy. To call it that is fake news. It is a constitutional republic based on individual rights; that is, all individuals’ rights, not just reporters.
Likewise, all people, not just people of the press, have freedom of speech.
On this count, Stamato’s ringing defense of press freedom rings hollow in the face of the war on free speech, of which she is a leader. The constant drumbeat for “campaign finance reform,” a euphemism for silencing free political speech, the proposed “Democracy for All” constitutional amendment to protect the political class from private criticism and accountability, and the “AGs United for Clean Power” prosecutorial assault on dissent masked as “anti-fraud”, all are examples of the move to stifle the First Amendment’s general freedom of speech protections. The spread of “safe zones” and political correctness on college campuses, while perhaps not a technical violation of the First Amendment (at least not for private colleges) certainly violates the spirit of free speech. And then there is Stamato’s own smear piece against the Koch Brothers—posted in the Star-Ledger, and which I posted about—in which she brazenly attacked their inalienable right to spend their own money exercising their own freedom of speech, calling it “dangerous” to America. (Yes, free speech for non-press activists requires money every bit as much as press freedom does. Economic and intellectual freedom are inextricably linked.)
Defending press freedom without defending speech freedom for all is like being for eating but not breathing. You need to eat and breath: Without both, you’re dead. Likewise, press and speech are inextricably linked. The combining of speech and press in the same clause in the First Amendment—Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press—is no accident. Likewise, the combining of free speech and press in with the rights to freedom of religion (conscience), association, and petitioning of the government is no accident. All are vital to what the First Amendment is broadly set to protect—intellectual freedom.
You can’t defend any First Amendment right without defending all First Amendment rights. Given Stamato’s record on free speech, her defense of press freedom is completely undercut, and she has no credibility as a defender of intellectual freedom.
Linda Stamato Smears (and Fears?) the Koch Brothers
Freedom of Speech and Press are Linked