Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Power of the Press

“The London Times is one of the greatest powers in the world. In fact, I don’t know of anything that has more power.”- Abraham Lincoln.1

Elroy WI – The Press has been called, in America, the fourth branch of government. It is they whose goodwill is sought by political candidates, and without whose coverage your loss is almost a foregone conclusion. As reflected is the above quote by Lincoln, for many years the London Times held sway over their nation’s public opinion like no other.
It was Horace Greeley, a Columnist, who gave the great push to the Gold Rush with his famous statement “Go West, young man, Go West.” The press reported the horrors of British hospitals, and Florence Nightingale came to the rescue, the press told us of horrors in Russian prisons, we protested, and then we tore down their wall.
Today the press is the modem that tells us an epidemic has broken out or that Chrysler is recalling cars. And now, it is the paper the Guardian that has suddenly alerted the world that the United States Government is “snooping” in millions of phone calls, and now it is the press that tells us they are also snooping into AOL, Google, Facebook, and others.
It was the media that told us that IRS was wasting millions and targeting right wingers. It was the media that told us that in the Benghazi Scandals the government was not telling us the truth.
It is the media that shapes our opinions. In the book In Search of History, Theodore White, China correspondent for Time magazine, explains that Luce, the founder and president of Time, Life, and Fortune magazines,  nearly singlehandedly turned public opinion in America towards China at the time of World War II, giving support to Chiang Kai-shek.
In nations without freedom, it will be the press who must pay for it. That is why nations like Iran must have official news networks, to tell the people the government’s version of events. Russia had the same thing, North Korea has it now.
Liberty dies behind closed doors. Tyranny dies in front of open ones. Bad guys like to act in secret, it is their way. Men with clear consciences have no problem with everyone knowing what they are doing. It is the tyrants that must hide. They are afraid that if the light falls on them the people will see the truth, and the truth will make the people free of their oppression.
When the press, the media, is shut down by the regimes of communist nations, they lose their certainty in what is going on, the stories, because they are the official version, are unreliable. The people know they are being lied to, they are not ignorant, and so they turn to other news agencies. In To Build a Castle, Vladimir Bukovsky tells us that after hearing the governmental lies, they would then tune into ours and the British newscasts to find out truth. What will we do when we the West no longer have the right of the press?
“All power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Lord Acton taught us that. The power of the press is almost absolute when it comes to shaping ideas. The other ways of changing ideas, writing books, making films, and giving speeches, come from those who have a way with words, the best with words tend to be journalists. If the press can be censored, it will give an almost absolute power to the one who does it.

Andrew C. Abbott

1: Reports from America, pp. 49, 2001.



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