America has a disease that is ravaging a great nation. No, it is not COVID-19, though that is so terrible; the disease is hatred and misunderstanding and lack of empathy for our fellow man.
As if the smoldering rhetoric within the souls of the American citizens isn’t bad enough, the fanning of the rhetoric and then pouring gasoline on the flames by America’s press is even more disgusting. It is not uncommon to hear friends state that they don’t turn on the news anymore or have taken a vacation from Facebook or say that a few days from television is a welcome change. Amid a very contentious presidential race we witness the various news outlets lining up to support one candidate or the other and are now going so far as to provide a very profound press coverage that has become lies that are portrayed as fact. As bad as it seems and as much as we want to believe that the current heartbreaking state of our great nation is a new phenomenon; this is really not new and examples date back to the early days of America.
Thomas Jefferson was originally pro-press but later changed his mind as he witnessed bias and personal attacks on American leaders. He is quoted as saying, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.” Jefferson actually used the press to smear his presidential opponent, President John Adams using horrible language. Adams used the press to attack Jefferson and proclaimed Jefferson to be “the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father” while also asserting that Jefferson was an atheist.
Some politicians used the press to their advantage in order to pass legislation that was spurred by press articles. Many times the articles originated from the politicians. The first notable politician to do this was Theodore Roosevelt. He would provide reporters with information on Sunday knowing that the stories would appear on Monday. He would then base political decisions on how the people would react to the stories. Many politicians would not defy Roosevelt because they felt that he had public opinion behind him.
During World War I President Woodrow Wilson used propaganda and censorship to curtail the press. He set up his own Committee on Public Information. His intent was to provide information to the draftees and the public. Uncle Sam was invented by this committee. Wilson believed that he needed the power for censorship of the press. Three Republican Senators, Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, Hiram Johnson of California and William Borah of Idaho, launched opposition that insured there would be freedom of the press. Wilson’s law would not pass. Americans remember the 2016
Americans remember the 2016 presidential election and how the polls all said that candidate Trump would lose. We know the outcome, but this was not the first blunder performed by a somewhat biased press. Prior to election day when Harry Truman was defending his presidency from Dewey, Newsweek polled 50 political experts. Everyone stated that Truman could not win. Truman had fought false allegations and unflattering photos from a biased press. The papers were so sure that Truman had lost that they pre-published the papers with the headlines that Dewey had won and the papers were all ready on the streets when it was discovered that Truman had been re-elected. In 1955 Truman would write “Presidents and the members of their Cabinets and their staff members have been slandered and misrepresented since George Washington… when the press is friendly to an administration the opposition has been lied about and treated to the excrescence [sic] of paid prostitutes of the mind.” Truman was all ways known for speaking his mind.
Even President Obama had his problems with the press. There was no denying that there had been a running feud with Fox News. Finally, he once suggested that Fox may be banned from the White House briefings. Ironically it was CNN and other major news outlets that brought this potential censorship to an end when they threated to walk out of future news conferences if Fox was banned.
Perhaps the dirtiest of all political fights where the press was involved was the race of Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. Jackson accused Adams of supplying an American woman to the Czar of Russia for his pleasure while Adams was ambassador to Russia. Adams had accused Jackson of adultery, running off with another man’s wife while his wife was accused of bigamy. All this was because of a mistake that took place 40 years earlier on the American frontier. A very nasty fight that Jackson won; or did he. His wife died of a heart attack before inauguration day and Adams refused to attend the inauguration. It was the common man that carried the day for Jackson; not the Washington elite.
The one thing that is new with the war on the candidates by the press is the new world of social media. This allows everyone to speak their mind while being extremely judgmental. Now even the multimedia platforms are taking a biased stance of the elections and this will eventually lead to regulations and calls to break up these strong monopolies.
One week left; get out and perform your constitutional right and cast your vote.
Tuffy Fields may be reached by emailing email@example.com.