Freedom, the First Amendment and the Miley Cyrus effect

Thomas Drake, left, and Jason Jones

Thomas Drake, left, and Jason Jones

Today in Intro to Media we’re going to talk about journalism, the First Amendment, whistleblowers and other topics. We’ll even check out the video of the guy who crashed the Super Bowl.
Among the questions we’ll explore:

  • How familiar are Americans with the First Amendment? Who can name the rights that the First Amendment guarantees? See First Amendment survey.
  • Should the media act as a government watchdog? If so, how’s the media doing? See Paper Cuts.
  • What role do whistleblowers play? See Jason Jones’ interview with former NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake.
  • Can’t we trust the government? See sampling of investigative news stories here and the case of Bell, Calif., here.

Circling back to the First Amendment survey, why does support for our freedoms seem so soft?

Benjamin Barber

Benjamin Barber

Benjamin Barber, a political theorist and author, contends that films, pop culture and advertisements have more influence on young people than teachers.
I believe it. I’m sure Miley Cyrus and other pop icons get more attention from young people than their teachers. Society does a better job grooming us to be consumers than citizens.
Meantime, Barber writes, some Americans take their freedoms for granted.

In old, well-entrenched democratic states, it is easy to forget that democracy is a radical principle, perhaps the most radical of all principles. It derives from the root claims that people have a right to govern themselves and that no one has the right to govern another. Together, these claims legitimize revolution: a people’s right to seize the power necessary to govern themselves.

Liberty is rarely a gift of the powerful. It must be wrested from them in democratic revolutions that are just because they are democratic and effective because they are revolutionary.

Jefferson summed up the inherently revolutionary spirit of democracy when he insisted that each generation repossess its first principles anew, observing that the tree of liberty had to be nurtured from time to time with the blood of patriots.

You cannot inherit freedom. You may be “born free” in the abstract, but to possess your birthright, you must fight for and earn it.

Feeling swamped by a placid popular culture and its obsession with sex and money, dazzled by a wildly productive if ethically indifferent economy and frightened by a globalization process that seems to remove choice not only from individuals but from democratic nations, we have lost touch with democracy’s revolutionary American core.

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