The United States is a divided country. Much of the limited discourse that does take place is poisoned by divisive rhetoric. Rational thought is cast aside and ridiculous arguments based on unintelligible talking points rule conversation on any important issue of the day. Those talking points can be reduced to several core ideas, believed to be originated by the founding fathers of this country, but instead bastardized by politically motivated think tanks and shyster wordsmiths. To better understand the damage being inflicted upon our nation by these contemptible entities these core ideas will be examined in a series of essays, each focusing on one of the base terms that find their way into our national dialogue, attempting to find greater understanding of the idiom and those who use it as a shield.

This past weekend the South Carolina GOP held a convention to fire up the troops and scare the bejesus out of anyone who would listen. It was the same old series of talking points from the usual suspects of criminal stupidity. Senator Jim DeMint, Representative Tim Scott, and ex-Governor Rick Santorum were all bringing their best scare tactics to the table in hopes of finding traction with their base.

Senator Jim DeMint spoke about the creep of socialism and told attendees “this is our last chance to get it right. 2012 is when we have to lay it all on the line. We have to go to the mat.”

Representative Tim Scott continued down that same avenue. “There’s no question that we are moving, step by step, closer to socialism. So that puts democracy at risk to some extent.”

Rick Santorum, the ex-Pennsylvania Governor and possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, attempted to raise the specter of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy when discussing government intrusion into the lives of Americans. He was especially critical of education, saying, “I don’t know, maybe they called it early pre-K or something like that, that the government sponsored to get your children in there so they can indoctrinate them.”

This is the stuff that makes the head of the average non-American explode in frustration. The contradictions and dissonance in their policy position is astounding. These people who represent our supposed better interests pick these terms out of mid air and attempt to use the stupidity of the common man against them. Terms like socialism, fascism and indoctrination all have a negative connotation in American society, simply because Americans have been indoctrinated to view these words as euphemisms for negative consequences. If people would learn the true meaning of these terms they would see through these snake oil salesmen and see the obvious lies in what they say.

First, let’s examine the bugaboo of socialism and why it is evil. It is hard to believe that a political or social philosophy could be evil but that is the talking point from a certain party in American politics. This concept is mind numbingly stupid when you consider that almost every other country in the G20 is more socialistic in their governmental structure than the United States, and, last I checked, none of the citizens of these countries were crushed under the yoke of oppression. In fact, using the adjusted Human Development Index as a measure, the United States ranks 12th in quality of life for its citizens, and quickly dropping in that measure.

The textbook definition of socialism is a system where the means of production is commonly owned and controlled through cooperative interests. This definition is open to much interpretation and, in the extent of socialistic practices, varies greatly from example to example. I could go to great lengths to explain socialism in action, but that is a moot point. The important thing here is understand why the Republicans use this as a scare tactic and why they are bastardizing the term.

Socialism to the Republicans is the artificial control of the free market. That is really all they are concerned about. They want nothing more than to have a non-regulated marketplace where anything can be done to make a buck. Anything that is restrictive of that marketplace is socialism in action. I don’t think we need to go very far to find examples of why an unregulated marketplace is a bad thing. Whether it be lead in paint, salmonella in food, immoral lending practices by banks or unscrupulous trading practices by corporations I think we can agree that regulations are required to protect the common good of our society. These controls are not examples of socialism, they are illustrations of a functioning society acting in a responsible manner. Acting collectively, to protect everyone equally, is a core tenet of the constitution, so it shouldn’t be scary in any shape or form. What is scary for Republicans is the idea that acting collectively might just give everyone the same access to those aspects of our society that we deem as being necessary for a quality life. If we did act collectively, as our government was designed by the founding fathers, we could have the same freedoms that other G20 countries have, like universal healthcare, quality education, equal access to low cost food and drugs, and a removal of the corporate power structure.

I find it ironic that Republicans and conservatives continue to fall back on using socialism as a scare tactic when they themselves embrace some of the most socialistic constructs any free society can develop. Conservatives, as a stereotype, are a religious bunch. They fall back on their religion and all for it to be the central focus of their being. They come together and work collectively under the banner of their particular church, gaining the benefits of a community. This is socialism in action. Republicans and conservatives are huge supporters of the military and military spending, yet this is as socialistic as you can get. We use our collective resources to fill the ranks and pay for the weapons systems. That is socialism in action. The Republicans are also huge supporters of big business. Most corporations, who get so much from their political stooges, generate their working capital from selling common shares. A group of people come together to commonly own and cooperatively control the production of a product. This is socialism in action. When these huge corporations suffer from their own stupid mistakes it is the tax payer that is expected to bail them out and pay for their operational errors. It can be argued that this is socialism for corporations in action, (although it is more accurately aligned with fascism). Conservatives don’t hate socialism, per se, they just hate it when it helps out people who have different beliefs as them.

The second term of discussion is fascism. Republicans like to use the term fascism and socialism interchangeably, even though they are contrary political positions. This is another term badly misused or mischaracterized by conservatives and the mass media alike. Fascism is an ideology based on authoritarian nationalistic beliefs. People are taught from a young age (called indoctrination) that their country and their belief system is superior to that of any other. Fascism relies on the development and promotion of a national mythos where ancestry and culture make the country unique and powerful. This helps develop a singular collective identity, where others who have different ideas are ridiculed or purged from society all together. An example of this is American exceptionalism preached by hardcore conservatives.

Core functions of fascist regimes have been control over education, family policy, and an embracement of militarism, showing a willingness to freely use force without significant provocation. Fascist states believe that the individual does not exist but is nothing more than a cog in the corporate machine. During WWII, corporations were key partners in running the government and collected huge profits for doing so.

When Republicans toss out the term fascism it is hard to keep a straight face. This is the party that believes in American exceptionalism and is pushing for the establishment of state religion through adoption of Christian standards. They are strongly pro-life, wanting to outlaw abortion and the mother’s right to choose. They believe education should not be an open system, but instead should be closed with a very dogmatic curriculum. These Republicans and conservatives also believe that we need a strong military and should be free to use it as often as possible. Finally, and most importantly, the GOP firmly believes that by empowering the corporations, and drafting policy for their benefit, we make our country stronger. How this group of people can call anyone else fascist is beyond logic?

The final term to pick apart is indoctrination. Merriam Webster informs us that soft definition of indoctrination is the instruction of fundamentals or rudiments of any given subject. Basically, this is called teaching. If we assume this to be the definition then we are all indoctrinated into believing what we think we know. The harder definition tells us that indoctrination includes the imbuement of a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view or principle. This is the indoctrination that the Republicans like to roll out there as a scare tactic and an example of all that is wrong with our education systems. The only problem with their allusion is it is flat out wrong.

Indoctrination really boils down to the teaching of a single point of view. This is done in fundamentalist religions and totalitarian societies. The regulated curriculum in our school system is exactly what prevents indoctrination, forcing instructors to provide an open perspective to their students and abide by a secular point of view. This important to recognize because it is aligned with the constitution and the freedoms guaranteed in the first amendment. If indoctrination is taking place in this framework then the entire system the founding fathers framed is an abject failure. Seeing as how these “patriots” are so enamored with the founding fathers we can assume this is not the case. If these merchants of misdirection were honest they would be looking in their own backyard for examples of indoctrination.

The reality is the Republicans prey on those people who have a very closed perspective, one developed because of indoctrination. The GOP base is very decidedly Christian, most of which being fundamentalist. This component of the base was brought up to believe that their interpretation of God is the only true deity and all others are false idols. They believe they are the chosen few and are bent on promoting their own kind into positions of power. If you are not one of them, you are the enemy and inherently evil. Most of these people were home schooled and force fed religious belief as children. This prevented them from developing a broad perspective and questioning their teachings. If we look at the definitions again we’ll find that this is the textbook example of indoctrination.

At this time in our country’s history it is important to recognize the snake oil salesmen and call them on their inaccuracies. We can’t let them get away with the twisting of the facts and the scapegoating of ideologies or beliefs which they have twisted in shapes beyond recognition. We need to be aware and not fall for it. We need to be able to look at all potential solutions to the problems that plague our nation and adopt the solutions that best work regardless of the scary words some may try and wrap them in. There is a rhetorical battle going on in the country where negative euphemisms are quickly attached to solutions in hopes of marginalizing them or eliminating them from the discussion. Socialism, fascism and indoctrination are just a few of the terms used to scare people into thinking their country is at risk. Ironically, as people run from these solutions they run right into the trap of greater corporate control. In fact, these terms that are being used against the people only become accurate when the word corporate precedes them in a sentence. I think that the next time the Republicans toss out the terms socialism, fascism and indoctrination that they should be fed the terms projection, transference and introjection.

I first heard the news from my wife, who received an update on Facebook. Al Qaeda leader and financier, Osama bin Laden, had been reportedly killed during a raid of a compound outside Islamabad, Pakistan. Watching a re-run of The Taking of Pelham 123 was now a secondary interest. Learning more about the assassination of bin Laden became primary.

Information was slow to come out as the press corps appeared to be waiting for the official announcement from the President. Even though the details were sketchy there was a definite reaction from the American people. The one term that kept coming up in describing the events was “jubilation.” For some reason this troubled me. I decided to turn in for the night and wait for more details surrounding the events and the potential fallout from the action.

When my dogs dragged me out of bed to feed them the following morning it gave me opportunity to check the newswire and see what other details there were in regards to the stunning news of bin Laden’s death. I read as much unique information as I could find but details were still sketchy. What was made very clear in the media was the American reaction. From political leaders to first responders to the common man on the street the response was similar. The same word that still resonated through the media was “jubilation.” This still troubled me. I needed to figure out why.

I began to look at the many photos of the American reaction that were splashed all over the Internet. What I saw was a wild, almost uncontained, celebration of bin Laden’s death. These pictures looked all too familiar to me. We’ve seen these types of scenes in the Middle East when a key campaign is won or someone is martyred. These are the types of scenes that we have openly criticized as being irrational or the people being over-zealous in their support of a flawed cause. Had we become that which we most often criticized?

I can understand the desire to see the leader of Al Qaeda killed, but this reaction seemed over the top. There was a disconnect in logic. It had been almost 10 years since the September 11th attacks, and our reasoning for going into Afghanistan and Iraq had changed multiple times since then. Osama bin Laden had become an afterthought in the search for redemption. Why was there such an outpouring of emotion for this killing when the world had changed so greatly since 9/11? This is likely the dilemma my conscience was wrestling with. What has this changed and is this action worthy of a celebration?

As I sat in the dawn’s early light of the day after bin Laden’s killing, the thing that kept running through my head was what has changed? Was the economy going to get better? Were more jobs going to become available because of this death? Was the value sucked out of my house by the housing bubble going to magically return? Was my retirement any more secure, or were the political vultures going to continue to pick at that corpse? Were health care costs going to drop and become affordable? Was anything that directly impacted my current existence going to change as a result of this assassination? I couldn’t see how this made any difference to the issues that matter.

I will admit that I do find some satisfaction that another terrorist has been killed in a very grizzly fashion. I also think it is great that it was our intelligence community and one of our SEAL teams that got the job done (this is how you respond to instances of terror, not through large military engagement). Unfortunately I don’t think this is a time to take to the streets and celebrate. Not when the streets are filled with the problems caused by chasing the shadow of bin Laden and his ilk with the costly machinations of our military. When measured against the trillions of dollars spent in making war against two nations one has to wonder, was the over-reaction all worth it? Did we win anything by killing bin Laden or did bin Laden win the war by bankrupting our nation?

It is tough to be celebratory, even when achieving a long term goal like this. Not when there are so many other troubles facing this country. I’ll take to the streets in celebration when the villains from Wall Street get tracked down and dealt with in a similar fashion. Or when the economy gets fixed and well paying jobs are available again. Or when things become affordable based on my miserable ever shrinking salary. Or my future is re-secured with the money and tax dollars I invested in vehicles like my home and retirement saving plans. Until then I’ll remain reserved over the killing of another terrorist mastermind and hold my celebrations for when my country is made whole again.

The United States is a divided country. Much of the limited discourse that does take place is poisoned by divisive rhetoric. Rational thought is cast aside and ridiculous arguments based on unintelligible talking points rule conversation on any important issue of the day. Those talking points can be reduced to several core ideas, believed to be originated by the founding fathers of this country, but instead bastardized by politically motivated think tanks and shyster wordsmiths. To better understand the damage being inflicted upon our nation by these contemptible entities these core ideas will be examined in a series of essays, each focusing on one of the base terms that find their way into our national dialogue, attempting to find greater understanding of the idiom and those who use it as a shield. This post was originally written for a friend’s blog, published there in April, but, in retrospect, should be part of my own blog as well.

Thomas Jefferson believed that government was a direct reflection of the people, and if the people were ignorant of the issues the government would not be representative of the common need. With this reason in mind, I’m going to begin a series in which important terms, repeated in the media and used to frame issues, are fully explored and explained in way to help people understand the issues that much better.

As we arrive on the eve of the much talked about shutdown of the federal government, we have to wonder what is to become of this country? Not because a bunch of egomaniacal politicians, bought and sold by corporate interests, have decided to hold hostage the citizens of the country in a game of ideological chicken over budgetary table scraps, but because of the sheer stupidity that the common person displays when trying to discuss the details of the issues. All too often people are easily deceived into believing the misinformation floated in the mass media simply because they are confused (no, baffled is the better term) by the terminology dreamed up by spinmeisters like Republican pollster, Frank Luntz. Until people can cut through the obfuscation and understand the language being used against them this country is heading in the wrong direction.

Today’s term is Entitlement Program, and is brought to you by Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Education spending (Pell Grants), and programs that supplement the poorest in our nation.

Republicans and Democrats are having a very public hair-pulling session over budgetary cuts. They try and tell you that these are important to the future of the country, but they aren’t being honest. The Republicrats are arguing over what amounts to somewhere between a .8% to 1.7% cut in spending, and much of that scheduled to come from entitlement programs. The politicians argue that cutting in these areas is important because it is spending we can’t afford. On the surface this makes sense, until you actually start to drill down into what they are saying and begin to see what their real motivation is. We need to cut through their obfuscation and really see what they are proposing.

First, what are entitlement programs? We hear so much about them, but the average guy on the street doesn’t know what they are. Entitlement programs are those institutions of government which provide personal benefits, either through financial or social means, to each and every taxpaying citizen of the country. Unfortunately, the context used to describe these programs has changed over the years and taken on a whole new meaning. The term has become a euphemism for giving benefits to the undeserved, completely altering the meaning altogether.

As previously mentioned, entitlement programs come in many shapes and forms. The big ones are Medicare, Social Security and Unemployment Insurance. These are the ones that Americans really need to get their head wrapped around because these are the ones that should hit home the hardest. These programs are not a giveaway of taxpayer money. They have a specific purpose and provide specific long term benefits. These are mandatory programs that taxpayers have contributed toward for generations. These are entitlements that you and I are currently paying into. When you get your paycheck stub there are line items which outline how much is taken out for each of these programs. This tells you the amount you contribute to this pool every two weeks. These are long term benefit programs, underwritten by the government, guaranteed to payout in the future when you need them. The only “entitlement” I see in these programs is that we are all entitled to receive benefits because we have paid into them our whole lives. I will repeat this, because it is the money shot.

We are entitled to these benefits because we have paid into them our whole lives!

This is like being forced to carry automobile insurance. You pay into the pool knowing that if unfortunate circumstances arise you will have access to the resources to pay for damages to your car or the property of others you may have damaged through your negligence. The major difference is that you may never use your automobile insurance and may never gain benefit from that coverage. With these entitlement programs you will, unless you die prematurely, receive benefits in the future. The money you pay into these programs will be returned to you in your later years through Social Security payments and Medicare benefits. You will be getting back the money you paid into the program as long as you live long enough to collect!

So why are politicians attacking entitlement programs? Because there is a massive pool of money there to be exploited! Think about it. Every working stiff in the country has been paying into these programs since the 30s. That is a lot of coin. That much money can buy a lot of power and influence.

There currently are two streams of thought focusing on limiting these entitlement programs. One is to restrict payments while the other is to privatize. Both are nothing but pure power plays and a way to allow corporate interests to dip into that big pool of money.

If politicians can delay or reduce payment of benefits it gives them an incredible reserve of free money to play with. This liquid capital can then be moved around to where it can influence and buy greater power, or just siphoned off into corporate welfare programs. The money that the likes of GE, Exxon, Boeing, Bank of America, Microsoft, CitiGroup and Google get back in tax rebates (all of these companies paid less taxes than you did last year, and most of them paid none) have to come from somewhere, and it is most likely coming from the pool of entitlement programs you and I pay into every two weeks. This is why the age and requirements keep changing, and not to our benefit.

The other popular entitlement elimination strategy bounced around is privatization. Some of the deep thinkers in our political world actually think that Americans should be given private accounts where their retirement savings are gambled in the stock market. Yeah, we’ve seen how that has turned out, time-and-time again. How many Wall Street scandals and collapses of investment firms do we need to see to know that this has disaster written all over it? Now, this doesn’t stop these pointy headed idiots in Washington from pushing this concept forward. Why? Because they get grotesque amounts of money from Wall Street lobbyists who want nothing more than to get their hands on the trillions of dollars in these systems. These parasites make money by gambling yours, and they make money whether they win or lose. To them, it doesn’t matter if they lose your life savings, because the money isn’t theirs to begin with. The only thing this idea proves is that politicians don’t don’t really care about you or I and they are only in the public sector because it provides access to power and money.

You know, the reason why Social Security is such an important and successful program is because it is government run and underwritten. Once you pay into the system your money is guaranteed. There is no potential to lose it because the government has a social contract to pay these funds back to you in your retirement years. There is oversight and regulation in place to safeguard these monies. This is as safe an investment you can make, as long you continue to hold your representative’s feet to the fire and make him protect your money!

So as we ponder the shutdown of the federal government, we need to better understand the issues these so called representatives are using against us. Only by understanding the language and how it is framing the issue will we be better prepared to protect our individual investment in our country and protect ourselves from the real transfer of wealth that is taking place. The money you pay in taxes should be going to help people like you and me through the long established entitlement programs and not to aid corporations who make billions in profits. We are entitled to these programs we pay into because it is our money and we have the pay stubs to prove it!

A new and dangerous paradigm in American politics was reached yesterday when Wisconsin Senate Republicans used parliamentary procedure to pass a bill which would strip almost all aspects of collective bargaining rights from public workers (teachers, government employees, police and firemen, etc.). This action should be a wake-up call for Americans, but it took place while the top 13 American Idol contestants were murdering songs we thought we knew and loved, so this political stroke will go almost completely unnoticed and with little challenge. This is appalling because this act, while scary in many ways, has potential to change how legislation is passed and have massive negative long-term fallout if the language in the bill becomes law.

Those that have been following the goings on in Wisconsin have been missing half the story. The news media have been doing their best to get their “message” out, which is incomplete and bereft of the detail required to educate the public in general. At best, the news media have provided enough details to polarized the debate over what is going on. At worst, they have been muzzled by their corporate masters and have not been able to give the general public the information they need to challenge this draconian legislation or educate them as to how this is bad for our country.

On the surface the Wisconsin Republicans will have you believe this is about balancing the budget. They have been very good at sticking to their talking points about the state employees being the primary cause of the budget shortfall. These same talking points have focused on the collective bargaining rights of public employees as the primary cause of all the state problems. The Republicans argue that many of the benefits (pension and health care insurance plans) created through past collective bargaining agreements have caused this budget crisis. These Republicans argue that if you eliminate collective bargaining rights that you eliminate the root cause of the budget crisis. It’s a great story but is completely fabricated and based on nothing but nonsense.

So what makes these goings on so draconian? What makes them dangerous? Several issues immediately come to mind.

First, this highly unpopular bill was rammed through the state government machine with surprising efficiency. Using a very questionable parliamentary procedure this extremely restrictive bill was pushed through to the Governor’s liking. This bill is a massive clawing back of rights earned through decades of negotiation and mutually beneficial give-and-take. This is an ideologically driven politician saying that this history means nothing and his perspective, or that of his extremely wealthy corporate benefactors, means more than agreements negotiated in good faith. It also says that government can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and the employees have to accept that. If the government can make these sweeping changes, with little regard for what is right, or their own employees, imagine what other ideologically driven changes they can make that affect us all?

Secondly, this bill is a very large slippery slope. If the government can outlaw collective bargaining, essentially crushing the largest union in the state, what will that do in private industry? What is to prevent private entities (corporations) from banning collective bargaining in their organizations within that state? The legal precedent is now on the books and will allow private enterprise to use similar behaviors to their benefit. Conservatives love to talk about trickle down economic theory and in this instance there is a trickle down effect. When unions lose benefits in an industry those same benefits are restricted in the rest of that same public sector. This law is a gift to corporations hoping to restrict or eliminate benefits to their employees.

Thirdly, elimination of collective bargaining rights eliminates many of the protections afforded to labor. The government and the corporations will always have their cadre of representatives and lawyers to argue on their behalf. Taking that same benefit away from labor removes any expertise which may protect the worker from abuses and points to impartiality going out the window. Because many states are moving to the “right to work” model of law, the old adage of “you can’t fight city hall” will soon extend to “you can’t disagree with who you work for”. Without collective bargaining there to protect the rights of the workers employers will be able to bully their employees into a state of endured servitude.

Fourthly, and this is the argument that needs to be understood, this is an attack at our fundamental constitutional rights. Our first amendment rights guarantee us the rights to free assembly. Assembly is the process of gathering for the purposes of acting as a collective. Because every person at a collective assembly cannot have their own say, or share their own voice, we allow for representation on their behalf. This is the foundation of our government and our representative process. Collective bargaining is the basis of our governmental process. This is inherent to the function of our democracy. Elimination of collective bargaining rights and fair representation is challenge to our protected freedoms afforded through the constitution.

Finally, a few words about collective bargaining and what we could possibly lose because of this political action. Any of the benefits received through collective bargaining are a result of give and take. That is the way the bargaining process works. One side gives a benefit (salary) to receive another (pension or insurance). These benefits targeted by the conservatives are a direct result of giving immediate benefit, in the shape of salary, for long term benefit, in the shape of pension and health care insurance. To the rich and famous, this type of benefit is many times referred to as deferred compensation. The employee is giving up salary now so they may receive it downstream, when they retire and need it to survive on. This is an extremely important concept to understand. The employees gave up salary to invest in future compensation comprised of other benefits. A contract was struck, agreed to by both parties, for these future services in lieu of paying more money out in salaries. The state recognized the benefit of such an arrangement for their interests and readily signed the agreements. This is where things get really scary.

These benefit plans are reservoirs of cash. The state pays money into them, in lieu of paying salary. The employee has the option of paying into the same program, increasing their long-term benefit by fortifying the account. The benefit for the employee is obvious. The benefit for the state is largely unknown. As mentioned, these benefit plans are huge deposits of cash. They are liquid capital available for the state to use. And use these funds they do! States will go and borrow money from these benefit plans and use them for all sorts of state funded projects or reinvestment. Imagine what happens when the state finds it can’t pay its bills or the investment vehicle they placed those funds in hits a brick wall and crashes? Which payment do you think might be skipped or scrapped all together? Fortunately, Wisconsin is not currently in this situation. The Wisconsin State Employee Retirement System is healthy and stable. But, based on the Governor’s actions, this $80 billion pool of cash could become a target of his use and abuse.

So why should this all matter? Because this is not a budget balancing act we are watching unfold in Wisconsin. This is an attack on the little guy. This is an attack on workers. This is an attack on you and me. Governor Scott Walker, and the Koch brothers who finance him, are attacking one of the last protections we have from corporations. Collective bargaining is what prevents corporations from owning their employees, like they did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I’m not a union guy, but I do recognize their function and contribution to our society, and collective bargaining is one of those contributions. This function ended child labor and created the 40 hour work week. It contributed to the rights of workers and made sure employees had safe working environments and insurance against injury while on the job. It provided for mothers to have maternity leave and the birth of the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act). This improved the working conditions and livelihoods of every man and woman in this country. Eliminating collective bargaining puts these freedoms at risk and hands the power to prohibit our freedoms to the corporations and their bought and paid for politicians. If there was a political event that should get you up out of your seat and out in the streets this is it. This is not about balancing a budget like the media narrative presents, this is an attack our rights to assemble and work as a collective!

The United States is a divided country. Much of the limited discourse that does take place is poisoned by divisive rhetoric. Rational thought is cast aside and ridiculous arguments based on unintelligible talking points rule conversation on any important issue of the day. Those talking points can be reduced to several core ideas, believed to be originated by the founding fathers of this country, but instead bastardized by politically motivated think tanks and shyster wordsmiths. To better understand the damage being inflicted upon our nation by these contemptible entities these core ideas will be examined in a series of essays, each focusing on one of the base terms that find their way into our national dialogue, attempting to find greater understanding of the idiom and those who use it as a shield.

The Constitution

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Thus begins the greatest, and most contentious, document drafted in American history. The constitution frames the institutions that we embrace as the core of our society. The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the constitution, defines the rights of the individual. This document gives us insight into the ideas of the founding fathers and the highly complex ponderings they wrestled with to build our government and protect the people. The constitution is filled with brilliance. It features enough detail to use as a roadmap to achieve domestic success. It contains enough ambiguity to allow argument over its content and amendments from the day it was drafted in 1783. It is claimed by many to be the perfect document to use for the establishment of a thriving democracy and second only to the bible in historical importance. The constitution, which was once considered the document to bring all peoples together, has become the text that may forever drive Americans apart.

Interpretation is everything. The ambiguity of the constitution and the two hundred year old vernacular make the document difficult to take literally in the 21st century. Unfortunately there are many in our culture who do interpret the constitution literally and apply that twisted understanding to our new world. This makes reasoning difficult as the United States has changed dramatically from when it was 13 colonies and the black powder musket or heavy cannon were the weapons of mass destruction of the day. Interpret we will try, attempting to bring some critical thought and display some of the cognitive dissonance to some of the contentious passages, especially in the first few amendments in the Bill of Rights.

There is an endless firestorm surrounding the first amendment and the number of rights lumped into the single paragraph. Religion, the press, non-censored speech and providing for assembly and demonstration are all ambiguously addressed. Each foster interesting arguments that feature many contradictions.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The popular misinterpretation is that this sentence entrenches the ideal of separation of church and state in the constitution. In that same vein another popular misinterpretation is that the government will have no action in restraining religion. Both are wrong at odds with the all inclusive nature of the constitution.

There is no constitutional separation between church and state. Thomas Jefferson wrote, in a letter to the Danbury Baptists, about the intention of the first amendment to act as a protection for the people, and government, to and from religious or political engagement in each enterprise. While the concept makes sense it does not appear in the constitution as it is currently written. To have true separation of church and state, guaranteeing that neither will interfere in the matters of the other, a new amendment will have to be added to the constitution.

Similarly the constitution does not provide blanket protection to any religion which will allow for that entity to operate in any manner it so desires. The constitution guarantees that the government will not establish any one religion as the basis for our democracy, establishing our nation as secular collective, and promises any spiritual calling is honored and respected. That is an individual right, not a collective right. Religious establishments must still abide by the laws of the land and do not have free reign to operate as political action committees or incite social discord. Respect of the other citizen’s spiritual belief is guaranteed.

The most important facet of this section of the first amendment is lost. We are to respect each other’s spirituality and not try to force our theological beliefs, or what we interpret to be the moral teachings of that religious experience, upon other citizens. You may feel that what you learned in Sunday school is the righteous way to live your life, and you have the right to believe just that, but you have no right to force that morality on anyone else simply because it may be counter to the spiritual philosophy of another citizen. The first amendment not only guarantees an individual’s right to practice his or her religion, but it also guarantees another individual’s freedom from religion in the event their spirituality (or lack thereof) demands it.

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.

Kierkegaard famously said, “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” That is never more evident than in 21st century America. People demand the right to speak but rarely use their brains before engaging their mouths. We all have the right to say what we want, when we want, and how we want, right? Yes and no. There are decency laws that prevent us from crossing certain moral and social lines. An individual may say what they like in whatever fashion they like in a private setting. In a public setting we must abide by the law and practice a level of social decorum. We cannot call for the assassination of a public figure any more than we can shout “fire” in a crowded theater. When a Pat Robertson publically calls for the assassination of a world leader his first amendment rights should go out the window. No person or entity should be allowed to promote a lie, especially when the lie has been completely discredited. Respect of the freedom of speech does not mean respecting stupidity. When a position is so egregiously wrong it is best to mute that point. Abraham Lincoln provided the best free speech advice anyone could when he said, “Tis better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press.

There is no law that mutes the press but there are ownership laws and regulations that have been recently removed from the books that has allowed for this media restriction to take place. The press was to be the people’s oversight of government. They were to have the access, to ask the questions the people couldn’t, and to hold the political machine in check. That is what Jefferson and Madison believed and what was established. Diversity of opinion was prevalent because ownership of the media was regional and distributed amongst hundreds of entities. Deregulation and new ownership laws allowed mega-corporations to gobble up media outlets and consolidate them under the umbrella of corporate interests. This eliminated diversity of opinion, killed the regional perspective and replaced it with a centrally managed singular perspective. This essentially muted the media, silenced the voice of the citizens and restricted the daily oversight on the body politick. No law was passed that restricted freedom of the press. Instead a whole series of regulations that guaranteed that freedom were removed and allowed the restriction of the press through ownership consolidation and assimilation into a corporate culture that eliminated all perspective but that of management. This is a constitutional battle that should be waged as it weakens our democracy.

Another hot button issue that really screams for some examination is the second amendment and the endless gun ownership battle.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The two polar sides of this battle have valid points. A list could be built that would outline each position and a reader could find positives and negatives in each and every point. Of course that would be considering our 21st century perspective and focus on specific points of the amendment. Examining the amendment and appreciating the context is the intent of this criticism.

We must understand that the 18th century was different from the 21st century. The heavy cannon and frigate were the weapons of mass destruction of the day. The United States was collective republic where each state had actual autonomy and their own institutions of government, including standing armies and militias. As the country expanded and our institutions evolved we founded a series of socialistic mechanisms that provided services across the entirety of the nation. A professional army with massive budgets and incredibly powerful weapons was established and took over the protection of the nation. All of the regional militias and guards were absorbed and managed federally. The only militias that exist today are rogue or extremist organizations, most of which harvest a paranoid anti-government resentment and reside on the fringe of our society. Our security is managed nationally and for many good reasons.

Understanding that 21st century context, and the 18th century context, the second amendment now becomes out-dated and on the edge of reason. The amendment was written so that the professional militia in each sparsely populated colony would be able to immediately conscript locals to support their numbers in the event of attack from a foreign or domestic entity. In an effort to support the militia the people were expected to keep and bear arms when called upon. Those days are gone. The militia is gone. Battle tactics eliminate the need for the common citizenry to support the militia. The conventions of war also suggest that targeting civilian populations is verboten, but in the event of the military retreating into civilian areas that rule of engagement goes by the wayside. The public participative support with the militia pretty well insures this rule of engagement is eliminated. In the event of a military engagement, all the small arms in the world will not protect the home owner from a stray mortar round. The gun ownership argument of supporting the militia is specious at best.

The militia argument also removes the need for many of the weapons front and center to a lot of arguments. Assault type rifles and large caliber rifles have no purpose other than killing people. Weapons easily converted to automatic also have no other purpose that to expand the potential carnage when used. No hunter is going to take his AR-15 assault rifle or MAC-10 machine pistol or 50 caliber sniper rifle deer hunting. Game hunting is a one shot one kill type of activity, not a spray a target field with 20 rounds hoping to hit something with a kill shot. The sniper rifle is for one purpose only; assassination. Unless a hunter is planning on killing, cleaning and quartering Bambi in one swift and messy shot the 50 caliber is not a weapon of choice. These are the types of weapons that need to be restricted as they can be very dangerous in the hands of the wrong people.

On a personal note, being a gun owner I am naturally not anti-gun. Guns don’t kill people, bullets do, and usually only fired from a gun in the hands of someone not in complete control of their mental faculties. Taking guns away from people is not a solution to anything. The Swiss have one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world and have very little gun related crime. It has nothing to do with a deterrent from gun ownership either. It has everything to do with personal responsibility, another concept in our constitution which is continually ignored by ideologues. If people were responsible gun owners and used best practices in securing their weapons, like the Swiss are required to do, we would have less gun crime. With a national registry of weapons citizens would be much more proactive in securing their weapons because the responsibility would be placed on them to control their property. Sale and disposal of weapons would be handled in a more secure manner if owners could be held accountable for their gun being used in a violent crime.

Each amendment could be ripped apart and examined endlessly. The goal of the exercise was to point out some of the contradictions of the arguments available in our discourse. What is most bothersome about the on-going rhetorical battle being waged over the constitution is the matter of complete context. Without reading the document with the base principle behind the text in mind it is muddied and difficult to comprehend. Each passage must be read with the preamble in mind, and with an interpretation that fits even in the 21st century.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…

Our country is not perfect but we should continue to strive to improve on the society that has developed and the institutions we have established. We have been blessed with an idea, a concept of how a democracy should be managed, and it is up to each of us to ensure that inspiration is not lost and the practice is improved upon with each iteration or generation.

Establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…

We are expected to foster an environment that allows all the citizens to have access to the same possibilities. Thomas Jefferson said, “Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.” Each American should have the positive enjoyment of social, political and economic rights and privileges regardless of birthright or class. Whatever situation that evolves during our short time in control of the institutional reigns, we should be sure to leave future generations with a greater promise than that which ourselves received.

Do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The united states of America. Forget the name of the country, focus on the words themselves. United. Working together in harmony. States. We were never one entity but several small provinces with different ideas as to how the New World should be managed. We should never forget that our country was founded as a collective of independent colonies who worked together for the common good of all. That is the basis of our constitution. It is about working together to provide for the common good of all individuals. We work together to provide for those who may not be as fortunate as ourselves knowing that by making the weak links stronger we make the chain less resistant to failure. The United States of America that the world holds in the highest regard is the one that lives by an excerpt from The New Colossus on Lady Liberty’s inscription.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

This inscription is not about the moneyed class. Our ancestors came to these shores after America was born because of the constitution and the inclusive nature the document promised to all who lived under our flag. Americans need to get in touch with the constitution once again and learn what a great document it is when the context is complete. We need to learn to live up to the inclusive promise the constitution made when it was drafted.

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The United States is a divided country.  Much of the limited discourse that does take place is poisoned by divisive rhetoric.  Rational thought is cast aside and ridiculous arguments based on unintelligible talking points rule conversation on any important issue of the day.  Those talking points can be reduced to several core ideas, believed to be originated by the founding fathers of this country, but instead bastardized by politically motivated think tanks and shyster wordsmiths.  To better understand the damage being inflicted upon our nation by these contemptible entities these core ideas will be examined in a series of essays, each focusing on one of the base terms that find their way into our national dialogue, attempting to find greater understanding of the idiom and those who use it as a shield.

Patriotism

The problem with patriotism is that very few can articulate the relation between love for their country and what generates that emotional connection.  Patriotism, cut and dried, is the love or devotion to one’s country.  What this definition leaves on the cutting room floor is most important.  The nuances of country and devotion through responsible action are what define true patriotism.  Without country or responsible action patriotism cannot exist.

A country is not defined by geographic boundaries.  As we have seen throughout human history countries have been born, then later failed or faded into obscurity.  The physical geography of regions has not changed much during recorded history, but the ideals held by the people who inhabit the areas continue to evolve.  It is this evolution of ideals and behaviors that has allowed for the rise and fall of countries.

It is ideals that bind people together, seeing populations act collectively because of shared values.  Over time these common principles become the foundation for the norms and laws used to enforce the common good.  From these group dynamics the structures of government are developed.  The social norms and the agencies of government become the institutions recognized as the foundation of a country and become what the citizens hold as the highest standard.  Understanding these key ideals it can be identified that countries are made up by people, their accepted social norms and the institutions those people have created to govern their society.

If we take this as the understanding of what makes up a country we can then surmise that patriotism is the love of one’s people, the common principles that define social norms and the institutions the people have created to govern and maintain those values.  This is country.  The land is nothing more than real estate that has not seen a dramatic change since man learned to harness the power of fire, but the shared beliefs and common actions evolve and define the country.

When discussing devotion to one’s country it is vital to outline the importance of responsible action.  One may proclaim his or her patriotism to the country, but if the actions of the individual do not measure up to the moral standard representative of common good then how much love of his or her country does said individual actually have?  Timothy McVeigh declared his status as a patriot but his actions clearly cast him to the fringe of our society and an enemy of the state.  When individuals show up to political gatherings wearing side arms and carrying signs that insinuate the value of assassination they are not displaying their patriotism for all to see, they are proving nothing more than they don’t understand the concept of being a patriot nor comprehend the constitution they claim to protect.  Patriots do not display contempt for their fellow citizens, no matter how much they may disagree with their opinion.  Patriots do not display disrespect toward those institutions derived from our constitution and law.  Patriotism is displayed by accepting the imperfections of our fellow citizens and recognizing that those same citizens are the government and work through the framework provided by the founding fathers.

One particular ideology loves to lay claim to the concept of patriotism and love of their country, but their actions counter those claims.  To really love the United States you must acknowledge all those who live within her borders as your fellow citizens and recognize their rights to be equal to yours.  Black, brown, red, white and yellow are the colors to be accepted as being part of the fabric of the nation.  Legal resident or not, anyone who contributes to the positive factors in the society become a part of this country.  Conservative behaviors counter their claim of loving their fellow Americans.  The stances of anti-immigrant, anti-alien and anti-inclusion of minorities clearly indicate that the ability to love all that reside in the country a missing component of true patriotism.  Patriots defend all people in the citizenry, because they make up the country and crucial to the continued existence of the national ideal.

In the United States of America the basic foundations of the country are identified by the many institutions established over its short history.  These institutions are fallible because they are subject to the shortcomings of the people serving within these entities.  They are not perfect but were established to serve the common good and provide protections for those who cannot protect themselves.  Many of these governmental institutions (the military, state and federal law enforcement and first responders, etc.) are considered the height of patriotic ventures yet other agencies (the Treasury, welfare, etc.) are considered unpatriotic and almost counter to the American way.  This division of respect for the institutions established to safeguard against abuses of the common citizen is nonsensical.  Any individual who claims to understand the framework established by the founding fathers should certainly recognize their desire for all men, and women, the ability to pursue life, liberty and happiness.  The government was designed to promote social responsibility for all, not just the elite class.  Some agencies appear repressive in nature, while others appear liberating, but these bodies work in concert to provide systematic balance and continuity of services for the common good.

No single institution is more important, or more often used to defend the actions of individuals, than the constitution.  This document defines much of what America is for many people.  Unfortunately there are many people who use the constitution as a shield for their actions and are extremely selective in their reading and interpretation of the text.  A patriot does not get to pick and choose what components of the constitution he defends.  A patriot recognizes the document in full context and readily defends the entirety of the text not just the passages that fit with his particular ideological position.  A true patriot is aware that the constitution frames not only the individual rights of citizens but also the foundations of our government.  The institutional interactions with the framework that is the constitution formulates our laws and societal standards.  A true patriot acknowledges the complexity of both the constitution and the law and defends all those structures and rights afforded individuals under the umbrella of both, even when he may not agree with the language or intent of either credence.

Patriotism is all too often conflated with nationalism.  The almost instinctive belief of the superiority of one’s country over that of others is pushed forward as patriotism.  This is inaccurate at almost every turn.  A patriot is one who knows his country and recognizes its strengths and weaknesses.  The patriot believes in the foundations of the country but can acknowledge the imperfections that exist.  These flaws or at least the recognition of the flaws is what separates a true patriot from the jingoistic partisan so prevalent in the national discourse today.  Unfortunately the myth of American exceptionalism is embraced as the mantra of the patriot, promoting the nationalistic focus rather than the defense of the collective acknowledgement.  It is this weakness inherent in nationalism that differentiates it from patriotism and a more appropriate descriptor of the behaviors displayed by those claiming to be patriots.

Patriots love their country, but they also understand the love for their country and can articulate its strengths and weaknesses.  They can discuss, in a rational manner, the great things that the country offers and at the same time the areas where it falls down.  Because the country was established by fallible people it is understood to be a work in progress.  The founding fathers admitted as much when they included the phrase “to form a more perfect union” in the preamble to the constitution.  They knew that a democracy would feature different opinions and a perfect solution was never possible, so they designed our government to deal with disagreement in a civilized manner through checks and balances.  Loving your country is no different than loving your significant other.  You are enthralled with the characteristics and behaviors that align with your ideals.  There are tendencies or behaviors that may make you a little crazy.  You accept the bad because of the good and learn to live with those qualities that make your blood pressure rise, because you love your partner so much.  When someone asks you about your better half you can go into great detail all of those things that you love and hate in your relationship; you can articulate your love.  Patriotism is all about being able to recount the similar laundry list.  If you can’t convey the reasons you love someone or something, then love is not the proper term to use.  Fanaticism of the irrational order may be the idiom to explore further.

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Trying to explain media ethics in a blog entry is like trying to run a marathon at the bottom of the sea on single breath of air. The pressure is immense, the resistance difficult to fight against and before you get going you’re out of air.

In a nutshell, ethics seeks to answer questions about morality, how moral decisions should be determined, how moral outcome can be achieved in specific situations, how moral agency develops and what moral values people actually abide by. While morals frame our point of reference in the decision-making process ethics defines the behaviors we should strive to meet and provides baselines for judgment of our actions. Ethics is the inner sense of duty that compels us to behave in certain ways; it is what motivates an individual to consistently chose behaviors and rationalize actions and outcomes.

Media ethics is the standard to which anyone who legally publishes or broadcasts information is expected to conform. The problem is that for one to believe that a singular ethical standard for media exists, and can be enforced in some shape or form, one must believe that all media prescribes to the same moral theory or normative ethical standard. The expectation is that all individuals who operate under the auspices of mass media share the same point of reference. The reality is that the mass media does not operate as a singular entity but is made up of a series of entities that have their own unique culture and ethical expectations. The clash of corporate cultures against the accepted ethical standards for media causes an incongruity in behaviors that generate negative results and contribute to the downfall of the mass media’s reputation amongst consumers. But why don’t consumers think mass media is honest or ethical?

The core tenet for many of these journalistic ethic standards is the seeking and discovery of truth. Therein lies the greatest weakness of these idealistic standards. Truth is not definite and definable at first glance. What may be considered true to one individual may not be considered true to another. With the deficiency of facts, or the same results from a repeatable methodology, a story is reported and a judgment made on hearsay. The compilation and repetition of opinion does not define truth. Truth may only be discovered with the passage of time and when all information can be weighed and the result of actions judged. Considering the pressures to deliver information in a 24-hour news cycle the potential for truth to slide into any one story is limited.

The truth suffers when fuzzy and destructive images over-power society’s need to intelligently discuss at length critical issues. The sensational and titillating have replaced the relevant and researched, and with it rhetorical engagement has been rendered an anachronism. How information is packaged becomes more important than the quality or accuracy of the content. News is as much staged as it is produced. The popularity and coverage of Sarah Palin is indicative of the failures of media to apply any methodology of research and any semblance of critical thought to the information they find. It is more important to get her smiling face and folksy euphemisms on the air, providing a controversial personality in an attractive package for viewers to eat up.

The effort to find an ethical truth is beyond what the mass media currently passes for information. Opinion has become the bedrock of journalism, or what is being passed off as journalism to the corporate owned media outlets. The problem with opinion is that it is not news and it is not truth. When speaking on the subject of truth Immanuel Kant outlined that opinion is consciously insufficient judgment, subjectively as well as objectively. He continued on to say that to know truth required knowledge and that knowledge is both subjectively and objectively sufficient to achieve truth. The reader must obtain knowledge to find truth, and knowledge can only be attained through understanding of the subject matter rather than the appearance of the subject matter. While opinion may provide perspective it does not represent truth.

Opinion has killed the dream of an ethical standard in the mass media. Because of the First Amendment it is difficult to censor opinion, and because opinion is subjective, it is hard to discredit. Opinion allows for a certain fluidity with the facts that makes truth difficult to distill. Mass media has moved toward more opinion, regardless of the basis for such opinion, because miscarriages of truth are wildly popular and profitable. The failures of corporate owned mass media outlets to abide by a standardized series of ethical principles and enforce those on their affiliates and subsidiaries have caused a collapse of their credibility with consumers. Because mass entertainment is now indiscriminately fused with news, the very term media ethics is misleading and the ambition of industry wide morality a utopian fantasy.

When truth is eliminated from the equation, ethics, in relation to media, becomes a discussion of group beliefs and organizational cultural development. Thanks to deregulation efforts by Presidents Reagan and Clinton mass media has fallen under the control by six mega-corporations. Out of these corporate entities the ethical standard is developed and enforced, so when speaking of media ethics we must consider not the individual’s response to a moral dilemma, but understand what the accepted organizational response may be. The underlying assumptions, espoused beliefs and values of the organization will ultimately frame the ethical standard for employees to follow and act as a singular entity. The actions of the employees are to further corporate interests and attain strategic goals. Because of this it would be imprudent to presuppose anything other than a predominance of self-interest motivating most people [organizations] most of the time. Individuals will dispense of their individuality in favor of the group ideal and people will protect that which they perceive affords them the most security.

Establishment of a media ethic then boils down to the ultimate organizational expectation more than the individual ethic and how the individual chooses to align with the group norm as defined by its leaders. The ethic is then dictated to the individuals (employees) in an effort to support the corporate objectives. Clearly specified strategic goals are not only crucial to the success of the organization, but the ongoing motivation of the employees, their creative freedom and ability to comply with ethical standards. Kohlbergian theory indicates that group morality develops from shared values and beliefs and only the individual’s ability to comprehend their place in society allows these morals to be understood. If the anticipated results are in conflict with the underlying cultural assumptions of those applying the ethical standard it will make adoption unlikely and the standard impossible to enforce. Development of an ethical standard requires the formal documentation of what an entity identifies as the core beliefs and philosophies which guide its actions. Media organizations are expected to observe many ethical frameworks. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and Radio-Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) all publish highly regarded ethical standards for professionals to follow. They define the behaviors that all member professionals should adhere to in the execution of their duties. Unfortunately all of these professional frameworks present standards contradictory to the behaviors possible in a bottom line oriented enterprise where truth is subjugate to the almighty dollar.

If there was a singular ethical standard observed by mass media today it would be best described as Machiavellian. The behaviors displayed by media outlets are all over the ethical road map but almost always fall back to the most basic of principles from The Prince; achieve your goal by all or any means and deal with the consequences later. The press, like Machiavelli, recognizes the power of information control and the establishment of influence through information access. The corporate owned mass media has become partners with the body politick in an effort to affirm this power. Authoritarian leaders and power brokers agree to share this power because they require access to the sphere of influence the media can provide. The mass media, operating under the direction of their corporate directors, stem the flow of communication of any information that could undermine the confidence of the existing regime or alter societal expectations and standards. The standard that is evolving is not one of measuring whether an action is moral or immoral, but whether the action is effective or ineffective. From that outcome develops the new ethic.

For journalists this ethical standard is difficult to wrestle with. They are aware of the professional standards that they are expected to uphold, but their paycheck is dependent on adherence to the corporate standard. This forces the journalist to comprehend a series of stratified ethical standards and weight their decisions against all standards. In the end it is easier to allow the corporate masters tell them how to think and what is ethical.

The most damning aspect of the ethical stratification has been the impact on democracy itself. Robert McChesney, professor of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign said, “The measure of a media system in political terms is not whether it creates a viable democratic society but whether the broader social and economic situation is recognized and challenges antidemocratic pressures and tendencies or reinforces them.” In recent memory the media was an active agent of muzzling any dissenting voice post-9/11 and during the lead up to the Iraq war and the Republicans cast anyone who disagreed with their position as being unpatriotic. The media response was to march along side in lock step. If a party in power can outlaw the opposition press it can effectively terminate its opposition.

Thomas Jefferson saw freedom of the press as the foundation of popular democracy and as protection against elite rule. Jefferson is often quoted for a passage from a letter he wrote about the press and its function in our democracy. He wrote, “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people the very first object should be kept that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate to choose the latter”. Ultimately the most important portion of Jefferson’s quote was left on the editor’s floor. He continued, “But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them”. Jefferson recognized that a democracy without free access to information, and the critical thinking skills to properly distill truth, was in actuality an illiberal democracy boarding on tyranny.

The media doesn’t necessarily tell you what to think but they will tell you what to think about and present many different ways to think about it. The sources of expert opinion tell more about the story than the reported information itself. Experts from the Washington Think Tank community are now the most cited source of information for reporters because these sources are easily accessible and wield political clout. Organizations such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, and the Cato Institute are regular contributors for all forms of media. Even the most liberal of entities, National Public Radio (NPR), subscribes to these enterprises now. The dollars spent to establish to establish these entities have gone a long way to promoting a specific ideology through the press. Jefferson’s concept of the media safeguarding the best interest of the people has been dashed by a corporate ownership predisposition to a political agenda. Factual accuracy and ethical reporting has been lost in a storm of sensationalism and unbridled partisan rhetoric.

The profit driven news agencies are now selling a product rather than providing factual information for definition of the truth. These corporate interests tend to focus on providing more of what the viewer wants rather than challenging their preconceptions with the facts on an issue. Media outlets tend to distort information to align with their target market’s prior beliefs distorting the facts and preventing the distillation of truth. This belief surpasses just those outlets that do not follow a true journalism ethical standard. Media outlets concerned about a reputation for accuracy will be reluctant to report evidence incongruent with prior beliefs of the consumer, even if they believe the evidence to be true. This practice of modeling a story to conform to expectations of the viewer becomes the new standard for all journalists to follow simply because the ethical standards of journalism were placed at odds with that of the corporate culture and the results were predictable; pay-check became more important than gut check.