Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

The press is not an enemy of the people

The Bill of Rights, one of the most important underpinnings of our American experiment in free self-government, is in realty a “Bill of Obligations,” instructing our government not to unreasonably intrude into the private lives and freedom of the American people.

The very first words of the 1st Amendment are, “Congress shall make no law ...” The rest of the text details in what areas Congress is restrained or prohibited from acting. The language does not define what the people can do but rather, what the government is prohibited from doing.

Implicit in the language of the 1st Amendment is the recognition that the free exercise of religion, free speech, a free press, the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances are fundamental freedoms that existed prior to the Constitution.

I write these words because I am troubled by the president’s dangerous and irresponsible attack on one of those freedoms by his false statements about the press being “an enemy of the people.”

The fundamental freedoms recited in the 1st Amendment are not separate freedoms. They are inextricably bound together and an attack on one of those freedoms is an attack on all of those freedoms. A free press can never be an enemy of a free people; and no free people can exist without a free and independent press.

However, the press is not above criticism if it is not fulfilling its responsibilities to the American people or if it is acting in a manner contrary to its mission of fully and objectively informing the public. The press does have an obligation to be responsible, objective and truthful all the time in all its reporting. This responsibility requires extraordinary efforts to separate news from opinion and extends to all aspects of modern media platforms. Unfortunately, this has not been the case in recent years.

The press has lost a part of its independence because much of the media is controlled by a few large corporations who have bottom line agendas inimical to an independent news organization’s mission.

The frequent movement of journalists and talking heads in and out of government is unhealthy, weakens journalistic integrity and degrades the objectivity of the news media. It gives pause to the public whether or not to trust and rely on the reporting, which in many instances is rife with opinion masquerading as facts.

Economic bias has stunted news reporting. Given the millions of dollars spent on pharmaceutical commercials during the evening news broadcasts, when was the last time you saw an in-depth report on drug pricing or the extent of involvement of the drug companies in the opiate drug epidemic?

Political bias has distorted stories about Israel. When was the last time you heard an objective report of the damage done to Southern Israel by the Hamas terrorist acts on the Gaza border? How many objective stories have you seen in the press concerning recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city or of the killing of innocent Israeli citizens?

Most egregious was the media’s direct participation in the political process. Early in the 2016 presidential campaign, before the Republican prospective nominees had an opportunity to present themselves to the American people, the press improperly handicapped the race by deciding which candidates had a higher probability of success.

Based on that decision, the media-selected candidates were given a prime-time spot for the early TV debates, and the “lesser” candidates were relegated to a secondary status where there was less exposure to the American people. Their conduct and demeanor in the debates as moderators also created a biased outcome even before the American people had an opportunity to equally hear and consider each candidate’s position on the issues. It would be a grave mistake to repeat the media’s participation in the next presidential campaign, other than as independent observers and reporters of the campaign.

In the final analysis, a free press, even if imperfect, remains an important guarantor of all our freedoms, and despite its current shortcomings, is never an “enemy of the people.”

In you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at melpearlman322@gmail.com. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner. Shabbat Shalom

Mel Pearlman holds both a B.S. and M.S in physics as well as a J.D. degree and came to Florida initially to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs as a young physicist. He has been practicing law in Central Florida for the past 45 years. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; on the District VII Mental Health Board, as Special Prosecutor for the City of Winter Park, Florida; and on the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Research and Development Authority. He was a charter member of the Board of Directors and served as the first Vice President of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as its first pro-bono legal counsel.


Reader Comments(1)

pauljeser writes:

Mel is right.. and, he is wrong... He is right when he writes that the press is not the enemy. But, what he calls the press is not the press. Today's 'press' has become nothing more than political advocates masquerading as 'press.' BIG DIFFERENCE!