Usually I’m just there to listen and observe, but they were talking about the Bill of Rights at Layton Elementary last week so I had to raise my hand.
When the teacher called on me, I told the fifth graders a little bit about freedom of the press.
They’d already talked about their favorite parts in the constitutional amendments known as the Bill of Rights — about freedom of religion and speech, and about what it means to have the right to assemble and to petition.
But I wanted to be sure they understood about freedom of the press, too.
In order to have a free society, I told them, you have to have a free press.
The first thing dictators do when they want more control is put a clamp on the press, I said, and then they find people to publish just the things they want people to know about them.
And then they tell those press puppets not to write the stuff they don’t want said about them.
And then the press isn’t free and the country isn’t either.
That’s why that freedom of the press is enshrined in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.
Because without it, people don’t know if they need to assemble or to petition. Because without it people don’t know when they need to exercise that right to speak when it’s necessary to preserve all those other freedoms.
Which leads me to a major announcement I am taking full advantage of my freedoms to state:
BILL O’REILLY IS NOT THE PRESS.
I know, you thought I was going to say Trump is showing dictatorial tendencies when he lambasts the press for doing the very thing that we need them to do.
No. I wasn’t going to say that. But I’m glad you’re thinking it because it’s very likely true.
And I’m not afraid of Trump tweeting that I’m an over-rated writer like he called Streep an over-rated actress because she exercised her freedom of speech against him.
I’m not afraid because I’m an American and I have the right. And I’m not afraid because I don’t think he gets the Clipper.
But Bill O’Reilly is an entertainer. He and his ilk on channels around the cable world – on both sides of the divide – the vast divide – don’t give you the news, they just give you the part of the news that supports their views.
“The press” are the people who tell you what both sides are doing and saying and let you decide what you think about it – not tell you what to think about it because they’re so smart you should just think what they think out loud.
Which brings me to my second point:
THE PRESS IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ELECTION RESULTS
The press told the American people everything that came out about everything going on in and around every presidential candidate. That those people voted the way they did despite what they had learned from the press is not the press’s fault.
I told the students that a free press is needed to watch what was happening in the executive branch, with Congress and in the judiciary and in local government bodies as well.
The press’s job is to be in those meetings, those court proceedings, those public hearings, those confirmation sessions, and then to tell the American people what they just saw and heard so the American people won’t be fooled.
And then it is our job to read it.