Free Speech

…Say Something

We expect the ordinary.  As much as we crave excitement and thrills, as much as we would love to live on a steady diet of novelty, we usually assume nothing special will happen in our lives.  All those controversies we read about happen to other people—until they happen to us.  Those of us in lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11th, 2001 certainly have had a change of heart on this matter.  Some of us—including some of us in the seekingGood collective—hold positions “inside” various government, educational and financial organizations in which all kinds of things could occur.  These potential events include a variety of nefarious machinations that should be brought to the light of public scrutiny.

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ProPublica, one of the best, most respected investigative journalism organizations, has done much to shine a light on shady dealings in various corners of society.  They have provided specific methods so we can  anonymously submit to them anything we might uncover.

So if you see something…

 

 

A Win for Investigative Journalism

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In a previous post, seekingGood highlighted the need for more investigative journalism.  ProPublica has voiced a similar concern. As the first online site to receive the Pulitzer Prize— ProPublica is known for the depth and thoroughness of its stories. However, the articles posted by ProPublic can be challenging for the average reader.  Enter Vox.  As reported by ProPublica, Vox, a news and opinion website noted for its explanatory journalism, has teamed up with ProPublica to provide visual access to their material.  This might help clarify the message of more complicate stories.  Sharing resources and research, the ProPublica-Vox collaboration can only be a good thing for investigative journalism and, ultimately, for us.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality—the right to access all Internet content freely without your Internet provider slowing down or even blocking content at its whim—is fundamental to our democracy. As communities across the United States fight to speak out on contentious political issues, the citizenry needs to know that government-subsidized monopolies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon aren’t dictating which website we can access.  ~Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

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(Image from Ars Technica)

You have probably heard the flap about John Oliver and the FCC.  While his comedic delivery might be entertaining for some, his recent video presents details of a potential threat to all Internet users. The threat involves a proposed alteration of current laws governing the behavior of Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  If the change is enacted, net neutrality might be in danger.

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Shhh…

… something is rotten in the state of America!

 One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution;
one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”

~ George Orwell, 1984

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The truth is hard to come by.  These days, truth about current events, the state of the U.S. government and its various controversial machinations have become particularly difficult to obtain.  Throughout U.S. history the idea of a “free press” has been the corner stone of an informed public.  If we do not gain information—”truth”—through the news media, how can we ever know what is actually going on around us?

A Call for More Investigative Journalism

Traditionally, White House news briefings have provided news agencies—which is to say, us—with direct access to the President.  February 2017 exclusions of major news outlets from such a briefing as well as alleged false statements from White House press secretary Sean Spicer have caused some to wonder if investigative reporting might be the only viable means of obtaining news related to actions of the U.S. government.  A specific appeal was voiced in a recent article that appeared in truthdig.

sean-spicer(White House press secretary Sean Spicer)

The ever widening divide between the executive branch of the U.S. government and the news media has become a major problem.  Previous decades found journalists bridging this gap when the need arose.  Yet now it appears something is broken in American journalism. For fiscal reasons, many major news outlets (particularly print media) have largely curtailed the practice of news-worthy investigations that manage to bare what some might attempt to conceal. Yet given the state of media relations in the U.S., a “receptive” approach to news gathering may no longer serve the goal of maintaining an informed public.  An era of “alternative facts”  seems to cry out for a return to more vigorous, independently probative journalism despite economic constraints.

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Free Speech and Tolerance

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The “truth” or a “right” position is often not as cut and dried as we would like to believe.  What do you feel when you read something like this: “[Richard] Spencer has used his right to free speech to call for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” — presumably this entails scaring people into fleeing and/or using the legal system to forcibly purge all people of color and indigenous peoples from the United States”?  Do you—taking the position of a free speech purist or absolutist–believe this person (Spencer) has the right to speak such words in a public forum?  On the other hand, do you resonate more with a position like “Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” ~Mirah Curzer

Akin to a seekingGood posting regarding objectivity and neutrality, Julia Serano, author if Whipping Girl, presents a challenge to our ideas regarding free speech.

While Ms. Serano posted the original article a couple weeks ago, the response was so strong, on the 19th of Feb, she posted a follow-up.

 

Objectivity, Neutrality and Truth

Trust in “news” as well as other sources of “truth” is a developing topic here at seekingGood.  When does conviction stand in the way of objectivity, or does it? Can it be that not taking a stand endangers objectivity, rendering us complicit in a lie?  When does a habit of normalizing acquiescence result in notions of “truth” we might abhor under other circumstances?  Sound complicated?  It is. (If nuance is your cup of tea, here is a story for you).

Lewis Wallace, a former journalist for Marketplace, attempted to draw attention to these issues—and was fired.  The first video presents a brief overview of Mr. Wallace’s situation.

lewis-wallace(Photo: Facebook)

This second video presents a more in-depth description, as well as Mr. Wallace reading the blog post that created the stir.

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We should all ponder the pitfalls of neutrality as we attempt to find Good in this new Public Space of contemporary life.  Want more on these issues of media reliability?  Explore these stories.

A National Conversation

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Public radio station WNYC is broadcasting a series of live, call-in programs called “Indivisible”.  The series is scheduled for four days a week, at 9pm EST, Monday thru Thursday during the first 100 days of the new presidential administration.  Anyone can call in to discuss the topic of the night at one of 130 radio stations across the country.  You can listen live or hear past shows.  If nothing else, these shows can help us all break out of our respective ideological cocoons and hear other viewpoints.  The shows are thought provoking to say the least.  Tip: Focus on a caller who does not share your views and imagine that the voice is coming from an real person, with feelings, hopes and disappointments—just like you and me.