05 January 2009

The Pamphlet Press

Brooklyn Backstretch poses a timely question in her recent post.

Where is the coverage that our sport deserves? Does the lack of formal training preclude one from the right to disseminate information? What responsibility, if any, is placed upon the blogger? Who is better, Mary Ann or Jeannie?

Within the First Amendment, lies the protection of speech and of the press.

I am not a legal scholar and am in no way versed in the nuances or arguments within the law. I will venture, however, that when the First Amendment was written, there did not exist such a creature as the Press we know today.

In the years preceding the Revolutionary War, anybody with access to a printing press could roll out a few pamphlets, writing whatever the hell they damn well pleased, often anonymously. There was no guarantee that what they wrote bore any resemblance to the truth or lay within the ephemeral bounds of reality.

The idea that citizens could express their dissatisfaction with their government, at that time, was anathema to kings and sovereigns. The founding fathers recognized that in order for a government to have some credibility with its citizens, it needed to afford them the right to object and express disdain. The press they were protecting were the sundry pamphleteers, today we call them bloggers.

Today, it is easy to dismiss the fundamental right we enjoy and our access to information dulls our appreciation for its provenance. When access is transparent and information is freely disseminated, the truth has a way of surfacing. If someone posts something inaccurate or stupid, they will be called on it. Time is the great equalizer and when a source develops a reputation for sensationalism or libel it is almost impossible to recover from that.

Passing yourself off as an expert or something more than what you are is the quickest way to destroy your credibility. People read and watch what they like; what they are comfortable with. Small minds take comfort in provincial thinking.

Those who do not question the source of their information deserve the shaft when they receive it.

Trust but verify.

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