Lee P Butler

Sunshine Week: Freedom from the media's Truth and Information Act

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SUNSHINE WEEK

Open government is essential for freedom and democracy. It's not just a sop to the news media.

U.S. Report Lists Possibilities for Terrorist Attacks and Likely Toll 

What's the problem here? The Times got information and published it for every possible terrorist attacker in the world to read. Freedom of Information a it's finest!

Summers gets vote of no confidence 

Summers is the president of Harvard and made the comment, 'that women might not have the same ''intrinsic aptitude" in science as men'. Now his collegues on the left want him fired, but they support Ward Churchill. Why doesn't Freedom of Speech work for everyone? 

3-07-2005

The week of March 13th through the 19th is slated as “Sunshine Week: Your Right To Know” in honor of a week long campaign that is supposed to push for more government ‘openness’. This organized event is lead by the Associated Press and more than 50 news outlets, universities, writing groups and the American Library Association.

According to a press release, “The Sunshine in Government Initiative seeks to combat what the groups see as increased government secrecy since the 2001 terrorist attacks. The coalition will lobby for legislation and seek to educate the public about First Amendment issues.”

Of course you probably already know that the first thing on their agenda will be lambasting the Patriot Act with as much media misinformation as they can possibly squeeze into their agenda. Some of the attacks may have legitimacy, but it will mostly be the same mendacious rhetoric they’ve echoed the last few years.

You see, these schemes always start out being painted with the rosy colors that they (the media) is simply looking out for the best interests of the public and any information that is withheld by the government for even a short amount of time is ‘harmful to their (media elitists) ability to promote the common good’.

But eventually the truth shines through, and we eventually find that all they were truly after was more power to decide exactly what information is disseminated to the public and what isn’t. It’s not about what you... the American electorate... needs to know, it’s what the media thinks you need to know. Remember, for almost two weeks CBS News attacked the ‘partisan political operatives’; code words for regular Americans just like you and me, who caught them pandering forged documents in an attempt to destroy a presidential campaign.

Another episode happened during the early stages of the War on Terror when the news media reported the details of a military action that was about to be launched by our troops, alerting the enemy of what was about to transpire. Luckily, the troop operation was a success, but it didn’t stop the media from defending itself under the self-serving guise of the public’s right to know.

Here’s a little quiz for everyone. How many of you today know that during the Nineties, Clinton sold nuclear secrets to Communist China for campaign contributions? That’s right, our former president purposely advanced the Chinese nuclear program for monetary gain. Now, if you follow the media closely, you probably knew that, but the average American doesn’t.

Which one of those things did you really need to know?

Senators John Cornyn, (R)Texas, and Patrick Leahy, (D)Vermont, have sponsored a bill that would create a 16 member panel to study ways that would better enable faster releases of records from the government. Their intention is to create greater access to government information except for certain exemptions.

They have also sponsored a bill (S. 394) called the ‘Open Government Act of 2005', that is intended to get results quicker under the Freedom of Information Act which is reportedly supported by the ACLU and the Heritage Foundation.

The Chairman of the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ Freedom of Information Committee, Andy Alexander said, “One of the reasons that we initiated ‘Sunshine Week’ was to prompt a public discussion on the importance of Freedom of Information. The fact that there’s actually a hearing on the subject after decades of congressional silence is a heartening step.”

So the media is already spinning the issue. On the one hand, they are promoting a Republican from Texas who is attacking the Bush administration as being, “...all in favor of secrecy and hunkering down.”

While on the other hand they are openly admitting the problem they are intending to shed light on is really a problem that has been in existence for and ignored through, ‘decades of congressional silence’.

You know something isn’t quite right when editorials from across the region are rolling out the same tired assaults on former Attorney General John Ashcroft. He doesn’t even work for the administration any more, yet they’re going back to when he issued a memo telling government agencies that if they needed to hold back information his department would defend them.

Since the media controls the dissemination of information to the masses, they once again neglect to report that his directive was issued while the government was in lock down during the wake of 9-11 when they were trying to organize and deal with the strange new world of post 9-11.

The problem isn’t that there’s just not enough public access to governmental information, because most Americans understand that there is security sensitive information that we just don’t need to know about. All other information should be public knowledge and fighting for accessibility to that information is justified.

But the media has been in a slow burn ever since Republicans took control of the House, Senate and White House, the Patriot Act was passed and they started going into full implosion stage when it was reported that a majority of high school kids thought it was best if the government ‘approved and/or edited’ the dissemination of information by the press.

That’s why many news outlets intend to do extensive coverage of First Amendment rights during ‘Sunshine Week’. What should have already been stressed through education in the school systems across this country is the fact that the First Amendment and the entire Constitution for that matter, reinforces limitations of the governmental powers. Instead they’ve been taught that government is great, it provides entitlement programs by taxing the rich.

While at the same time the press promotes the idea that the government should be eradicated from intrusion on what they disseminate to the public, because (the current) government is bad. The complete absence of government is called anarchy, so what our fore-fathers intended was a limited government to enforce rules.

Media elitists also claim to be the ‘watchdog’ for Americans, yet that same media, based on numerous polls, is overwhelmingly flooded with people who come from the left side of the political spectrum. No matter how much they try to proclaim their neutrality, that political mindset saturates the information they produce everyday.

Most Americans are less concerned with how much information the government releases and how fast that information is delivered to the media than they are worried about what information the media receives that those watchdog organizations actually allow Americans to know about.

The editor of Accuracy in Media, Cliff Kincaid, said, “The media has a big credibility problem with saying that they want to shine the light on government activities when so much of what journalism does has been exposed as less than honest,” he also added, “I agree that the government has to be held to a higher standard. But for the media to come out and say they’re going to do it when they’ve failed so miserably is laughable.”

Ultimately, what it comes down to is, who do you trust more? Polemical journalists such as the one who just signed off on his job as evening news anchor and decides what information you should get. Or governmental administrations that restrict the release of information based on what it judges as being in our best national security interests?

Sounds like we might be caught between a rock and ‘Sunshine Week’!

Lee P Butler

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