Kill the messenger

We are living in dangerous times.

We were checking our emails a few minutes ago and could not avoid being struck by two things that we find unfortunate.

First was a story that Senator Jay Rockefeller, a democrat from West Virginia, said this during a senate committee meeting:

“I’m tired of the right and the left. There’s a little bug inside of me which wants the FCC to say to Fox and to MSNBC, ‘Out. Off. End. Good-bye.’ It’d be a big favor to political discourse, our ability to do our work here in Congress and to the American people to be able to talk with each other and have some faith in their government and more importantly in their future.”

Then right below it on our screen was a news release from Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Republican from northeast Missouri, who wants the federal government to end its funding for National Public Radio.

NPR got into the gun sights of conservative critics a few weeks ago when it fired commentator Juan Williams who had said in a television interview he gets nervous if he sees Muslims on an airplane. Luetkemeyer backs up his call by referring to a website that solicits public ideas about where cuts can be made to reduce the federal deficit

Getting beyond the heated rhetoric: The FCC has no control over FOX or MSNBC. The FCC does not regulate cable networks. Cutting federal funding to NPR would be like removing a rock from the Rockies. NPR’s federal funding totals about nine million dollars. The federal deficit is measured in amounts that have six more zeroes. Trillions.

Argue all you want about whether the federal government should be underwriting NPR or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the television system. While you’re at it, ask whether the federal government should be underwriting a lot of other things including some services you enjoy. .

Punishing the media even to the extent of silencing it or parts of it is a perilous direction to go in this country. People in power throughout our history have wanted the news media to go away–the first newspaper in the colonial United States lasted all of one issue before the editor was told not to publish another copy—or to only publish what the prevailing political interest prefers. .

All of us are endangered when one side or the other advocates silencing a competing voice. We have been and we are a nation of differing views. The American ideal has held that from the cacophony of voices in written and spoken form, the responsible citizen can determine the proper course to be taken.

All of us are diminished by those who advocate punishing or silencing media diversity. None of us is lifted up by those who seek to demonize those who differ. All of us are enriched when we go beneath the bombast, the egos, and the show business and do our own thinking.

Killing or punishing the messenger is of questionable civic responsibility.

Disagree with what we have written if you wish. But be American enough to acknowledge we had the right to say it.

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