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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Press in 2016 proves Jefferson wrong

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson was our ambassador to France ("minister of France") and he wrote a letter to Edward Carrington, a representative of Virginia at the Continental Congress. Jefferson included a line that schools of journalism have embraced over the past century to show that theirs is not a trade but rather an honorable profession on par with the law, medicine, the clergy, and the military.


Jefferson wrote: "were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Coverage of the 2016 presidential election proves him wrong. The character assassination of Donald Trump may lead to the election of a woman whose handling of State secrets was at best incompetent but may have been selling them to foreign donors to her "charity."

Hillary Clinton has lied repeatedly about everything from the origin of her name to what she told the FBI.

Left to its own devices, the press would install a power-hungry, greedy woman whose incompetence is exceeded only by her willingness to sell the country out to the Saudis and other "Clinton Foundation" donors.

The letter itself from Jefferson looks a little nutty in today's eyes:
The tumults in America, I expected would have produced in Europe an unfavorable opinion of our political state. But it has not. On the contrary, the small effect of these tumults seems to have given more confidence in the firmness of our governments. The interposition of the people themselves on the side of government has had a great effect on the opinion here. I am persuaded myself that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. 
The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, & to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. 
But I should mean that every man should receive those papers & be capable of reading them. I am convinced that those societies (as the Indians) which live without government enjoy in their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than those who live under the European governments. Among the former, public opinion is in the place of law, & restrains morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere. Among the latter, under pretense of governing they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves & sheep. I do not exaggerate. 
This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you & I, & Congress & Assemblies, judges & governors shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions; and experience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind, for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor. 
The want of news has led me into disquisition instead of narration, forgetting you have every day enough of that. I shall be happy to hear from you sometimes, only observing that whatever passes thro’ the post is read, & that when you write what should be read by myself only, you must be so good as to confide your letter to some passenger or officer of the packet. I will ask your permission to write to you sometimes, and to assure you of the esteem & respect with which I have honour to be Dear Sir your most obedient & most humble servt.
If Indians were so damned happy, why didn't Jefferson give up his possessions and flee to join the nearest Tribe?


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  1. Interesting topic. I'd say that the official press is no longer the actual press, and that in this regard what Jefferson said holds true. He wrote this about a hundred or so years after Milton had written Aeropagitica defending the free press, and may have even read Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Posts, where he would have reviewed the events surrounding Milton's efforts. Mind you, I am no friend of Jefferson. I think that what he, Madison and Monroe did to Hamilton and Washington, let alone Adams with their newspaper (I think it was the National Gazette run by Benjamin Franklin Bache) was despicable. It was that, and it was unethical to say the least when Jefferson did it even while serving in Washington's government, but it was effective, and led to him becoming a halfway decent president.
    You and a few other blogs and a bunch of news aggregators are my newspaper, Don. I'd rather have you guys than the government we have now. And Jefferson of all people realized how little we all need government.

  2. He wouldn't have been happy living with the Indians, and he knew it.

  3. Lives of the Poets. Damn autocorrect.

  4. He died before Yellow Journalism was born.

    also, peopple were a lot more serious back then.

    You died at 40 and you couldn't allow yourself to become attached to a child under 5.

  5. I don't know much about journalism, but is a "broadsheet" another name for Hillary's fat clothes?

  6. There is no journalism, only propaganda. Real journalists would be all over Clinton corruption, BJ, Crooked Cankles and Spawn. All three should be in jail.

  7. The Trump supporter who flipped reporters the bird and called them traitors was right.

  8. The Trump supporter who flipped reporters the bird and called them traitors was right.