Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 417, May 13, 2007

"Hi Mom!"


Second Open Letter: To All News Media Disenfranchising Ron Paul's Supporters
by Paul Levinson, PhD

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Well, I've seen no response from—to my objections and everyone else's—about their heavy-handed censorship of Ron Paul supporters. And reports are circulating about Yahoo playing some similar games. And the much smaller Pajamas Media, after receiving a belligerent e-mail from someone that Pajamas acknowledges is not the Ron Paul official whose name was attached to the e-mail, nonetheless still threatens Ron Paul supporters:

Still, this behavior must stop immediately, as well as the rude and abusive messages we are receiving from these supporters. If they do not, Pajamas Media will have no choice but to remove Mr. Paul permanently from our poll. The choice is now in the hands of Mr. Paul's supporters.

No—the behavior that really must stop immediately is the battering that old and new media are giving Ron Paul and his supporters.

Abusive e-mail is, unfortunately, an inevitable part of online communication. I receive plenty of abusive e-mail, most people and organizations who write or say or do anything public get their share of e-mails from crackpots. We can live with it.

What we can't live with—what our democracy cannot afford—are media disenfranchising a candidate's supporters.

News media—whether tv networks or their message boards, or search engines like Yahoo which perform like news media, or smaller operations like Pajamas Media—have a responsibility to the American people. Unlike someone who sells shoes or pretzels, who can set store hours, open and close online message boards and blogs—pretty much do whatever they please under the law, as is their right—news media have a special, additional responsibility.

Especially in times of elections, news media must err on the side of being open to all candidates and their supporters. Yes, you must tolerate even an abusive e-mail, for the greater good of keeping your system open to all points of view.

That's why Jefferson and Madison in their wisdom insisted on protecting you under our First Amendment.

If any one in the government ever threatened you, stifled you, put you in jail for doing your job, I and other supporters of the First Amendment would be the first in line to support you. As we do now when we attack the FCC and Congress for their unconstitutional crackdown on broadcasters. As I and many others did when Josh Wolf was thrown in jail in San Francisco for refusing to turn over his video footage (he was finally released last month).

But you get that support only if you do your job—only if you act like journalists, like news media, and not someone selling pretzels on the corner.

It's not too late for you start doing your job regarding Ron Paul's candidacy and any one else running for President. No one is saying you have to support him.

But stop this nonsense of treating him and his supporters as second-class citizens right now, or turn in your media credentials and devote yourselves instead to selling shoes or pretzels.

Everyone who reads this—please feel free to circulate it, add your name to it, and send to whatever media are abusing their role as journalists in the coverage of this election.

Paul Levinson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, New York City This article is reprinted from: Paul Levinson, the Blog with the author's permission.

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