Stop the (Media) Violence Now!"Why should freedom of speech and freedom of press be allowed? Why should a government which is doing what it believes is right allow itself to be criticized? It would not allow opposition by lethal weapons. Ideas are much more fatal things than guns." V.I. Lenin
Say what you will about the communists; they had that one right.
It has been known since at least the era of Aristotle how dangerous a free press can be. Through time, governments have restricted freedom of the press for the sake of national stability and public safety.
Following the Columbine killings, dozens of murderous plots have been uncovered or carried out, including the December 1999 Oklahoma schoolyard attack in which five schoolchildren were shot. The Tulsa World now says media reports of the Columbine massacre were foremost in the mind of the 13-year old gunboy. This has also been speculated with many of the other copycat perpetrators around the country. Is there any doubt that if the Columbine incident had received less attention some of the copycats may not have acted?
Likewise, what if the press had delayed the reporting of the Rodney King beating verdict? Dozens of the people killed in the riots might still be alive today.
Let's go back even further. A number of newspapers at the turn of the century, with the use of "Yellow Journalism," are credited with getting us into a war with Spain -- the repercussions of which lasted most of the century. How many died for the sake of selling a few newspapers?
As we can see, the press has had a long history of causing chaos, death and destruction, so in the interest of saving lives, the following is proposed:
· A two-week waiting period on the publication of any news
All news must be delayed in order to allow tempers to cool and prevent crimes of passion. The state's interest in protecting its citizenry far outweighs our individual rights. Most people would immediately embrace such a commonsense idea. Therefore the constitutions prohibitions against abridgement of freedom of speech and press is not violated.
· An outright ban on news related to volatile subjects
Our government officials are best-suited to decide which subjects are volatile since they are the only ones who need to know about them. There is no benefit to the public if the general population has access to such information. We must trust government officials to make the right decisions in these matters if it will increase public safety. Isn't that why we elect them?
· Background checks on all reporters and editors
We have a right to know if a reporter or editor has a bias that would cause them to slant news in a particular way. Maybe an editor will make up a story just to sell newspapers or boost ratings on their newsmagazine show. It has happened before.
· Consider a total ban on some types of media information from particular news outlets
Numerous studies have shown that some media outlets manufacture news or slant it in a way to inflame our passions. This must be stopped. Congress should consider a total ban on news outlets that they identify. Why some and not others is strictly for them to know.
· Ban small or alternative newspapers printed by those not known to the government
Throughout history it has been smaller news presses and outlets that have led to societal unrest. Look at the material produced by revolutionaries such as Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, or Vaclav Havel. As such, we must register all printing presses with the government and implement a ban on cheaper presses which could fall into the hands of any common citizen who would use it for no good. How we keep presses out of the hands of those who would break the law anyway has not been determined.
It is time for peace. We must act now to curtail copycat tragedies like Columbine in the future. The media should forge an alliance for our common good and come to some sort of mutual agreement on what will be reported and when. But they won't, thus our elected leaders should step in and begin implementing the safeguards outlined above.
After all, how free are we really when parents are afraid to send their children to school? What price should we pay for freedom? It's time to give up some of our freedoms in order to save ourselves.