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Shakespeare observed: “the truth will out.” That may or may not always be true, but in the case of LTG Mike Flynn it seems that the truth is finally seeing the light of day.
In a free society the mechanism central to that process is a free press (in all its forms - print, TV, internet, etc.), one that is, above all, concerned with watching the government and protecting our fundamental rights.
The reason is simple: truth is necessary for the rule of law, at least if that law is going to remain on the side of Western Civilization and western morals. Twist the truth, shade the truth, hide the truth and what you get may sound good for a short period, but in the end it will lead to tyranny.
John Ford knew this, and framed the issue perfectly in his masterpiece: “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence.”
Sadly, it wasn't an aggressive free press, it wasn’t a Dutton Peabody, who dug out the truth about the FBI and what they did to LTG Flynn, it was Flynn’s legal team, over the course of nearly three years, who finally pulled the blanket back to expose the FBI.
At the same time, the revelation that there were specific notes inside the FBI that talked of tricking LTG Flynn is an insight into the mindset of the people writing those memos: they thought they wouldn’t be caught.
Certainly, if they were worried about getting caught they’d have destroyed their notes. Perhaps they thought no one would ever dig into the FBI or Department of Justice far enough and hard enough to actually find those records. They would be saved from any possible hunt because the system - both the internal oversight and the oversight of the press - was, in effect, on their side.
And interestingly, given the amount of coverage that this event has received in much of the media, it’s would seem that many of their assumptions were nearly correct. Certainly, the overwhelming bulk of the media seems to have avoided digging for the truth, and like the character in Ford’s movie, the press chose: “Printing the legend.”
Free societies only survive with a free press, with institutions that watch the watchers, that refuse to print the legends coming out of the bureaucracies - whether the Department of Justice, the Pentagon, the CDC, etc., and instead dig for the truth.
Thomas Jefferson summed it up:
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… 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.
Yet, just a few days ago, even as new revelations were revealed of plotting by senior members of the FBI against Flynn, and by extension against the newly elected President, we have this remarkable commentary:
In the great debate of the past two decades about freedom versus control of the network, China was largely right and the United States was largely wrong. Significant monitoring and speech control are inevitable components of a mature and flourishing internet, and governments must play a large role in these practices to ensure that the internet is compatible with a society’s norms and values.
Said otherwise, the nation as a whole shouldn’t trust a free press, or the individual, to find the truth for himself, the individual shouldn’t have unbridled access to the facts. Rather, access should be controlled, that “monitoring and speech control” is the “correct path for our society.” In short, the average citizen can’t be trusted. We’re left to wonder who would “monitor and determine” what citizens do and do not need to know.
The authors then add:
As surprising as it may sound, digital surveillance and speech control in the United States already show many similarities to what one finds in authoritarian states such as China. Constitutional and cultural differences mean that the private sector, rather than the federal and state governments, currently takes the lead in these practices, which further values and address threats different from those in China. But the trend toward greater surveillance and speech control here, and toward the growing involvement of government, is undeniable and likely inexorable.
By Jack Goldsmith, Professor, Harvard Law School, and Andrew Keane Woods, Professor, University of Arizona College of Law, April 25, 2020, writing in “The Atlantic.”
Yet, such a system would be destructive of the idea of “watching the watchers,” destructive of the idea of a government subservient to the people, destructive of free speech and press, as well as unreasonable searches, and in favor of continuous monitoring and controlled access to information, to the truth.
The nation needs an unbiased free press, the citizenry need open access to the government, and government bureaucrats and agencies need to obey the law. And the Bill of Rights needs to be defended against all enemies, to include tech giants who want to “protect” society; there can be no middle ground.
About Pete O'Brien
Peter O’Brien has more than 30 years of successful leadership and planning experience in a wide range of organizations afloat and ashore on three continents. Mr. O’Brien’s Navy career included ten years at sea, more than a dozen years stationed overseas and multiple ...