Don’t Take it out on the Messenger

Maybe it’s why I went into journalism in the first place–but I have a deep-seeded respect for freedom of speech and very little patience for those who try to abridge that freedom.  I will take the classic cop-out line of not liking what people have to say, but will defend their right to say it.  This in my case extends into journalism and little patience for those who try to keep members of the press from simply doing their jobs.

Lately though because the ability to share thoughts and provoke actions is nearly instant, freedoms of the press (and yes I consider blogs and social media part (integral even) of the press) and speech have become targets of those who would want to muzzle free exchange.

Now, I agree that context is important.  It’s why I recently had to explain to my 10-year-old and 7.5 year old what it means to “brush your teeth with a bottle of Jack.”  Thanks Ke$ha, really.

But I would rather do that then ban my kids from listening to the radio and have them try to figure this stuff out on their own.  Oppression breeds oppression.

Take a couple of recent news events:

  1. Last week’s protest of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s plan to solve its $800 million dollar mismanagement by taking away metro-cards (the key to NYC) from students in order to save $15 million dollars.  How did thousands of students plan a protest?  They jumped onto Twitter and Facebook and made connections. Clearly they had some help, but Twitter and Facebook are simply tools in the communication’s hub, not the message.  Parents should be involved enough to know what is going on, what their kids are doing and be able to help their kids learn how to filter what they see and hear–its our job, not the responsibility of the community.
  2. Next there is the story on Long Island from last week of some friends sharing they were going to be at a party via Twitter. Suddenly there were hundreds of people at this party and low-and-behold kids were drinking, someone pulled out a gun and one was dead and two where hurt.  But again, Twitter did not shoot anyone yet the context of the story is without Twitter there would be no shooting.

From these events-especially the second comes the cry of keeping kids away from Twitter and Facebook.  Yet that sounds remarkably like what is happening in places like Iran and Pakistan where these tools of communication are banned and there is no way to have civil discourse.

There has to be a better answer.  History is rife with examples of the thought police failing because they tried to stop the flow of the message.  We are wired to communicate-from the day we first cry when we’re hungry or wet to the moment we learn our ABC’s to the thesis we write in college-we spend years finding the right medium for our message.  Trying to stop the medium because we don’t like the message never works.

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