Ever since the foundation of the American Republic, there has been both praise for and suspicion of the role the press plays in U.S. political life. Thomas Jefferson famously remarked that, if it were left to him “to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I would not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” And yet, Jefferson was also profoundly disturbed by the politically biased and inaccurate articles that he saw published in the press. As he told James Monroe: “My skepticism as to everything I see in a newspaper makes me indifferent whether I ever see one.”
Jefferson’s ambivalence about the press becomes understandable when one considers the distorted reporting that has characterized the current campaign for the U.S. Presidency. Continue reading
As a child, I was a baseball fanatic.
This fanaticism did not reflect any athletic ability on my part. Far from it! Growing up, like Bernie Sanders, in a lower middle class area of Brooklyn during the 1940s, I was often pressed into joining baseball games with the other boys in my neighborhood. But I was a terrible fielder, as well as a mediocre hitter. Stationed at my usual post in right field, I almost invariably missed the few fly balls or ground balls that headed my way. Also, when I finally caught up with them, I often managed no more than an inaccurate throw to the frantic infielders. When local kids chose up sides before the game, the organizers usually made me one of their last selections. Who can blame them? Continue reading
As a scholarly specialist on the American peace movement, I am sometimes telephoned for background information by journalists writing articles about current demonstrations against war or against nuclear weapons. Almost invariably, they have no idea that the American peace movement has a rich history. Or, if they realize that it does have such a history, they have no idea that that history goes back further than the Vietnam War. This is a very big and unfortunate gap in their knowledge. Continue reading