Today President Barack Obama will sign a law intended to provide more protections for a free press around the world. The Daniel Pearl Freedom of Press Act will be an expansion of efforts to identify countries that violate press freedom.
Daniel Pearl was a Wall Street Journal reporter murdered by Islamic militant terrorists in 2002. He was in Pakistan investigating the connection between Richard Reid—the shoe bomber—and Al-Qaeda, when he was kidnapped, tortured, and beheaded.
Daniel Pearl was murdered by Islamic militant terrorists. That’s history, though according to Attorney General Eric Holder, identifying anyone as an Islamic militant terrorist nowadays is a no-no.
Yet in March 2007 during a military hearing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claimed to have personally beheaded Pearl. That’d be the same Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the Attorney General wants to put on trial in a New York City courtroom. But I digress.
It is entirely proper and perhaps even noble for the president to take this stand on behalf of a free press around the globe. However, his action is tangled up in irony, coming when it does. In just over a week Obama has railed against the new media, and actively engaged in moves designed to clamp down on information.
On May 9, 2010 at Hampton University, President Obama told the graduating class that they lived in an age where “. . .information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment.”
That’s a remarkable renunciation of the free flow of information. The fact that it came from a man who achieved the Oval Office by using the social networking sites of the new media better than any other candidate, makes it all the more stunning.
We are in the midst of an information revolution. The Internet will be seen by future historians as a significant shift that radically changed how the masses received the news. In transformative terms it is possibly more consequential than the invention of the printing press.
The public is no longer hog-tied to what backroom network gurus decide to tell us. On any given issue, we have access to thousands of different views and spins, which is often enlightening.
Granted, there’s a lot of noise and clutter floating around the Internet, but if freshly minted college graduates do not have the wherewithal or brains to sort through the garbage to mine useful info then their diplomas are worthless and ought to be used as toilet paper.
Is not education about individuals learning how to think so that they can reason through the maze of life? If the president truly believes that “information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment” for this generation of college graduates, that belief is a repudiation of the American education system.
Two days after the commencement address at Hampton University, a video was posted on the White House website that increases the irony of President Obama signing the Daniel Pearl Freedom of Press Act.
It was Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan speaking in “her own words” about her life and perspective. The “interview” was conducted by a White House staffer on the payroll of the Obama Administration. The piece of fluff was nothing more than a slick infomercial designed to bypass the press.
Some have simply dismissed this tactic, but it ought to trouble us. We are seeing an effective strategy in which President Obama regularly uses new media tools to get around traditional media.
The administration is efficient and systematic. It is honing its skills to present an unfiltered message that makes the president, his policies, and his actions look good in every instance and circumstance. Pravda used to perform this task for the old Soviet Union.
Why is President Obama determined to control the media and free flow of information? Is the speech at Hampton University a warning that censorship is on a near horizon? Will Elena Kagan ever answer hard questions from a real journalist? Where’s the transparency promised?