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First Amendment ‘under siege’ Comment on this post ↓
May 15th, 2013 by Warren Swil

Rachel Maddow ‘teaches’ Pentagon Papers case

and vital need for press freedom in America

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow used a “fishy story” about catching a striper (like the one seen here, but larger) in Brooklyn, New York to lead her segment about the vital need for an unfettered press in America on her Tuesday show. Photograph by: LakeMartinVoice.

MANHATTAN is an island in the Atlantic Ocean?
Well, Rachel, that is a great hook!
Quite apart from anything you might have caught in Brooklyn on Friday morning.
Have I ever heard a fishy story!
As a lead in to a segment about one of the most important moments in journalism history, no one on the planet could top this.
I heard echoes of  myself, over the last decade, teaching this very topic to my journalism students every semester.
The Pentagon Papers case, as it is known, represents a huge milestone in protecting freedom of the press in this country, and a triumph for the First Amendment.
Rachel Maddow on Tuesday evening did a much better job of teaching it then I ever did.
Watch the entire segment below the fold.

THE GRAPHIC in the background sums up the entire story: “Mightier than the sword.”

THE GRAPHIC in the background sums up the entire story: “Mightier than the sword.”
There is another way to say the same thing: “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”
The hero of the story is one Daniel Ellsberg – until Wikileaks, America’s most famous whistleblower – an analyst with the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, who spent almost six months, every single evening, hauling crates of documents from his office to his home in Malibu.
Remember, there were no high-tech, wizard copying machines in those days; each page had to be manually fed into the slow moving machine. There were thousands of pages.
Ellsberg told his story to the PBS show POV on Oct. 5, 2010. Here’s the trailer of “The most dangerous Man in America.”
It’s a gripping tale of high drama, intrigue and tension. How a good man came to be involved in a disaster of gargantuan proportions – the U.S. war in Vietnam – and how he chose to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
James Bond was never this exciting.
In the trade, the 1971 decision by the United States Supreme Court in New York Times Co. v. United States (Legal citation: 403 U.S. 713) is known as “no prior restraint.”
The justices ruled that in order for the government – or anyone – to prevent anything (restraint) from being published beforehand (prior) it had to have a clear and convincing case.

MADDOW smoothly segues into the huge controversy that has erupted over the Obama Administration’s Justice Department and its apparent assault on press freedom.
It was disclosed on Monday that the DOJ had been monitoring telephone records of reporters and editors at the Associated Press for many months.
This is all related.
We in this country are unique in the world. We were the very first – and remain one of the few countries – to have such an iron clad press freedom clause written into our Constitution.
The First Amendment is there for a reason.
A free press is vital to the functioning of our experiment in democracy.
I’ll let Maddow take it from here. Thanks for a terrific lesson … I know a community college here in Pasadena that may be looking for a journalism teacher. You should apply.

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One Response  
  • Maddow minnow writes:
    May 15th, 2013

    Maddow at her best!
    Serious – very serious – but hilarious at the same time.
    She deserves an Oscar for keeping a straight face (well, most of the time) while relating such a “fishy” tale.


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