I’m not a believer personally, but I admire this minority of Evangelical Christians who actually believe in the ideas of Jesus. Crazy ideas like helping the poor and treating people equally. Of course, they are not welcome by the Mike Pence, family value, Trump Evangelicals. How dare they be compassionate?. Do read this article. It’s (slightly) encouraging.
Conservative television is poisoning local TV networks. Sinclair Broadcasting, which owns the highest number of television stations in the U.S., is forcing local affiliates to pump out pro-Trump, anti-media (and anti-truth) propaganda – often over their objections. See the CNN video and article below. The media can’t be free if one company owns a critical a mass of stations. This is poisonous slime and has to be resisted.
If you want to laugh, and simultaneously see a demonstration of Christopher Hitchens’ wit, you have to watch this fourteen minute video. A Christian radio show host (a Mr. Todd Friel) sets up a highly ridiculous premise for a game show called “What If?”. The game entails the said Christian radio show host pretending his beliefs are facts, and asking Hitch what he would do in particularly absurd circumstances. The amusing part is that Christopher treats each question as if it’s being asked by a legitimate journalist, answers the questions wryly and sharply, and does not get caught in any of the not-difficult traps set by Mr. Friel.
The funniest exchange happens toward the end of the interview:
Friel: Sir, is it possible that the reason you rage so much against God is because you just want to live your own autonomous way, living anyway that you want to, any lifestyle that you prefer, without being accountable to your creator?
Hitchens: I think that’s highly probable, yes
While China has made some great strides modernizing and engaging the world in the last several decades, it can still be relied upon to do some good old fashioned book banning. Once again, Orwell’s Animal Farm made the cut. They also banned the letter “N”, so don’t throw that letter around lightly if you are in China (that letter ban has since been reversed). Christopher was a great admirer of George Orwell and his “Why Orwell Matters“, as he would say, can be found at fine bookstores everywhere.
In this talk, Hitchens critiques the “Ten Commandments”, shows how they are man-made, and suggests three better, new commandments. The new suggestions start at about 35:00.
God is not Great: a great read, but if you prefer, you can listen to Hitch read it. Enjoy.
At the end of this event with Tony Jones, Hitch got rousing applause and did a sort-of encore, where he sang “The Philosopher’s Song.” Earlier in the interview he did parts of it, but here is the full rendition. If you have more time, the entire interview is excellent and finds Hitch at his best.
Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona) in his address to Congress on January 17th, made the point that dictators around the world are following Trump’s lead by calling any news they don’t like, fake. This CNN article examine’s its influence in Southeast Asia.
The most significant line in the article comes from a former Al Jazeera journalist (now a professor of journalism at Queensland University) who spent more than 400 days in captivity in Egypt after being convicted of spreading fake news, who said ” Trump has “shown no inclination to criticize or oppose (authoritarian) regimes.”
Full Article from CNN:
Asia’s strongmen follow Trump’s lead on fake news by Euan McKirdy, CNN
Last week both senators from Arizona addressed the issue of Trump’s attacks on the free press. We all know Hitchens was a fierce defender of free press and it’s essential role to a democracy. If you haven’t read Flake’s address, it’s well worth reading and can be seen here.
Below, reprinted from the Washington Post is Senator John McCain’s opinion piece “Mr. President, stop attacking the press”.
John McCain, a Republican, represents Arizona in the U.S. Senate.
After leaving office, President Ronald Reagan created the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award to recognize individuals who have fought to spread liberty worldwide. Nancy Reagan continued the tradition after her husband’s death, and in 2008 she bestowed the honor on human rights icon Natan Sharansky, who credited Reagan’s strong defense of freedom for his own survival in Soviet gulags. Reagan recognized that as leader of the free world, his words carried enormous weight, and he used them to inspire the unprecedented spread of democracy around the world.
President Trump does not seem to understand that his rhetoric and actions reverberate in the same way. He has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing “fake news awards” upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with. Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 2017 was one of the most dangerous years to be a journalist. Last year, the organization documented 262 cases of journalists being imprisoned for their work. Reporters around the world face intimidation, threats of violence, harassment, persecution and sometimes even death as governments resort to brutal censorship to silence the truth.
The committee’s report revealed a bleak global climate for press freedom, as more governments seek to control access to information and limit freedom of opinion and expression. They do this not only by arresting journalists but also by fostering distrust of media coverage and accusing reporters of undermining national security and pride. Governments dub the press the “enemy of the people,” weaken or eliminate their independence, and exploit the lack of serious scrutiny to encroach on individual liberties and freedoms.
This assault on journalism and free speech proceeds apace in places such as Russia, Turkey, China, Egypt, Venezuela and many others. Yet even more troubling is the growing number of attacks on press freedom in traditionally free and open societies, where censorship in the name of national security is becoming more common. Britain passed a surveillance law that experts warn chills free speech, and countries from France to Germany are looking to do the same. In Malta, a prominent journalist was brutally murdered in October after uncovering systemic government corruption. In Poland, an independent news outlet was fined (later rescinded) nearly half a million dollars for broadcasting images of an anti-government protest.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s attitude toward such behavior has been inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst. While administration officials often condemn violence against reporters abroad, Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets. This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit. The phrase “fake news” — granted legitimacy by an American president — is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens. CPJ documented 21 cases in 2017 in which journalists were jailed on “fake news” charges.
Trump’s attempts to undermine the free press also make it more difficult to hold repressive governments accountable. For decades, dissidents and human rights advocates have relied on independent investigations into government corruption to further their fight for freedom. But constant cries of “fake news” undercut this type of reporting and strip activists of one of their most powerful tools of dissent.
We cannot afford to abdicate America’s long-standing role as the defender of human rights and democratic principles throughout the world. Without strong leadership in the White House, Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression.
We can do this by encouraging our partners and allies to review their laws and practices, including the abuse of defamation and anti-terrorism laws, to better protect press freedom and ensure that they do not unduly shrink the space for free speech. We can authorize U.S. foreign assistance to support independent media outlets and programs that create greater media pluralism. We can do more to foster conditions in which freedom of expression and information can thrive, including working to change increasingly political attitudes toward journalism. And we can condemn violence against journalists, denounce censorship and support dissidents and activists as they seek to speak the truth.
Ultimately, freedom of information is critical for a democracy to succeed. We become better, stronger and more effective societies by having an informed and engaged public that pushes policymakers to best represent not only our interests but also our values. Journalists play a major role in the promotion and protection of democracy and our unalienable rights, and they must be able to do their jobs freely. Only truth and transparency can guarantee freedom.
I thought this address was important enough to repost in its entirety. Outgoing Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona made a landmark speech on the floor of the Senate.
READ FULL ADDRESS BELOW
He took head on the atrocious behaviour of the Trump administration – the constant lying and the bullying of the press. He compared Trump’s phrases to Stalin’s (which I don’t think is overdoing it) and gave examples of dictatorial leaders using Trump’s phrase “fake news” to oppress their opponents. He even brought up the Founding Fathers (I was glad to hear this as I urge people to ask “what would the Founding Fathers do?”). The speech is significant because it might indicate a tipping point in the battle against the ‘post-truth’ era, created largely by the Trump and the now-nationalist Republican Party. Credit goes to Senator Flake for speaking out against his own party. Imagine putting the country ahead of the party? Republicans don’t like that. Predictably many Republicans and Trump sycophants have condemned Flake for his remarks. Also yesterday, on the same day Flake addressed congress, the Senior Senator from Arizona, John McCain had an opinion piece in the Washington Post imploring Trump to stop attacking the press.I will post separately as it is so important.
Of course the issue of how important a free press is to a democracy was very important to Hitchens, and one about which he spoke of often. I can only imagine how the talk show circuit would be leaps and bounds better if he were still living.
Here is the text of the Flake Address:
From CNN, Jan 17, 2018: http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/17/politics/jeff-flake-speech/index.html
(CNN)Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) took to the Senate floor Wednesday to rebuke President Donald Trump for his repeated attacks on the media. Read Flake’s speech as it was prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, near the beginning of the document that made us free, our Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident …” So, from our very beginnings, our freedom has been predicated on truth. The founders were visionary in this regard, understanding well that good faith and shared facts between the governed and the government would be the very basis of this ongoing idea of America.