By Guy Page
Adapted from speech given at FirstAmendmentFest, Friday December 18, at Vermont State House.
Freedom of the press is freedom of speech with a bullhorn. The average newspaper, radio or TV station knocks on the doors of thousands of Vermont homes and says “I have something important to tell you.” The press is a powerful public good. It must be protected from government suppression.
So let me talk about attempted government suppression of freedom of the press in Vermont.
…Like when Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe called me into his office and said that if I didn’t take steps to make amends for a column critical of George Soros, “He would have to “do something about it.” Apparently some people in the State House said I was being antisemitic. The column made zero references to Judaism, and with good reason. I didn’t even know Soros was Jewish! (So I wrote a column saying the next time I call George Soros out for tearing down Vermont quality of life, it won’t be because he’s Jewish.)
When you’re not saying something, you’re saying something. And there’s lot’s our media isn’t saying.
When Windsor school principal Tiffany Riley lost her job for questioning BLM, no one in the mainstream Vermont media rushed to decry government punishment of her right to free speech.
The same media refused to touch the Hunter Biden laptop story before the election, not even carrying national stories on their websites. The few that did were dismissive.
I’ll say it again: when you’re not saying something – you’re saying something.
When they don’t let you say something in their pages or on the air – they’re saying something, too.
This summer, VT Digger cut off their popular reader comments feature in part because they didn’t like the tone of conversation about Black Lives Matter.
When he reposted the Jesse’s essay, Essex GOP Chair Ron Lawrence got the boot, too. There was no name-calling, profanity or racism in the post. Thin-skinned Front Porch Forum judged them not on the colorfulness of their remarks, but for the character of their content.
You can read Molly Jesse’s axe-worthy post on Vermont Daily.
House candidate and BLM critic Art Peterson of Clarendon had his Facebook account deactivated weeks before the election. He won anyway but still….I’ll say it again:
When they don’t let you say something – they’re saying something.
But supporters of the endangered First Amendment can’t just curse the darkness – we must embrace the light. Because when you’re not saying something – you’re saying something, too.
What can you do?
You can support the media that do say something. For example you can subscribe free to vermontdailychronicle.com or True North Reports. You can listen and call in (244-1777) to Common Sense radio 11 am on WDEV.
There are others. Support them all with your time and attention. Repost. Say something with newstips and feedback. Readers and listeners are the lifeblood of any media.
More important, every Vermonter can exercise individual Freedom of the Press by becoming your own media.
We must set aside cynicism (“oh, it can’t be done”) and fear (“I don’t want to stand out”) and just plain old laziness (“let someone else do it”). You can speak through existing media platforms and create your own social media. Here are just two examples.
Early this year, Jim Sexton of Essex Junction started several Facebook pages supporting (among other God-given rights) the right to life and the right to bear arms. He now has more pages and thousands of followers from all over the country. The man’s got a bullhorn and he’s not afraid to use it.
Others are contributing to important policy discussions in existing media. Seven Days publisher Paula Routly recently asked, very publicly, for more conservatives to write letters to the editor commenting on news stories in her pages. Just minutes ago, Bob from Grand Isle County showed me a copy of a letter he will submit to Seven Days. It’s a corker. The door is open. If more Constitutionalists walk through it, it’s less likely to be slammed shut in our faces.
I am developing a media/elected official list for every county in Vermont. On this list are the names and email addresses of every media and every senator and representative in that County.
If you will commit to exercising your free speech and press rights with it, I will email it to you. You will then have a big bullhorn.
Once your letter is printed somewhere you can make the message even louder by sharing it on your social media.
And you can make it louder still by getting 10 of your friends to sign it too. That tells your elected representatives and your media that you are organized and you will not be quiet anymore about your support for the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Note: during the FirstAmendmentFest, the 40 or so attendees were treated to the rare sight of an American Bald Eagle flying over the golden dome of the Vermont State House.