Who, What, When, and Where?

Oct. 23, 2017

Briefly and long ago I thought of majoring in journalism. At Antioch College, they had a work-study program and I was assigned a plum job in New York City at the Overseas Press Club. I learned there, and at college, that a news story should tell in its first paragraph–who, what, when, and where. It is a decent rule that is often followed by most newspapers. I also learned there that I wasn’t really cut out to be a journalist!

So I changed my mind about a career in journalism and got a Master’s degree from NYU in philosophy. Now at long last, I can combine the two disciplines, philosophy and journalism. This is reflected in the effort today. One thing I learned in philosophy classes was to never treat anecdotes as reliable evidence for anything. In other words, the journalist’s stories that almost always feature the who, what, when, and where are useless as proof of any truth or political policy!

Take that you died-in-the-melting-glacier, polar-bear-loving, and hurricane-tornado-and storm-noting radicals for climate change.

Trump is famous for attacking the “media” over “fake news.” I often support Trump’s claims. I subscribed and for many years read the justly famous New York Times (“all the news fit to print”). Only recently could I see clearly their bias. Their “fake news” stories usually began with an “unnamed” source leaking some juicy story that did have the What, Where, When, and Who. But it was neatly packaged by the Times to skewer Donald Trump and support left-wing Democrats.

Donald Trump has accused the media (especially The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN) of consistently making up this kind of fake news and being extremely biased against him. He does have a point. They really do and show extreme bias against Trump and all of his policies. Recently The Baltimore Sun joined the battle and claimed in its editorial, reprinted widely and our local newspaper (clearly dominated by liberal clergy journalists) headlined the attack, “Trump’s attacks on the media are ‘disgusting’.”

In support of that opinion, The Baltimore Sun drew on a historic event (the passing and failure) of the “Alien and Sedition Acts” during the time of our third president, John Adams. The editorial parenthetically, hopefully, and copying the tweets of you-know-who, came up with a prediction–(“John Adams was a one-termer. Sad.”)

It remains to be seen who will win in that second term election. If I were a betting man I don’t think it would be wise to bet against The Donald. He has chosen in my opinion a very powerful way to go by using the bully pulpit of a presidency in a unique way­­, tweets.

So far at least Trump has shown very few signs of being fast on the way to a fascist dictatorship. Not nearly as many signs as the liberal hero, Franklin D. Roosevelt left. Or the progressive hero here in Wisconsin, Fighting Bob LaFollette, or for that matter the president who first invented the phrase bully pulpit, Teddy Roosevelt. FDR used Fireside Chats by radio to get his messages out. LaFollette and Teddy had to rely on long-winded speeches from random stumps, railway cars, and the halls of Congress. Trump has reinvented the bully pulpit. He uses a 21st century invention, Tweets, to magnify, communicate, and extend his point of view. And to bypass the establishment clergy and get his message to the public! In a democracy like ours the voters will have the final say. Trump’s tweets may prove especially useful in recent flaps over “disrespects” to black veterans who died in the service of the country or “knelling” football players who decline to stand for the National Anthem.

Actually I agreed with the history part of The Baltimore Sun editorial. The Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 signed into law by our third president John Adams forbade anyone from making fun (or making up fake news stories) of government officials. They were actually revised and codified in 1918 for use in Woodrow Wilson’s WW1 and used to imprison citizens sympathetic to Germany. In turn the same repressive laws were used by President Franlin D. Roosevelt to lock into prison Japanese, German, and Italian aliens–and citizens–during WW2. These same revised laws remain on the books today!

As the editorial of The Baltimore Sun correctly pointed out, these Alien and Security Acts of 1798 are clearly unconstitutional and a serious blow to freedom of the press. I agree. But face it guys–Donald Trump, to my knowledge, has never called on Congress to pass any new sedition laws against “fake news” or media bias. He has instead relied on tweets that do get under the skin of editorial writers of the dominant left-liberal clergy men and women–journalists and pundits on the fast declining circulation and staffs of the liberal newspapers, magazines, and cable news outlets.

For instance here is a copy of a recent letter of mine that gives, in my opinion, a hint of where things are heading tomorrow, “Please cancel my subscription to The New York Times. I have been a reader for many years, but in recent days I have found your paper too left-liberal biased. Also, especially the Sunday edition, is too difficult to even follow with your increasingly bizarre typography, presumably redesigned to appeal to your leftist readers.”

Come election and bankruptcy times, we will find out who has the most trust.

Bill Stonebarger, Owner/President Hawkhill

P. S. For the intellectually curious who want to know more details of my life-long journey through the idea swamp, from devout Catholic to left-liberal clergy to conservative libertarian, I suggest, or stronger, I beg you to buy and read one of my three recent books (they are all dirt-cheap and, in my opinion, profoundly true if not revolutionary)–Twilight or Dawn? A Traveler’s Guide to Free-Market Liberal Democracy, East Gilman Street, or Bill’s Blogs. Or at minimum view some ideas on science and society now streamed free on YouTube.

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