Cathy Reilly

Cathy Reilly, Front Desk Coordinator 

So, there’s an old joke from Rondald Reagan’s tenure in the White House. An American and a Soviet are arguing over whose country has more freedom of speech. The American says, “I can stand outside the White House and yell ‘Ronald Regan is an idiot’ and nothing will happen to me! The Soviet says: “Hey! I can stand outside the Kremlin and shout ‘Ronald Regan is an idiot’ and nothing will happen to me either!” 

Of course, I am glad to live in a country where we have the right to speak our minds, including the right to criticize our government. It is one of the freedoms that I hold most dear. The First Amendment of our constitution guarantees this access. And yet there is an ongoing argument about what that freedom truly represents. Some believe it means anything goes and that there should be no repercussions for their words. Others stifle speech while ensuring their own right to speak freely isn’t threatened. But what I find especially appalling in this day and age is the all-too-common refrain of “I didn’t say that” and “What I said was taken out of context.” 

Here’s an example:

In mid-May, Rep. Andrew S. Clay, R-Georgia, likened the attempted coup of Jan. 6, 2021 at our nation’s Capitol as “a normal tourist visit.” This is especially rich given that he was photographed on that very same date hastily assembling barricades inside of the House chambers to keep the rioters from entering. But Clay quickly backpedaled when he was called out on that comment, saying the press “didn’t take what I said in context at all” and then walked away from any further questions.

This reminds me of a celebrity who, years ago, said that they were no longer going to give live interviews as they were tired of being misquoted. WTAF? 

I have a message for all of these truth twisters: Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. And in this day and age, when everyone has a video camera in their pocket, what is captured for all to see and hear cannot be refuted.

I saw a bumper sticker on a car here in town a day or so ago that said “Defund the Media.” The above example of a member of Congress walking back his words is why we as a country must maintain a strong Fourth Estate. Otherwise, all we will have is propaganda. I imagine George Goebbels would be proud. He preached that lying enough will make the lie true. It makes me sad to see that we’re so readily adopting that philosophy in our country.

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