Tennessee Fake News, Dr. Larry Burriss: Viewpoint


Tennessee Fake News

Back in 1798, Congress passed something called the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made it a crime to make false comments about the government. Before the Sedition Act expired in 1801 there were 25 arrests, 15 indictments, and 10 convictions, all related to news stories and editorials government officials said were false and malicious. The editors and publishers, nevertheless, became heroes and celebrities.
But that’s all ancient history, right. Well, maybe not.
It seems there is a joint resolution making its way through the Tennessee legislature declaring CNN and the Washington Post to be fake news, part of the media wing of the Democratic Party, and denigrating Tennessee citizens.
Certainly state legislators, like all citizens, are free to express their opinions about any issue or concern they have. That includes criticism of the media in all of their forms.
What is concerning, on the other hand, are legislators who try to bring the weight of the government, at any level, to bear on Constitutionally protected rights. After all, the First Amendment not only protects the media, it also protects citizens in their right to receive information.
So if this resolution seeks to condemn the media, what is it also saying about citizens who read and hear those same media forms?
As we’ve seen throughout history, once something is condemned by the government, it’s only a small step to criminalizing the same things. After all, if the legislature is going to condemn something, what are the legislators going to do about it? Are they going to try to ban that which they are condemning?
Interestingly, both liberals and conservatives claim the other side is engaging in fake news tactics while their side is telling the truth. So I have to wonder if one day a democratically-controlled Tennessee legislature will be called on to play tit-for-tat, and proclaim republican media are spreading fake news and denigrating citizens on the other side of the aisle.
I’m Larry Burriss.