There are many issues going on in Ferguson worth examining:
- Race relations in America
- The militarization of police
- Urban inequality
- The line between civil disobedience and riots
- Arrests of journalists for doing their jobs
The war on journalism was on display early in Ferguson. It has taken a back seat in recent weeks due to repeated examples of the brutal force by the militarized police of Ferguson against unarmed citizens in the wake of the shooting of an unarmed teenager.
Reporters getting arrested isn’t as big a story as SWAT teams repeatedly threatening civilians on camera and using military like force against unarmed civilians on camera. Certainly the death of an unarmed civilian at the hands of police officer, followed up by days and weeks of not only unapologetic but antagonistic conduct by the police force against the rest of the town of Ferguson’s protesting population is a bigger story than journalists being arrested.
However journalists being arrested in America is a big deal. In the big picture, in the grand scheme, a precedent of journalists being arrested on American soil for doing nothing within the realm of anything against the law is a bigger deal than the death of a single civilian. That may sound highly insensitive to some. I understand and accept that. If it was a relative of mine, or someone in my area of residence, I would certainly be more outraged about the killing of an unarmed teen and tear gassing of peaceful protesters more than some male, Caucasian reporters who got arrested in a McDonald’s and released a few hours later.
But the freedom of the press, is in the First Amendment. Right up there with the right to free speech. Journalists may get arrested and/or beheaded in the Middle and Far East, but not in America. When the press is getting arrested for merely trying to grab a bite to eat and recharge smartphones, we have bigger problems in America than a few racist cops in the heartland.
The war on the press is not a cold war either. It has very much been a hot war under the Obama Administration. An administration that has been dubbed “the greatest threat to press freedom in a generation” by a New York Times writer who is being prosecuted by the Obama Administration for doing his job and not revealing a source for an article he wrote.
Barack Obama and his administration have prosecuted seven journalists or whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917. That is more than all previous Presidents/administrations combined.
Ferguson has brought many issues that the public has wanted to ignore into the national spotlight. This is the light that comes after the darkness of a tragic event. All the issues listed at the beginning of the article are important issues that need to be not only talked about but addressed through local, state, and federal regulation. I would simply point out that without a free press, which is being attacked by local police in Ferguson, and the Executive Branch of the United States Government, none of us would know what is going on in Ferguson, Washington, or anywhere that isn’t our own backyard. And our free press is very much in real danger in real time.