Law in the Internet Society

The Last Generation That Has a Say

-- By BriannaCummings - 09 Dec 2015

“We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.”
-Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay


When I see comparisons of Donald Trump’s campaign to that of Adolf Hitler I reflect on the sordid history and current predicament of my own people in this country. I tell myself that there has always been pervasive evil in the world and we have always found a way to overcome. I tell myself that evil has always found a way to garner power and support. But the millennial in me still wonders would things have been the same in the past if the masses had access to information in the way the current generation does? I also wonder what the world would look like if the journalistic integrity of the past was more prevalent today.

24 Hour Media Cycle

Having constant access to news is both a blessing and a curse; we have the tools to be the most informed and knowledgeable generation in modern history (at near zero cost). The world-wide use of personal computer connected to the web has put the world at our finger tips, after all there is nothing Google doesn’t already know anymore. This is a blessing many of us (millennials that never lived in a world without internet) constantly take for granted. The use of the web allows independent journalism and blogging to occur without publication costs. This is key for the transmission of information needed for a number of the revolutions currently underway. It is also important in the era of corporate sponsored news stations driven by advertising that often pick and choose what stories get coverage and what perspectives are presented.

This access is also a curse, it has made it exceptionally easy to completely block out any media coverage that does not agree with our beliefs and views. Major “news” outlets such as Fox News, CNN and MSNBC can all cover the same event with such bias that it is hard to recognize the reports are for the same event. Fox News has gone so far to the right that a commentator has to refer to the President of the United States as a pussy to be suspended from the air (only for two weeks though).

The constant media storm has made following this election nearly unbearable and we’re still eleven months away from Election Day. A majority of the candidates for president this cycle are particularly disturbing and frankly dangerous with their words. The twenty-four hour media cycle allows us to listen, share and retweet every insane thing that Trump utters. This rhetoric is exceptionally dangerous when Trump and Co. make objectively false statements and then double down and claim to be the victims of the liberal media when called out by fact-checkers. This indignation allows the masses to remain ignorant.

Trump is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Many dismiss Trump as ‘crazy’, ‘racist’, ‘sexist’ and unfit to run for office as his antics continue. However, he maintains a strong following and continues to rise in the polls, with each sound bite more outrageous than the next, while liberals and moderates anxiously wait for the moment when even his supports decide he’s gone too far. (I’m losing hope that this day will ever come). Without a doubt Carson, Cruz, Rubio, Fiorina and Huckabee have said things equally outlandish and unsupported by facts as Trump with Christie and Paul close behind. It is truly concerning with Jeb!Bush and John Kasich have become the ‘voice of reason’.

The latest slew of ignorance from presidential candidates surrounds Syrian refugees and Muslims more broadly. Some governors went as far as claiming they would not accept Syrian refugees in their state, which is laughable because they have literally no standing or authority to deny placement of refugees in their state. But, this is no laughing matter as the general public (non-law folk) is most likely unaware of this fact. Allowing such Islamophobia rhetoric to flood the media (TV, digital and print) is dangerous to say the least.

The debate around Syrian refugees and Muslim immigrants highlights a much bigger problem facing our country; lack of journalistic integrity and an uninformed electorate. One should not have to be in a graduate program to know that governors do not possess the power to deny refugees entry into states. Journalists should be allowed to report on candidates also presenting verifiable facts. We cannot prevent candidates from telling lies but we can at least make an effort to present the truth. When a candidate goes on the campaign trail and tells voters that refugees are dangerous and have been infiltrated by terrorists there should be a broadcast the same day comparing that statement to statistics on crimes committed by refugees. This will either prove the candidate’s statement to be true or false.

Hate Speech vs. Free Speech

The Hate Speech readings made me reflect on the false dichotomy of hate speech vs. free speech that has been created in the United States. Countries around the world manage to have free speech while still punishing hate speech (See Canada), but the U.S. continues to struggle with this. The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression but there have been limits put on free speech in our country’s history. Presidential candidates should not have free reign to incite fear and violence using hate speech without consequence. I am not advocating censorship but we need a system of checks and balances. Journalists could take on this role if corporate sponsorship of news outlets were eliminated.

Our Last Chance

If we as Americans allow this propaganda to take hold of our government and political process we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of Germany during World War II. I am not sure if the U.S. or the world will be able to physically recover from another Holocaust in the age of complex terrorist organizations such as ISIS and countries with nuclear and biologic weapons. This generation must take our place in history and ensure that this does not happen on our watch.

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r7 - 15 Jan 2016 - 18:22:31 - BriannaCummings
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