When drafting the First Amendment rights, the Founding Father’s did not imagine that one day America will have a Fox News, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald or ADL and AIPAC. The Fourth Branch of Government, unelected and accountable to no one. It is not the government that stifles free speech and debate but major corporate media and powerful ethnic lobbies.
Hence the needs for a Jefferson Corner, a Free Speech Corner in every town and on every campus, where citizens have open forums to gather, speak, and listen without government permissions or corporate media censorship.
The Constitution and First Amendment do not guarantee citizens the right of access or open forums to speak out on radio, appear on TV, publish in Op-Ed page, or even speak on college campuses. That is why corporate media and for the last decades shaped and limited public discourse and all of that was not in the good of America. Editors and publishers have an absolute rights, stifle, censor free speech, and decides what issues of importance. The war on Iraq was more than enough.
Not only powerful corporate media decides the debate, but even ethnic organizations such as the ADL, Campus Watch, AIPAC exercise a powerful role is stifling public debate and free speech and the exercise of First Amendments rights.
Thanks God/Allah for the Internet all that changed, well almost. Now someone like me have the opportunity to write, publish and speak out. However important these opportunities are, the Fourth Estate continue to exercises an undue if not harmful influence over public debate and public policies. As the experience of the Occupy Movement shows, government continues to stifle free speech through permits covering demonstrations, and public assemblies. It is time for us citizens to have designated public squares, public parks and college campuses to exercise our First Amendment rights.
On my first visit to London in 79, I made sure to attend and visit Hyde Park’s Speaker Corner where scores of speakers mount a soap box and speak on a variety of topics, some makes sense, others make fools of themselves but they all have an absolute right to speak and for audiences to gather, cheers even jeers without a license or permission from governmental authority, or approval from powerful organizations.
That experience which I make sure to repeat every time I am in London, prompted me to incorporate Jefferson Corner, Inc, as a not for profit organization with the idea of promoting a Jefferson Corner on every campus, in public parks, in every town and every city. The Internet while it pause a challenge to established corporate media, is no substitute for the need to engage audiences in public squares.
The Occupy Movement shows the absolute need for colleges and towns to designate certain parks and corners as “Jefferson Corner “ where citizen speakers can mount that soap box and speak up on any subject they chose, and for guests to go directly to a Jefferson Corner and speak to college audiences without having to fear Campus Watch and ADL flex its muscles and “disinvite” speakers deemed anti-Israelis, anti-Semitic and anti-Zionists.
I remember the thousands of times I wrote to editors at New York Times and Washington Post (kept copies all these years) There was one exception (Post) did my letter pass the censorship of the editors. Perhaps my name was enough for my letters to hit the wastebasket.
What is needed now is for college students to petition and demand from college administrations the permanent designation of a central location or park where students and guests can speak up on any subject they chose. No interference from college administration or the exercise of “disinvite” from ADL, Campus Watch or AIPAC. Same for citizens to petition and demand city councils to designate one or more parks depending on the size of city as Jefferson Corners.
It is one of the many ways we need to counter the power and authority the media, the Fourth Brach exercise over the affairs of the nations and energize citizens to public debates and exercise of free speech.
We must not forget the role of the media, Fox News, CNN, the Post and the Times and the role they played on hyping the country to war against Iraq and the same we see today, where the media is doing the same advancing Israel’s position and advocacy of war against Iran.
It is this Fourth Branch of government, owned by big money, driven by ideologies that are not necessarily American oriented that formulate and influence American voters and decision makers on issues that matters, more wars and little peace, issues of public interests as social services, medical and health coverage, employment issues and economic policies. It is this Fourth Branch that shaped the misfortunes of our nation, held hostage by powerful media.
No one voted for Robert Murdoch and Fox News, and no one voted for Wolf Blitzer and CNN or Rush Limpough and Clear Channel, yet these people are more powerful than any US senators, even a president when it comes to shaping public policies and debates.
While we as citizens and government could not bring the Fourth Branch to public accountability, we can challenge institutional and group censorship by designating certain public squares as Jefferson Corners, making a visit and participation in this public forum a cultural tradition where exercising our First Amendment becomes citizens affairs.
Just imagine a Jefferson Corner in McPherson Square in Washington DC, Central Park in NYC, even Lincoln or Hyde Park in Chicago. Time to bring free speech to the streets, parks of every city and on every campus.