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Holten: The Fourth Pillar of Democracy

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Dickinson Press, nor Forum ownership.

Kevin Holten
Kevin Holten

Did you know that, according to Mr. Dictionary, corruption is defined as dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery?

And a bribe is defined by Mr. Dictionary as the act of persuading (someone) to act in one's favor, typically illegally or dishonestly, by a gift of money or other inducement.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dictionary also says that censorship is the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, and information that is considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.

That begs the questions, why is something that is politically unacceptable included in the definition and who determines what is politically unacceptable? And why am I referring to corruption, bribery and censorship all in the same article?

It’s really quite simple. As you can see, Mr. Dictionary ties corruption to those that are in power. It ties bribery to the inducement of corruption. And it ties politics to censorship and security, tying both of those to those in power.

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Now, as you are aware, the media is considered the fourth pillar of democracy. Not only does it have to be transparent and unbiased but it also bears the responsibility of educating the masses and the freedom to propagate a variety of opinions. It is THE platform for public discussion and exchange of opinions.

Our founding fathers created an executive, legislative and judicial branch of government for the purpose of each balancing out the others, in a system of checks and balances.

Of course, because they knew how important free speech and freedom of the press was, I’m guessing that they might have considered “govermentalizing” a media branch. But, had they done so, we would not have freedom of the press or any freedom for that matter.

After all, the only way to promote freedom of the press is to keep your fingers off of it. Plus they also had intimate knowledge of the power of the press because they used the media to help create the American Revolution.

So you could say that freedom of the press is what enabled Americans to create America. And without it, there would be no America.

But today censorship is all the rage.

So let’s once again look at the definition of censorship: It is the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, and information that is considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.

What if someone had published, in advance, the plans for the June 6, 1944 Normandy, France, WWII, D-Day, allied invasion? That would have been a major problem.

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To solve the problem you don’t censor the press. You improve your security measures.

Today, of course, it would have been used as an excuse to censor.

But let’s once again remember that Mr. Dictionary ties corruption to those that are in power, it ties bribery to the inducement of corruption and it ties politics and those in power to censorship and security.

One of America’s most prominent politicians had this to say: “I weep for the liberty of my country when I see . . . . . that corruption has been imputed to many members of the House of Representatives, and the rights of the people have been bartered for promises of office.”

Who said that? President Andrew Jackson and yet, it is so appropriate for today.

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