The meaning of Democracy’s Freedoms and the Nature of the Western Media Beast – Part 4/5

July 12, 2012

PBS ran a special on Milestones in the History of Media and Politics. From this PBS special, I learned that “In 1690, the first newspaper published in America was printed by Richard Pierce and edited by Benjamin Harris. Since it was published without consent of the government, it was immediately suppressed, its publisher arrested and all copies destroyed.”

PBS said that in 1798, the Sedition Act made it a crime to print “any false, scandalous and malicious writing…against the government of the United States.”

“Introduced by President John Adams as the US was on the brink of war with France and rabble-rousing from French immigrants was feared, the Sedition Act made it illegal to criticize the government, under penalty of a $2,000 fine and 2 years in jail. The Act directly contradicted the First Amendment, which had already been ratified in 1791. Everyone from writers, editors, printers, and “even drunks who were overheard condemning (President) Adams” were prosecuted.”

“In 1841,” PBS said, “Horace Greeley launched THE NEW YORK TRIBUNE, which…was strongly antislavery, and as a reform-minded journal of ideas, reported on women’s rights, socialist experiments, temperance, and other reforms. Greeley explained, “I founded the New York Tribune as a journal removed alike from servile partisanship on the one hand and from gagged and mincing neutrality on the other.”

In the 1880’s, Joseph Pulitzer, a key figure in developing the big-business model of the newspaper, and William Randolph Hearst, seeing the press as both political agency and business, competed for mass circulation. The sensational reporting they turned to became known as “yellow journalism.”

Starting in the “1890s,” PBS said, “many independent newspapers were swallowed up into powerful “chains.”

“During and after WWI, the government suppressed radical newspapers and German language papers, but in 1925, in Gitlow v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld a conviction of radical pamphleteers…”

Continued on July 13, 2012 in The meaning of Democracy’s Freedoms and the Nature of the Western Media Beast – Part 5 or return to Part 3


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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