In 1900 four journalists in Denver sat down to figure out what kind of blockbuster story they could come up with, but it would be a hoax. The story that ran was about a local contractor winning the bid to tear down The Great Wall of China. This story was picked up by the international press. It was all fun and games until the story got to China. In a land already inflamed by fear of foreigners and a fastly imploding ruling class, that was the spark that set off a year of slaughter. The Boxer Rebellion left many innocent dead, including many Chinese.
Now if any of this sounds eerily familiar, you may have heard about the the riots, the calls for jihad and the 17 deaths that have resulted from the fictious bit piece in Newsweek’s Periscope regarding the supposed desecration of the Koran in GITMO. Now, however much Newsweek apologizes for their error in reporting an unsubstatiated rumor, they can’t fix the havoc wreaked by this rumor taken as truth. It was absolutely irresponsible of them to print it, especially with out fully vetting it. Good luck trying to get the truth out there, Muslims won’t believe it, neither will the progressives. Both love conspiracies too much to hear the truth.
Lately, freedom of the presses is translating into slander, rumor-mongering and libel, and it begins to look more like abuse of liberty than freedom of the presses. CBS, The New York Times and Newsweek have all been guilty of making up stories to suit their political ends. But now it’s begun to cost the lives of innocents a world away. Just like it did in China a century ago.
Liberty and freedom are costly things, they come with a hefty price tag. One of the costs of liberty is the responsibility to use it wisely. Freedom of the presses means only that the government can not tell you what you can and can not print. It does not mean that you can print just anything. It means that with careful research, vetting and honor, you can choose to run stories that will matter, make a difference and inform. You also have a responsibility to weigh the outcomes of printing a story. It’s called self-editing.