As part of the Kops Freedom of the Press Lecture during this Theme Year for Free Expression, New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie made us feel safe by making it clear that we shouldn’t get caught up in the freedom part of the First Amendment.
Mister Bouie said,
This lecture is about freedom of the press, where that’s the framework. But I think I’m going to be speaking a little more about the press obligations. I often find that those of us in the press, as important as it is to ensure freedom of the press, free expression of these things, we get caught up in the freedom part of it and don’t think enough about our obligations to the society in which we live.
Mister Bouie pointed out the tyranny of the Constitution when it comes to protecting democracy as he understands it:
But does the Constitution actually protect democracy as we understand it? Or is it a tool for subverting democracy as much as it is anything else?
Mister Bouie believes that state-funded media would be a good way to protect democracy:
I think Americans should probably be a little less squeamish about the idea of state and public funding for news outlets, for media. I think there are ways to structure it so that it remains independent. But this is a thing that Americans are very squeamish about because we associate state funding for media with dictatorships or something with state TV rather than independently held funding organization that can support newspapers in local areas.
Most of all, Mister Bouie inspired and encouraged us to think seriously about the Constitution and about ourselves as citizens and constitutional actors and not just be consumers of news:
A missed opportunity to think seriously publicly about the Constitution. A missed opportunity to think seriously publicly about ourselves as citizens and constitutional actors. This is not how Americans tend to think of themselves in relation to political life. At most, we tend to see ourselves as consumers, choosing between two rival products. And depending on where you stand, those are either products of total distinction, like it’s like Pepsi versus Coke, which to me tastes very different. It’s like Pepsi versus RC Cola. Coke versus RC Cola, which basically tastes the same to me. That’s a really esoteric example. I don’t know why I went there, because most people think Pepsi and Coke taste the same. I do not. I think these people are pretty wrong about that. Rather than the substance of politics.
After providing us with an abundance of deep thoughts regarding the Freedom of the Press, and after saying the name of the former president out loud more times than I could stand, Mister Bouie took pity on us and lightened up. He ended his talk by recreating a safe space, and said:
Any Enterprise watchers out there? Yeah, yeah. Yeah.