18 May 2010

Obama's Free Press

When I saw that the President had signed legislation to “promote free press around the world,” it immediately popped into my head that I should write a post connecting that action to the many others that demonstrate Mr. Obama’s overt hostility to free speech, including freedom of the press. To my surprise, I discovered that someone had already made the connection, on (of all places) the New York Times blog The Caucus.

First, the author, Peter Baker, noted the irony of the title of the legislation—the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act. The Obama administration had only last year decided (and later retracted after a public outcry) to hold the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City, thereby giving the terrorist a platform to spew his venom. (Perhaps this is what Mr. Obama considers to be free speech: funding anti-Jewish, anti-American pogroms with taxpayer money.) Mohammed is the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 atrocity and claims to be Daniel Pearl’s murderer, so coddling this monster hardly seems like a proper way to honor either Mr. Pearl or freedom of the press.

Baker pointed out another irony—that media access was tightly restricted for the very same signing ceremony that was supposedly urging a free press overseas. Furthermore, the President has been unabashedly hostile to the media:

Mr. Obama lately has become something of a media critic, regularly bemoaning what he sees as divisive, shallow coverage, particularly on cable television. “Today’s 24-7 echo chamber amplifies the most inflammatory sound bites louder and faster than ever before,” he told graduating seniors at the University of Michigan this month. (How he knows, of course, is an intriguing question given that on Monday at an unrelated event, he told an audience: “I know you’ll be surprised that we don’t watch the news shows.”)

But it never hurts to stand up for free press in other countries.[Note 2.]

There are other chilling threats to free speech that could be mentioned here, including the White House snitch line, Mr. Obama’s support of “regulatory czar” Cass Sunstein and the “Fairness Doctrine,” etc., but it is surprising and refreshing to see criticism, even to the point of sarcasm, coming from the New York Times.


1. The New York Times, “U.S. to Promote Press Freedom,” 17 May 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/18/world/18press.html?scp=2&sq=daniel%20pearl&st=cse.

2. Peter Baker, “Obama Signs Bill Intended to Promote Free Press,” The Caucus, a New York Time blog, http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/17/obama-signs-bill-aimed-to-promote-free-press/.

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