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Basslines and Protest Signs

A Free Press is the Pillar of Democracy

Rupert Murdoch (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Wikicommons)

The title of this latest column can be found emblazoned across shirts, bumper stickers and tote bags that can be purchased from the LA Press Club. This writer is a member, and that professional organization has given this column a First Place award in the past. They know what they’re talking about, and the slogan is quite correct.

Journalists need to be free to report, in order for freedom to exist. We hear a lot about the First Amendment, often from people who have never read the Constitution. 1A actually reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Seems straightforward enough. But here’s the thing – one law doesn’t negate another. You can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater and call it “freedom of speech.” And similarly, you can’t knowingly lie and call it news.

We know that. We at idobi are members of the press, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We have all of the freedom of the press that the First Amendment allows, but we also know that we can’t knowingly deceive you, dear readers. We know that because we’re good at our jobs.

This week, Tucker Carlson found out the hard way that he can’t lie without consequence either. After years of trying to balance on an absurd line of “this is an opinion show that you can’t take seriously” and “Listen to me, I know what I’m talking about,” Carlson was proven in court to be a total charlatan (and not the good, Madchester variety).

Carlson isn’t the only one, but he’s the figurehead, the poster child for the hard right talking heads that now pass as mainstream news. The man whose face perpetually looks like somebody walked in on him in the bathroom parted company with Fox News, shortly after that organization settled their lawsuit with Dominion for the princely sum of $787 million.

Carlson was the most popular host on Fox News, so some might have wondered what he was worth. We at least know that he’s not worth $787 million. And he’ll likely end up either on an even more extreme network such as Newsmax, or on a Rogan-esque podcast. The fascists will still flock.

Tucker Carlson (Gage Skidmore/Wikicommons)

But the fact that the courts showed the world that lying to the public isn’t fair game is so vitally important. I write for a number of outlets besides idobi, and I’ve won many awards. I love journalism, and Carlson and his ilk make a mockery of all that I hold dear. They’re anti-journalists.

We should also mention that Don Lemon was let go by CNN this week, which is fair enough though the circumstances are very different. While Lemon has also discovered that actions have consequences, his issues are not journalistic.

Carlson is a fraud, and not just a right-wing fop, because the emails presented during the Dominion pretrial proved that he didn’t even believe the crap he was spouting on air. Carlson privately expressed his hatred for Trump, and all of them knew that the Big Lie was exactly that. They knew there was no evidence that Dominion machines had been hacked and/or corrupted. They knew that there was no real evidence of cheating or rigging at all. But the emails reveal that they also knew what their audience wanted to hear. They knew that the truth angered their core group of viewers. So they knowingly lied, and they paid for it.

“The truth matters. Lies have consequences,” Dominion lawyer Justin Nelson said after the settlement was announced. 

“We are hopeful that our decision to resolve this dispute with Dominion amicably, instead of the acrimony of a divisive trial, allows the country to move forward from these issues,” Fox said. 

The amount represents about a quarter of the profits Fox made last year. It’s not going to drive Rupert Murdoch out of business. But still, that’s the sort of financial rumble that makes shareholders nervous. Rich people hate losing money. 

The really great news is that none of this is over, for Dominion or Fox. Dominion has pending lawsuits against Sidney Powell, the eternally melting Rudy Giuliani, pillow man and king of the 3 a.m. TV ad Mike Lindell, Newsmax, One America News, and Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne. 

Meanwhile, Fox faces a lawsuit from another election technology company, Smartmatic. With the baseline set after the Dominion settlement, Fox’s lawyers should be nervous. Smartmatic is also suing Powell, Giuliani and Lindell, plus Fox hosts Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo and Lou Dobbs. There are probably tactical and legal reasons why Smartmatic isn’t going after Newsmax or OAN (at the time of writing), preferring to focus on Fox and its goons. But either way, between Dominion and Smartmatic, they’re going after everyone.

Even after the Dominion settlement, Fox’s lawyers are trying to paint the Smartmatic case as an “anti-first amendment” thing. That is, if they can come after Fox, they can come after any outlet.

Let me tell you something – I’m not worried. Here at idobi, and specifically for me with the Basslines and Protest Signs column, I’ll report facts and offer an opinion on them. This is a column, after all. But I won’t report opinion as fact. We’re never going to be in a situation like Fox’s, where we know something isn’t true, but we report it as fact anyway.

That sort of bullshit will cost you millions if not billions.

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