Speaking to her Instagram followers in a lengthy video response to the Capitol Hill riots, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) blamed a number of factors for the Jan. 6 violence, and proposed a number of solutions, including placing government limits on the free press.
"There's absolutely a commission that's being discussed," she said. "But it seems to be more investigatory in style rather than truth and reconciliation, so I think that's an interesting concept for us to explore. And y'know I do think that several members of congress in some of my discussions have brought up media literacy because that is a part of what happened here.
"And we're going to have to figure out how we reign in our media environment so that you can't just spew disinformation and misinformation. It's one thing to have differing opinions, but it's another thing entirely to just say things are false."
The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution 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."
This means, in short, that a "commission" that would hinder the free press in the United States from writing anything would be in direct violation of America's most cherished right.
There has been public controversy in recent years, since the advent of the phrase "fake news," over both the concepts of misinformation and disinformation. Misinformation was the "word of the year" in 2018, and is defined as "false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead."
Disinformation is defined as "deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda." To the extent that disinformation is either defamatory or libelous, there are laws to protect against that, and suits may be brought against an outlet that behaves in a libelous manner. The burden of proof, however, is high, given that a free press is a cornerstone of American democracy.
Misinformation, however, is often in the eye of the beholder. And any kind of commission that seeks to educate members of the media, or owners of publications, as to how they should report, what factors they should consider in their reporting, and which version of events they should cover, would be a shocking overreach.
Unlike other countries, the US has very little state run media, and there is very little interference from government in what the free press can publish. This is how it should stay. It is the public that must be educated so that they may make their own determinations, and form their own opinions. And it is is Ocasio-Cortez who perhaps ought be schooled on what it means to democracy to have a free and independent press.
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