Jefferson Would be a Blogger Open Trackback Thanksgiving Weekend

Steve Boriss says that today’s journalists are not at all like the journalists described in Long Tom Jefferson’s quote, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” His conclusion, after a well argued middle I will leave you to read at Pajamas, is:

Clearly, when Jefferson said he would prefer “newspapers without a government” to “government without newspapers,” he did not imagine a journalism that was favorably disposed to government and that presented only one view. No doubt, he would have preferred “bloggers without a government” even more.

I’ll buy that for a dollar.

Update: Great points from Ymarsakar in the comments.

Linkfest Haven, the Blogger's Oasis


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  11. I’ll buy that for a dollar.

    Didn’t Jefferson own his own freaking newspaper business?

  12. * “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:224

    * “As for what is not true, you will always find abundance in the newspapers.” –Thomas Jefferson to Barnabas Bidwell, 1806. ME 11:118

    * “The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them, inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:225

    * “At a very early period of my life, I determined never to put a sentence into any newspaper. I have religiously adhered to the resolution through my life, and have great reason to be contented with it. Were I to undertake to answer the calumnies of the newspapers, it would be more than all my own time and that of twenty aids could effect. For while I should be answering one, twenty new ones would be invented. I have thought it better to trust to the justice of my countrymen, that they would judge me by what they see of my conduct on the stage where they have placed me, and what they knew of me before the epoch since which a particular party has supposed it might answer some view of theirs to vilify me in the public eye. Some, I know, will not reflect how apocryphal is the testimony of enemies so palpably betraying the views with which they give it. But this is an injury to which duty requires every one to submit whom the public think proper to call into its councils.” –Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Smith, 1798. ME 10:58

    * “Perhaps an editor might begin a reformation in some such way as this. Divide his paper into four chapters, heading the 1st, Truths. 2nd, Probabilities. 3rd, Possibilities. 4th, Lies. The first chapter would be very short, as it would contain little more than authentic papers and information from such sources as the editor would be willing to risk his own reputation for their truth. The second would contain what, from a mature consideration of all circumstances, his judgment should conclude to be probably true. This, however, should rather contain too little than too much. The third and fourth should be professedly for those readers who would rather have lies for their money than the blank paper they would occupy.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:225

    * “I have been for some time used as the property of the newspapers, a fair mark for every man’s dirt.” –Thomas Jefferson to Peregrine Fitzhugh, 1798. ME 10:1

    * “I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens who, reading newspapers, live and die in the belief that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time, whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them… but no details can be relied on.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 1807. ME 11:224

    * For the present, lying and scribbling must be free to those mean enough to deal in them, and in the dark.” –Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Randolph, 1792. ME 8:411

    * “These people [i.e., the printers] think they have a right to everything, however secret or sacred.” –Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 1815. ME 14:345

    I suppose there is always the theory and the legend. And then there is the reality.

    Obviously newspapers were bad enough that we needed a government for them to attack and slander. Since either one alone would be too free to attack the citizens.

    Like they are now.

  13. Jefferson – President in 1800

    In 1796 he stood for President but lost narrowly to John Adams, however under the terms of the constitution, this was sufficient to become Vice President. In the run up to the next election of 1800 Jefferson fought a bitter campaign. In particular the Alien and sedition act of 1798 led to the imprisonment of many newspaper editors who supported Jefferson and were critical of the existing government. However Jefferson was narrowly elected and this allowed him to promote open and representative government. On being elected, he offered a hand of friendship to his former political enemies. He also allowed the Sedition act to expire and promoted the practical existence of free speech.

    Again, there seems to be the legend of Thomas Jefferson, as believed in by certain political parties, and then there is the reality. The nasty reality, Wolf. The unbecoming reality.

    People looking at the reality can see people for what they were, people. And the times they lived in as a time in which humanity was around, which meant problems and ridiculous crack going on

    Yet they can still say this in the end.

    “The essential qualities of Thomas Jefferson were clarity, luminosity and vastness. Clarity, luminosity and vastness – these the Declaration of Independence embodies. Jefferson was the most divinely talented man of his time.”

    Such is not possible with those that believe in historical fantasies. Historical fantasies propagated in order to convince Americans that their history was immaculate, all the better to shatter their belief in America with reports of genocide, war, and slavery.

    Only by raising a person’s morale to their highest point, can you crash it down to below rock bottom. Those that studied the actual history became armed with the nasty reality of things, so they could never be fooled by newspaper accounts, such as the Haditha Marines and what not of modern conception.