Liberty Valance…taking liberties… with the liberty…of the press?

I know that millions of you have seen the fabulous 1962 John Ford movie called ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’. It is one of my top five films of all time. Among its’ stars are John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin, Edmond O’Brien and Vera Miles and several other well-recognized actors.

I have included a couple of stills from the movie and a link to a snippet of the film dealing specifically with the title of this post. You can also find links to the full movie from there if you decide to watch it. I hope you will as it is one of the few truly great films and its’ poignant and astonishing story contains all the crucial elements we are experiencing in our nation and in our politics in 2017.

The particular scene I highlight includes Dutton Peabody, Esq. (founder, owner, publisher and editor of newspaper The Shinbone Star..he also sweeps out the place!) played by Edmond O’Brien who has defiantly published a front page article accusing Liberty Valance (played superbly menacingly by Lee Marvin) of murder. Valance is the gun slinger hired by the cattlemen to intimidate the people of Shinbone and allow the open territorial region that Shinbone is part of to remain open versus the people’s desire to attain statehood in the United States and come under its’ laws and protection and opportunity for growth.

Valance and his henchmen confront Peabody about his accusation and Peabody utters his famous line that is the title to this post. You can view the scene herepeabody4


All of this is intended to warm you up to the idea that, in our current political environment, we are experiencing yet another unfamiliar and unsettling aspect. That is the ‘liberties’ taken not only against the press, but quite frankly the press’ own incompetence and bungling, also attributable to taking ‘liberties’ .

We often hear the term ‘Main Stream Media’ (MSM) as well as, depending on your point of view, which media-based organizations comprise the MSM and which do not. The description of Main Stream Media contained in Wikipedia basically defines it as:

Mainstream media (MSM) is a term and abbreviation used to refer collectively to the various large mass news media that influence a large number of people, and both reflect and shape prevailing currents of thought. The term is used to contrast with alternative media which may contain content with more dissenting thought as they do not reflect prevailing opinion.

I don’t know about you, but I think the vast majority of all of the best-known or most recognized media organizations are ALL part of that grouping. Certainly the editorial ideologies and human personalities are quite different among these well-known sources of information and entertainment, however it seems to me that they are all trying to accomplish a very similar goal: Present the American people with the facts, add their own particular interpretations for editorial purposes, and convince majorities that their point of view is the most sensible and provable.

How have they been doing lately?

There is no doubt that the general ideological camps within the MSM come down to conservative vs liberal positions. (Defining these two terms is a whole other post!) Two or three major national newspapers on the liberal side tangle with two or three conservative major newpapers. The slow demise of the era of the printed newspaper is unfortunately shrinking its’ influence. Two or three conservative major television-based organizations tangle with a similar subset of liberal tv-based organizations. And, of course, there is the Internet. This particular platform has totally disrupted the old order and narrowly-focused audiences of TV, radio and newspapers. Now, even I can be a single, solitary voice of my own opinions and prejudices, my own focus on ‘facts’, and my own interpretation of what they mean and potentially be heard by billions all over the world!

Many of these Main Stream Media organizations have lost their focus on their real responsibilities. The media coverage of the political world over the last several years, and particularly since the era of Trump began a couple of years ago, has deteriorated and devolved into almost an elementary schoolyard scene during recess.

This is where the thought of Liberty Valance drifted into my mind. There is no single person, either in the political world or the world of the media, that compares to that fictional character. But I urge you to watch the movie and re-watch it if its been awhile. You may see what I believe I have seen…that the liberty of the press, the Freedom of the Press, enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, must be preserved and must not be undermined, not only by arrogant outside forces, but particularly by ‘liberties’ taken by its own partisan members.