Who Guards the Guardians?
“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” – Who guards the guardians?” And by that I mean the media. The Internet Revolution has brought about the dawn of a new era, an age in which We The People have a say and a means unlike ever before of sharing and spreading our voices, messages and reporting; an open platform to express our creativity, launch our own websites, start our own businesses, report trusted and reliable information and commentary, or lies, deceit and rumors.
No matter what you may think of the late Andrew Breitbart, a revolutionary new media trailblazer, he wanted to show that the media has failed in its most basic duties: to uncover the truth, and hold those in power accountable, regardless of party.
Here in the divided states of America, we have such a tenacious polarization between the right and the left that really, much of the blame lies with those who were supposed to be truth-tellers, holding the world responsible regardless of personal or corporate positions, investments and beliefs. There will always be room for opinion and commentary, in fact it is absolutely necessary to hear those voices from all sides of the spectrum. However, there comes a time (which should be most of the time but is not) when we’re to be given the facts that are not spun by what Breitbart called “objective loyal scribes” to a political party or agenda. Breitbart was certainly on the right of the political spectrum, but he also defended what he thought to be the truth.
Thomas Jefferson said that he would rather have the press without the government than the government without the press. He said this because he saw the incredible importance the media had in a democracy, the glue that fused together freedom, the field that served to hold those in power accountable, that told the truth of a story and reported what was happening or being said so that the nation and the world would know. The press was to make transparent what wasn’t so freedom could flourish. This is why people like Andrew Breitbart and Julian Assange are greatly admired. It’s because both of these men have exposed truth and corruption, something that was once seen as a very noble and very American thing to do.
If someone has convictions, they’re tasked to act on them. Certainly it is possible to have a liking for both Assange and Breitbart, don’t let the polarization make you believe otherwise, as if you must ‘choose a side.’
Although he broke the law, Bradley Manning has been defended because there comes a time when convictions go beyond the rules. Manning struggled, ethically, with the information he was made aware of. Although he may sit in a jail cell for the rest of his life, he can do so without a guilty conscious, knowing that he defended the truth at all costs. When Manning was nominated to be among those who could possibly receive the Nobel Peace Prize some people tweeted that they were “repulsed.” I found it interesting and wondered if they felt repulsed when the U.S. conducted indiscriminate killings of civilians and journalists in Iraq and tried to keep it secret. Repulsed that Manning, who exposed this horror that belonged in the public eye, could receive a prize, but not repulsed by our government and military in this specific instance? Although truth may be a matter of opinion, it wasn’t someone’s opinion that these injustices occurred, they simply happened.
Was it not noble when Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe exposed the ACORN organization for what it was so people could know the truth? And when O’Keefe went on to unmask NPR, some believe that the tactics used were over the line, but was what NPR doing not unjust? And now, even from the dead, Breitbart vets our President’s past involvement with people many consider to be radicals. Whether that affects how we view President Obama or not, is it not the right thing to bring the truth into the limelight?
Assange gave the public transparent information on corrupt governments and corporations, for free, via his whistle-blower website WikiLeaks. So are we to write off he and Breitbart as radicals or are they truth-tellers? Sure they’re extremely different people, but they probably have more in common than you would think. In a sense, in today’s day and age especially, to be a truth-teller probably means you’re portrayed in a negative light. Why? Because there’s something to hide, someone’s unethical, immoral money-making manipulating agenda could be exposed.
A politically motivated banking blockade made by VISA, Mastercard, PayPal, Western Union and Bank of America made it so people cannot use their own money to donate to WikiLeaks, leaving the website with just 5% of its financial lifeline, wiping out 95% of support made by people who want to know the truth. As Assange states in the video posted on his website, “These politicized companies believe they have the right to stop you voting with your wallet. They want to stop you from supporting the cause that you believe in,” going on to say, “We cannot permit these banks to control our lives.”
When the shadowy global online hacker subculture known as Anonymous went after VISA, Mastercard and PayPal, defacing their websites and transactions in late 2010 at the start of the WikiLeaks blockade and vetted corruption at Bank of America the following March, were we to say this was unethical or was it disreputable that the companies Anonymous attacked were preventing customers from using their own money in order to stifle truth?
Was it wrong for Anonymous to act through hacking governments when they learned of the injustices in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain? Was it wrong for them to act against the U.S. with the passing of NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) and the proposition of SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP)? To some, yes. But in a much general and broader sense, most cannot deny what as human beings we can all commonly agree upon as injustice, especially in places like Syria, Libya and Egypt. (It’s what C.S. Lewis calls “the moral law.”) Certainly not all of Anonymous’ and LulzSec’s actions are ethical, nor do the groups claim to be totally united, but in a broad sense many of these vigilantes work in favor of the greater good, truth, transparency and freedom than against it.
When Breitbart suddenly passed away March 1, CNN’s Hilary Rosen tweeted: ”#AndrewBreitbart RIP you big crazy rabble-rousing bundle of contradictions, loathsome actions and a giant heart. You have made your mark.”
He certainly did.
Famed English novelist and journalist George Orwell said that “Speaking the truth in times of universal deceit is a revolutionary act.”
It’s the people with the convictions to actually tell the truth that are leaving their mark and changing this world completely. They make a million enemies, acquire many, sometimes even unexpected friends; face a media that portrays them negatively and sometimes discredits them; gather a following and an audience, sometimes end up in jail cells, ‘disappear’ or die too young. Many of them are written off in one era only to become heroes in the next.
Hopefully in this new age of online consensus and citizen journalism, people driven media will serve to hold the guardians accountable as well as those in positions of power and authority, with the highest regard for truth.