As published in Sierra Times.
The current election has demonstrated the necessity for implementing sensible media control laws. No right thinking person can dispute this position. Of course some unprogressive traditionalists, not to mention free speech extremists, will argue that the First Amendment protects the media from restrictions on the basis of free speech guarantees. But the First Amendment was written and ratified by individuals over two hundred years ago who could not have conceived how our democratic society would evolve, especially with respect to the technology by which news is disseminated in this modern era.
In the state of Florida alone, many voters may have been dissuaded from voting because of the actions of the media extremists who announced erroneous results for Florida before the polls were even closed throughout the state. Imagine how these possible effects may have been magnified on the citizens of other states where polls were nowhere near being closed. This applies to voters for any candidate since some might feel their vote was futile, while others might feel their vote wasn't required to elect the candidate of their choice. The harm done by irresponsible free speech media extremists in disenfranchising our fellow citizens is incalculable. Some might suggest that the possible voters were responsible for their own actions, or lack thereof. Such an incorrect oversimplification of the extremely complex dynamics of this event can be rejected without comment.
Surely the Founders would not condone the media's propagation of the recent obviously untrue reports as fact, especially on an issue of such supreme importance for our democracy. To make such an assertion does violence to their memory. While none would suggest restrictions on the free speech rights of responsible media to report factual news, no reasonable person can argue that media being required to wait until polls close throughout the country during a national election constitutes a restriction on freedom of speech. This cooling off period would prevent erroneous information presented as fact from injuring our society's most sacred democratic process, not to mention preventing the psychological damage done to innocent citizens whose only mistake was believing the "news" media were reporting factual information.
The media present themselves as purveyors of news, which is understood to mean actual facts. After the cooling off period to allow the polls to close, any "results" presented by the media before each state has certified those results should be accompanied by a disclaimer that the information represents the unfounded conjecture of the media outlet, rather than verifiable fact.
Media extremists will violently object to these sensible measures as restrictions on their right of free speech. However, freedom of speech does not allow one to yell "fire" in a crowded theater because others may be injured in the ensuing panic. If these restrictions are acceptable in a small theater where only a relatively few of our citizens are present, is the broadcasting of "any additional vote is irrelevant" to our entire country a less grievous crime when the very fabric of our democracy is at stake?
Please contact your congresspersons today and demand the passage of The Sensible Media Control Act of 2000. Our children will inherit the chaos and as a result will suffer irreparable harm to their psyches should we fail to act responsibly now to see that this monumental injustice is not repeated. No right thinking person can fail to act. No responsible individual can object to these common sense measures. Our very democratic society is at risk.