The Founding Fathers viewed “pure democracy” systems as tyrannical and oppressive.
“Pure democracies frequently experience ‘common passions’ or ‘interests’ in almost every case,” wrote James Madison in the Federalist No. 10. “There is nothing to check the majority’s inclinations. The majority usually sacrifices ‘the weaker party’ or ‘gangs up’ on the minority.”
Leaders in pure democracies often convert their views into social policy. Without an intrinsic prohibition, most voters may do horrible things against other citizens when they have enough votes to do so. To protect everyone from potential harm, the framers of the Constitution identified and prohibited violations of certain rights under the law.
To the Founding Fathers, the most important liberties were freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government.
Religious thoughts were powerful in Europe. Authoritarian governments and royal houses ruled under religious teachings. Deep entrenchment of social institutions and aristocratic families frequently experienced religious conflicts. To avoid Inquisitions and Crusades, the Constitution framers enforced a legal separation between the church and the state, which it is reflected in the first clause of the First Amendment, prohibiting the government from establishing a religion or prohibiting its free exercise.
Without a free press, governments would exert coercive power over their citizens. The Founding Fathers knew that leaders could use their police and military power against those citizens who would oppose their government. They understood that the only way to prevent governments from exceeding their authority was by extending to citizens the right to protest. The Petition Clause allows people to express their support or opposition against government policies without any punishment as well as to ask the government to correct those mistakes.
Anyone would think that American journalists enjoy a great freedom of the press.
That’s true, the First Amendment is our most powerful weapon.
But, we also have limitations.
In 1992, two ABC News reporters applied for jobs at Food Lion grocery stores in North and South Carolina by submitting false resumes. Reporters Lynne Dale and Susan Barnett exposed illegal practices at the Food Lion’s meat department. For two weeks, each reporter with a hidden camera recorded some Food Lion employees washing old meat with bleach, selling cheese that had been gnawed by rats, and working extra hours without proper compensation.
Food Lion brought charges in 1995 for fraud and trespass against ABC in a federal court in North Carolina. In 1996, the jury found ABC liable on all charges. It also awarded the supermarket chain $5.5 million for fraud and $2 for trespass. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Virginia struck down the verdict but upheld the $2 award for trespass.
Judge Paul V. Niemeyer argued that the reporters’ actions gave the jury “ample evidence” to conclude that ABC committed common-law fraud.
People don’t trust the media and these practices don’t help us. To restore the public’s trust, we should provide a fair, accurate, and comprehensive account of events or issues with impartiality, ethics, thoroughness, and honesty.