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Before I go further, I should reiterate that I consider myself a Jeffersonian-Libertarian. Having said that, even having strong beliefs in individual liberty (including that of a free press), I have to wonder if the recent actions of the mainstream media fall into that category or into that of criminal behavior.
When one's liberty extends to the point that it harms another in the sense that it robs another of the same rights, it ceases to be liberty. It ceases to be a right protected by the constitution and borders on criminal behavior. The recent, very disturbing behavior of the mainstream media suggests they may be abusing their rights and using them to harm others.
One example would be the way they edited audio and video of George Zimmerman to make him appear racist and hide evidence supporting his innocence. He was convicted in the press before he was ever brought up on charges and even when the media posted retractions and apologies, they were obviously insufficient and half-hearted. The damage is already done and it now may not be possible for Zimmerman to receive a fair trial, as the public opinion was tainted before the legal system ever really kicked into motion.
Another example of course is the Aurora, CO theater shooting. A horrible act of evil perpetrated by a deranged man who believes he's the Joker character from the Batman movies. ABC's Brian Ross falsely blamed an innocent Tea Party member for the shooting while the investigation was still in its infancy. What if the Tea Party's James Holmes had been attacked and killed by somebody who believed he was a murderer? He already was forced to disconnect his phone due to unwanted attention but what if something much worse had happened? Then Ross would be responsible for it.
These are only two examples of media malpractice of course. I could go on and list a false reporting of US soldiers urinating on a Koran, which resulted in riots and actual deaths. Let's not forget the repeated attempts to influence the election, such as selectively editing speeches given by Mitt Romney, so as to portray him as out of touch. That will not result in physical injury of course but it's still an effort by the media to use false stories to influence public opinion.
I could go on and on with this. The examples of malpractice are nearly endless. The question is, at what point do we start holding them accountable? Even leaving out the coverage of the upcoming election, when their reporting puts an innocent person in danger or results in physical injury, death or loss of property, their job ceases to be a right protected by the constitution and quickly becomes a malicious (bordering on criminal) act.
There has to be a way to hold these people accountable for the harm they cause while still preserving the right to a free press. I'm afraid an apology posted on twitter just does not undo the damage caused. They will continue to do these things until they are truly held accountable. Either financially (as in through a boycott of sponsors) or actual criminal charges, which sadly is not likely to happen until another Tea Partier is blamed for something they didn't do and ends up being killed as a result, which I fear is what will happen if the media's current behavior is allowed to continue unchecked. Either way, something definitely has to be done.