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Opinion

Now that I think about it, I never have checked if I have an FBI file

Twitter is indispensable to the way we go about our lives.

Anyone who has to communicate with the public en masse has an account and it’s pretty convenient, if the 280 character limit leaves most announcements shallow. Most of the time, however, it gets the message across and the effects are pretty mundane.

Occasionally – very occasionally – there will be a moron spouting off nonsense on there, however.

White supremacist movements have accounts and little codes they use to identify people they don’t like because they’re Jewish or black or Mexican or whatever. ISIS used it as a recruiting tool.

Companies will spark trends as a way to advertise, such as when that guy “discovered” the KFC Twitter account only followed guys named Herb and the Spice Girls, but he was really an employee at a marketing firm.

The other day, someone even went so far as to declare the media an enemy of the American people.

Now it wouldn’t be such a bad thing – people go on unhinged rants all the time on social media, this writer included – if the person sending this tweet wasn’t the president of the U.S. And if this was only the first time. But it wasn’t this was maybe the third or fourth or 12th time he’s made that accusation as president, depending on what you count as one.

Some journalists out there have taken this personally. I, instead, refer back to my “unhinged rant” statement a couple of paragraphs up. I know I’m not an enemy of the American people – I’ve never worked for a foreign government, sold state secrets or plotted to overthrow the government.

If there is any sort of FBI file on me, at best I’m classed under “known associates” and that’s probably just because my last name ends in a vowel.

If this were another president making these statements, it might carry some weight, but the stature of the office has been greatly diminished in the past two years. If anything, that’s a positive for the country, if not for the individual currently in the office.

In a democratic society, the office holder is still a mortal man or woman, and should not be afforded any special privileges. The fact that the U.S. has an order of precedence for offices reeks of a holdover from feudal times.

What isn’t antiquated and outdated, however, is the Bill of Rights and in the very First Amendment of that list is the guaranteed freedom of the press.

The same list ensures the right to bear arms, the right to due process and a host of other rights that ensure the American way of life. And the Constitution isn’t like the Bible – you can’t force one amendment on me but then say shellfish is actually OK now.

The news media’s job is to inform people about their community, what their government is up to and anything else that can be printed. It only works if they are a trusted source. To ensure this, journalists go to great lengths to make sure the information is right the first time and, if they still make a mistake, they correct it as soon as possible.

Reading corrections for the New York Times can be almost as entertaining as the features, because it takes itself much less seriously in that section.

The president also likes to complain about fake news. That’s not actually a thing, unless you count The Onion. What he really means when he screams the term is that he disagrees with it or it makes him look bad. Those aren’t the same thing.

A democratic society only works if the citizens are informed, and the most efficient way anyone has found to inform the populace is through mass media.

Newspapers, TV, radio and the internet. If someone builds a better mousetrap, then that will be the dominant way.

But it’s on the citizens to inform themselves. If you only watch MSNBC or Fox News, then you are ill-informed. Not because they present slanted reports, although each of them do, but because they don’t cover the same stories.

If your only newspaper is the Morris Herald-News – first off, thank you – but you’re not getting stories from the wider world. As in grammar school, you need a variety of sources, beyond Twitter.

Personal responsibility includes keeping oneself informed.

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