There is an alarming practice that the media is engaging in that threatens rights at the very foundation of our Republic, the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom of the Press. It is the rabidly intolerant practice of guilt by proximity. Guilt by proximity occurs when two parties interact in any way and all the sins, beliefs and acts are transferred from one party to another if it serves a narrative.
We see this played out time and again. When someone rented a post office box that was once rented by a known white supremacist then that person is accused of being a white supremacist. When the Lt. Governor is photographed standing with someone giving the ‘OK’ hand sign or with a Gadston Flag in the background she is accused of being an extremist. When the President spoke about Charlottesville and “condemned totally” the “neo-Nazis and the white nationalists” and said that “other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists” there were “fine people” attending, the media claims he called neo-Nazis and white nationalists ‘fine people’ when exactly the opposite happened. Curiously, when the Governor poses for a picture with a proud socialist no hysterical claims ensue.
The latest sad example of the media’s scandal-philia occurred after the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee received a briefing from a local registered Republican resident regarding the visa status of her fiancé who was part of a conservative political organization that had received, over a year before, a small donation from the Christchurch shooter. Intelligent people understand that the receipt of an unsolicited contribution from a person who goes on to commit a heinous act a year later does not alone make you a co-conspirator, or guilty in any way. She was emphatic that neither she nor her fiancé endorse violence of any kind and that they utterly condemn the Christchurch shooting, as do we all.
She had made the credible case that the media was attempting to forge a connection where none existed and that their lives and freedom were being put at risk as a result. The committee is well familiar with this behavior having seen it played out many times before. This guilt by proximity is not who we are as Americans, who respect the rule of law and believe in the presumption of innocence. The committee agreed that in the absence of any criminal activity her fiancé should be allowed to visit.
In its lust for scandal, the media has stretched the committee’s simple act of kindness into headlines that are too bizarre to be fiction. “Kootenai County GOP embraces promoters of far-right ‘Pizzagate’ and ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theories”. This from the same media that spent two years promoting the Russian Collusion Hoax.
I would ask the author of that headline what would be the “approved” action. Should we have taken her fingerprints and conducted a full background check on her and everyone she knows? Should we have examined her tax returns, her email, her social media accounts, her grade school attendance records? Of course if we did do any of that the accusation would have been that we were paranoid fascists, and it would have been true.
We have a choice. We can live in a world that tolerates freedom of speech and believes in the presumption of innocence or we can live in the world of the Salem Witch Trials where guilt by proximity means NOBODY is safe. Anyone caught at the wrong place or standing next to the wrong person will be subjected to public savaging on the altar of a “free” press. Burn the Witch! How can a society long function in a climate of such shrieking hysteria?
In the toxic world of guilt by proximity the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom of the Press cannot coexist. One has to be sacrificed. Is this the world you want?
The comments presented are my own.