A new Marist-McClatchy poll has revealed a disappointingly strong opposition to the notion of a free press in the United States. The poll showed strong support for the notion of censoring WikiLeaks and prosecuting anyone involved in the publication of classified data.
In 1971 the US Supreme Court vindicated the right to publish classified data in the public interest as part of the furor surrounding the release of the Pentagon Papers. Some forty years later, the poll points to a public in no mood for arguments related to its own right to know.
Only 22 percent of Americans thought the releases were a good thing, while some 59 percent believed that anyone involved ought to be prosecuted. Though there is no immediate indication that this is the case, one can hope the methodology of the polling somehow skewed the results. However it must also be considered that the American public has simply changed its mind about the historical notion of a free press and is now firmly in favor of broad censorship on national security grounds.
The poll will likely fuel the growing befuddlement of the rest of the world at the Obama Administration’s lip service for a free press (and the State Department’s announcement of a May event honoring the notion) even as they look to prosecute people on the basis of embarrassing publications and as Congress meets with the sole determination to change the law to restrict the right to publish such material even further.
If there is one silver lining to what must indeed be a very dark cloud, it is that the poll showed narrow support among Americans between the age of 18 and 29, suggesting that the younger generation are growing more supportive of the idea of free speech, even as the older generations have, according to the data, angrily dismissed the idea.