Meryl Steep’s Golden Globe Awards speech was as vapid, vacuous, self-important and wrong as anything to come out of liberal Hollywood. So naturally it made the front page of the New York Times.
What, exactly, is there to admire about a speech that begins with the speaker announcing, “I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year,” so she has to read her speech?
How seriously are we to take a speaker who tells us upfront that she has lost her mind?
It was downhill from there.
“You and all of us in this room,” said Ms. Streep, “really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now.”
Vilified? Vilified??? Hollywood stars are among the most pampered, privileged, coddled, indulged, idolized, glamorized, fawned over and overpaid members of our society. They live like millionaires. They are millionaires. I’ll give Meryl Streep this much: It took guts for her to stand up at the Golden Globe Awards, before a nationwide television audience, and ask the rest of us poor slobs to pity the poor, “vilified” beautiful people of Hollywood.
Furthermore, Ms. Streep plainly does not understand the Constitution or American history—or proper English grammar for that matter. She said, “We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him [sic] on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution.”
In fact, the founders did not “enshrine the press and its freedoms in the Constitution.” True, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press. But when the founders wrote the Constitution, they meant something very different by freedom of the press than the way most people—including Ms. Streep—interpret it today.
When the founders wrote the Constitution, freedom of the press meant the freedom to publish. In other words, our founders intended that freedom of the press should belong to everyone—not just the media.
Our founders could look back to a time not so very long before when anyone who wanted to publish something needed permission from the British crown to do so. Obviously, the British crown was not about to permit the publication of anything that criticized the people in power. So our founders were not solely concerned with protecting the media of their day. They were concerned with protecting the rights of all people to publish and disseminate their opinions.
Thus, when our Bill of Rights was adopted, freedom of the press could mean a newspaper, or it could just as easily mean a lone individual printing handbills in his basement with a hand-cranked press and distributing them on street corners.
To this day, freedom of the press—the right to publish—still belongs to everyone. It includes, for example, the right of individuals to post their opinions on the Internet. So every time Donald Trump posts a tweet, he is as much exercising his right to freedom of the press as is the New York Times by publishing Meryl Streep’s speech.
Ms. Streep concluded with a call to support the Committee to Protect Journalists, “because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.” Journalists, apparently, just can’t feel safe to publish the truth without the protection of Hollywood’s rich and famous. How smug, how fatuous, how self-important can you get?
There are brave souls in this world today who are being harassed, tortured and even killed because they are fighting for the right to a free press. In fairness, it is true that the Committee to Protect Journalists is an organization works for press freedom worldwide. But Ms. Streep was talking about freedom of the press in a specifically American context.
Anyone who has followed the media since Election Day knows perfectly well that criticism of Donald Trump has been widespread, thorough, sharp and even scurrilous. Where is the evidence that American journalists are cowering in basement hide-outs, too intimidated to speak the truth to power without Meryl Streep holding them by the hand?
How easy—and how cheap—it is for Meryl Streep to strike heroic attitudes at the Golden Globe Awards, to the applause of her fellow Hollywood liberals, when she knows perfectly well that her gesture is empty and that her brave talk will cost her nothing.
The late William F. Buckley used to say that while he loved the beautiful people, he didn’t love their ill-considered forays into politics. As he put it, “You might just as well ask Zsa Zsa Gabor to re-write the Constitution.”
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