Last week’s physical assault on Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs by Congressman Greg Gianforte was at a minimum shameful and inexcusable, to a maximum of grounds for prison time and his removal from office. But a reality that the media must face is that they commit violence themselves on a daily basis!
As we have all heard before two wrongs don’t make a right and as Speaker Paul Ryan said in response to the incident, no situation calls for violence but the aggression that the media exerts sometimes test that proposition greatly. As Martin Luther King Jr. taught us violence is not merely the absence of physical blows being inflicted upon one.
There can be violence in the language we use as we saw in the last Presidential campaign. There is definite violence in invading someone’s physical personal space, a practice the media engages in constantly and with no regard for anyone’s personal space.
They even egg each other on as I witnessed Friday, an MSNBC reporter was following a Russian banker around the room asking Jared Kushner questions as the banker constantly says no comment. Finally a handler of the banker steps in to stop the harassment by attempting to remove the reporter from the banker’s personal space, the reporter says indignantly “don’t push me”. Meantime the anchors back in the studio are applauding and telling the reporter great work and don’t take no for an answer.
Dr. King also taught us violence begets violence and with each instance of retaliation the violence escalates. This is precisely what happened in Montana
last week with Congressman Gianforte. Reporter Jacobs was violently invading the personal space of the Congressman, the Congressman wrongly responded with escalating violence by body slamming the reporter.
The media conducts itself as if our constitution grants them only rights of freedom and free speech. They certainly have the right to ask as many questions as their heart desires and citizens have equal rights not answer their questions, but more importantly citizens have a right not to be harassed for not answering media questions.
It’s violent for anyone to invade someone’s personal space especially to the point of obstructing one’s ability to walk. This is a practice the media
constantly engages in with no regard and no shame. They conduct themselves sometimes as if they are some governmental authority, no comment means no comment the media does not have the right to harass a answer out of anyone.
Our great democracy can’t exist without our great free media but a little more civility and consideration as they do their vital work, would assure that the Montana incident doesn’t repeat itself.
Violence does reap violence no matter how right the cause or how important the story is, the media must stop stooping to the level of non-physical violence and disregard of other people’s rights. They must apply the golden rule of treating others as they wish to be treated.
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective into current events. Drop by his blog for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.