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The Post and Hugo Black

January 24, 2018


In the earlier scenes in “The Post“, it was uncomfortable to watch the strong female actor, Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, embodying so perfectly, in all the minute details, the role of a woman in a 1970s board room. It was worth it for the powerful transformation that took place as Graham confronted McNamara about his role in concealing the truth, as she realized The Post‘s complicity, and the price payed by her son, and the sons of so may others in Viet Nam.

Thanks to Wikisource it was easy to find the full text of Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black’s Concurrence in New York Times v. United States.

“In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.”

It is how democracy can be distinguished from other forms of government.

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