'We will not walk in fear...'
The quote above, fellow journalists, is from the great Edward R. Murrow. He died in 1965, at age 57, rather too soon, but not before he had slain the dragon that was McCarthyism. In the exercise of his profession, he built the famous Murrow legend and tradition of "courage, integrity, social responsibility, and journalistic excellence, emblematic of the highest ideals of both broadcast news and the TV industry in general." He exposed insidious societal evils that ate into Uncle Sam's fiber of being -- feats that placed Edward R. Murrow foremost in journalism's hallowed hall of fame.
In a time of McCarthyism, Murrow dared to uphold freedom of thought, and demolished the climate of fear that was choking America in the 1950s. But what was McCarthyism? Derived from the name of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, it was a period of intense suspicion in the United States. McCarthy was the senator who saw communists lurking among the progressives, the civil rights advocates, even among the bleeding-heart liberals of continental America.
Anti-communist hysteria was thick in the air at the peak of the Cold War between Russia and the US, and Sen. McCarthy was fanning it. Not only did he enrich the English language, he was also the originator of the popular quote: "If it quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, then it must be a duck." So the odd, quacking fellow beside you must be a commie indeed! A red herring! Suspicions, suspicions, and more sinister suspicions.
But artists, intellectuals, journalists --Edward Murrow leading-- were not to be dissuaded, dispirited, intimidated. Writer Lillian Hellman caught the spirit of her generation when she refused to testify against others before the House Committee on Un-American Activities: "To hurt innocent people whom I knew many years ago in order to save myself is, to me, inhuman and indecent and dishonorable. I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person."
Award-winning Dalton Trumbo of the Screen Writers Guild spoke on how McCarthyism had victimized a lot of people: "The blacklist was a time of evil. No good to search for villains or heroes or saints or devils because there were none; there were only victims." Hellman and Trumbo were the forerunners of Hollywood activists Michael Moore, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, George Clooney, Sean Penn, and many more.
Edward Murrow slew the dragon that was McCarthyism, ushering in the pure air of freedom enjoyed by his fellow Americans be they from the left, right, or center. Witch-hunting was thrashed to damnation, and Joseph McCarthy exited in ignominy.
In the current stream of our lives, in this our one and only Lupang Hinirang, what is the dragon to be slain? What are the mini-dragons that poison the air we breathe? To wit: questions of legitimacy and credibility, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, electoral fraud and cover-up ("Hello, Garci"), graft and corruption (Hi, Joc-Joc), 704 political killings and counting. We need Edward Murrows to slay them.
As of July 18 this year, 42 media practitioners have been killed, and counting? (Stop the count for heaven's sake!) Yes, 42 media practitioners who did not walk in fear!
Come the likes of Proclamation 1081, Marcos' Martial Law, or its copycat, Arroyo's 1017, are we going to cower in fear? I was in the US heartland during harsh February, and I wouldn't know how deeply we in the media were affected by 1017's chilling effect. If extreme punitive measures will chill us to the point of inaction, gag us in conformity, or stifle us in obeisance, then bid goodbye to freedom of expression, the sine qua non of our vocation. For life itself to have meaning, we must think, speak, write to uphold freedom of expression lest existence be damned.
Declares the College Editors Guild: TO WRITE IS ALREADY TO CHOOSE. "In the midst of the deafening cry for social change in a society beset with inequalities, journalism cannot find a neutral sanctuary. Either it contributes in the prolonging of the night or it helps in the ushering of the dawn. After all to write is already to choose."
Onward, comrades! Dare to struggle! Dare to win! Let us not walk in fear.
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