Commentary: Democracy is not just another ideology; freedom is not just another point of view

At the recent public meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Public Diplomacy Council President, and Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California, Adam Clayton Powell, III, offered his comment on the direction of BBG media. His comment is may read in the context of journalism in general, particularly foreign affairs reporting. 

Mr. Chairman, Governors, Director Lansing. My name is Adam Clayton Powell III, and I am President of the Public Diplomacy Council and a Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California. But this morning I speak as an individual; the views are my own and not of those or any other institution.

We read of the debate about BBG mission, the debate about how to respond to untrue propaganda, and the debate about what is and isn’t permitted under the VOA charter.

As someone who spent decades at CBS News, NPR and other news organizations, it was always the highest calling of objective journalism to speak truth to power and to spotlight misdeeds wherever they may be. It is therefore the highest calling of objective journalism to draw attention to what is by any objective test illegal and to what is antithetical to the beliefs of women and men of free will.

These are not inconsistent in any way with objective journalism; quite the reverse:

To state the obvious, not everything is true; some things are provably false. Not everything is equivalent; some things are repulsive to humanity.

Today the choice can be very clear. Seizing neighboring countries’ territory by force is not just another ideology. Shooting down civilian airliners, whether a Korean Airlines 747 or Malaysian Airlines 777, is not just another point of view. Jailing political opponents in Havana or Caracas is not just an alternative lifestyle. Mass enslavement of women and girls by ISIS is not just another way of exercising power. Mass kidnapping of African boys and forcing them to become soldiers is not just another way to govern.

These are, by any objective standard, practices which civilized people everywhere can and do condemn. These are, by any objective standard, practices that the best journalism can and should expose, to its credit. These are, by any objective standard, what America opposes.

Your challenge and your opportunity is to state this clearly and forcefully, every day, every hour.

You are the communicators of freedom, in the same tradition that 70 years ago, articulated Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear, and in the same tradition that 240 years ago, inspired communicators of freedom to write, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”

Democracy is not just another ideology.

And freedom is not just another point of view.

Thank you for your time.
— Adam C. Powell III at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, October 8, 2015