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Marcy Wheeler and Freedom of the Press

Among our most precious freedoms is Freedom of Speech and especially its public expression, Freedom of the Press, both enshrined in the First Amendment, described as: "Our blueprint for personal freedom and the hallmark of an open society."

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Few individuals have sacrificed so much, nor worked so tirelessly in its free expression, in my view, as Marcy Wheeler, who blogs as emptywheel. Without any more (till now) than her free time, her computer and a commendable group of faithful followers, she has exposed and carefully documented many issues over the years, but none so consequential as her current efforts to trace the memos, players, and events surrounding the bush regime’s interlocked crimes and misdemeanors – with regard to torture, a war of aggression in Iraq, secret renditions, and the secret, pernicious machinations underlying them.

And why do I bring this up today? Because today in New York Ms. Wheeler receives a prestigious award for her journalistic endeavors, an award she richly deserves.

But it’s not the sole reason for this blog. This blog is a tribute to free speech and to this one woman, Ms. Wheeler, who chooses to maintain her independence in order to speak freely. In order to write freely.

At this point I imagine that Marcy could command a great sum, working for some media empire. But she chooses not to do that. She chooses instead to depend upon the donations of people who view her work as vital to our current efforts to unearth, investigate, and bring redress for crimes committed by the highest officials of the land. She may have other ends in mind. But of that one I am certain.

I do not know Marcy Wheeler in person. But I think I have read enough and observed enough to draw some positive conclusions about her and her work. Enough to have donated twice already to help fund her efforts. Enough to donate a third time. In honor of those efforts, on this day of public honor for her and her work.

Marcy, emptywheel, EW for short, has a Ph.D. in what I would term political literature – the kind of underground political writing that circulated in Eastern Europe before they separated from Russia and became democracies. She’s a careful reader. She can read between the lines. She meticulously documents her discoveries and analyzes them with reference to other events, persons, and political currents. She is open to new ideas and new information. She has inspired others to assist her and she maintains a single-minded focus on her goals, writing blogs, sometimes at such a fast clip it takes your breath away. Responding to comments in the threads, encouraging deeper digging by those who read and comment there. Exercising, though longtime followers, both an openness to new readers, a focus on the work, and an ability to keep distractions to a minimum. It’s a very healthy, open system at her blog, and I think I have some professional expertise to make that judgment.

So I write to praise Marcy Wheeler. I write to praise her many abilities. But above all, I write to praise her selflessness, her ability to resist selling herself to the highest bidder, her focus, in short, on freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Her blog, in my view, being her press. In a day when many of the so-called "best and brightest" demand rights beyond the common person, Marcy stands out. She is not an "elitist" – thank god! She can’t be bought! Thank god for that too.

So if you are a lover of freedoms – as am I – if you esteem those who seek to exercise and defend our freedoms, if you prize writing which is free of any constraints save the truth and a desire that the truth be told, investigated, and justice upheld, then I invite you this very day to join with me in assisting Marcy’s work in whatever way you can. Perhaps you can only add your voice to this thread. Or perhaps you can open your wallet and make a donation here.

Marcy Wheeler intends to spend the next year focused solely on this work. She will do this without funds from any source that could taint her work. She will do some traveling, to blog at Congressional hearings for example. She will hire an assistant. That’s it. She is one driven lady! And I stand in awe not just of her talents and her drive, but of her selfless dedication to writing freely. Her dedication to bringing to light what has been hidden. What has tarnished this nation in so many ways. One person – trying to do her civic duty.

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