Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The threat to our country is on the streets masked and violent

The Mobs in Our Streets and Our Mission

As expected, Olivia was a pro—she captured what she could over the course of an hour, filed an incident report with the NYPD, and then sat down to publish this account of what happened. The next day, she was hard at work on her next story. 

But it’s worth pausing on this moment—when our brilliant colleague was harassed for doing her job—to remind you of our mission, of the stakes of that mission, and also to explain why, over the past eight months, we’ve devoted so many resources to covering the fallout from October 7 not just in the Middle East but across the West.

From our earliest days—back when we were Common Sense, shout-out to the OGs that have been here since the start—we have had a clear north star. The Free Press exists to report on the world as it actually is. We do so with doggedness and independence. And we deliver to our readers the quality once expected from the legacy press, but with the fearlessness of the new. 

To us, that mission is as old-school as it gets. But we accept that in our upside-down moment, it can seem controversial or radical. That’s ok by us. We focus on our journalism.

The way we do our work is straightforward: we stick to our principles no matter what. We have a list of them. Today felt like a good day to share them with you:

Honesty: We seek and report the truth. We tell it plainly when we uncover it, even when it’s politically inconvenient.

Curiosity: For others, curiosity has become a liability. At The Free Press, we believe an open mind is fundamental to doing good journalism. 

Respect: We assume good faith. We treat each other, our readers, and our sources with the utmost respect. 

Hard Work: Great journalism takes hard work, and we embrace it. We require the old-fashioned reporter skill set—empathy, courage, ingenuity, and drive—from everyone on our team.

Independence: We are proudly not a political monolith. Independence isn’t just a journalistic value for us; it’s also fundamental to the way we are building our business. 

Excellence: We take tremendous pride in being best-in-class. We have faith that success will follow if we focus relentlessly on delivering an excellent product to our audience every day.

Common Sense: We encourage each other to think for ourselves and change our minds when we encounter new information.

Belief in the American Project: Our reporting and opinion can be harshly critical of our country and its leaders, but that is because we believe deeply in America and its promise. We prize the distinctions between democracy and dictatorship, good and evil, the rule of law and mob rule, freedom and unfreedom. 

It is those last points—about the distinction between the rule of law and mob rule, about the bright line between freedom and unfreedom—that take me back to what happened to our reporter yesterday in Union Square.

That incident was not about Israel or Gaza. It was about an assault—now daily—on the most basic norms of our culture.

Are we going to become a country in which journalists are regularly surrounded and threatened for doing their jobs? Are we going to become a place in which marauding bands of masked young people harass Jewsvisiting a memorial for the 364 Israelis murdered at a music festival? Because that happened yesterday too. Are we going to become a place where it is normal for people to get on the subway and declare: “Raise your hands if you’re a Zionist. This is your chance to get out.” Yes, also yesterday. Or where police and security guards are regularly assaulted in the course of doing their jobs? (See this from UCLA last night.)

My point here is that anyone trying to convince you that this is about a faraway war, or that the anger in our streets is mostly because Benjamin Netanyahu is the current Israeli prime minister—anyone who insists this is a Jewish issue—is deluding you and themselves. So are those who comfort themselves by insisting that this will pass by like some idiot wind. It will not. 

This is about a choice we face. A choice about what kind of country we want to be—and what kind of country we are at risk of becoming. The only way to understand that is to listen to what these protesters say they want. And what they are shouting for—what they openly desire—is not peace, but terror. 

If we had just read Twitter or the headlines in many major newspapers about peace protesters, we wouldn’t have understood that. It was only by getting out into the streets, by listening carefully and documenting plainly, that we were able to make sense of what was really unfolding—and helped us understand the stakes.

That, in the end, is the reason that we have published so much about the war that began in Israel on October 7—and that began spreading across the West on October 8. We don’t plan to stop. 

So if you believe in what we are doing at The Free Press—and if the principles we hold ourselves to resonate with you—please consider supporting our work. 

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