In the wake of a relatively sluggish Super Bowl and paltry halftime show, The Washington Post aired a commercial that told America something worth reiterating.
"When we go off to war. When we exercise our rights. When we soar to our greatest heights," Tom Hanks narrated. "When we mourn and pray. When our neighbors are at risk. When our nation is threatened. There's someone to gather the facts. To bring you the story. No matter the cost. Because knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free."
Now, and more than ever before, it is important to understand the fundamental role a free press plays in a democracy. With the media under attack every day, it seems as if we are descending into a rabbit hole of falsehoods on the daily.
The ad features scenes from pivotal moments in recent history, from D-Day, the moon landing and 9/11. It also puts a human face on the dangers of journalism, including Marie Colvin, who was assassinated in 2012 by the Syrian government, and of course Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by Saudi Arabia this past year.
The ad's main punchline is this, and a tremendous one at that: the pen is mightier than the sword.
The press is a check on tyranny in the sense that it exists to hold those in power accountable. The facts we know as true throughout history, whether it be the events shown in the ad or today's blustery world of politics, is all due in part to the strenuous job of journalism, which can at times be risky.
Without a free press, therefore, we cannot be free. When we have an administration showing fascist tendencies like calling the media the "enemy of the people" and revoking press credentials of reporters, it is setting a dangerous precedent that is notoriously easy to use to manipulate the masses.
Now, I know that sounds Orwellian, but the fact is that this is the dilemma journalists are facing, if not already, every day. And though this ad has come with some controversy, it echos a biblical verse more appropriate than ever:
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32
That's exactly right. The truth will set us free.