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The Media Maxim – Oliver DeMille

classicsThere is a rule called “The Media Maxim,” which tells us what is really going on our modern world and current events.

Most people have no idea how important this rule is.

The reason for this is simple. Most people don’t get their views on events from the right sources, and we don’t deeply think about things. Not as deeply as we should.

What am I talking about? Put simply: We don’t read enough original writings of the American founders and other great thinkers.

This is a lost focus in our generation. We can learn so much from this kind of reading, but we don’t do nearly enough of it.

Part of the reason is that the language the founders wrote in is challenging. It’s “older English” than most of us are used to, so we have to dig a little to understand each phrase and sentence.

But the worst this can do is make us think more deeply, and thinking is exactly what is needed more often in this generation.

For example, consider the following quote:

“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country [the United States], by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political considerations on accident and force.”

This sentence comes at the very beginning of the Federalist Papers, in Paper 1. There are a number of very important points in this single sentence. For example, it argues that there are three ways to choose a government:

  1. Accident
  2. Force
  3. Reflection and Choice

Not coincidentally, we get our media in the same three ways.

Which Are You?

Which way did you get your government? The easy answer for most people today is accident — “I was born in a certain nation, and I inherited the government.” Others might say, “Actually, I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. I am forced to follow the government of my nation, whether I like it or not.”

But while both of these are true for minors, none of them are true for adults living in a free society.

If you choose to stay in your nation, maintain your citizenship there, then you selected your government by choice. You could have left. You may still leave, in most cases.

If you are still here, you choose to be here, and you choose to accept this government — warts and all.


But the word that really interests me in all this is “reflection.” You may live under your current government by choice, but do you live under it by reflection?

This is a very deep, and important, question. When was the last time you “reflected” upon the structure and details of your constitution? On its strengths and flaws? On how, and in what ways, it is currently being followed and/or ignored by the government?

These are the kinds of things free people think about. They “reflect” on these sorts of ideas a lot. Every day. Several times a day.

It is clear that this was the case among a large number of people in the American founding era. It is also clear that this habit is less fashionable today.


What have you reflected on about your government today? Sadly, most modern Americans don’t do much reflection of this sort. If they do any, it is often a response to something frustrating in the news, not the result of proactive study and deep pondering about our freedoms.

Reflection of this kind may sound strange, but it is a staple in any truly free society.

The fact that it feels a bit alien to many modern Americans is a serious concern — further evidence that we are in decline.

We need more reflection about our freedoms. If this seems peculiar, it is proof that we need even more of it.

There is another key word in the Federalist quote above. The word is “depend.” A society that doesn’t “reflect” frequently on its freedoms and its government is doomed to “depend” on the government. This is our world today.

Here’s another quote from Federalist 1 to help us keep reflecting:

“[N]othing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties.”

Recall that our author was not careless with his words: Did he say “all” times? Yes. Not “sometimes,” not “at times,” but at “all” times.

Political parties create an intolerant spirit at “all” times, and according to Alexander Hamilton, “nothing is more ill-judged” for a free nation. Nothing! That’s worthy of reflection.

If we reflect on our current system, how can we not realize that our current party system is the biggest problem we face? It keeps us from making any real progress. No matter how good a solution, the party system can almost always find a way to kill it. And if we are a reflective people, we will soon turn our attention to how to fix this massive problem — the parties.

Next time you hear or read anything about government, good or bad, deeply consider how almost everything reported in the news is swayed by the political parties. Whatever we think is going on, the parties have added their spin to what we are told.

This leads us to what I call the Media Maxim: If you really want to understand what is going on in current events, read the classics, including the words of the founders. Then reflect.

This method will emphasize core principles, not fleeting events in the current news cycle. It will focus our mind on solutions, not on whatever news is sexiest or most marketable today. It will teach us more about what’s really happening in our world than any other media source.

Read the classics.

Then reflect.

Really think about what you read, and apply your thoughts to current events. Without this, it doesn’t matter very much which, or how many, news journals we read or listen to — our understanding will be shallow.

If we want to actually understand the world, especially the political realm that so powerfully influences our freedoms, we must have a deeper source than TV ratings.

Ten minutes of news along with twenty minutes of reading the classics and really pondering is worth so much more than an hour (or even five hours) of studying the current news.

Again, read the classics. Then reflect.

This is the media approach of wise leaders and truly free nations.


odemille Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.

Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.

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