In ancient times, before we had the luxury of modern communication, messengers were often sent great distances to deliver news. Sometimes, when the news was bad, the messenger would incur the wrath of the person receiving the news, who was typically a powerful ruler.
To deter this type of behavior, it became an unwritten code of conduct between nations that harming the messenger wasn't a cool thing to do.
Later, the same sort of protection was extended to town criers, who were people charged with making public announcements in the streets as a main means of communication. This was before many people could read.
Since the town crier was often a target when the news took an unfortunate turn, it was common to pass laws to protect the crier from harm. That sounds like an excellent idea!
Communication has sure changed from ancient times to the 21st century, but human behavior is much the same. We're still shooting the messenger so to speak.
I say this after Hong Kong's most prominent media tycoon had his office raided and he was arrested on Monday. Jimmy Lai was taken into custody on the very questionable charge of Collusion with Foreign Forces. Of course most people realize the real reason behind the raid was the pro-democracy stance of Lai's media outlets.
We may enjoy democracy here in American, and the ability to express our thoughts somewhat freely, but this is not exactly embraced in Asia. Nor are comments that are critical of the Chinese government in Beijing.
A similar scene played out in the Middle East, also on Monday, when the Iranian government shut down a newspaper in Tehran. The newspaper had published a story from a health expert who said the government was lowballing its number of COVID cases and deaths, only reporting about 5% of the actual total.
The story was published on Sunday and the newspaper was shuttered on Monday. I guess that's one way to control the message that's getting out.
It doesn't take much of a leap to see how a similar approach is taking shape right here in America. Media offices aren't being raided by federal authorities, at least not yet, and newspaper aren't being shut down by the government, but a tense relationship seems to be developing.
Any story that might present a person in an unflattering light is immediately dubbed "fake news," not because the story is inaccurate but because that excuse has become an effective way to weasel out of a situation.
We've come a long ways from 250 B.C. in some respects, but not so much in others. No matter how much things have changed in more than 2,000 years, we still want to blame the messenger.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.