Dick Durbin isn’t sure if a federal media shield law should ensure Constitutional protection for bloggers and citizen journalists, The Daily Caller pointed out in its analysis of the Illinois senator’s appearance on Fox News Sunday.
“[T]he media shield law, which I am prepared to support … still leaves an unanswered question, which I have raised many times: What is a journalist today in 2013?,” Durbin offered. “We know it’s someone that works for Fox or AP, but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who is tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection? We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision that was written over 200 years ago.”
That’s a familiar argument for those who claim the Founders only intended to protect muskets, and leaves open the door to regulate everything not written with a quill pen or printed on a hand-operated press. And one needs look no further than Durbin’s arrogant dismissal of conservative journalist William Kelly to see how he would answer his own question (not to mention how media he does recognize covered for him).
The “shield law” proposed by the Obama administration earlier this month after coming under fire for subpoenaing Associated Press reporter phone records is the Free Flow of Information Act, a bill that stalled in 2009 without further action, and that the Freedom of the Press Foundation says “could actually make it easier for the government to get journalists’ sources.” Fox News Senior Political Analyst Britt Hume also points out, it “would not have stopped either AP or @JamesRosenFNC subpoenas/warrants.”
But the key objection, articulated by James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal, is that “government should not determine who is a journalist.
“The problem I have with shield laws is the shield law would have to apply only to real journalists,” Taranto stated. “Who decides what a real journalist is? It puts the government in the position of licensing the media.”
The danger of “Authorized Journalists” is a theme this column has repeatedly raised, bringing the term over from The War on Guns blog where it originated. In recent months, the administration has advanced its preference for such distinctions with Vice President Joe Biden’s introduction of the term “legitimate media” to describe press supporters of federal “gun control” efforts — and presumably to exclude non-supportive media.
The liberty-chilling issues such an arrogant and presumptuous concept presents have been illustrated many times by this correspondent over the years, beginning with a threat of arrest made for asking a question of a political figure at a public event while representing a “non-approved” periodical.
Another example was ATF trying to assert its authority to determine who is or is not a legitimate journalist in another case reported on The War on Guns, where the Bureau actually filed a court complaint charging “harassment and intimidation” for being photographed by a citizen documenting and disseminating information on its public activities.
Further illustrating the cavalier use of intimidation the government feels it can employ against “bloggers,” as opposed to media outlets with clout, War on Guns shared a warning issued to it by a federal marshal invoking federal statutes against threatening and intimidating public officials, prompting an open letter daring him to give it his best shot. Sometimes, the best protection limited resources can provide is the banging of pots and pans.
That an agenda-driven press, for the most part deliberately indifferent if not overtly hostile to the right to keep and bear arms, and oftentimes so ignorant of the subject matter and technical details as to unwittingly make fools of themselves in front of those who know better, should be singled out for preferred government treatment is hardly a surprise. After all, it’s not just what they cover and how they cover it that plays to the advantage of the political elites, oftentimes what is not reported is of equal benefit to both parties.
As for “unauthorized” citizen journalists?
Think who it was who not only filed the initial reports on Fast and Furious “gunwalking,” but who cajoled and wheedled and begged for almost two months to get the media and political establishment to notice. Now recall who did not think the story was particularly noteworthy.
Reflect on the virtual media blackout for updates on the case of the Reese family. And then remember what they didn’t tell you about John Shipley, or David Olofson, or Lawrence Mirsky or many others.
And if you’ve never heard of Wayne Fincher, don’t blame me.
So naturally, Dick Durbin is going to raise doubts about whether #justablogger qualifies for recognition of the right to act as a government watchdog free from selective “legal” harassment while approved lapdogs are either asleep at the switch, basking in privileged access or unabashedly acting as water carriers for “progressive” causes. After all, consolidating the media into an appendage of the state is ever the way of functionaries like his May Day supporters once they achieve power, which, not coincidentally, is also about the time they ask the key and telling question “¿Armas para que?”
Unsurprisingly, that’s pretty much been Durbin’s position, too.
The thought strikes: The White Rose Society practiced unauthorized journalism.
The latest GUNS Magazine “Rights Watch” column is now online. Click here to read “Dodging a Bullet.”
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