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Unexamined Premises

Freedom for Me, Not for Thee

July 9th, 2013 - 3:16 pm
durbin

I’d like to address my valets in the media

That would be First Amendment freedom. And, to listen to Dick Durbin talk about it, the senator from Illinois — you know, the one who didn’t become president five minutes after he won his seat — the First Amendment applies to real journalists, not you unwashed lot, with your grubby blogs and your cell-phone cameras and your Twitter accounts. Sen. Dick means real journalists — you know, like David Gregory. The kind who can get away with breaking the law because they’re Journalists and you’re not — which is apparently why they need shield laws and you don’t. Folks employed by big-time news organizations (although most of them aren’t as big-time as they once were). You know, the kinds of reporters and editors the Founders had in mind when they wrote the words:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Except, of course, they didn’t.

In the freewheeling media environment of the mid/late 18th century, just about anything went. True, there were newspapers aplenty, frankly partisan affairs that advocated instead of reported. But there was also the contemporary equivalent of modern bloggers — rabble-rousers like Tom Paine, the British-born troublemaker and pamphleteer who provided much of the intellectual fodder for the American Revolution in works such as Common Sense. Like bloggers today, Paine was a pain in the ass, forever complaining about how underpaid and overworked he was, and mad at the world that his genius was not better appreciated and remunerated:

Often tactless, Paine provoked considerable controversy. He was invariably hard-pressed for money and had to depend upon the generosity of his American friends and the occasional reward from the French envoy in America. When the War came to an end, his financial position was so precarious that he had to campaign to obtain recompense from the government. Congress eventually rewarded him $3.000. Pennsylvania granted him £500 in cash, while New York proved more generous and gave him a confiscated Loyalist farm at New Rochelle.

After American independence had been won, Paine played no part in the establishment of the new republic. Instead, he busied himself trying to invent a smokeless candle and devising an iron bridge.

And when that didn’t pan out, Paine hied himself off to France, where he threw himself into another revolution, in which he almost lost his head. He died, penniless, on his farm at New Rochelle.

A real Paine

A real Paine

Would Durbin consider Paine a journalist? Of course not; he’d consider him an enemy of the state. Here’s how the guy Rush calls Little Dick defines journalists:

Here is the bottom line – the 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? 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?

When you hear a hack pol like Durbin bruit the issue of who’s “entitled” to constitutional protection, you know the fix is in. For today’s media happily occupies one side of the bed of the Democrat-Media Complex (in the late Andrew Breitbart’s famous formulation), a cozy racket in which each side protects and nourishes and pleasures the other. As the Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, wrote the other day:

Sen. Dick Durbin thinks it’s time for Congress to decide who’s a real reporter. In the Chicago Sun-Times last week, he wrote: “Everyone, regardless of the mode of expression, has a constitutionally protected right to free speech. But when it comes to freedom of the press, I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections those journalists should receive.”

How do you decide who is a journalist? Essentially, he says, it’s someone who gets a paycheck from a media organization: “A journalist gathers information for a media outlet that disseminates the information through a broadly defined ‘medium’ — including newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, magazine, news Web site, television, radio or motion picture — for public use. This broad definition covers every form of legitimate journalism.”

Does it really? Every form?

The ability to publish inexpensively, and to reach potentially millions of people in seconds, has made it possible for people who’d never be able to — or even want to — be hired by the institutional press to nonetheless publish and influence the world, much like 18th century pamphleteers.

What Durbin wants is what Durbin already knows and — back home in Chicago and at the national level in Washington — already has: sycophants, toadies, bum-smoochers and throne-sniffers. And what he doesn’t want is anything that upsets the Jake Lingle-run applecart that keeps NBC and its satellites firmly in the orbit of the Chicago politicians who pay their salaries. Durbin may be using the words “journalist” and “journalism,” but what he means is Establishment Journalism, which oddly enough is populated by the same kinds of people who currently populate government. They’ve all gone to the same schools and today live in the same neighborhoods, and they easily move back and forth between “journalism” and government service, as if they were the same thing. Which to them, they are.

And which does not affect their coverage at all. Not even a little bit.

Yukking it up with the hired help

Yukking it up with the hired help

I do not think “citizen journalism” is necessarily the miracle cure some consider it to be. I spent a year conceiving and executing the website Big Journalism with, and for, Breitbart, and my greatest difficulty there was trying to make him see that not everything about traditional journalism was a leftist plot. (I totally failed.) Today there remain some websites on the right that I simply do not either believe or trust, and I expect you can figure out which ones those are: they are marked by amateurish writing, shoddy reporting, and misapprehension of facts and circumstances that more experienced hands would instantly grasp. Further, there is something called “news judgment” — what is and what is not a story, which varies from editor to editor but which is vital to any institution, from the New York Times down to the lowliest blog, for it to have any credibility and influence.

But it doesn’t matter whether “citizen journalism” is better or worse than traditional journalism. All that matters is that it exists, and thus provides an alternative to what we have. Even with its flaws in style and methodology, blogging and tweeting have still brought us to a better place, information-wise, than we were during  the “Progressive” era, when men like Walter Lippmann began the process of blending journalism with government to create one gigantic “expert” racket — for our own good. Here’s Lippman in a notorious passage from his book Public Opinion (1921):

It is argued that the problem of the press is confused because the critics and the apologists expect the press to realize this fiction, expect it to make up for all that was not foreseen in the theory of democracy, and that the readers expect this miracle to be performed at no cost or trouble to themselves. The newspapers are regarded by democrats as a panacea for their own defects, whereas analysis of the nature of news and of the economic basis of journalism seems to show that the newspapers necessarily and inevitably reflect, and therefore, in greater or lesser measure, intensify, the defective organization of public opinion.

My conclusion is that public opinions must be organized for the press if they are to be sound, not by the press as is the case today. This organization I conceive to be in the first instance the task of a political science that has won its proper place as formulator, in advance of real decision, instead of apologist, critic, or reporter after the decision has been made. I try to indicate that the perplexities of government and industry are conspiring to give political science this enormous opportunity to enrich itself and to serve the public. And, of course, I hope that these pages will help a few people to realize that opportunity more vividly, and therefore to pursue it more consciously.

(Emphasis mine.)

Organizing opinions for the press is precisely what apparatchiks like Durbin are up to. To them, everything is a patronage game. Snuggled up against David Axelrod, Durbin thinks he’s living in high clover — protected from the consequences of his own corruption and stupidity by the likes of MSNBC’s very own administration mouthpiece/media Svengali.

They say that every man is a hero to his dog, but that no man is a hero to his valet. For decades, Democrat politicians have endeavored to reconcile those two opposites, by turning their valets in the media into their dogs. How well they’ve succeeded is in print and on the air for all to see and hear. How it galls them that just as they’ve finally seduced the Legacy Media, along comes this grubby upstart, pissing on their shoes and then refusing to shine them.

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Top Rated Comments   
I do have to say that I am not sure how it happened, be it the canonization of Obama or the dramatic increase in web news, but never before in my lifetime have I ever been struck more by the fact that many in Congress are as dumb as dog sh*t and a downright humiliation. Durbin is just another weenie in the parade of buffoons.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
IIRC, Durbin was among the Democrats who publicly called out to the IRS to apply special scrutiny to conservative groups.

At what point can we call his behavior treasonous or at least anti=American?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Durbin is looking for a Dicky-Wiki to attach to his political "enemies"...which for an Illinois politician includes anyone who might testify as a witness truthfully under oath.

After all, the greatest record in all of Illinois politics rivals Dimaggio's 57 game hitting streak, John Wooden's compiled W-L record and Oscar Robertson's average of a triple double for a career...that being...any Illinois politician who served at least one term as governor and none in an orange jumpsuit.

But, Dicky the Pooh's wants to make a Dicky-Wicky for "journOlista"...someone who, I suppose can tamper with material evidence like NBC or ABC, can wallow in forged documents like CBS, can fabricate stories out of whole cloth and photoshop like Reuters and the AP, can be openly anti-Semetic like the BBC, or can shill for socialism like Newsweek and...well, ....all of the Agenda Media.

As an arm of the Democratic Party ambidextrous sophistry...the Agenda Media alternates its switch-hitting proclivities...hit pieces on non-leftists and puff pieces for leftist politicians and their drooling groupie fan base.

A Dicky-Wiki outlining what is a "journalist"...appears to be anyone willing to completely ignore the laughable Code of Journalistic Ethics.

Our Constitution is in the very best of hands. Just ask MSNBC.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (39)
All Comments   (39)
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Well, Dick Durbin's views are nonsensical if for no other reason, the First Amendment could NOT have been written with "real journalists" in mind, because they simply didn't exist. Prior to the telegraph and replacement of hand presses with machinery, going beyond political hack newspapering and pampleteering simply wasn't possible. It wasn't until the early 19th Century and the turn of the 20th Century that you started getting real news organizations and the notion of balanced and fair reporting.

And yes, I fully agree with Michael Walsh that the founding of things like the New York Times (the Henry Raymond version, not the socialist rag that has been a disgrace and insult to its founder from the 20th Century on) and AP/UPI was mainly a positive thing, and some journalist standards are not a bad thing. I think Breibart's contempt for everything in professional journalism has some parallel to the situation in which Thomas Jefferson and James Madison struggled against Baptist preachers being jailed because they didn't have theology degrees like the established denominations like the Church of England (which played a large part in the eventual drafting of the First Amendment). The difficulty was like Breibart, the Primative Baptists threw the baby out with the bathwater in despising ALL education, which contributed much to the social dysfunction that afflicted Appalachia for decades, and made Abraham Lincoln a skeptic in his youth and kept him from being a creedal Christian until the day he died. However, I do fully agree the ideal world is to have both citizen journalism and professional journalism present, to keep each other on their toes and honest.

What would have made the Founders absolutely livid was today's notion that the press and government would be monopolized by and for an elite class. I think it's long past time that the families of real America out there start questioning why they should attach ANY credibility, and waste their precious time and consumer dollars to outlets peopled by eliists who consider their audience the great unwashed, and have no sympathy with their concerns or convictions.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As someone from Illinois, state motto, " will the defendant please rise," Durbin has been an embarrassment since he was elected. Unfortunately, this state has such stupid voters he will stay in office as long as he wants. Can't wait to move out of this state when my daughters get out of school.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No we don't wonder, we abhor it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
‘Little Dick Durban’ - you have to love the title.
The ’not so bright’ -‘race card players’ - paint this slime as a hero - and the Democratic dregs will keep putting him back into office until enough of his supporters get education and strength of character to see him for what he is a - ‘Little Dick Durban’ !
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mark Levin has given Dick Durbin the name "Little Dick", not Rush Limbaugh.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To this day I am astonished by how far back Walter Lippmann goes. 1921! That was the height of the Progressive Era, and Lippmann was right in the middle of it.

Progressivism is an evil cult, and should be regarded as such. The fact that the term "progressive" has been revived baffles me. But I forget that most people do not know its origins or its original form. They inspired the two most monstrous political movements (Naziism and Communism) with all sorts of creepy ideas, and set America on an ultimately ruinous path.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Look - All the this nonsense can be put down to the Rouseau vs Locke.

Locke was the American Revolution and Rouseau was the French----And the Russian---And every revolution that ended up killing millions of people!

Rouseau sucks and Locke rocks! Period!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Amen and amen.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Maybe we should take the words that our Founders used as they were written. They did not write 'journalist', nor 'reporter' or 'essayist', they said the 'press', a press is a method of creating pages of printed material at the time. So, Our Founders, gave everyone the freedom of speech and also the right to write down their speeches and distribute them to people as printed material for whatever purpose. Tom Paine was one of these Patriots..... As was Ben Franklin. Freedom of the press means exactly what it says..
Durbin is just another skunk with the same scent as his brothers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
There are always politicians of all political pursuasions that upon achieving power try to eliminate the opposition. Progressives, almost by definition. After all that's their excuse for their grand plans not working - those pesky refuseniks.
However, history generally shows that the only thing keeping dictatorship in check is a strong opposition. Most rebellions eat their own.
Durban is a moron. Should his wish come true, iI hope he's one of the first put up against the wall.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your post doesn't address why Progressives seek to eliminate opposition. The reason is simple: it is a totalitarian ideology, and as such, can not tolerate differing views.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Little Dickie" says that journalists are only those news reporters who have government approval. Doesn't exactly sound like the free country that our Founders were seeking to establish. Maybe it is time to retire tgis idiot, and many more like him, out to pasture with the rest of the nags.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
His blathering indicates a preference for Pravda-type "news" organizations.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not out to pasture. The correct term is Out in the Pasture, this is where all of these Communist Progressives will find true peace... And thus, so will we, when they are resting there.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To tell the truth, the MSM probably need all the protection they can get - from us.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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