Durbin wonders: Does First Amendment apply to bloggers, Twitter?

posted at 3:01 pm on May 27, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Thanks to the Obama administration’s attacks on the Associated Press and its representation in federal court that Fox News’ James Rosen is a spy for asking questions, one has to wonder whether the First Amendment applies to anyone in the Age of Hope and Change.  Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Senator Dick Durbin whether Barack Obama’s promise to have Eric Holder look into cases of abuse that he personally approved represents a conflict of interest, but Durbin dodges that question and talks instead about the shield law proposed repeatedly over the last few years as the appropriate Congressional response to the scandal.  However, Durbin asks what exactly “freedom of the press” means in 2013, and wonders aloud whether it would include bloggers, Twitter users, and the rest of the Internet media:

Here’s what the First Amendment actually says: “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.”  Press at the time would certainly have meant newspapers, which were the high-tech information revolution of the day. It would also have included pamphleteers, perhaps even more than newspapers, as pamphleteers helped drive revolutionary sentiment.  Their modern-day analogs would arguable be bloggers and Twitter users, those who reported news and proclaimed opinions outside of the establishment press.

However, Durbin’s asking the wrong question.  The question isn’t who gets protected, but what.  Journalism is not an identity or a guild, but an action and a process — and anyone engaged in that activity must be treated equally before the law.  A shield law based on membership via employment in privileged workplaces or certified by guilds doesn’t protect journalism, it becomes rent-seeking behavior that ensures that only the large players get protected, as I wrote ten days ago.

Durbin’s question isn’t even the biggest non-sequitur in this argument.  The biggest non-sequitur is the shield law itself, which wouldn’t have even addressed the Rosen or AP situation.  And considering that the Obama administration ignored existing statutes in both cases, why should we believe they would obey a shield law when it got in their way?

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You need training to be a journalist. What your distinguish as “good journalism” is the baseline. Getting the facts right is impossible for the untrained.

Capitalist Hog on May 27, 2013 at 3:44 PM

This is easily the most ludicrous statement I’ve heard in a long while. (It follows shortly after Hillary Clinton’s “What Does It Matter!?” speech.) That it is apparently made with a straight face only shows how far journalism has become removed from presenting “facts.”

Facts are. It’s as simple as that. Facts may conflict. For example, Person A says he saw X while Person B says he saw Y, yet they were both looking at the same event. However it is also possible that both are correct, just observed at different points in time or positions.

What so-called journalists think they need to “get right” is the “interpretation/presentation/spin” of the facts. More accurate and detailed reporting would resolve that . . . but then it would be harder to create the desired impression.

EdmundBurke247 on May 28, 2013 at 2:24 PM

It would also have included pamphleteers, perhaps even more than newspapers, as pamphleteers helped drive revolutionary sentiment. Their modern-day analogs would arguable be bloggers and Twitter users….

Yeah, I’ve only said the same thing about a dozen times in the last month or so.

“The Press” wrote themselves into the first amendment, the way liberals do, as a protected group.

How stupid this construction would be?

prohibiting the free exercise thereof [exercise of religion, an action]; or abridging the freedom of speech [not “speakers”, but speech, an action], or of the press [a select group of professionals or a group of sufficiently financed organs?]; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble [general actions from here on out], and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Face it they were much more rhetorically sound in those days, they would understand that, given the parallelism, it much more likely to be read as the freedom of everybody to publish without restriction from the federal government, then to be the only item in the list that refers to a select cadre in a certain profession or organizations who pay for their services.

This equivocation is an anathema to first amendment liberties.

Axeman on May 28, 2013 at 2:30 PM

Capitalist Hog on May 27, 2013 at 3:20 PM

“Journalism” isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. “Press” is. One has to admit that one can press a pamphlet that is less than “journalism”, yet again, pamphleteers were included.

Axeman on May 28, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Seems the only article of or amendment to the Constitution that Democrats embrace anymore is the 5th (and I suspect even that’s a short-term affair).

Blacklake on May 28, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Getting the facts right is impossible for the untrained.

Capitalist Hog on May 27, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Then why would journalists ever interview anybody but other journalists, why interview untrained “witnesses” when they can’t possibly get the facts right? Perhaps the interview is the art of the journalist explaining to the witness what they actually observed?

A consistent train of thought is hard for the uninitiated.

Axeman on May 28, 2013 at 2:43 PM

You need training to be a journalist. What your distinguish as “good journalism” is the baseline. Getting the facts right is impossible for the untrained.

Capitalist Hog on May 27, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Easily one of the most idiotic statements I’ve read in a long, long time.
Only a craven leftist/liberal could have come up with this drivel.

Solaratov on May 28, 2013 at 3:02 PM

What part of ‘Congress shall make no law…” is this retard confused by? There is a good reason everyone refers to him a “Dick”

mouell on May 28, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Guess little dicky turbin needs to check with Pol Pot or a

Nazi.

Texyank on May 28, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Next up for Dicky, is the Pope really Catholic?

Axeman on May 28, 2013 at 3:45 PM

You need training to be a journalist. What your distinguish as “good journalism” is the baseline. Getting the facts right is impossible for the untrained.

Capitalist Hog on May 27, 2013 at 3:44 PM

A gem of stupid in a paragraph of utter nonsense.

Good job.

Did it take a lot of training to do that?

98ZJUSMC on May 29, 2013 at 6:55 AM

“Press” means the printed word, not merely reporters or journalists. It means freedom of
spoken and written word.
Have to take into context the useof the language at the time…there were no journalists, per say, just lots of opinion!
It’s the same with the terms “militia” or “well regulated”…the militia was normal men who got called up for specific battles then went back home, well regulated meant well equipped.

NHElle on May 29, 2013 at 7:30 AM

Easily one of the most idiotic statements I’ve read in a long, long time.
Only a craven leftist/liberal could have come up with this drivel.

Solaratov on May 28, 2013 at 3:02 PM

I agree. This turd is nothing but a communist. There was a time when men in America were churning out printed word to foment rev0lution.
I’m pretty sure some of them weren’t college educated.
What about the self made man?
And now there’s even more opportunity to write bcs you can educate yourself. The resources out there for that are readily available.
My cousin became an established potter BEFORE he went to college for it.
And he only went bcs he’d hit a brick wall in his learning & wanted to study under respected masters & that was the only way he could do it.

Being an elitist pr!ck actually interferes with objectivity, something our resident troll doesn’t seem to realize.

Badger40 on May 29, 2013 at 9:14 AM

Dick is an Academic Decathlon Winner.

What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Terp Mole on May 29, 2013 at 9:18 AM

This assclown has no business being in charge of a garbage dumb, let alone legislation.

RSbrewer on May 29, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Durbin, Schumer, and Pelosi walk into a bar…

SouthernGent on May 27, 2013 at 3:13 PM

You’d think after Durbin ran into it, the others would have the brains to go around.

Ok, maybe not. lol

S. D. on May 29, 2013 at 8:36 PM

Anybody this stupid should be disqualified from office. Do Illinois voters understand what this clown has in mind?

flataffect on May 29, 2013 at 11:23 PM

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