Dick Durbin’s Dangerous Idea

Politicians think in terms of institutions. If you identify yourself as an individual, a mere citizen, pfft: you’re nothing. But say you are from a lobbying group, or a government bureau, or a news organization — suddenly you matter.

That’s even how they interpret the Constitution.

They are wrong.

Back in May, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin expressed doubt whether “bloggers, or ‘someone who is Tweeting,’ should be given media shield rights.” He believes a big unanswered question looms:

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?

Durbin thinks he’s both clever and profound to ask “21st century questions about a provision in our Constitution that was written over 200 years ago.”

But he is actually missing the whole enchilada, the point of the Constitution.

First, our two-century old freedoms don’t have an expiration date. Second, individuals have rights, not “institutions.” And not because we belong to a group. Either everyone has a basic right, or no one does.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds countered Durbin’s institutional prejudice with a fine piece in the New York Post, where he takes a common sense position: “a journalist is someone who’s doing journalism, whether they get paid for it or not.”

Reynolds reminds us that, in James Madison’s time, “it was easy to be a pamphleteer . . . and there was real influence in being such.”

Just so for today’s Tweeters and bloggers.

Hey: as far as I’m concerned, you’re being a journalist just for commenting on this at ThisIsCommonSense.com.

I’m Paul Jacob.

13 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jul
    9
    8:28
    AM
  2. Jul
    9
    8:40
    AM
    Paulina West

    Some men are endowed by their Congressmen with certain institutional rights.” lol

  3. Jul
    9
    8:48
    AM
    Ron Lance

    When I was a kid they used to stand on “soap boxes” in a park or on a corner and spout their beliefs about any subject. Some would have a crowd around them and some wouldn’t.

  4. Jul
    9
    9:51
    AM
    2WarAbnVet

    A more pertinent question would be – are you really a senator if you’re Dick Durbin?

  5. Jul
    9
    12:57
    PM
    John Mattacola

    Dick Durbin is guilty…For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

  6. Jul
    9
    1:54
    PM
    D. Bell

    Durbin is not the brightest bulb in the box. It was Durbin’s speech at the dedication of the Abraham Lincoln library in Springfield, Illinois where he suggested that Lincoln must have been Jewish. That’s because his name was Abraham and he was shot in the temple. The shocked silent audience of several thousand included the three former Presidents who were sitting behind Durban on the stage. What a doofus!

  7. Jul
    9
    5:09
    PM
    MingoV

    “… you’re being a journalist just for commenting on this…”

    No, you’re publicizing your opinion. Journalists investigate (hopefully) and report news.

    But, the “freedom of the press” portion of the first amendment certainly applies to expressing opinions in print (including electronic “print”). The press is comprised of everyone who publishes; the Constitution never mentions journalists or newspapers.

  8. Jul
    10
    12:28
    AM
    Edward Agazarm

    Dick Durbin is a public embarrassment.

    There! No I am a journalist.

  9. Jul
    10
    12:30
    AM
    Edward Agazarm

    But NOW that I am a journalist my typing must improve! LOL

  10. Jul
    10
    1:52
    AM
    Jooe Geshel

    I have often considered what or who is a journalist. Journalists have claimed First Amendment protections as enshrined in the Constitution, and rightly so. Journalists are individual persons just like me. So, we all are journalists if we write or speak. Now we know. Dick Durbin still has some learning to do.

  11. Jul
    10
    8:42
    AM
    Glockgemini

    Saying that the individual is not covered by the first amendment because he is not a paid journalist is like saying a person is not covered by the second amendment because he is not a paid LEO or soldier.
    I think the socialist would like both of these.

  12. Jul
    10
    12:15
    PM
    Jay

    I disagree–some (not all) bloggers STATE OPINION AS FACT (also, some bloggers push products or services-using their “reputation” as a badge-without saying that they are paid (or employed) by the firms for the products that they are promoting.

    There was a case on this very issue I think about a year ago–a blogger– WITH NO EVIDENCE TO BACK HER CLAIMS, WROTE THAT AN ATTORNEY LOOTED A BUSINESS THAT HE WAS REPRESENTING. HE SUED AND WON.

    The blogger claimed First Amendment rights-and had she said (my guess) in her opinion the attorney——, would have been safe. But she stated as fact.

    I am aware that many so-called journalists do the same-especially in such organizations as Reuters and AP, but I doubt many people even listen to them.

    If a blogger wants to be a journalist, then he or she should write facts as facts, or if an opinion, so state.

  13. Jul
    14
    11:01
    AM
    Tree Dee

    Durbin? AGAIN?

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