Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

The great revolutionary idea at the time of our nation’s independence rubs against the grain of politics and “statecraft,” as practiced by khans, kaisers, and kleptocrats: divide and conquer, divide and rule. It is no wonder that the art of making legal distinctions is so often based not on human rights but governmental convenience.

Take the right of a free press.

The notion of open government has it that the right to participate in the dissemination of knowledge (particularly information about government) is to be an individual right. Modern Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws are a great example of government accommodation of this right.

But the Michigan House is now attempting to restrict access to state information by trying to set up a definition of journalist, making it easier for journalists to finagle data from government, harder for lone individuals. The state’s House Judiciary Committee just approved HB 4770, which does a number of things, including setting very particular definitions of terms like “newspaper” and “journalist.”

All the better to make the practice of publishing information about government more of a privilege than a right.

This was made even clearer at the federal level, by Senator Diane Feinstein, whose support for a new “shield law” to protect journalists is best understood by its limitations: bloggers, you don’t count. And she actually referred to a “special privilege” to publish. Not a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

Politicians like it when they have credentialed, easy-to-identify (and easier-to-manipulate) professional journalists to contend with.

Citizens with those rights? Why, it drives them crazy.

Crazy enough to try to codify what a “journalist” is, anyway.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Lynn A. Bloxham says:

    STELLAR! Could not resist the caps as this is not only spot on but in a few words you have captured the heart of freedom/ You have just shone a light on the dark corners where people are “hiding” who want to destroy this precious right with one of privilege.

  2. Jay says:

    I agree –partly. The reason partly–some ( a few? many? most?) bloggers might not know what they are talking about, and may (by accident or on purpose) make libelous statements.

    A case about 1 or 2 years ago illustrates this–(I believe it was in Oregon–or, if not, Washington State).

    A blogger, for reasons of her own, slandered (or is it libeled?) an attorney, (falsely, with no evidence) that he looted a bankrupt firm whose affairs he was handling. When he sued, the blogger said she was a “journalist” and therefore could (in essence) say what she wanted. She lost–but the blemish to this attorney’s name and reputation sticks-as once on the net-just stays there.

    I am sure that there are other cases, but this made it to the state’s highest court-which ruled against the blogger.

    In my view-cannot have it both ways–(I realize that the lame stream media often does the same, but few believe that anymore—even Obama is supposed to have said something to the effect, if he wants his views vindicated, he reads the N Y Times; he wants facts, reads The Wall Street Journal.

    if bloggers–my view–wanted to be treated like journalists-label facts as facts and opinion as opinion, and if are acting as a paid shill(perhaps a bad word) say so upfront. (There were some “celebrities” -a few years ago–at least on more or less local websites-suggesting using firm ABC for mortgage refinancing–without saying that they were being paid to do so, and probably could not spell FHA without help. ( A friend of mine had shown me the blog) (incidentally, the ” celebrity” knew zilch about mortgages. Almost as bad as the tv ads a few years ago, with the Miami Dolphin quarterback, making millions, talking about going to a local (Miami FL ) bank and getting great service when applying for a car loan. (off topic, I know)but at least one could see as an advertisement.

  3. JFB says:

    Journalists, bloggers, private citizen all should have their constitutional right to free speech, and its consequences, protected.
    The press should be free of all governmental restriction and, at common law, be responsible for what they publish.
    No cut out or defined groups.
    Generally a government for the people and by the people must be responsible to all the people.
    No special privileges or restrictions should be allowed or they will be shortly abused.

  4. Libel and slander laws are antithetical to a free society, which is why libertarians oppose them. People should be free to lie unless they have a contractual obligation not to do so.

  5. Jay says:

    in yesterdday’s JAMES TORANTO COLUMN (WSJ Opinion) there is a clarification of the law. Worth seeing.

    By the way, to mark Pickens–why (I know, lawyers and politicans do it all the time) should ANYONE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIE/LIBEL AND SLANDER ANYONE? RUIN SOMEONE’S REPUTATION, FOR SOME UTOPINA NEVER NEVER LAND?

    How would you like it if someone ( THIS IS HYPOTHEITICAL) said that you are a child molester; or sexual predator; or that you robbed the elderly in the practice of your profession? for no reason 9or, perhaps because the person spreading the rumor did not like you; or the way your lawn was; or your child wore strange clothes; or spoke-to whomever-in a foreign language, or any other reason? (I know many people, who while fluent in English, also, often speak to others in a foregin langguage.) One of my friends speaks 3 languages (including English) fluently, another 6 ( agan including English) . But yet, under your views, anyone could slander them because might overhear them speaking another language. or, part of a sentence.

    That is ridiculous. And with views like that, libertarians will keep, along with others, keep losing elections.

  6. Jay:

    If we think about this more deeply, we see that “reputation” is property of the person holding the opinion not of the person who is the subject of the opinion.

    What does “what I like” have to do with what is morally justified? I dislike churches. Is that sufficient reason to suppress them?

    How does the fact that people “win elections” make their opinions valid? Was the 18th Amendment legitimate because anti-alcohol fanatics won elections?

  7. Tree Dee says:

    Again, I am sitting here, dreamily
    imagining the end of the original film version of “Frankenstein”…..

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