Freedom of Suppress
September 21, 2013
Posted by on
Who is a journalist? The US Senate thinks they can decide. So does the Legislature of the State of Michigan. While these bills have generated some unfavorable coverage, many established media outlets appear to be satisfied with these definitions. Yesterday, the US Senate apparently made some revisions, though insufficient in my opinion.
This is not new; the powerful have always tried to control dissemination of information, whatever the methods have been. In this country, we supposedly have strong protections against this sort of thing.
In the last 30-40 years, there has been an incredible shift in the ability to publicize information. Prior the internet, unless you could afford an expensive printing operation or television/radio broadcast equipment, you effectively could not self-publish. Today, I can do so with relatively little cost, even for free with use of public-access computers and free online services.
In the span of about half of one average lifetime, we have shifted from a small, limited percentage of people who could publish to the point where anyone and everyone can. You are, in fact, reading amateur editorial journalism right now. Every time you make a Facebook post or Tweet could be considered a journalistic statement. I shall leave the judgment of the quality of said statements as an exercise for the reader, but point out that quality or popularity of the message is not a legitimate reason to limit it.
So what do these attempts to limit who is a journalist for this purpose or that mean to you? It means that if Senator Feinstein today wants to deem some people unworthy of journalism shield protections, that tomorrow Senator A. Hole might want to codify limits on the protections for satirical facebook posts. It means that if Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton today wants to deem certain people unable to get immediate access to public accident reports, that tomorrow Representative D. Bag might want to codify into law limits on what statements or information is made available to journalists they don’t agree with regarding the oversight of programs affecting every single American.
It means that if you support these people today, that tomorrow the protection of discussing publicly something you believe in profoundly and deeply may be jeopardized by the powerful and connected. It means the progress these people make today towards the goal of limiting rights of certain individuals or groups makes it that much easier for people like them to target you tomorrow. Don’t wait for your turn to come to do something because then it will be far too late.