It’s Acts of Journalism that Matter Not People Called “Journalists”

It is the job of the Fourth Estate to act as a check and a restraint on the others, to illumine the dark corners of Ministries, to debunk the bureaucrat, to throw often unwelcome light on the measures and motives of our rulers. ‘News’, as Hearst once remarked, ‘is something which somebody wants suppressed: all the rest is advertising’. That job is an essential one and it is bound to be unpopular; indeed, in a democracy, it may be argued that the more unpopular the newspapers are with the politicians the better they are performing their most vital task.

– Brian R. Roberts from a October 29, 1955 article in the London periodical “Time & Tide”

Who is a journalist is a question we need to ask ourselves. Is any blogger out there saying anything—do they deserve First Amendment protection? These are the issues of our times.

– U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

I am extraordinarily bothered by the manner in which the oligarch gatekeepers in the mainstream media and elsewhere are attempting to discredit Glenn Greenwald by saying he is “not a journalist.” While the powers that be are extremely unenlightened and unwise by their nature, they are masters at the art of deception and maintaining their positions of power and status. Thus, whenever they are dealt a crushing blow, they will regroup and fight back in subtle, manipulative and clever ways.  It appears their primary strategy in fighting back against truth-tellers, whistleblowers and journalists in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations is by attempting to control the definition of the term “journalist.”  This way they can then proclaim who is a “real journalist” and who isn’t.  Of course, those crowned “real journalists” by the government and mainstream media will be well known statist lapdogs who would never publish anything embarrassing to their masters in power. Those who are not crowned “journalists” by the state will be hunted down to the ends of the earth like Julian Assange and Wikileaks.  We must nip this meme in the bud before it starts to spread and gain acceptance, because not only is it a total fraud, but it also represents a serious threat to the First Amendment.

When fascist Senator Lindsey Graham stated the quote at the top it sparked a well deserved firestorm.  Of all the commentary on it, I found the most powerful to be the following written by Mike Masnick at Techdirt.  He wrote:

As we’ve pointed out, there’s a simple way to solve that problem: just make the shield law cover acts of journalism rather than target journalists. Many people may not be journalists by profession, but still, at times, perform journalism. And it’s not that difficult to figure out which is which. Otherwise, you’re carving out a special class of people in an arena in which people doing the exact same thing would face different rules. 

And the problems of trying to carve out “journalists” instead of acts of “journalism” become pretty clear, pretty quickly. The last time the shield law concept was being debated, Senators Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein tried to add a carve out that made it clear that Wikileaks should not be protected by the law. And that should scare people. Because when the government can magically decide that this kind of journalism is protected, while that kind of journalism which embarrasses the government is not protected, then you no longer have freedom of the press. At all.

Those two paragraphs right there describe perfectly the manner in which we must protect freedom of speech and the press in these United States.  We must see the power structure’s propaganda early on and counter it with truth.  There is absolutely no need to define who is a “journalist” and who isn’t.  What must be protected and defended at all costs are “acts of journalism” not a class of people defined as “journalists.” If we merely do the latter, then we are falling onto a very slippery slope toward creating certain privileges for people that fall into a certain category rather than defending the act itself, which of course is the most important thing to protect.

As most of you know, David Gregory is at the center of the current irrelevant debate over who is a journalist and who isn’t.  Not only did he question whether Greenwald should be charged with a crime on Meet the Press, but he also had this to say:

GREGORY: Well, the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regards to what you’re doing. And of course anybody who’s watching this understands I was asking a question; that question has been raised by lawmakers, as well. I’m not embracing anything. But obviously, I take your point.

One of Gregory’s main points and the point being made by much of the establishment media is that to be called a journalist you must be neutral.  Interesting, because clearly David Gregory is the furtherest thing in the world from “neutral.”  He is a lapdog to the establishment and a gatekeeper for the powerful.  As Ben Cohen writes in The Daily Banter:

Gregory has been a journalist for over 20 years, and a major public figure for at least 10 of them. Gregory has never been involved in taking down a powerful figure or putting his career at risk to reveal information to the public. Just take a look at Gregory’s Wikipedia page. His career is one long tribute to corporate and political power – a perfect resume in the eyes of Washington’s elite. He covers presidential elections, gets exclusives with prominent politicians, is married to a federal prosecutor and sends his children to the same school as the Obamas. Gregory is so popular with the establishment that George W. Bush threw a birthday party for him during the 2000 election campaign.

Furthermore, if Gregory interviewed Obama on his show do you think he would ask: “So since all you’ve done since you took office has been lie to the citizenry and destroy the Constitution, should you be impeached?”  No, of course he wouldn’t.  So does that mean Gregory is not a “journalist?”  Who cares, the whole debate is a red herring.

Journalists should be protected, but not because of who they are or the title next to their name, but because they are engaged in acts of journalism. At the end of the day journalism is much like porn, hard to define but “you know it when you see it.” Whether you want to call Glenn Greenwald a journalist or not, what he did in the Edward Snowden affair was clearly an “act of journalism” and therefore must be protected and defended at all costs.

In Liberty,

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  1. The Philadelphia Aurora
    One paper in the nation’s capital, the Philadelphia Aurora, was particularly active in its denunciations of Adams. The Editor, William Duane, frequently had visits from Adam’s rough neck supporters who busted up his press, beat him in front of his family and arrested him for what he published.

    Upon taking the job of Editor of the Aurora after the death of Benjamin Franklin Bache in 1798, who died in during that year’s yellow fever epidemic, Duane very quickly gained the attention of the highest levels of the US government.
    Mere minutes after the assault he wrote this:

    “If any circumstance could more deeply impress on his mind . . . to guard, with vigilance of republican jealousy, against the artifices, the intrigues and injustice of arbitrary men; — this conduct would only more and more attack him to his principles — but he has never slackened since he has had the honor to hold his present situation — and while he holds it, his hand must perish or his vital principles must be suspended by the hand of some of those assassins before he will shrink from exposing villains and crimes to public obloquy.”

    Vice-president Thomas Jefferson writes:

    “[T]hese friends of order, these enemies of disorganization, assemble a second time to pull down the printing office of the young and amiable widow of the grandson of Benjamin Franklin. On the other hand, a body of real republicans, of men who are real friends of order, assemble in arms, and . . . mounted guard to protect the office of this widow, the person of the Editor, of his journeymen, his apprentices and his son. ”

  2. Dirty Wars author Jeremy Scahill: is journalism being criminalised? – video interview

    In the wake of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leak of NSA files, Jeremy Scahill, author of Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield and featured reporter in the new documentary film of the same name, says under the Obama administration journalists are being intruded upon and whistleblowers are being charged with crimes. Scahill is also a national security correspondent for the Nation

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