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.
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