Dissing the First Amendment

It is truly astonishing that 23 sitting Congressmen — people elected by us to represent our will in matters pertaining to laws and the government thereof — could come up with something so blatantly irresponsible and foolhardy as to threaten a news outlet for its perspective. That’s exactly what happened this week when these folks, including such ranking members as Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D‑Ill., Rep. John Conyers, D‑Mich., and Rep. Pete Stark, D‑Calif, sent a letter to Rupert Murdoch asking him to explain his friendliness with Republicans. “The responsibility of the media is to report the news in an unbiased, impartial and objective manner,” the letter to Murdoch reads. A UPI report on the letter includes this stunning paragraph.

A spokesman for Rep. Bernie Sanders, I‑Vt., said there were legislative avenues that the group could pursue as a secondary measure but declined to speculate on what those might be.

Jeff Jarvis puts it better than I possibly could.

Here are members of Congress acting as if there is a law that media — not just news — has a responsibility to be unbiased, impartial and objective. And they practically threaten Murdoch with the force of law.

This is why I object so strenuously to FCC regulation of speech and media, whether that is Howard Stern or FoxNews, whether that’s what you can hear on the radio or next see on cable or next read on the Internet. It’s none of government’s business to regulate what we say. That’s why we have a First Amendment, remember?

Rupert Murdoch starts a station that has a viewpoint and he puts it on cable, which — remember — is not under the control of the FCC.

If these guys don’t like that, then what about AirAmerica, which is on public airwaves, which are regulated by the government? If they think government should regulate what Murdoch can say on cable, don’t they realize that they set the precedent for government to regulate what AirAmerica says on broadcast… or what you and I say on the Internet.

Dangerous twits.

I’ve written often about people like this who misunderstand the First Amendment and its roots. Folks, it wasn’t written to protect facts or the silly notion of objectivity. It’s there to protect argument and opinion. ‘Nuff said.

Now for an unsolicited endorsement. Jeff’s blog, Buzzmachine, is one everybody should have on their RSS reader. Jarvis is an unusual animal in the political scene, a liberal hawk. If there ever is to be a 3rd party in the U.S. that speaks for the vast majority of people, it will be somewhere along the lines of Jeff’s thinking. And if I could view only one Weblog each day, it would be his. The guy has a practical common sense that I can’t find anywhere else, and his leadership in the area of citizen’s media and participatory journalism is appreciated and highly respected by those of us in the blogosphere who care about such.


  1. You make excellent points, and so does Jarvis.

    I’m absolutely furious at the Boston Globe right now. They have a paid (by Kerry) Kerry biographer reporting on the campaign.

    I honestly wouldn’t care if they’d simply have the guy own his perspective. Putting him out there pretending to be “objective” is insulting, puerile, and thoroughly disgusting.

    In other words, it’s completely typical for the “objective” media. Sigh.

  2. Since I’m in Conyer’s state, I can drop him a note and let him know I’m concerned. But there IS a problem with media’s bias; it’s in the growing concentration of media outlets. There is a strong public interest in diversity of news and opinion sources that outweighs corporate interests; without protections, it is entirely too easy for corporations to obliterate opposing views.

    Or have we forgotten the lesson of the Dixie Chicks and Clear Channel already?

    There are other games afoot as well; note the LA Times article in November ’02 about the DOD’s “special plans” group. Concentrated ownership of media by “friendly” parties means a disinformation/psy-ops campaign’s message may be disseminated undiluted. Who’s being gamed here? Potential terrorists or voters?

    Maybe it’s time to become reacquainted with the term fascism.

    Lastly, I’ll point out that the members of Congress you name are members of the minority party. Their power to take punitive action is extremely limited. Perhaps they’ve realized they can do nothing save for being a thorn in the side of corporatists.

  3. Holly must’ve missed the followups on the Kranish story in which (surprise) Drudge got it wrong — Kranish never worked for the Kerry campaign.

  4. His name is still on the cover of the biography, Adam. *shrug*

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