What do we expect anyway?

History teaches that the scent of victory — not victory itself — is what kills social movements, and that’s why I smile when I read things like Republican Senator Richard Lugar telling the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) Monday that bloggers would “probably not” be considered journalists under the proposed federal shield law. Lugar is a co-sponsor, so his comments — as reported in Editor & Publisher — carry weight.

There are two stories here. Firstly, this shield law is a bad idea from the get-go, and even Lugar knows it.

A key reason some journalists oppose the popular federal shield proposal is fear that giving Congress the power to define who is and isn’t a journalist could lead effectively to the licensing of journalists.

In other remarks about the legislation at IAPA’s 61st General Assembly, Lugar acknowledged that the legislation could amount to a “privilege” for reporters over other Americans.

“I think, very frankly, you can make a case that this is a special boon for reporters, and certainly for their role in freedom of the press,” he said. “At the end of the day what we will come out with says there is something privileged about being a reporter, and being able to report on something without being thrown into jail.”

Privileged? Now there’s a sought-after modernist invention. On the merits of the concept alone, this will be defeated, but we should never underestimate the capacity of Washington to get it wrong. We certainly don’t need “licensed” journalists dancing around pretending to have the best interests of the underprivileged in mind.

But let’s assume this does pass. It will only strengthen the citizens media movement (a.k.a. personal media revolution), because all movements contain an element of counterculture. Every new attempt to defend itself against the movement puts the culture in a more vulnerable position. This is not Terry; this is history. We need to view the personal media revolution as a part of the bigger cultural shift to postmodernism. It will continue regardless of what the rulers of the culture think, because it’s simply bigger than most people care to admit.

“I experience (participate), therefore I understand” trumps “I think (reason), therefore I understand.”

So now let’s look at the other story here — that bloggers wouldn’t be considered journalists under this proposed law. Gosh, wouldn’t that make the mainstream feel good! The truth is it’s irrelevant, and while the new privileged would be celebrating, the revolution would march forward. The energy behind self-publishing has much more to do with empowerment than it does practice, and the power to practice journalism at the grass roots level doesn’t require a shield law OR the blessing of the status quo. And every movement has its martyrs. This law eliminates that for the mainstream while opening the door wide for bloggers (or any other participant in the citizens media movement).

What will privileged journalists do when an underprivileged journalist gets tossed in jail?

I’ve written many times before that the status quo won’t sit still while the bottom levels the playing field. Our whole way of life is changing, and the haves of that way of life desperately wish to protect their inflated share of the fatted calf. The genie is out of the bottle, and there is no way to put it back.

The personal media revolution, I believe, is chasing the dream of a more equitable life for all. As we share our experiences with each other, we increasingly see that Reason has spread the Monarchy to only a few, and as more of us find access to The Jewel of the Elites, the clearer that becomes. This dream is insatiable, at least for now, and nothing short of closing the Internet (and trust me, they’ll try) will slow the movement.

In a culture war, the old will always fight the new. It must. What do we expect anyway?

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