Americans Have No Idea What “Freedom of the Press” Means

Yves here. Of course, it’s no surprise that your humble blogger would take the point of view that “the press” is a lot broader than “big name news organizations.” However, it turns out that US courts also side with this view.

But acknowledging the long-standing legal tradition of what “freedom of the press” amounts to, and therefore who by extension is “the press” undercuts the argument that Assange isn’t entitled to those protections by virtue of not hewing to journalistic norms by publishing what amounted to raw information. The argument is a proper reporter would have redacted sensitive personal information, like Social Security numbers in the DNC e-mails, or sensitive government information, as the Guardian and Washington Post did with their Snowden document publications (recall they reviewed them with the US government first).

Be sure to read the section of this post which discusses the origin of the idea of professional journalism.

By George Washington. Originally published at Washington’s Blog

Many people believe that freedom of the press means that credentialed, professional journalists working for mainstream media outlets are protected when they criticize the government.

And they think that Julian Assange or some random blogger are not real reporters or publishers.

Indeed, a Google Search for “Assange is not a journalist/reporter/publisher” turns up 62,000 pages, many of them from the largest media corporations.

What Is Freedom of the Press

However, as we noted in 2014:

The First Amendment to the Constitution provides:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The powers-that-be argue that freedom of the press only applies to large, well-heeled corporate media. For example, the Nation noted last year:

When the Department of Justice rolled out new policies intended to “strengthen protections for members of the news media” this summer, it wasn’t clear who belonged to the “news media.” Other DOJ documents suggest a narrow application to professional, traditional journalists. (The DOJ did not return a request to clarify the agency’s definition of “news media.”) The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide excludes bloggers from the news media, along with “persons and entities that simply make information available,” like Wikileaks. These policies are guidelines, not directives, but as the Freedom of the Press Foundation points out, they are “part of a broader legislative effort in Washington to simultaneously offer protection for the press while narrowing the scope of who is afforded it.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein argued for an amendment that would have restricted the shield to salaried journalists. “Should this privilege apply to anyone, to a seventeen year-old who drops out of high school, buys a website for five dollars and starts a blog? Or should it apply to journalists, to reporters, who have bona fide credentials?”

(This is a silly distinction, given that many of the world’s top experts have their own blogs. And as the non-partisan First Amendment Center notes: “Traditional reporters now blog daily, and prominent bloggers show up in traditional media.”)

But the Free Speech and Free Press Clauses of the First Amendment don’t distinguishbetween media businesses and nonprofessional speakers ….

And the courts have ruled that the freedom of the press applies to everyone who disseminates information … not just giant corporate media companies who can afford to pay “salaries”.

For example, the United States Supreme Court has consistently refused to accord greater First Amendment protection to the institutional media than to other speakers:

  • In Branzburg v. Hayes (1972), the U.S. Supreme Court described freedom of the press as “a fundamental personal right” that is not confined to newspapers and periodicals
  • In Lovell v. City of Griffin (1938), the Chief Justice of the Supreme court defined “press” as “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion”
  • First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978) rejected the “suggestion that communication by corporate members of the institutional press is entitled to greater constitutional protection than the same communication by” non-institutional-press businesses
  • In Bartnicki v. Vopper (2001), the court could “draw no distinction between the media respondents and” a non-institutional respondent

Earlier this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a blogger is entitled to the same free speech protections as a traditional journalist and cannot be liable for defamation unless the blogger acted negligently. The Court held:

The protections of the First Amendment do not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist.

And the First Circuit agrees. As Gigaom reported in 2011:

One recent appeals court decision specifically referred to the fact that the ability to take photos, video and audio recordings with mobile devices has effectively made everyone a journalist — in practice, if not in name — and therefore deserving of protection.

In the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, released just a few weeks ago, the judges pointed out that the First Amendment’s protection for freedom of the press “encompasses a range of conduct related to the gathering and dissemination of information,” and that citizens have the right to investigate government affairs and share what they learn with others. Judge Kermit Lipez also specifically noted that these protections don’t just apply to professional journalists. He said in his decision:

[C]hanges in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw. The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders [and] and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.

The First Amendment Center correctly notes:

The purpose of the free press clause of the First Amendment was to keep an eye on people in power and maintain a check on corruption.

Supreme Court justices Black and Douglas explained in their concurring opinion in New York Times Co. v. United States (1971):

In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.

Indeed, the Founding Fathers made this clear even before the Revolutionary war started. Specifically, the Continental Congress – the legislative body of the Founding Fathers – wrote in 1774:

The last right we shall mention regards the freedom of the press …. whereby oppressive officers are shamed or intimidated into more honourable and just modes of conducting affairs.

These are the invaluable rights that form a considerable part of our mild system of government; that, sending its equitable energy through all ranks and classes of men, defends the poor from the rich, the weak from the powerful, the industrious from the rapacious, the peaceable from the violent, the tenants from the lords, and all from their superiors.

These are the rights without which a people cannot be free and happy, and under the protecting and encouraging influence of which these colonies have hitherto so amazingly flourished and increased. These are the rights a profligate Ministry are now striving by force of arms to ravish from us, and which we are with one mind resolved never to resign but with our lives.

In other words, the Founding Fathers understood that people who stand up to “oppressive” government officials are to be zealously protected … because “shaming” corrupt, powerful people “into more honourable and just modes of conducting affairs” is the only way to preserve liberty, justice and prosperity, and to remain “free and happy”.

The Founding Fathers Intended EVERYONE to Have Freedom of the Press

Let’s dig a little deeper into the background behind the First Amendment’s protection of the press …

Law School Professor and Director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford, Michael W. McConnell, notes:

Blackstone described the liberty of the press as the “undoubted right” of “[e]very freeman” to “lay what sentiments he pleases before the public.”  The Jeffersonians agreed. The author of a book-length commentary on the Constitution, Jeffersonian legal scholar St. George Tucker, wrote that “the freedom of the press” means that “[e]very individual, certainly, has a right to speak, or publish, his sentiments on the measures of government.” The author of the first major constitutional treatise, a Federalist, Chancellor James Kent, took the same position: “every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments.”  Joseph Story agreed, describing the freedom of the press in these terms: “every man shall have a right to speak, write, and print his opinions upon any subject whatsoever, without any prior restraint.”  So did state constitutions and state supreme courts. Anyone who went to a printer and paid him to print a pamphlet or book, or placed an advertisement in a publication, was entitled to exercise the freedom. There were no apparent dissenters from this proposition in the decades before or after the First Amendment.

This near-universal assertion of the broad right of “every citizen” to publish his sentiments is unsurprising, since at the time of the founding there were no professional journalists in the modern sense of the word. Much of the editorial content of newspapers was written by lawyers, farmers, schoolteachers, ministers, statesmen, and other citizens who were not journalists. The Federalist—written by three non-journalists and published in New York newspapers as occasional essays—is the most famous example, but there were hundreds of others. When the Founders spoke of the importance of “the press,” they were not talking about professional news media, but about the printing press, meaning the ability of people to disseminate ideas easily and inexpensively to a broad public. The licensing of the press, which was the great evil against which the Amendment was directed, applied to books and pamphlets as much as to newspapers. Indeed, pamphlets were among the most important publications for the influencing of public opinion. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, which he self-published,is a famous example.  1753 essay entitled Of the Use, Abuse, and Liberty of the Press, by the future Constitutional Convention delegate William Livingston,stated that one of the great benefits of the printing press was that “the Press” could be used by “Writers of every Character and Genius,” including “[t]he Patriot,” “[t]he Divine,” “the Philosopher, the Moralist, the Lawyer, and men of every other Profession and Character, whose Sentiments may be diffused with the greatest Ease and Dispatch.”

In other words,”the press” as understood by the Founding Fathers was analogous to “blogs” or “websites” in our modern electronic era.

On this theme, Professor McConnell says:

There is no reason to believe that companies that make money on their publications or writers who earn their living from writing have a monopoly on the provision of the information and commentary on public affairs the Press Clause protects. At the time of adoption of the First Amendment, it was common for citizens of a variety of professions to use the press to express their views to the public. That is even truer today, when the Internet provides a ready platform for citizen journalists and commentators to contribute to public discourse. Some media critics believe that the proliferation of voices has diminished the common ground we enjoyed in the days of three homogeneous networks, but it would be odd to interpret the Press Clause, whose core meaning is that the government may not select the authors who inform the public, as a vehicle for reducing this diversity and imposing professional standards as a condition of publishing to the public. Many organizations whose primary purpose is something other than journalism—including the American Bar Association, the National Geographic Society, the Christian Science Church, the Smithsonian, Boy Scouts of America, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State—also publish popular newspapers or magazines, which surely are entitled to Press Clause protection. Indeed, in a prominent sequel to New York Times v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court treated the publisher for an ideological group, the John Birch Society, as a “media” defendant.

In 2012, University of Pennsylvania Law Review published an in-depth article by UCLA Law School Professor Eugene Volokh documenting the history of American understanding of “freedom of the press” (Professor Volokh generously gave us permission to quote extensively):

Early formulations of the freedom of the press spoke of it as a right of every “freeman,” “citizen,” or “individual.” These formulations often set forth narrow substantive views of the “freedom of the press.” But, whatever the scope of the right, it belonged to everyone (or at least all free citizens).

Blackstone, for instance, wrote in 1769 that “[e]very freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public: to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press.” Jean-Louis de Lolme, an author widely cited by 1780s American writers, likewise wrote in his chapter on “Liberty of the Press” that “[e]very subject in England has not only a right to present petitions, to the King, or the Houses of Parliament; but he has a right also to lay his complaints and observations before the Public, by the means of an open press.” The right to present petitions, of course, was not limited to the press as an industry, but really did belong to “[e]very subject.” De Lolme’s explanation suggests that the right to speak to the public via “an open press” likewise extended to all subjects, whether or not they used the printing press for a living.

***

State supreme courts in 1788 and 1791 similarly described the liberty of the press as “permitting every man to publish his opinions,”  and as meaning that “the citizen has a right to publish his sentiments upon all political, as well as moral and literary subjects.” Justice Iredell described the liberty of the press in 1799 as meaning that “[e]very freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public.”  St. George Tucker, in 1803, defined the “freedom of the press” as meaning that “[e]very individual, certainly, has a right to speak, or publish, his sentiments on the measures of government.”

Several early state constitutions echoed this as well, providing that “[e]very citizen may freely speak, write and print on any subject, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.”  Likewise, Justice Story, who wrote in 1833 but who had learned the law in the decade following the enactment of the Bill of Rights, described the First Amendment as providing that “every man shall have a right to speak, write, and print his opinions upon any subject whatsoever, without any prior restraint, so always, that he does not injure any other person . . . or attempt to subvert the government.” These references to a right of “every freeman,” “every man,” “every citizen,” and “every individual” appear to refer to every person’s right to use printing technology. They are much less consistent with the notion that the right gave special protection to the few men who were members of a particular industry.

***

Early cases, such as the 1803 Runkle v. Meyer decision, likewise treat the “liberty of the press” as equivalent to the provision that “every citizen may freely speak, write and print on any subject.”27 And St. George Tucker, Chancellor Kent, and Justice Joseph Story all treated the First Amendment phrase “freedom of the speech, and of the press” as interchangeable with the state constitutional provisions that “every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments.”

***

The view that “freedom of the press” covers “every citizen,” even people who aren’t members of the publishing industry, also makes sense given how many important authors of the time were not members of that industry.

Newspapers of the era were small enterprises, with few or no employees. Woodward and Bernstein were many decades in the future; Framing-era newspapers didn’t do sustained investigative journalism.

And while those newspapers doubtless contributed facts and opinions to public debate, some of the most important such contributions in newspapers came from people who were not publishers, printers, editors, or their employees—Madison, Hamilton, and Jay’s The Federalist essays are a classic example. “[N]ot a few of the country editors . . . depended for what literary work their vocation demanded upon the assistance of friends who liked being ‘contributors to the press’ without fee.”

It seems unlikely that the Framers would have secured a special right limited to this small industry, an industry that included only part of the major contributors to public debate. This is especially so given that some of the most powerful and wealthy contributors, such as the politicians and planters who wrote so much of the important published material, weren’t part of the industry.

***

The grammatical structure of the First Amendment likewise suggests that the freedom was the freedom “of every freeman” or “every citizen” to use the press-as-technology, and not a freedom belonging to the press-as-industry.

As Justice Scalia pointed out in Citizens United, the shared words “freedom of” in the phrase the “freedom of speech, or of the press” are most reasonably understood as playing the same role for both “speech” and “press.” The “freedom of speech” is freedom to engage in an activity, much like “freedom of movement” or “freedom of religion.” In particular, it is the freedom to use the faculty of speech. This suggests that “freedom of the press” is likewise freedom to engage in an activity by using the faculty of the printing press.

This is supported by sources that discuss the “freedom in the use of the press.” Thus, James Madison, in his 1800 Report on the Virginia Resolutions, wrote that American law provided “a different degree of freedom in the use of the press” than English law did. The Massachusetts response to the Virginia resolutions replied that the “freedom of the press” “is a security for the rational use, and not the abuse of the press.” St. George Tucker’s influential 1803 work, in discussing the freedom of the press, spoke of “[w]hoever makes use of the press as the vehicle of his sentiments on any subjects.” The freedom of the press was “freedom in the use of the press,” much as freedom of speech was freedom in the use of speech.

Likewise, Madison’s Report also quoted a phrase from Virginia’s ratifying convention: “We, the Delegates of the people of Virginia . . . declare and make known . . . that among other essential rights, the liberty of conscience and of the press cannot be cancelled, abridged, restrained or modified by any authority of the United States.” Again, the phrase “the liberty of” is seen as applying equally to “conscience” and “the press.” Here too this suggests that, just as the liberty of conscience was seen during that era as each person’s freedom to worship or to think and speak as he wished on religious matters, so the liberty of the press meant each person’s freedom to publish.

***

The freedom of the press-as-technology, of course, was not seen as redundant of the freedom of speech. St. George Tucker, for instance, discussed the freedom of speech as focusing on the spoken word and the freedom of the press as focusing on the printed….

Likewise, George Hay, who later became a U.S. Attorney and a federal judge, wrote in 1799 that “freedom of speech means, in the construction of the Constitution, the privilege of speaking any thing without control” and “the words freedom of the press, which form a part of the same sentence, mean the privilege of printing any thing without control.” Massachusetts Attorney General James Sullivan (1801) similarly treated “the freedom of speech” as referring to “utter[ing], in words spoken,” and “the freedom of the press” as referring to “print[ing] and publish[ing].”

And these sources captured an understanding that was broadly expressed during the surrounding decades. Bishop Thomas Hayter, writing in 1754, described the “Liberty of the Press” as applying the traditionally recognized “Use and Liberty of Speech” to “Printing,” an activity that Hayter described as “only a more extensive and improved Kind of Speech.” Hayter’s work was known and quoted in Revolutionary-era America.

Similarly, William Bollan (1766) described “printing” as “a species of writing invented for the more expeditious multiplication of copies,” and asserted that “freedom or restraint of speech and writing upon public affairs have generally been concomitant”; because of this, Bollan argued, “restraints of writing” were likely to erode the “liberty of speech” and not only of writing, and “those who desire to preserve the [liberty of speech] ought by all means to take due care of the [freedom of writing].” And Bollan used “liberty of the press” and “the freedom of writing” (in a context suggesting printing) interchangeably.

Later, Francis Holt (1812) defined the liberty of the press as “the personal liberty of the writer to express his thoughts in the more [im]proved way invented by human ingenuity in the form of the press.” William Rawle (1825) likewise characterized “[t]he press” as “a vehicle of the freedom of speech,” adding that “[t]he art of printing illuminates the world, by a rapid dissemination of what would otherwise be slowly communicated and partially understood.”

Without the freedom of the press, the freedom of speech might not have been viewed as covering printing, given that printing posed dangers that ordinary “speech” did not. Indeed, in the centuries before the Framing, governments tried to specifically constrain the use of the press-as-technology because they found it to be especially dangerous. The free press guarantees made clear that this potentially dangerous technology was protected alongside direct in-person communications.

Professor Volokh goes onto document how freedom of the press has continuously been interpreted by the courts up to today as applying to everyone, not just professional, credentialed journalists.

Postscript: So where did this idea of “professional journalists” come from?   It may have been created by the Father of modern propaganda, Edward Bernays.

Award-winning veteran journalist John Pilger explains:

Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented.

It is a history few journalist talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising. As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called “professional journalism” was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment-objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalist. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media and with the great corporations, and the whole thing was, as [University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign Communications Professor] Robert McChesney put it so well, “entirely bogus”.

For what the public did not know was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources, and that has not changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories-domestic and foreign-you’ll find they’re dominated by government and other established interests. That is the essence of professional journalism. I am not suggesting that independent journalism was or is excluded, but it is more likely to be an honorable exception. Think of the role Judith Miller played in the New York Times in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Yes, her work became a scandal, but only after it played a powerful role in promoting an invasion based on lies. Yet, Miller’s parroting of official sources and vested interests was not all that different from the work of many famous Times reporters, such as the celebrated W.H. Lawrence, who helped cover up the true effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945. “No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin,” was the headline on his report, and it was false.

Consider how the power of this invisible government has grown. In 1983 the principle global media was owned by 50 corporations, most of them American. In 2002 this had fallen to just 9 corporations. Today it is probably about 5. Rupert Murdoch has predicted that there will be just three global media giants, and his company will be one of them. This concentration of power is not exclusive of course to the United States. The BBC has announced it is expanding its broadcasts to the United States, because it believes Americans want principled, objective, neutral journalism for which the BBC is famous. They have launched BBC America. You may have seen the advertising.

The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over.

So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.

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56 comments

  1. ambrit

    Direct and to the point.
    How Assange is treated will ‘tell the tale’ for the future of the American Constitution’s First Amendment.
    It seems that the technical means to impose conformity to the Status Quo’s world view is in place. The battle now is to define the social rules, so as to approve or deny the use of those technical means.
    The Cynic in me observes the aphorism from military theory that any new weapon is eventually used.
    We are living through a new revolutionary period in Western history.
    Some would observe that the Western revolutionary period that started in 1776 has never really ended.

    Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I would say 1801. Napoleon makes a new relationship with the Church in France with the Concordat of 1801, signifying the end of the old regime and limiting the Revolution and Jefferson is inaugurated, which signified the permanent establishment of a non divine based government, ending the two Revolutions. The continents split into class/colonialism based and free/slave based conflicts at that point as new generations removed from the original complaints. The Storming of the Bastille was preceded by other lesser known activities. To me it’s more like the battle of Lexington and Concord, a turning point, but more exposing what was there.

      Now the conflict is a war for citizenship in the new imperial structure. Example. Pelosi kicks her party’s voters by meeting with Blairites. There are two ways forward. Caesarian style reforms which control the rich and increase the autonomy of the little people, or a return to more manageable nation states.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Good point about Pelosi having the nerve to go to England and ‘read them the riot act’ over the Irish border question. Similarly, Netanyahu’s admonition of the joint houses of congress in Washington is of a similar nature. Both are clear cases of Internationalism run amok.
        The famous aphorism is that Nations do not have principles, they have interests. What, than, do classes have? Investments?
        Of the two states of being on offer in your last sentence, I support “…more manageable nation states.” Caesarian reforms are of a shorter time scale continuum. They often depend on short term political alliances or strong man administrations. Nation states exist on a longer time scale. Slower to change, but more reliable when they do change. (For this formulation, I define Nation States as the sum of the governing ethos and the ruling elites.) To this end, bigger is not automatically better.

        Reply
  2. AdrianD.

    Excellent post. By way of example of the necessity of blogs and the not-at-all clear distinction between ‘bloggers’ and ‘journalists’, here’s a recent example from the Moon Of Alabama (MoA) and The Blogmire blogs, who have been doing sterling work on the Skripal case (Rob Slane of TheBlogMire is a Salisbury resident). Apologies if I’ve missed these in your Links – I hope it’s not too off topic.

    In a recent (puff) piece in the NYT on CIA director Gina Haspel it is claimed that she helped to persuade Donald Trump to expel sixty Russian diplomats in the aftermath of the alleged poisoning with pictures of young children in hospital and dead ducks provided by the British. Trump agreed, but flew into a rage when the Europeans did not follow suit and only expelled a few diplomats each.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/16/us/politics/gina-haspel-trump.html

    As both blogs point out, that these pictures were provably fake (there were NO ill children and NO dead ducks) did not bother the free-and-fair NYT reporters in the slightest (or one from the UK Independent who also covered this little anecdote of Haspel’s spy-craft). Was it not newsworthy that the Director of the CIA influenced the POTUS to act aggressively towards a nuclear-armed adversary with fake pictures provided by the British? Apparently not.

    Rob is ‘just’ a blogger, but one who has actually bothered to contact the parents of some children who were handed bread by the Skripals on that Sunday afternoon to confirm a story about them that appeared in The Sun. The parents confirmed it, and even confirmed that one of the children ate some of the supposedly heavily novichok contaminated bread, but this aspect of the story never made it to the official Met Police timeline and has otherwise been memory-holed.

    The full story (with links to NYT & MoA) are in Rob’s blog here:

    https://www.theblogmire.com/trump-in-dumps-as-spook-picks-sick-kidsndead-duck-trick-pics/

    Reply
  3. Geo

    This set me off…

    “Should this privilege apply to anyone, to a seventeen year-old who drops out of high school, buys a website for five dollars and starts a blog?

    When I was seventeen I made my first short film. It cost under $100 and was about the impact of high security measures within a school and how it breeds hostility within the student body. It won an award at a film festival, got write-ups in the Oregonian newspaper, and ended up causing enough conversation that the following year the security policies at my school were relaxed.

    That same year I made another short film for less cost about censureship and it too win a festival award, got write-ups, and I received a letter from a woman who told me it made her reflect on and even change her views on the censureship of entertainment and media.

    Long story short: Feinstein can go *family-blog* herself with that dismissive jab at teens.

    Those early experiences not only had local impact but inspired my current efforts to continue making films with positive social impact. My first feature film has been used by military psychologists to help educate veterans with PTSD and their families, is used in the curriculum at a few universities on the subject, and I still get messages from vets and family members/loved ones thanking me for making the film and letting me know how much it helped them.

    I may have never even thought this was a possibility for my life if I hadn’t been afforded the opportunity to learn how important my voice could be at that young age. For her to say what she did says so much about her.

    Reply
    1. divadab

      Hear hear. Feinstein is well past her good-til date and now serves the dark lord of unjust dominion. She’s a member of the ruling class, little person, and she holds young peons, members of the great unwashed, in utter contempt. As to the Constitution which she swore to defend – she says “The rules apply to thee, little person, not to me”.

      Reply
      1. ewmayer

        Exactly – neat little trick by DiFi, perverting “right” into “privilege” in her comment. Essentially the same think the credentialist whores of the MSM are trying to do.

        Reply
    2. John Wright

      In this California voter’s view, it is always the wrong way to start a day reading about the neo-con Dianne Feinstein.

      Whether it is voting to start the Iraq War, helping George W. Bush and the Republicans by voting for Medicare Part D, voting to beef up the surveillance/counter-terrorist state, encouraging Edward Snowden to return the the USA to face our “justice” system, fighting for copyright extensions or “free trade” bills, Di-Fi can be counted on to hew to the power structure.

      But she is seen as a “moderate” because of her stance on social issues.

      That she, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom can prosper in this “progressive” state says a great deal about the possibilities for real change in our government.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Yes, that is much of state politics; the civil rights minded and socially liberal as long as it is convenient, but fiscally conservative to the poor, “liberal” Democratic leadership and the John Birch Society reactionaries neoDarwinists of the Republicans; both parties only listens to their , respectively labeled liberal and conservative labeled monied elites.

        This also is a partial answer to the housing crisis. All that misery not only does not hurt them, but just the general public, it also gives the them and, more importantly, their patrons to make money from the crisis.

        Reply
  4. David

    Unless we assume that the framers of your Constitution had a time machine then they cannot have anticipated anything like the Internet and the application of the idea of freedom of the press to a website run by an Australian not living in the US. The article is right to say that « press » in this sense means the printing press, and the issue in the 18th century was political censorship of books and pamphlets in Europe, often those advocating political and social change. But I think anybody with an interest in the period knows this already. Beyond that the article just seems confused.
    In almost as many words, the authors are arguing for a completely uncensored internet, where anything can be posted and anything said. This is a coherent position but it’s not one that most people hold, and I’d be surprised if the authors actually believe it either. They are falling into the classic trap for liberal intellectuals of assuming that any act of censorship will always be against things they agree with and support. So yesterday for example the Guardian was fulminating against internet sites which did not act quickly enough to take down conspiracy theories about the Notre Dame fire. Now from what we know, the fire was an accident, and some kind of a conspiracy seems very unlikely. But the official enquiry hasn’t even begun yet, and what is being advocated here is suppression of opinions the paper doesn’t like. But by the logic of this article such opinions should be protected, as should opinions and sites arguing for racial persecution or more tolerance for sexual exploitation of children. Either you have unrestricted freedom of speech or you don’t. But in practice all of us’ whatever our opinions believe that free speech should of course be protected except where we disagree with it.
    Assange is obviously not a journalist by any normal definition’ and this is not a freedom of expression issue. It’s a question of the right to publish confidential information. The article is arguing (probably without realising it) for an unrestricted right to publish anything, whether true or false. At a banal level this could include your medical records or details of your children’s discipline problems at school. It could also mean publication of fake documents suggesting that Trump is a Russian puppet, or documents intended to drum up support for some war. It’s no good saying that that’ not what the argument is about because you don’t get to choose what the argument is about. In essence, whilst you can make an argument for absolute freedom of expression I don’t think the authors actually believe their own argument.
    Incidentally I wouldn’t quote Pilger in this context. His own relationship with the truth, from my personal experience is episodic, and indeed he’s typical of a tendency in journalism in the last generation to argue that « objectivity » is impossible and anyway undesirable and that journalists should write things that serve causes they support.

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    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You need to go back and re-read the parts of the post that cite Supreme Court decisions on the First Amendment. IMHO you are confusing two issues that are very distinct here, and where the boundaries are different than in the UK.

      In the US, the idea of censoring something because it is “fake news” is a recent and troubling development. I am bothered that you see this as a real problem, when we had “fake news” such as Big Tobacco discrediting research that showed that smoking caused lung and other cancers, and delayed issuing health warnings about smoking for probably a decade if not longer. How many people died because of that? No one called out Big Tobacco for its 20+ year agnotology campaign. Or the more recent campaigns in the US to discredit climate science? Why the concern on matters with far lower stakes? One of my colleagues is a top political scientist who has been doing granular data driven work on elections for decades. He says there is zero evidence that anything “Russians’ did on social media made any difference in the elections.

      More specifically, “fake news” has been used to discredit independent websites, including greatly downgrading them in Google searches. After the US press engaging in biased and inaccurate reporting (many examples, but recent ones are RussiaRussia and Venezuela, where are not starving, contrary to the drumbeat of our press), you are basically defending a blatant double standard. Anything in a recognized media outlet is treated as accurate no matter how questionable, careless, or obviously inaccurate the content is.

      The US has had publications, like World Weekly News, that had long and successful trashy lives where the articles were obviously totally made up (see here for an assortment of covers). Admittedly, most were about aliens and weird births as opposed to politics but still….

      Businesses are under no obligation to be truthful save in specific contexts, such as truth in advertising and with respect to statements that might influence their securities prices, if the laws in that jurisdiction make false and misleading statements illegal. Governments lie and mislead all the time. So I am at a loss to understand you taking up the recent fetishization of spurious notions of accuracy when we live in an informational hall of mirrors.

      As for Wikileaks publishing information that arguably should have been private, the violation of privacy/confidentiality/state secrets was made by the party that leaked to Wikileaks. There have been many decisions that have exculpated journalists who published information or material that was made public by an independent party. One exception, oddly, is if the information is protected intellectual property, since publishing it would be analogous to a copyright violation.

      Other types of speech that do not enjoy First Amendment protection are hate speech, inciting violence, and child pornography. I don’t seen anything in the article that suggests it is supporting speech that is not legally protected.

      Defamation is a different matter. The big reason to be concerned about accuracy (in the US) is exposure to defamation and libel suits. The truthfulness of information is an absolute defense in defamation suits in the US.

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      1. David

        As I said I think the basic argument of the article is correct: it’s just not new and I’m not sure it merits such extended treatment. I just make the common-sense observation that the authors have not thought the consequences of their argument. I suppose if you think in narrow USian terms of US citizens in that country writing blogs or comments based on servers in the US all subject to US law then fair enough. But self-evidently Assange does not come in that category. Since the article makes no mention of any limits on freedom of speech it has to be supposed that they don’t consider such limits significant. Even under the most charitable interpretation of their argument their logic could only apply to the situation in the US, narrowly construed. It self-evidently cannot apply elsewhere, and certainly not to the non-territorial world of the Internet.

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        1. tegnost

          I’m interested in seeing how people react to your contention that being offshore means that you don’t have the rights. I don’t know personally and would just be offering opinion, so I can say I would like it if all press were included, but don’t know whether or not it is. To other parts of your argument, freedom of the press is not extended to illegal acts such as child porn so the law isn’t simply “say whatever you want”, there are regulations…

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        2. Joe Well

          David, what I don’t understand is, why does the US have jurisdiction over what any non-citizen, non-resident does outside its borders (barring a “universal jurisdiction” argument for crimes against humanity which does not apply here)? (Really, what jurisdiction does it have over citizens’ or residents’ activities extraterritorially, but that’s another debate.)

          If Assange falls under US jurisdiction, he falls under US constitutional protections, as simple as that, right? Or maybe I’m not understanding your argument.

          At any rate, if I’m understanding this correctly, a whole lot of Americans are in a whole lot of legal jeopardy relative to their violations of Chinese, Saudi, Khazak, Vietnamese, Thai, and a whole bunch of other governments’ laws regarding leaks of information from those respective governments, if governments in fact have universal worldwide jurisdiction in such cases.

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    2. rob

      your poor logic doesn’t strip assange of the fact that he has been operating in the sphere of disseminating information to the public ,that the public SHOULD know about. You must have skipped the parts about the founders feelings of what good the free press is, and who can claim the mantle of freedom of speech. You also seem to lack the basic intelligence, to tell who is attempting to do the right thing, versus your made up straw man arguments that equate assange to ” anyone posting anything on the internet”. Your feeble equivocation as to what it is that wikileaks does, and what the internet is or isn’t, is just lame.
      What assange did was create a platform, so that information that whistle blowers felt was important enough, to jeopardize their careers, but still was in the public interest to know about; could come to light. He is the epitome of what a journalist is. What you missed, is that with the new medium of the internet, also comes new ways of doing the work of the people. Of being the “free press”.

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    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Dude, the Founding Fathers loved fake news. They blamed George III for Parliament’s actions and even made up a few (check the dates, they accused the Brits of crimes they had not committed). There is an original of this document on display in DC.

      John Dickenson, one of the more prominent rabble rousers and Philadelphia lawyer, wrote a whole series of anonymous letters detailing his brutal life as a poor farmer under British rule. They were widely disseminated despite being fake news.

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    4. Carolinian

      Agree with the others that your argument has no merit. Also it should be remembered that when corporate press or individuals publish information that is false or damaging that there are libel laws to deal with that. The reason the founders gave immunity to critics of government is that government, as the enforcer of the laws, cannot be expected to be objective when it comes to criticism of itself. One irony of the corporate press attacks on the internet is that the MSM have, in this era, themselves become organs of the government or at least that portion of it that seeks to exert influence without democratic restraint. Here in the US we’d be far better off if we had no CIA or that giant military complex. Assange was doing damage to something that needs to be damaged and whether one believes that or not is really the crux of the argument.

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      1. David

        With the greatest of respect I thought it was clear that I was not putting forward an argument but simply stating an obvious logical conclusion that people generally refuse to accept because they want to have their cake and eat it. You suggest that Assange was ´damaging something that needed to be damaged ´ and I wouldn’t disagree. But that’s a personal opinion and not a truth that can be proved. Your argument can be used to justify the behavior of anyone who leaks information that damages anybody. As I suggested the problem is that most of us like to generalize from our own ideas, or more often prejudices, while thinking that they are universal. But anyone can play that game.

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        1. Carolinian

          Your argument can be used to justify the behavior of anyone who leaks information that damages anybody.

          No, like I say there are libel laws that restrain irresponsible speech. And btw it’s a myth that Wikileaks made no effort to curate the material that they were disseminating or to find responsible partners.

          The real issue is whether democratic governments should even have secretive organizations that have secrets to steal. When Truman signed off on the CIA he thought it would just be an information agency that would provide him with digests of the world situation. The operational side was carried on in secret by veterans of the WW2 OSS. Truman later said he regretted letting this US version of the KGB come into being.

          And when it comes to responsibility the respectable mainstream news organizations don’t have much of a leg to stand on these days. Russiagate has been a made up absurdity from start to finish.

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        2. Carolinian

          I believe I’m saying–perhaps not very clearly–that Assange was seeking to damage organizations that were opposed to the concept of free speech in general and therefore it’s not just about who’s side one is on during our new, invented Cold War. I believe this is what Washington’s Blog is saying above and what many conservatives–certainly not me–are also saying, i.e. an attack on Assange is an attack on the free press in general, left and right.

          So it’s really a general principle applied to a specific situation, not the other way around.

          Assange himself has claimed that he is not ideological but simply opposed to government secrecy. Perhaps he was trying to inject Wikileaks into the 2016 election but then Hillary Clinton did–jokingly?–threaten to drone him and as we now know he was correct about that US government indictment that had already put him into the embassy for several years. There are claims that Obama had dropped the pursuit but if true it would have been easy enough for Obama to so state encourage the UK government to step aside.

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    5. DJG

      David: You should take some time to study the history of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      So the First Amendment protects everyone’s rights, as the post points out so eloquently. To free speech, free exercise of religion, and to demonstrate in the streets. And the language reminds me that, in spite of everything going on now, the U S of A was lucky to have had James Madison, who is still shielding us from our own tendencies to censor others.

      And you realize that Benjamin Franklin was a printer, but hardly what anyone would call a “professional journalist”? Likewise Thomas Paine.

      Also, First Amendment jurisprudence in the U S of A specifically teaches us that we have to protect those whose ideas we don’t like. (Think about Voltaire’s famous dictum.)

      Here are the lovely people involved in the famous First Amendment case, Near v. Minnesota. And yet they won their case against prior restraint:

      In 1927, J. M. Near, who has been described as “anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-black, and anti-labor”[3] began publishing The Saturday Press in Minneapolis with Howard A. Guilford, a former mayoral candidate who had been convicted of criminal libel.

      The paper claimed that Jewish gangs were “practically ruling” the city along with the police chief, Frank W. Brunskill, who was accused of participation in graft. Among the paper’s other targets were mayor George E. Leach, Hennepin County attorney and future three-term governor Floyd B. Olson, and the members of the grand jury of Hennepin County, who, the paper claimed, were either incompetent or willfully failing to investigate and prosecute known criminal activity.

      Shortly after the first issue was distributed, Guilford was shot and hospitalized, where a further attempt on his life was made. At least one of the stories printed in The Saturday Press led to a successful prosecution of a gangster called Big Mose Barnett who had intimidated a local dry cleaner by destroying his customers’ clothing.

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      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Rights aren’t conferred but innate. The U.S. Constitution is written to limit government to protect those rights.

        “David” seems to be under the impression the US Constitution confers privilege. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are my rights conferred by my creator because I exist. Whether you choose to believe in Thor as your creator or just accept it’s your parents, rights do not proceed from the U.S. Constitution.

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        1. DJG

          NotTim: You are correct. The First Amendment is about civil liberties that the government cannot tamper with or limit. This seems to be a fundamental difference that some of the non-U.S. commenters aren’t aware of.

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    6. Raulb

      How can one compare hate speech and racists and leaking official documents that expose illegal activity? How does one mentally conflate racist groups using an accidental fire to accuse Muslims of starting it without an iota of evidence to push hate against muslims with Assange and Wikileaks? This seems like an attempt to muddy the waters.

      The ‘right to publish confidential information’. Are you living in a democracy or a tyranny? If you live in a democracy and have evidence of illegal activity ie police brutality since when did it become a ‘right’ to publish this? Who gives you these ‘rights’? Do you have to seek special permission from the state to expose wrongdoings by the state? That’s not democracy.

      There appears to be some fundamental and serious confusion about democracy, dissent and whistle blowing conceptually here. Illegal activity CANNOT be classified. Please understand why this is illogical, and why any citizen of a democracy does not have a ‘right’ but an ‘obligation’ to expose wrong doing if they come upon it in their jobs or lives.

      Let’s turn this around a bit to illustrate how dubious this position is as many people seem to be comfortable with racists and fascists and do not ‘understand’ unless they are personally ‘threatened’. What this commentator is doing is comparing the free speech ‘rights’ of hate preachers of let’s say Wahhabism preaching hate and inciting violence against non muslims to to operate uninhabited in your countries to whistle blowers and dissenters exposing illegal activity as something equivalent. This has not happened. Wahhabist preachers are not allowed to operate and no one has claimed this has threatened free speech.

      There is a problem here of getting mired in pointless discussion with disingenuous commentators like above. Let’s be clear here, Assange, Snowden and Manning are dissenters and whistle blowers which is fundamental to a democracy. If they were Chinese or Russian dissenters exposing torture, dystopian surveillance and war crimes would they be embraced and celebrated in the West or would people be raising technical objections about ‘free speech’, ‘journalism’ and the ‘right’ of whistle blowers to publish confidential information?

      There is a bigger problem here, after posturing for 50 years about democracy, dissent and free speech when it is discovered the emperor has no clothes authoritarians have crawled out of the woodwork to muddy the waters and push disingenious made up terms like ‘right’ to publish confidential information and ‘technical’ definitions of free speech.

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    7. Lyle

      Except that the cost of a hand printing press was affordable by many. It was the steam powered press that a raised the barrier entry, but decreased the cost of each copy, meaning distribution networks were needed I. E. News Boys on corners, and eventually home delivert.Simply what has happened is the press is now a website, a computer and an internet connection. Thus the. Barrier to entry are back to the 1850 in the east and the 1870s in the West. (read the history of Denver newspapers, in boom town, where the first paper to publish survived and the second folded.) the quotes above indicated in the time of the founders, the press was a lot of papers which we would call small businesses today.

      Reply
  5. Adam1

    While I am not a constitutional scholar I think it would be correct to read the first amendment by it’s last phrase “… to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    Therefore, government can’t stop you from preaching about ill/corrupt behavior that your government may be participating in (as a part of protecting one general religious beliefs). In the 1950’s, (long before my time) the reverend at my church at that time was the first US minister to give a sermon denouncing nuclear weapons. The FBI was on site to record the event.

    Free speech is obvious I hope. People are free to speak against the action and needed redress of grievances cause by the government.

    People are also free to gather, in the town square or pub for example, to commonly speak for their grievances.

    And the people are free to distribute their thoughts on their grievances with the government more widely via the press. In 1776 there were not TVs, telephones or the internet. You either had to physically travel and give speeches to disseminate your message or you had to have them published for local distribution.

    Given late 18th century modes of communications, I think our founding fathers tried to ensure they covered every mode of speaking out about government misbehaviors.

    Reply
  6. notabanker

    Important post, thanks.

    Makes me wonder how dangerous the current composition of the US Supreme Court is today.

    Was recently talking to an attorney in the circle of local government and they are concerned about the budget implications of fighting well funded alt right firms that are challenging local legislation with the express purpose of appealing all the way to the US Supreme Court. This is not a mere threat, suits have been filed and the estimated expenses to defend are enormous. MMT doesn’t apply to Norman Rockwell Heights. They don’t have the money, so they are really up against it.

    What happens when the right case comes along to challenge 200+ years of common law here? Is Assange that case?

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  7. oaf

    Mr Assange did us all (most of us) (especially those of us ashamed of, and revolted by Government’s deceitful actions supposedly On Our Behalf) a big favor; risking martyrdom for the sake of Doing What’s Right…..IMO, he deserves a full pardon on this issue; and appropriate compensation for what amounts to being torture.

    The Founding Fathers would certainly agree.

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    1. a different chris

      Yes… and note said Founding Fathers were often annoying house guests, very smelly (although that was a product of the times) and just not individuals you would want to spend much free time with. And if you are black your opinion of them is at best limited… they managed to write the words that said you should be free and equal without even realizing that was what they were doing.

      When somebody makes something personal, as they are trying to do with Assange, you know they don’t have a real argument.

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    2. John Wright

      I don’t see why Assange needs to be pardoned for anything.

      In my view, he did nothing wrong.

      In a just society, those who persecute/persecuted Assange should be seeking pardons as society ostracizes them.

      But not “gonna happen”.

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      1. oaf

        Ok, I could have phrased that differently. But one might expect he was already determined guilty. Only question was about what exactly to charge him with? Didn’t matter too much; any of a number of charges could have been used as justification. Only had to work long enough to get him on a plane…just had to be remotely plausible.

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  8. The Rev Kev

    I have never thought about it but I can see how the social organization of the American colonies shaped the Bill of Rights. As journalism was not a ‘credentialed’ position that you had to have qualifications for, everybody so incline could become a journalist, mostly through all the local newspapers and flyers published. That being the case, freedom of speech and freedom of the press thus become two sides of the same coin. The only difference is that freedom of the press had to be specified separately so that it would cover governments trying to suppress newspaper publications.
    OK so here we are in the 21st century and again most people can be journalists once again. They have to be. The main stream media has been reduced to a bottleneck with government-friendly oligarchs deciding what you can and can’t see. They lie to you – constantly. Yeah, we should totally invade Iraq – they’ll throw flowers at us. Libya needs to be freed. People hate single payer health in the US and do not want it. You get the idea. So if you want truth, you have to go looking for it whether on NC or by listening to a nightclub comedian on YouTube. And that is where we are with modern journalism today.
    Assange? He is part of the new breed. Get used to it. We know that if you write a book or article on something criticizing our elites, that you may have to go out of the US to have it published. It happens often but you typically do not notice it. It would be one thing if or elites were getting a true picture of the situation worldwide to inform their decision-making but we know that with the information bubble that they live in, they are making truly horrendous decisions in our name.
    And for something maybe more informative. here is an Honest Government Ad on Julian Assange but note – language alert!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1efOs0BsE0g

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  9. DonCoyote

    Glen Greenwald weighs in

    Also, the question “is X a ‘journalist’?” – as though it’s a credentialed, licensed status like being a doctor or lawyer – is deceitful. The First Amendment’s press freedom protects *an activity* available to everyone – not just a designated priesthood called “journalists.”

    Shall we call it the “Listen, Liberal?” disease?

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  10. Steve Ruis

    The Founders also pointed out that they didn’t want to bind the hands of future Americans and provided for the ability to interpret and amend the Constitution. The cited cases state unequivocally that we are talking of an individual right and not a corporate one. Every chance to turn this into something else has been squelched, unlike the infringement of the right to bear arms, the interpretation of which has been changed radically.

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  11. remmer

    Interesting post from Washington’s Blog. And I hope the people he quoted really do think the First Amendment applies to Assange. But we have to be careful when reading interpretations of the First Amendment in Supreme Court decisions and law review articles. The right hijacked First Amendment theory years ago, and ringing endorsements of speech and press freedom today may mean something very different from the Holmes-Brandeis doctrine that prevailed during the Warren Court era.

    Take the quote from Lewis Powell’s decision in First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti. When he said the First Amendment does not give protection only to “communication” by “corporate members of the institutional press,” he was arguing that it also protected political expenditures by non-media corporations such as the First National Bank of Boston and the other corporate appellants in the case (John Hancock Life Insurance being one of them). His Bellotti opinion was an argument that business corporation also have First Amendment rights of speech and press, and it was the core precedent for Citizens United. Two of the law professors he quoted, Michael McConnell and Eugene Volokh, and prominent defenders of the new conservative theory of the First Amendment. They may well believe the Constitution protects Assange as well as the New York Times, but they also believe it protects political expenditures by for-profit business corporations.

    Justice Powell is also the one who wrote the “Powell Memo.” And thanks for the links to the Weekly World News civers, Yves. “Best reporting on the planet” according to Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black.

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    1. remmer

      Clarification: McConnell and Volokh were quoted by “George Washington,” not Justice Powell in his Bellotti opinion.

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    2. a different chris

      >and ringing endorsements of speech and press freedom today may mean something very different from the Holmes-Brandeis doctrine

      You say “mean(s) something very different” but I don’t think it does as much as it’s simply been quietly* expanded (IANAL admittedly). So I think we cat re-sever the “for-profit business corporations” from the actual people the Constitution was written for. We do have to make the effort, of course, and it’s not easy because the one side is where all the money is. But at like $27/person maybe we can raise enough…

      *I know to the readers of this blog it doesn’t seem to be unknown at all, but ask some people at work and prepare to be depressed.

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      1. remmer

        You’re right that we have to “re-sever” business corporations from the flesh-and-blood citizens the Constitution was written for. But the Supreme Court has to agree to that, and we’re a long way from having the kind of politics that could make such a big change in the makeup of the Court. $27 contributions is the way to start creating that kind of politics, but the re-severing will take a long time.

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        1. Expat2uruguay

          “The Supreme Court has to agree to that”?? I don’t think so. Congress has the ability to amend the Constitution. Supreme Court interprets the Constitution. The Supreme Court does not get to set aside amendments to the Constitution which have been produced by the methods laid out in the Constitution.

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          1. remmer

            The method laid out in the Constitution is to have 2/3 majorities of both house of Congress pass an amendment — in this case, one that directly contradicts Supreme Court decisions — and than have it passed by 3/4 of the states. That’s why constitutional amendments generally aren’t passed to solve political conflicts but to formalize political changes that most people already agree should be made. Such as giving the vote to women and 18-year-olds. People who claim that a constitutional amendments is the way to overturn Citizens United are either fooling themselves or the people who contribute to them.

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            1. Expat2uruguay

              Is there a better way? Or is this the best way? The only other alternative is to give up all hope. TINA?
              Thank you very much for the clarification, it is a steep road, but not an impossible one.

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            2. JBird4049

              Campaigning for an amendment would be a good idea if it was made explicitly clear that creating a society wide consensus that spending money is not part of, or should not be part of, the right of free speech would be the actual goal.

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  12. Norb

    Free speech and the free flow of communications is the foundation of a just society. It is what makes that society “free”. The problem comes in when your society consists of diverse social units. Diversity causes problems in this situation- it makes things more complicated. A multitude of goals and world views does not sit well in social construction. Choices must be made. The power to choose entails curtailing the ability of others to undermine that choice. One persons freedom is another’s oppression.

    Neoliberals have decided not to modify their program. They are plowing ahead.

    Our current corrupt elite are trying to maintain their privileged social positions by over simplifying the social problems we face today. They are not truly interested in the common good, so their solution fail miserably when evaluated based on the common good. They are fabulously successful when viewed from their narrow interest.

    Unless the neoliberal order is overturned, we will be “Free” to participate in that structure. Common citizens will become the raw materials needed to keep the system going. We are raw materials.

    Sides must clearly be drawn in order to make any sense of what freedom means.

    We are living Rod Serling’s, “To Serve Man”, episode of the twilight zone- Its a cookbook.

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  13. DanB

    I’ve told this story before here at NC, but I feel it’s worth repeating each time issues of freedom of the press come up. In 1990-91 I interviewed dozens of East German intellectuals about how they were interpreting and fairing in united Germany (which unified early October 1990). I spoke with three journalists at that time, a TV reporter, a magazine editor, and a radio reporter. They told me they always knew that their real audience was not the people but the East German Socialist Party and government. Early on in their careers they saw no contradictions with journalistic ethics -which they were aware of- because they considered themselves “socialist journalists” whose highest duty was to report “all the news fit to print” that did not not 1) undermine socialism and 2) give ammunition to the capitalist West. I’d say this pretty well fits mainstream American media with the notations that American media are self-righteous and deluded.

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  14. Barry

    I’m starting to think the people who claim that Assange is not a journalist are not credentialed journalism-certifiers.

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  15. Anarcissie

    Is it true that ‘Americans have no idea what freedom of the press means?’ I think a lot of them do. Maybe not among the bourgeois professional castes, agreed, but out on the street — or the Net? Did anyone ask the proles what they thought? Just askin.

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  16. Susan the other`

    Thank you Yves for this manifesto. My question is: “Even tho’ we know factions propagandize, how do we know the truth?” We know the truth like my dog knew me, I never fooled them for a second. When I made them wait an extra two hours to go out to pee, they knew I just wanted to sleep. So how do we all know the truth? It’s because the truth is a monolith. It has existed since the universe was created. And I’m pretty sure there is a truth gene. How else? So to deny this most basic of human requirements is like denying us the oxygen we need to thrive. Diane Feinstein is a troglodyte. I’m ashamed she is an American. Julian Assange and all the blogs on the incredibly wonderful internet of open information are our guiding light. We all know it. Even the Supremes know this, and they have enough mystical intelligence left to know not to touch it with a ten foot pole. And if they do, We know it’s time to pick up the pitchforks. Freedom of information, speech, press is the highest good. Nancy Pelosi (to my knowledge, has not yet come out against freedom of (lets call it) thought – that is to her credit); but we all know Nancy swings in the wind. Here’s the “Truth”: Truth is Truth. How very succinct. Let’s submit to it. You might even look to a future where truth is actually defined and is as sacrosanct as blood, or water, or something else we haven’t yet managed to co-opt.

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  17. JBird4049

    Those troublesome people abusing their rights. Maybe they should not have them?

    About that…

    People forget that the Constitution as well as Bill of Rights was written by people who had lived through a growing police state and then a civil war. The various rights listed in the Bill of Rights, especially the First Amendment, were specifically put there to protect both the individual and the general population directly from both the government as well from general society itself.

    Weakening those protections from both the government and society by weakening our rights because somehow this will make us safe from something might, perhaps, even be true now; tomorrow they will have given the powerful more control over you.

    The Koch Brothers, Monsanto, New York Times, CIA, NSA, FBI, Gina Haspel, George H. Bush, Barack Obama, Governor Gavin Newsom, President Donald Trump, my local town and county governments, police everywhere all say that they are just great people that would never do anything to harm you. They just want to help us. Do you really need all of those troublesome rights?

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  18. Synoia

    The best description I’ve hear of Lord Reith, in the ’60s, was:

    He was a square.

    There is no freedom of speech in the UK. There are D notices, for censorship, and Treason is much more loosely defined than in the US.

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  19. Joe Well

    Regarding whether freedom of the “press” applies to bloggers, maybe it’s material that the software that most bloggers use is literally called WordPress. Clearly, a lot of people think this is the press.

    As to whether publishing docs in their entirety is a press activity, requiring editing of documents for First Amendment protections seems like a classic post-hoc argument.

    Reply

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