The flap over registering journalists

  • 21 January 2016
  • NormanL
The flap over registering journalists

Political journalists came a bit unglued by a bill proposed in the South Carolina House that would create a registry of responsible journalists. This Washington Post piece is a case in point:

My visceral reaction isn’t printable but can be summarized thusly: This is a naked attack on the First Amendent — you know, the one that says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” I realize we’re talking about a state legislature here, not Congress, but we’re also talking about one of the nation’s founding principles.

That aside, this kind of law would be completely unworkable. Look, there’s plenty of media garbage out there, but everyone has a different definition of what garbage is. Does anyone want a bunch of self-interested government officials setting the standard?

We register surgeons and pilots and teachers and people in many, many other professions. You can make a coherent case that journalism is a very important profession too, but there’s a reason why journalists have reputations, instead of licenses. They have a fundamental American right to share information, and their audiences have a right to decide whether to believe it or dismiss it. By contrast, no one is entitled to remove brain tumors, fly airplanes or teach third-graders.

It's an assault on the First Amendment! To the barricades!

But a digital media outlet in South Carolina went and did a little reporting. Here's what they discovered:

We reached out to Pitts’ supporters about the bill, and they told us it was “more of a pushback statement against MSM outlets who constantly demonize gun owners, people who sell guns, and gun manufacturers.”

“It is more or less aimed at (the big newspapers) and their cohorts,” one Pitts ally said.  “(He) doesn’t expect it to pass, but filed the bill as more of a statement.”

Okay then -- it's a thumb in the eye, not a serious policy proposal.

We're all for poking the media. We're not in favor of tit-for-tat legislation, regardless of the intended message, or target. Constitutional rights are above such nonsense. 

But on the off-chance this forces the press to consider its love affair with registering, and increasingly criminalizing, gun owners who exercise their constitutional rights, maybe it's not a complete waste of time.

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