Comrade is “Official” Journalist? Certified, Da or Nyet?

“The Press” always did reference a machine.

I find it increasingly difficult to look away from a Nancy Pelosi presser, less because of what she says, but for how she says it. Her shuddering gestures and stammering cadences remind me of Judy Garland (and, lately, her daughter, Liza) gassing away in the moment and then smiling broadly at the audience when a sentence is finally completed. It’s unnerving; it’s discomfiting and — when coupled with her astonishing willingness to say almost anything in order to sustain and promote the Party Line — it’s morbidly fascinating.

The other day, a friend found herself taken aback at the Pelosi’s effusive praise for the president and his Syrian-Strike-Omnishambles as the former House Speaker tweeted a gusher: “Thanks to Pres. Obama’s strength, we have a Russian proposal.”

“What do you think?” My friend asked.

I said I thought her line sounded rather like parody of a Soviet-era propaganda, where a shortage of shoes or toilet paper would be heralded as evidence the Party’s wonderful promise of a more equitable tomorrow, and a defeat would be announced, comrades, as a glorious victory for our beloved leader. “Increasingly,” I wrote, “her every pronouncement sounds like it should begin or end with the word “Comrade.”

But in fairness to Pelosi, she’s not the only one whose utterings (or legislative positions) get the word “comrade” and “the party” echoing through my brain. As we read of journalists leaving their jobs to work for the White House (or being journalists married to folks who work there, or being the news-outlet-running siblings of folk who work there) this news becomes a bit more chilling.

Last night, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would shield reporters from people like Eric Holder and the Department of Justice — but that depends on the definition of the word “journalist.” Dianne Feinstein wants that to be a rather exclusive club:

Journalists and bloggers who report news to the public will be protected from being forced to testify about their work under a media shield bill passed by a Senate committee Thursday.

But the new legal protections will not extend to the controversial online website Wikileaks and others whose principal work involves disclosing “primary-source documents … without authorization.” …

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) insisted on limiting the legal protection to “real reporters” and not, she said, a 17-year-old with his own website.

“I can’t support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege … or if Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have a privilege. I’m not going to go there,” she said.

Feinstein introduced an amendment that defines a “covered journalist” as someone who gathers and reports news for “an entity or service that disseminates news and information.” The definition includes freelancers, part-timers and student journalists, and it permits a judge to go further and extend the protections to any “legitimate news-gathering activities.”

There is too much to excerpt so read it all. Writes Ed Morrissey:

The founders did not include the First Amendment in order to allow the government to decide who gets its protections. If the shield is an extension of the First Amendment, then it applies to everyone involved in journalistic efforts, or no one at all.

When I read this I imagined Ben Franklin at his self-owned printing press, and pondered the recent media acquisitions by the wealthiest among us. Such acquisitions immediately confer “official media” status upon Jeff Bezos and John Henry, neither of whom are actually the sort of j-school credentialed journalists Feinstein and her ilk seek to define and certify. But then, even in Franklin’s time, all it took was a bit of money or business acumen to get one’s hands on a printing press.

Damn this egalitarian age, then, wherein any worker with a keyboard, halfway decent research skills and an opinion can also have a platform. Is outrage! Is dangerous! Is unseemly, comrade, when the words we read are too unregulated and too freely disseminated.

Is good thinking, then, to make partners with likes of this and also to make spying, too.

H.L. Mencken’s Birthday was yesterday; He’d have hated today’s press.

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  • DaTechGuy on DaRadio

    We can’t have folks like me and you asking questions or covering events in DC as I did this week being considered journalists. How will the feudal lords control information otherwise.

  • Victor

    (((‘You’re f*cking insane’: Fangirl Nancy Pelosi fawns over ‘Obama’s strength’ in Syria crisis)))

    “I’M” tongue tide Victor! Thank GOD for Gravity!

    Really sinner vic?

    Go Figure folks :)

    God Bless Peace

  • Ron Turner

    To be fair, i can think of a few “journalists” who cover the White House and certainly ought to be “certified”.

  • Augustine

    Of course, anyone 5 years ago saying that Barry was a text-book Socialist was scorned as a tinfoil hatter.

  • Adam Frey

    I do not like the definition of “journalist” as I read it.

    Having said that, I should note that a lot of our key privileges are creatures of statute and not necessarily enshrined in the Constitution. For Catholics, the one of great concern is the priest-penitent privilege. The state and federal governments there came up with the definition they thought appropriate and the circumstances in which they thought it should apply. Your murder confession to your priest (or, believe it or not, to a protestant minister, a rabbi, or a muslim cleric) is a protected statement, but that’s a creation of the legislature, and they could modify or take it away if sufficient votes desired it.

    I should also note that writing laws are tricky, because lawmakers need to strike a balance between being too strict and being too loose. Example: a law making it illegal to have sex with minors is a good thing. However, this also leads to the absurd result that having sex with some a day over 18 is legal, while a day under 18 is a felony. An alternative would be to make it illegal to have sex with “immature persons,” but that would be an incredibly difficult law to interpret and enforce.

    It’s *good* that the government wants to offer protection to journalists. The trick here might be to petition your representatives to appropriately widen the definition to include bloggers, not eliminate it altogether.

  • Adam Frey

    I had a further thought on the difficulties of writing laws that I wanted to share. (As of this writing, my earlier comment hasn’t been posted yet–but I only put it up a few minutes ago, so that’s fine.)

    When I went to Afghanistan a few years ago, all of us military folk were subject to a “general order” which prohibited certain activities for the sake of maintaining order and discipline on the base. You wanted your military ready to fight, not goofing off, and not offending the locals, so a number of things were banned: drugs (goes without saying, but they put it in there), taking war trophies, possessing pornography, and…alcohol.

    I have no problem with banning alcohol in the AOR, because the last thing you want is drunk soldiers when the base is being attacked. However, I suffered from some cognitive dissonance when I went to my first Catholic Mass and realized that the order didn’t have a Catholic exception. Well, there was the Army chaplain pouring the wine, transubstantiating it, people were receiving…(I love my faith, but the defense of “It’s not wine, it’s blood!” wouldn’t hold up in court.) So if I took wine, was I breaking the law?

    One of the head lawyers for the Air Force calmed me down: no, church wine isn’t covered by the order. There was no written exception for Catholic services in the order: I was supposed to simply take it on faith (and really, common sense) that I wouldn’t get in trouble for participating in both species of the Mass.

    I can only guess as to why the order didn’t include a Catholic exception. Maybe the drafters didn’t want to cause infighting with other faiths represented in the military. Maybe they were worried about the Freedom From Religion foundation lodging a complaint. Maybe they worried that an explicit religious exemption would lead to ambiguity, and any private would sneak over some whiskey and claim it was for religious purposes. Or maybe they just forgot to include it. I don’t know. I imagine that if they tried to define “religious purposes” in the order, somebody, somewhere would have complained that a government entity was setting limits on what constitutes religion.

    The point that I’m trying to capture is that when a lawmaker writes any kind of rule, they have to balance between being too broad (a “journalist” is anybody who writes something–so if my friend is dealing drugs, and I post about it on Facebook, I’m a journalist!) or too narrow (a journalist must meet criteria A through Z, so only six reporters in the whole country are covered). Instead of assuming ulterior motives and worrying about bloggers being prosecuted (which may or may not happen!), let’s actually look at the proposed law, pick it apart, and figure out if it’s going to be a problem or not.

    With that, does anyone have a link to the actual, proposed text of the journalist shield? I’m seeing articles that link to other articles and no actual layout of what the law would say.

  • Manny

    I’ve been away and haven’t been able to comment on the Syrian disaster. Nancy Pelosi is a joke. Anyone that thinks this came out well (and it’s not over) is either an Amereican basher or not all there. This has been an unmitaged disaster for US prestige. You have a semi totalitarian dictator from Russia who has completely twisted our administration into knots. I’m embarressed as an American. People who may think this bodes well for world stability, you’re wrong. We now have as leader of the free world for the next 40 months a weak, pathetic joke. What ever happens in Syria is almost secondary.

  • Augustine

    That’s the difficulty in Protestant countries: literalism. In other countries, even non-Catholic ones, the spirit of the law, as expressed in the debates among the legislators that led to it, is also considered when the courts interpret a law. It’s not perfect, but at least laws are not as enslaving as in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic countries and lawyers have a lower stature, since punching loop holes is easily covered by judges who are thus not bound by the letter of the law.

    PS: Jimmy Akin explained this more fully, especially as applied to Canon Law, here:

  • LadyBird

    Why do you think this march toward totalitarianism is being allowed…in our freedom loving society? Because the Left is in charge of the media, all of it. In turn the conservatives are shut down at every turn. In my experience with my democrat friends they do not want to hear anything I, a conservative, has to say regarding the State of Affairs. The comment whey I try to speak about our government is “let’s not go there.” That’s code for “we won the vote and you shut up and like it.”
    My dad and his brother in the 60′s had heated political discussions at the dinner table. It was wonderful. One was a democrat the other a republican. They chided each other and once in a while a point was given to the other. My generation can’t do that. I miss civil discourse over differing ideas.
    Our country has turned into beige vanilla pudding from an overdose of PC and tyranny from the left. Time to bring out critical reasoning and a backbone, before it’s too late. Vodka anyone?

  • Adam Frey

    This is true, though I find that even the literalism of statutory law may bend under judicial interpretation. Congress’ laws are tested and refined by the courts. Here’s what will happen: some blogger will come under subpoena, the blogger will claim the privilege, and the courts will have to rule whether the blogger’s duties and profession come within the statute as written by Congress. I am sure that the blogger’s attorney will heavily argue First Amendment considerations in relation to interpretation.

    How it will come out in the wash, I don’t know. Again, I haven’t seen the statute yet. I’ve seen other legal statutes that define “psychotherapist” and, yes, “clergyman.” Yes, the government defined “clergyman” decades ago, and nobody cries foul over that (if they ever did).