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