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General News and Politics
By Jim Barber, Camp Verde, Arizona
Current news and political discussion
Friday, February 14, 2014

1st AMENDMENT IN DANGER

 The Barber Shop

A just released poll reveals that Americans believe, by a margin of 56% to 40%, that the so called Affordable Care Act has more to do with government gaining power over our everyday lives than it does with health care. Polls also show that Americans no longer trust our president to tell the truth and fewer than 1 in 5 think our Congress is doing a good job. Even the staunchly liberal Washington Post editorial board has finally concluded that Mr. Obama is playing fast and loose with the U.S. Constitution, overstepping the bounds of executive power in his attempts to bypass a divided Congress to get his way without having to compromise. Those efforts have not been limited to questionable executive orders. This administration has suborned the very branches of government meant to protect and facilitate the protection of our constitutional rights to deny or neutralize those same rights in order to advance an agenda. The most egregious of those efforts has been those aimed to quell the freedom of speech of those opposed to that agenda.

The Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder - second only to the president himself in law enforcement, has attempted to intimidate journalists into silence, going so far as to bring criminal charges against one such individual who reported information leaked to him by a government official. Top officials in the IRS, according to newly released interoffice e-mails, conspired to restrain the efforts of conservative groups during the run-up to the 2012 presidential election and, in fact, are continuing the effort to suppress opposition for the mid-term elections of 2014.

While most news organizations have been willing dupes, co-conspirators and outright allies of the liberal agenda, they may now wake up to the fact of an attempt to marginalize even their possible weak-kneed efforts at honest journalism.

Reporters Without Borders has published their latest "World Press Freedom Index." The results show that the United States has fallen another 13 spots from last year to rank 46th in the world (between Romania and Haiti) in terms of the freedom of our press. This should be of concern to all Americans because, imperfect as it is, a free press is critical to the First Amendment and the continuance of liberty.

The Federal Election Commission recently dismissed a complaint against station WCVB in Boston. The complainant, a libertarian, charged that WCVB had made illegal campaign contributions when they broadcast a debate between his Republican and Democrat opponents without inviting him to join the discussion, alleging that the production costs and airtime constituted illegal corporate contributions. The FEC decided that "the editorial criteria were sufficiently objective and thus the station had not made an unlawful corporate contribution" and dismissed the complaint. The problem is that the FEC had no authority to rule on the complaint. The Federal Elections Campaign Act established the FEC to protect us from corrupt politicians. But, recognizing the First Amendment, specifically forbade the FEC from regulating the press. The FEC should have refused to sit on the complaint. Even though they approved WCVB's right to hold the debate, that approval implies their right to disapprove. The "power to investigate, punish and even enjoin is the power to censor news programs."

The Federal Communications Commission is also acting suspiciously. Last May they advanced a proposal for a "Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs" (CIN) The study intends to explore how and why news media decide which stories to run. They will question reporters, editors and station owners about "the process by which stories are selected, how often they cover 'critical information needs and perceived station bias." The eight categories of "critical information" include such items as the "environment" and economic opportunities (sound familiar?) In the event that commissioners decided they did not care for the mix of news any particular broadcaster presents, it would be hard for that broadcaster to ignore "suggestions" by the FEC as to remedy the perceived "problem." Broadcasters must renew their FCC license every eight years. The power to withhold a license is the power to intimate or censor.

Encroaching government regulation is a danger to freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. The first step toward that goal is to limit and control information to the public. The press must not be a bystander in the fight for its own existence.






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