A South Carolina lawmaker was trying to make a point about our Constitutional freedoms, but boy, the press didn’t get it.
When State Rep. Mike Pitts introduced the “Responsible Journalism Registry Law,” he was trying to make a point about the sanctity of both our First and Second Amendment rights and how those rights are either lauded or ignored by the mainstream media.
It was a ruse, and the press realized this, but not after some serious freaking out on their part.
The bill required reporters to register with the government, established fines and fees for failing to register and set up a list of requirements that must be met before someone can be considered a “journalist” in the state.
If all this sounds familiar, it is. It’s the same language and requirements that are proposed ad nauseam by the left over theSecond Amendment. Registration, fines and regulations designed to limit the right to “Keep and Bear Arms” are so ubiquitous in this country, they’re almost accepted as part of our national discourse.
But the press didn’t get this.
The Washington Post freaked out.
My visceral reaction isn’t printable but can be summarized thusly: This is a naked attack on the First Amendment — 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.
There’s also a practical problem: How on Earth would South Carolina’s secretary of state, charged with maintaining the registry, do its job here, anyway? Journalists can’t even define who is a journalist anymore, what with all the bloggers and tweeters posting the kind of information and opinion that used to come only from a highly institutionalized press. Good luck to Pitts when it comes to crafting a legal definition of journalism.
Come to think of it, that’s really the great folly here. What Pitts is proposing isn’t just wrong; it simply can’t be done. There’s no stopping people from spreading the news in a digital society — certainly not with some outdated idea for a registry.
The writer for the above article on Tuesday came out the next day and acknowledged that he had been had. That Rep. Pitts wanted to play the press like a fiddle – to make a point about how little outrage there is when it comes to restricting the Second Amendment – and it worked.
The South Carolina lawmaker who filed a bill Tuesday that would establish a registry for “responsible” journalists now says the whole thing was really — well, mostly — about exposing the media’s double standard on gun control. Gotcha!
After submitting the “South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law,” state Rep. Mike Pitts, a Republican, basically told the Post and Courier of Charleston that he was trolling the media; he knew journalists would flip out over the proposal to curtail 1st Amendment freedoms (we did), and he figured that reaction would stand in contrast to their lack of outrage over efforts to limit 2nd Amendment rights.
“It strikes me as ironic that the first question is constitutionality from a press that has no problem demonizing firearms,” Pitts said. “With this statement, I’m talking primarily about printed press and TV. The TV stations, the 6 o’clock news and the printed press has no qualms demonizing gun owners and gun ownership.”
The takeaway from this is two fold: There is a double standard with respect to how reporters treat the First and Second Amendments – they consider one to be immutable and the other, well, not.
The second point is that most reporters are really stupid. Anybody with half a brain could tell what Rep. Pitts was up to. Anybody, apparently, except the mainstream media.