New questions are being raised about the definition of “journalist” and who should properly qualify, which appears to be one more attempt by the federal government to suppress freedom of speech and of the press and to further abrogate the rights of American citizens under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
A thoughtful discussion of this question has been published in “Journalist Shield Law has Problems”
by Jonah Goldberg. Goldberg is a familiar spokesman for the right, with whom I more often than not disagree. But when he’s right, he’s right–and in this case Jonah Goldberg is “right-on”:
In response to the acknowledged abuses of his own Justice Department, President Barack Obama has urged Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to reintroduce legislation for a “journalist shield law.” And in typical Washington fashion, the proposed act would do nothing to prevent the abuses that supposedly make the law so necessary.
We saw a similar response to the horrible Connecticut school shootings last December — a raft of laws that wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy in the first place. It seems that whenever government fails to do what it is supposed to do with the laws already on the books, the answer is to give the government even more power.
Ah, but proponents of journalist shield laws argue that such regulations actually limit the power of government by protecting the First Amendment rights of the press. But that begs the question. A journalist shield law must define who is a journalist and who isn’t.
On May 26, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on “Fox News Sunday” that the proposed shield law “still leaves an unanswered question. …What is a journalist today, 2013? We know it’s someone who works for Fox or AP, but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who’s tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection?”
Part of the problem stems from Durbin’s apparent suggestion that the First Amendment protects only a free press. It also protects free speech, free assembly, freedom of worship and the right to petition the government for the redress of grievances. We all have these rights. The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward has no more rights than my dentist.
And this is what is wrong with the idea of a federal shield law. One proposed version of the law says a “covered person” is someone who “for financial gain or livelihood, is engaged in journalism.” In other words, a journalist is a professional. So, the government gets to decide who’s a “real” journalist. That’s a horrifying expansion in government authority.
Goldberg provides a refreshing response to the threat posed by the federal government, where FOX News and the major media increasingly function as conduits for propaganda and disinformation posing as “news”, there is another–more subtle and less obvious–threat from the left, which appears to be rooted in a commitment to “political correctness” that more often than not functions as a filter to suppress the publication of opinions and research that contradict or undermine the positions prevailing within the left wing about gun control, 9/11, Sandy Hook, the Boston bombing and other atrocities.
The Hartwell Rejection
A striking example of this this attitude emerged when OpEdNews
, which promotes itself as “Progressive * Tough * Liberal”, rejected an article submitted by Dean Hartwell about 9/11. I usually side with the opinions featured there, where I have had a generally cordial relationship with Rob Kall, its editor, who had since 2007 published 43 articles of my own, including a number about 9/11. So I was taken aback to discover that his article, which I regarded as a valuable contribution to 9/11 studies, was not accepted. I was so distressed by the explanation Dean was given–“We regretfully inform you that we do not accept any more 9/11 stories”–that I invited him to co-author an article about left-wing gatekeeping at Veterans Today
Indeed, Dean Hartwell had published even more articles with OpEdNews
than had I–some 65 at last count
–including at least five about 9/11, Flight 93 and the reports about its having landed in Cleveland, which is a fascinating dimension of 9/11 research. The very clear and succinct fashion in which Dean, who has a background in the law, lays out the case for what it would take to refute the prima facie
case that the passengers who were alleged to have died on 9/11 appear to be fabrications is most certainly not something that OpEdNews
has ever addressed, which, considering the importance of 9/11 as the pivotal event of the 21st Century, it surely ought to have published in the interests of truth and of the American people.
The Editor’s Retaliation
The publication of our article with the title, “Left-Wing Gatekeepers: From Noam Chomsky to Rob Kall?”
, apparently did not go down well with the editor of OpEdNews
and I discovered that I could no longer publish there. Indeed, I was not even being allowed to post comments on articles, but my “Author’s Page” and articles remained intact. My next contact with him arose when I was advised that I was being assailed in the comments of an article by Rob Kall himself titled, “A Conspiracy Conspiracy Theory”
, lambasting research that could be qualified as “conspiracy theory” on a variety of specious grounds:
I am not stuttering. I think that there are a group of people who milk the trust and open-mindedness of some, the distrusting and suspicious and the outright paranoid. These conspiracy perpetrators actually conspire to create new conspiracy theories for a number of reasons.
Dave Weigel has written a brilliant article on this for Salon, titled, Don’t Blame The Sandy Hook Truthers
. It broaches the idea that there now are all kinds of truthers– 911, birthers, Sandy Hook…
That got me thinking how there are different motivations for people to promote conspiracy theories.
-They distract people from looking at problematic aspects of cases that are real, but less sexy than the conspiracy theories.
-They make investigation into cases that are totally legitimate seem less credible and more batshit crazy. Legit investigations get thrown in with the crazy stuff.
-Some professional conspiracy theorists and websites make money or get free travel from this– from books, speaking, website traffic that’s converted into ad revenue.
-They use the conspiracy theories to sell some other aspect of their agenda. There is a finge group of 911 Truthers who are flaming anti-semites. Birthers are mostly right wingers and some racists. Dave Weigel’s Salon article addresses the latest Sandy Hook Truther garbage.
This rant reminded me of the CIA advisory to its operatives on how to attack critics of The Warren Report
. What I noticed at the time was not his strident denunciation of those who are conducting research on Sandy Hook–on which, I am quite sure, Rob Kall has done no research–but that Rob Kall is committing the fallacy of begging the question
by taking for granted a proposition that requires independent investigation and to be established on the basis of logic and evidence. Unless we investigate what we are being told, we cannot know whether what we are being told is true or false.
Since I was being attacked by others in the comments, I believed that I was entitled to respond. So I wrote to him and received his reply:
I did not notice at the time, but my “Author’s Page” had been rendered invisible
. If I had paid more attention to his attack on conspiracy theories, I probably could have anticipated that his venom would be expressed by taking an escalating series of measures (1) by denying my right to submit, (2) by making my “Author’s Page” inaccessible and (3) by actually making my articles themselves disappear. I had, after all, committed the grotesque offense of publishing a series of articles about Sandy Hook, which he knew
had occurred as the “official accounts” had portrayed–in spite of massive evidence to the contrary.
Just for the record, I only believe that the Mossad was involved to the extent that it runs DHS. The evidence that has become available even suggests that no children at all were killed at Sandy Hook! This appears to have been a DHS event, where DHS vehicles were seen in the vicinity before the “shooting” went down; the Connecticut State Emergency Communications Network was taken over earlier in the morning; there was no rush of EMTs to get those little bodies to the hospital, where qualified physicians could determine whether they were dead or alive–and their bodies were allegedly left in a classroom and removed in the dead of night.
My Disappearing Articles
None of these articles was published at OpEdNews but at Veterans Today, where there is no “filter” of political correctness that constrains the exercise of freedom of thought and of freedom of inquiry. It never dawned on me that the editor of an on-line journal, such as OpEdNews, would actually DELETE ARTICLES that had been published there. That is about as unprofessional, unethical and disgusting as it gets. There is an implicit contract between an editor of a journal like OpEdNews and his contributors that he will treat them with respect. As a professional scholar, I find it difficult to express my dismay as this exchange with Rob Kall unfolded:
At some point in time–relatively recently–Rob Kall, the editor of OpEdNews–decided to retaliate against a contributor to the journal he edits. His actions in this case are completely unprofessional and abrogate an implied understanding between any editor and any contributor to an on-line journal like OpEdNews. I have extensive editorial experience in philosophy and such an act would be regarded as a justification for removing an editor from that position. It distorts the history of the journal by interrupting the record of its publications and severs links to articles that have permeated the internet. This is a disgraceful performance by the editor of OpEdNews.
Bear in mind, ALL 43 OF THESE ARTICLES WERE ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION IN OpEdNews. What happened in the meanwhile that the editor who was the editor when they were accepted should abruptly dismiss the author and then delete the articles themselves? If Rob Kall had a problem with me that only surfaced with the passage of time, then he had to right to reject any future submissions from me. But he did not have the right to delete articles that he himself had accepted in the past. That was a puerile act of punishment, probably for my having called him out as a “left-wing gatekeeper”. He never had the right to then delete my author’s page or the complete archive of forty-three articles that I had published there.
Drawing inferences about motives can be complex and uncertain, but the responsibilities of editors toward authors are not subtle or difficult to define. This action was unprofessional and inexcusable. Other contributors to OpEdNews
are entitled to know that they, too, could be subjected to this kind of retribution for aggravating the editor of their journal. If Rob has been subjected to pressure by the ADL, for example, because I have asserted that Israel had a role in 9/11–for which I have been attacked as an “anti-Semitic 9/11 conspiracy theorist”
–that might explain it. If that is true, he should be made of sterner stuff. But when he’s wrong, he’s wrong–and in this case, Rob Kall is disgustingly wrong.
The Complete “Hit List”
Jim Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer, is McKnight Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota Duluth and an editor of and contributor to Veterans Today.
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