The First Amendment Is Hereby Repealed


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Items in the news this week:

1) The president signals he’s open to a government takeover of the newspaper industry. No word on whether government-supported papers will be required to change their names to PRAVDA.

If you’ve been told that the bill in question doesn’t set up direct government funding for newspapers, you’ve been misled. It doesn’t set up federal funding for newspapers, but it does everything possible to grease the skids for state and local government funding – and who’s prepared to bet that won’t happen once the opportunity is available?

As I wrote back in April:

Since the law already allows nonprofits to publish and distribute their own newspapers if they want to, the only possible rationale for Sen. Cardin’s proposal is that it allows newspapers to continue charging money to cover their costs while also recieving tax-free subsidies. And who would be doing the subsidizing? Even if government (at the state and local level) doesn’t do it directly, it’ll do it indirectly. Politicians have lots of wealthy friends who would love to have their own pet newspapers.

In fact, Cardin’s proposal is actually worse than a direct government subsidy. At least a direct subsidy would be on the books and subject to disclosure, oversight, and some level of accountability.

Cardin invokes the old Jeffersonian saw that it would be better to have newspapers without government rather than government without newspapers. Yes – but either of those would be better than having government newspapers.

I also wrote that “the proposal is obviously going to go nowhere because it fails the laugh test.” But the laugh test is one exam that’s been pretty radically dumbed down over the past six months; these days anyone can pass it.

2) Meanwhile, the latest development in the health care debate: The U.S. government is now openly using the criminal law to censor core political speech solely because the speech in question advocates a position the government opposes.

When I say “censor” I don’t mean they’re regulating donations and spending levels or imposing restrictions on the when, where and how. I mean they’re threatening to impose criminal sanctions for having said a certain thing, simply because it’s something they don’t want said.

And, of course, once the threat is made there’s no real need to prosecute. The threat itself is sufficient to censor all future speech on the subject.

I’ve written before that health care reform is a knife at the throat of our freedom. I had no idea the enslavement process would move so quickly. Care to place bets on which clause of the Bill of Rights will be the next to go?

UPDATE: Yet another health-care-destroys-free-speech story.

5 Responses to The First Amendment Is Hereby Repealed

  1. Minnesota Kid says:

    You know what? I was rather fond of the First Amendment while it lived and breathed. Rest in peace, my old friend.

  2. Patrick says:

    We have a wealthy liberal family here in southern Nevada that controls one small but popular newspaper. The family started with a newspaper (the Las Vegas Sun) and turned their attention to harassing wealthy organizations. A “loan” from the Teamsters (ostensibly to keep the Sun from writing more bad things about them) gave the family enough money to buy up and develop an area known as Green Valley, turning them into millionaires over night. They now own a construction firm, reality company (interestingly the newspaper was suggesting that people buy houses a few months ago because the prices were so good…they have continued to fall since then), a Vegas ticket company (for shows on the strip), and ownership stakes in 2 or 3 casinos.

    The newspaper appears as nothing more than a political front for the left now as the family has to sink a few million a year to keep it afloat (its now an insert into the Review Journal which is the only major profit-seeking newspaper left in Vegas).

    The Las Vegas Sun newspaper has run articles and columns in support of the owners personal friends when they (the friends) have come under fire for potentially illegal activities (they did so by personally attacking the individual who conducted the investigation). They didn’t even cover the investigation as a news story.

    And yes, said newspaper has written an editorial in favor of bailing out newspapers.

  3. Greg Forster says:

    It’s a point worth making that newspaper coverage has always been partly compromised by the papers’ own self-interests, business and otherwise. The difficulty of dealing with bias created by self-interest is just part of the fallen world we live in. But the proposed government bailout for newspapers would make things ten times worse – for starters, wealthy families don’t have the powers of taxation, regulation, law enforcement, etc. so there’s a limit to how bad their bad influence can get.

    • Patrick says:

      That is true, they do not have the power of taxation, but they do have lots of influence to get what they want wether it is a mob museum, light rail, art district, or a $740 a square foot building named after themself (at least they put up about half of the cost, but the other half came from taxpayers).

  4. allen says:

    Give it up Patrick. The comparison between a rich individual/family and an authoritarian state is ludicrous as anyone who’s enjoyed the delights of living under an authoritarian regime will tell you.

    Heck, you even admit the situation’s in the process of being agreeably resolved with the information that “the family has to sink a few million a year to keep it afloat”. There’s a point at which the outlay will not be worth the diminishing influence of what’s now an insert into a real newspaper.

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