I was recently surprised to find that another amateur journalist labeled my Firearms Lawyer column as the “screaming mimi equivalent to the vile, contempatable (sic) and ignorant Glenn Beck.”
I confess that I often listen to Beck, a self-professed recovering alcoholic that has, nevertheless, managed to disrupt the body politic by driving self-professed Communist and Green Jobs czar Van Jones out of federal employment and into the ranks of well-funded tax-exempt left-wing think tanks.
I am alarmed that one of my colleagues would refer to me as “contempatable.” The time has come to stop irresponsible hate speech once and for all; i.e., the kind of speech engaged in by people like Glenn Beck.
Cass Sunstein is the Obama administration’s administrator of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). Sunstein, in a groundbreaking book “Democracy and the Problem of Free Speech,” has called for a “New Deal” for public speech. In the face of America’s traditional “marketplace of ideas,” Sunstein has courageously redefined the First Amendment.
In Sunstein’s conception of democracy, society would mandate free media time for political candidates, federal guidelines for the coverage of public issues, and curtailment of the ability of the wealthy to buy access to the media. Such proposals “would bring about significant changes in the legal treatment currently given to many free speech issues.”
Unlicensed bloggers and laptop-toting cowboy “journalists” have little knowledge of complex societal problems. While simplistically trumpeting their First Amendment “right” to demand vigilante-style opposition to progressive reform, such irresponsible citizen journalists ignore the fact that only those with extensive journalistic or legal experience should be able to criticize public policy initiatives like health care reform, proposed legislation to prevent gun violence and other common sense public initiatives proposed for the good of all.
I propose that we consider registering pens and paper. Some will accuse me of being opposed to the First Amendment. Law enforcement officials like Mr. Sunstein need reasonable procedures, however, to track irresponsible reporting. Don’t we require licenses for people to drive cars?
Fully automatic military-style rifles are already severely restricted under federal law — many states already prohibit them completely; other states even prohibit sex toys and vibrators. Yet we have no way of keeping word processors away from the hands of criminals, children, the mentally defective and followers of despicable demagogues like Glenn Beck who can spit out hundreds of misguided messages in a minute. Stolen laptops presently are sold on the black market and even end up in the hands of terrorists and the Mexican cartels.
The United Nations reports that there are countries like Venezuela, China and Iran that struggle in vain to block their own citizens from viewing counter-revolutionary messages in cyberspace that interfere with legitimate government policies. The First Amendment was drafted in a different time under radically different circumstances than society faces today. We did not even see the advent of the telegraph until the 1800s. Mass communications with the potential to mislead millions of people did not exist until recently.
Neanderthal “Tea Baggers” lacking a responsible value system may even take articles written by untrained “civilians” and then use their words and information against the very reforms that our government struggles to impose for the good of all of us. Before we allow marginally trained hobbyists to introduce amateur journalistic bravado into public discussions, we need to perform a cost-effectiveness analysis. We must weigh the cost of preventing unfiltered information to enter the airwaves and cyberspace against the unthinkable cost of allowing global programs impacting climate change to be sabotaged. Can we afford to reduce civilization to the most primitive levels just because of an outmoded prejudice that encourages anyone to have access to such weapons of mass communication at any time and any place?
I believe in the First Amendment, but I also believe in common sense and evolving community standards.