Jewish World Review May 24, 2013/ 15 Sivan, 5773
First Amendment clause-trophobia
By Jonah Goldberg
That's the full text of the First Amendment. But (with apologies to the old Far Side comic), this is what many in the press, academia and government would hear if you read it aloud: "
Don't get me wrong: The revelation that the
The press can always be counted upon not just to speak up for itself, but to lavish attention on itself. "We can't help that we're so fascinating," seems to be their unspoken mantra.
And that's fine. What's not fine is the way so many in the press talk about the First Amendment as if it's their trade's private license.
The problem is twofold. First, we all have a right to commit journalism under the First Amendment, whether it's a
I understand that professional journalists are on the front lines of the First Amendment's free press clause. But many elite outlets and journalism schools foster a guild mentality that sees journalism as a priestly caste deserving of special privileges. That's why editorial boards love campaign finance restrictions: They don't like editorial competition from outside their ranks. Such elitism never made sense, but it's particularly idiotic at a moment when technology -- Twitter,
The second problem is that the First Amendment is about more than the press. In public discussion, First Amendment "experts" and "watchdogs" are really scholars and activists specializing in the little slice dedicated to the press. The Newseum, a gaudy palace in the nation's capital celebrating the news industry, ostentatiously reprints the entire First Amendment on its facade. But if the curators of the Newseum are much interested in the free exercise of religion or the rights of the people peaceably to assemble, I've seen no evidence of it.
Even if that were true when it comes to press freedoms -- and that's highly debatable -- it's absurd when it comes to the rest of the First Amendment, with the small exception of the "establishment of religion" clause. Deeply secular, the press is ever watchful that the government might force someone to listen to a Christian prayer.
But when it comes to the constitutional right to exercise your faith freely, the press drops its love of the First Amendment like a bag of dirt. The president's health-care plan requires religious institutions to violate their core beliefs. To the extent that such concerns get coverage at all, it's usually to lionize "reproductive rights" activists in their battles against religious zealots.
Some Americans wanted to exercise their religious conscience. (
By all means, journalists should be outraged by the president's attitude toward the press. But if you're going to call yourself a defender of the First Amendment, please defend the whole thing and not just the parts you make a living from.
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