Sunday, January 03, 2010

Sunshine patriots of the First Amendment

And how are things on the free speech front over at the Fair 'n' Balanced Network? Let's look at a few examples.

At top is a story from Thursday that -- well, as Uncle Aron used to say, it really puts the question to the bishop, doesn't it? A federal agency feels stung when a couple of bloggers -- Fox seems to have unilaterally promoted them to "journalists," but we've been doing that ever since a couple of political hustlers walked into J.P. Zenger's Print Shoppe with some cash and an offer one day -- post its new regulations online, and it wants to find the leaker, so it rolls out the artillery. Bad, stupid, dumb idea (see Doug's comments), but because the security card has been played, one that it's politically difficult to dismiss out of hand.

Like it or not, posting security procedures online is uncomfortably close to the troop-movements-in-wartime category of stuff that isn't looked on lightly by either public opinion or the legal system. By all appearances, these guys were right, and this certainly wouldn't be the first time public safety was improved by a little public ridicule. But you have to admit, it takes some sand to make that call from the outset -- particularly in an environment where the War on TerrorĀ® has been so readily used to shut off debate about freedom of expression.

Our second item is from this evening. It's an AP story about the doings of a "high-profile Arizona sheriff" and people who have set up a telephone tree, text-message-style, to spread the word whenever he's on the prowl. Any distortions in the frontpage presence are down to Fox. It's not true that "officials say" advocates are walking a fine line between legal and illegal activities. Only one official says that, and that's the sheriff himself, and if he thinks pigs can fly, he's welcome to that opinion too; there's no a priori reason to think his knowledge of aerospace engineering is any more thoroughly clueless than his understanding of the right to freedom of communication. I have cats who could get a charge like that laughed out of court. Hell, if I had a hot oven, half an hour, some milk and eggs, a cup of flour and three-quarters cup of corn meal, I could make a cornbread that would walk all over Deputy Dawg there as soon as he brought his Felony Texting While Hispanic charge.

Why hasn't Fox turned the rehabilitated Judy Miller loose to make fun of this clown? Perhaps we might find some clues in the comments on the blogger/TSA story:

THIS is what the Obama Administration is all about...they are rogue punks who intimidate. These reporters/bloggers are PATRIOTS.

That's nice, isn't it? Free speech as a patriotic (sorry, PATRIOTIC) virtue? Perhaps we can be forgiven for thinking Fox's devotion to freedom of speech and of the press would be a bit more credible if Fox wasn't such a gaggle of summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.

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