Liberty of speech inviteth and provoketh liberty to be used again, and so bringeth much to a man’s knowledge – Francis Bacon, 1605
Give me the liberty to know, utter and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties – John Milton, 1644
Yesterday, the State of California charged two people with violations of State Law in the secret filming of Planned Parenthood staffers who – according to the edited videos – made stunning revelations about the operations of the agency behind closed doors. Many on the Right condemned the prosecution as political in nature and in violation of the 1st Amendment.
For whatever it’s worth, I don’t disagree. This is a political motivated prosecution. But that is not to what we should be paying attention.
Some years ago a lawmaker in Texas proposed a law that would make filming of Police in action a crime, unless the person doing the filming was a “Registered” Journalist. The concern, as explained by the Lawmaker, was that “too many” people were filming Cops and sooner or later – it hadn’t happened yet – somebody was going to get hurt. He was concerned about “keeping people safe” and so proposed that the State would decide who and who was not a “journalist,” thus making Cop Filming safe for Texans.
The law never made it past the proposal State, but other laws did. In one case, Texas has created an exemption to its own procedures for Civil Torts (Lawsuits) that allows “members of the of the electronic and print media, or a person whose communication appears in, or is published by the electronic or print media, to immediately appeal a trial court decision that involves free speech or free press rights.”
The question the Court recently refused to consider is simply whether or not a blog is considered “electronic media?” In the words of one Justice on the Texas Supreme Court, the so-called “Primary Business Test” has the effect of chilling free speech and forces the courts to focus on who does the publishing rather than what was published.
In effect, the debate has moved from the actual speech to the person/entity making the speech. It is “approved” or is it rogue? This is how the State, be it a totalitarian dictatorship or the Republic of California, controls media and consequently, public consumption of that media. Simply by determining who is and who is not allowed to present information, is in effect, a part of Norm Chomskys propaganda model known as “Sourcing.” That is, controlling the sources allowed to be used.
We are left to wonder whose blog is “Media,” and whose blog is “not Media?”
And just who is it that is left to actually provoke liberty?