California Commissars

All one party states have a strong tendency to tyranny.  Case in point:


SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – California is considering creating a “fake news” advisory group in order to monitor information posted and spread on social media.

Senate Bill 1424 would require the California Attorney General to create the advisory committee by April 1, 2019. It would need to consist of at least one person from the Department of Justice, representatives from social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars.

The advisory group would be required to study how false information is spread online and come up with a plan for social media platforms to fix the problem. The Attorney General would then need to present that plan to the Legislature by December 31, 2019. The group would also need to come up with criteria establishing what is “fake news” versus what is inflammatory or one-sided.


Go here to read the rest.  I was going to comment, but James Madison long ago said it far better than I can:


Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of every thing, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press. It has accordingly been decided by the practice of the States, that it is better to leave a few of its noxious branches to their luxuriant growth, than, by pruning them away, to injure the vigour of those yielding the proper fruits. And can the wisdom of this policy be doubted by any who reflect that to the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression; who reflect that to the same beneficent source the United States owe much of the lights which conducted them to the ranks of a free and independent nation, and which have improved their political system into a shape so auspicious to their happiness?


James Madison, Report of 1800

Of Fake News Awards and Hysteria




Major-General John A. Drx,

Commanding at New York:

Whereas there has been wickedly and traitorously printed and published this morning in the New York World and New York Journal of Commerce, newspapers printed and published in the city of New York, a false and spurious proclamation purporting to be signed by the President and to be countersigned by the Secretary of State, which publication is of a treasonable nature, designed to give aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States and to the rebels now at war against the Government and their aiders and abettors, you are therefore hereby commanded forthwith to arrest and imprison in any fort or military prison in your command the editors, proprietors, and publishers of the aforesaid newspapers, and all such persons as, after public notice has been given of the falsehood of said publication, print and publish the same with intent to give aid and comfort to the enemy; and you will hold the persons so arrested in close custody until they can be brought to trial before a military commission for their offense. You will also take possession by military force of the printing establishments of the New York World and Journal of Commerce, and hold the same until further orders, and prohibit any further publication therefrom.


Executive Order, May 18, 1864-President Lincoln reacting to Fake News.




Trump released his highly anticipated Fake News Awards.  Go here to read the list.  Eh, color me unimpressed.  I could have put together a better, and more colorful, list.  It appears to me likely that after Trump tweeted that he was giving out such awards he delegated the work of coming up with a list to some of his more talent-less drones.  The more interesting aspect of this meaningless episode in the eternal sparring between the Executive Branch and the media is the reaction to it which has been hysterical in both the senses of hysteria and funny.

Humorless pretend Republican Senator Jeff Flake, soon to be retired rather than face the voters of Arizona, compared Trump to Stalin in a Senate speech this week.  The forces of the Left of course have been calling Trump the reincarnation of Hitler since Hillary was throwing objects after learning that she had somehow managed to lose to a man who received one, count them one, major newspaper endorsement.

What all of this demonstrates is not only the hyper-partisanship of our time, and do not doubt that Senator Flake is a member in good standing of the establishment party, but a true lack of knowledge of history.  Has Trump passed a Sedition Act of 1798, as a Federalist Congress under John Adams did?  Has he thrown critical members of the media into jail as occurred during the Lincoln administration?  Has the Trump administration made it illegal to criticize the government as occurred when Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1918 under the Wilson administration?  Go here to read about FDR’s war against media critical of him.  The Obama administration conducted an eight year war against Fox News.  The examples cited could be multiplied a hundred-fold.  No administration has liked to be criticized by the media and many have attempted to punish critics in the media.

The only thing unusual about Trump and the media is that almost all of the media is in unified lock-step against Trump and his administration.  In the face of that jarring fact, Trump’s criticisms come across to me as being fairly weak and timid, at least in comparison of the actions of most of his predecessors.  In any case, this back and forth is part of an American tradition, as old as the Republic, of hostility between opposition media and the party in power.  The truly ominous development today, and outside our political traditions, is that almost all of the media now backs one side in our ongoing political battles and that fact of course bothers almost all of the media not a whit.



Freedom of the Press is for All of Us

Freedom of the Press Under Obama

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Thomas Jefferson

Hattip to Instapundit. Josh Stearns at Huffington Post reports on the fact that the media in the US isn’t quite as free as it used to be.


According to a new report from Reporters Without Borders, there was a profound erosion of press freedom in the United States in 2013.

After a year of attacks on whistleblowers and digital journalists and revelations about mass surveillance, the United States plunged 13 spots in the group’s global press freedom rankings to number 46.

Reporters Without Borders writes that the U.S. faced “one of the most significant declines” in the world last year. Even the United Kingdom, whose sustained campaign to criminalize the Guardian’s reporters and intimidate journalists has made headlines around the world, dropped only three spots, to number 33. The U.S. fell as many spots as Paraguay, where “the pressure on journalists to censor themselves keeps on mounting.”

Citing the Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of whistleblowers, including its secret seizure of Associated Press phone records, the authors write that “freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.”

The threats facing newsgathering in the U.S. are felt by both longstanding journalists like New York Times national security reporter James Risen, who may serve jail time for refusing to reveal a source, and non-traditional digital journalists like Barrett Brown.

Brown is a freelance journalist who has reported extensively on private intelligence firms and government contractors. He now faces more than 100 years in jail for linking to stolen documents as part of his reporting, even though he had no involvement in the actual theft. Continue Reading


Freedom of the Press Under Siege

Churchill Freedom of the Press

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and one, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

John Stuart Mill

Freedom of the press appears to be under siege in what used to be thought of as free nations.

It comes after talks were held overnight between the Lib Dem and Labour leaders and a senior Tory minister on a new press watchdog.

But Tory Maria Miller said leaders still needed to discuss details.

An overhaul of press regulation began after it was revealed that journalists had hacked thousands of phones.

Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into press ethics in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal called for a new, independent regulator backed by legislation, which prompted months of political wrangling.

The prime minister had opposed establishing a watchdog backed by law, but the other parties have pushed for it.

The BBC’s Nick Robinson said Labour and the Liberal Democrats appeared to have accepted a watered-down version of their demands for full legal underpinning of a royal charter establishing a new watchdog.

Ms Miller said: “We’re very close to a deal. What has been accepted by all the main parties is that the prime minister’s royal charter should go ahead, and more importantly we’ve stopped Labour’s extreme version of the press law.” Continue Reading


The Romance of the Press

It’s been interesting, though a bit odd, for me, watching the hand-wringing over the “death of the press” as some of the major newspapers struggle to figure out how to make their budgets work in a world in which fewer people read “dead tree” editions and advertisers can take advantage of more targeted advertising online and in specialty publications. There is, it seems, a level of reverence which many people seem to attach to “the press”, which does not seem well born out what it actually is.

Looked at historically and economically — newspapers exist as a delivery system for ads. They seek to provide stories that people want to read (whether “news”, human interest, comics, crosswords or recipes) in order to persuade people it’s worth parting with the artificially low newsstand or subscription price.

Continue Reading