You Can’t Be a Citizen Journalist Unless the Government Says You Can

In a little story that has gone all but unnoticed, the Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation allowing the DOJ to determine who can be considered a “journalist.” In their haste to tattle, The New York Times informed us that “Three Republicans, including the panel’s ranking member, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, joined Democrats to pass the bill.”

That Republicans are now complicit in assisting Democrat efforts to shred the Constitution, is no surprise. The NYT calls the amendment “protection for journalists”: “legislation to provide greater protections against fines or imprisonment for reporters who refuse to identify confidential sources.” Noble sentiments but, hardly the entire story. It isn’t until further on in the small piece that one discovers that these protections include the ruling that “lawmakers agreed on an amendment defining who qualifies as a journalist.

Breitbart, on Friday, itemized what the Senate Judiciary Committee deemed qualifications of a “journalist”:

  • Works or worked for “an entity or service that disseminates news or information by means of newspaper; nonfiction book; wire service; news agency; news website, mobile application or other news or information service . . . news program; magazine or other periodical . . . or through television or radio broadcast.” These people would have to have the “primary intent to investigate events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information.” Opinion journalists might not be covered.
  • Bloggers and citizen journalists – citizens who commit acts of journalists without working for such an outlet – would not be covered, unless it was determined that “at the inception of the process of gathering the news or information sought, had the primary intent to investigate issues or events and procure material in order to disseminate to the public news or information.” In other words, the government – the Department of Justice – would now determine whether primary intent was news distribution or political concerns.
  • Those explicitly excluded from protection include those “whose principal function, as demonstrated by the totality of such person or entity’s work, is to publish primary source documents that have been disclosed to such person or entity without authorization.”

Breitbart went on to identify who would get to determine who met the guidelines: “the DOJ would have the discretion to determine whether a person is a ‘journalist’ for purposes of the law. Instead of focusing on acts of journalism, the law would identify people by employment status.”

In the last 24 hours Gallup has released the results of a poll which determined that 51% of Americans do not trust their government. That is an all-time low.

A statement by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), referring to the amendment, sheds light on why: “When we’re discussing the issue of adding a privilege, the issue of taking away someone’s First Amendment rights just isn’t engaged. . . All we’re doing is adding privilege to existing First Amendment rights, so there is, logically, zero First Amendment threat out of this.” The Ruling Class has always enjoyed augmenting its own privileges.

To paraphrase George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945), as long as elected officials promote the notion that “some animals are more equal than others,” the Constitution won’t stand a chance.