Is Freedom of the Press for Everybody, or Just for Journalism Majors?

Amendment I of the Constitution (aka the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights):

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

First off, it’s pretty obvious that every right listed in the Bill of Rights is for everybody.

1. No national law establishing national government-supported religion.

2. No national law prohibiting free exercise of religion.

3. No national law abridging freedom of speech.

4. No national law abridging freedom of the press.

5. No national law abridging the right of the people to assemble peaceably.

6. No national law abridging the right of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances.

Nowhere in there does it say “freedom of exercise of religion only for professional clerics and religionists,” or “freedom of speech only for professional orators,” or “freedom to assemble only for professional demonstrators.” So why do some people want us to assume that it’s “freedom of the press only for professional journalists”?

The First Amendment says that you can say what you want, and you can print what you want. Today’s “printing press” includes both electronic files for sale, and those made available for free on the Internet.

Freedom of the press is for everybody, not just for professional journalists.

However… in one Texas statute, the state of Texas currently defines “the press” [“electronic or print media”] as only including professional journalists. One’s rights to freedom of the press are tested along a sliding scale, where some people are “more press than thou” and apparently have more rights and freedoms than the rest of us. Unfortunately, this test would disqualify most of the press of the young United States, such as Benjamin Franklin and Peter Zenger.

One test is that one’s “primary business” is journalism.

Franklin and Zenger were professional printers. Newspapers were a sideline.

The Court of Appeals went with a multi-factor primary business balancing test for whether someone or some organization counts as Internet media. Let’s check it against Franklin and Zenger’s chances of getting their website or blog (had they had one) qualified as electronic media.

[(1)] the goods and services offered by the Internet author and the sources of the Internet author’s revenue;

Franklin and Zenger were primarily professional commercial printers. Franklin was best known for his Poor Richard’s Almanac, besides his work as scientist, inventor, and politician. Zenger made a fair amount of his cash printing the first math textbook in New York, and for printing political ballads (which the governor had condemned by a grand jury to be burned in public). He also printed a lot of sermons, copies of laws and legislative sessions, the autobiography of one Iosiah Quinby, and miscellaneous little books by locals. NO.

[(2)] the Internet author’s journalistic background, experience, and independence (inquiring whether the author is a journalist by trade, education, or experience; whether the author is a member of various journalistic organizations; and whether the author is reporting information on which he or she has a business, as opposed to news-reporting, interest);

Franklin’s training and experience was as a printer’s devil, and as a printer doing several printing product lines including newspapers, almanacs, art, etc. He also worked as a scientist, inventor, and politician. Franklin was not a member of any journalism trade organization. (And why would we have to pay dues to private organizations in order to have rights?) He frequently reported information which affected his business as a printer, scientist, inventor, or politician. NO.

Zenger was also trained as a printer’s devil (under William Bradford, New York City’s other commercial printer and newspaper editor), and all his work experience was as a professional commercial printer. He was briefly a partner with Bradford so probably helped with his newspaper. He was not a member of any journalism trade organization. (His paper, the New York Weekly Journal, was one of two newspapers in New York; the other one, the New York Weekly Gazette published by Bradford, was sometimes one foolscap sheet and sometimes as many as four pages long.)

Zenger’s editorial and reportorial staff consisted of all volunteers. They were educated merchants, landowners, and government workers who opposed the corrupt and tyrannical policies of the royal governor, William Cosby. Their names were Lewis Morris; Lewis Morris, Jr.; James Alexander; William Smith; and Cadwallader Colden. Alexander served as editor. None of them had journalism experience or were members of journalistic trade organizations. All of them were reporting on matters that directly affected their livelihoods. NO.

[(3)] the extent to which the Internet author has an established presence or reputation in traditional media;

Apparently Franklin and Zenger both get points for their imaginary website because they had non-professional-journalist newspapers. Of course, since the New York colony government hated Zenger, one supposes that a judge could legitimately rule that his traditional media reputation was that of a libellous scoundrel. (This test also says that a cub reporter automatically has fewer rights and freedoms than someone who’s been around for twenty years, and that famous people have more rights than the editor of the Podunktown Journal.) Zenger’s staff wrote anonymously and had no traditional media reputation. Franklin YES, Zenger YES MAYBE, Zenger staff NO.

[(4)] the character and content of the Internet author’s communications and range of reporting (inquiring about the primary purpose of the [I]nternet communication;

[(5)] whether the communication involves matters of public concern; and the breadth of its coverage);

Zenger and Franklin would meet these tests. YES. YES.

[(6)] the editorial process (inquiring whether journalists select the stories to be researched and published on the website, whether the selection of stories was driven by their newsworthiness or other factors; and whether journalists supervise the research and act as the primary authors or editors of the website content);

Franklin and Zenger didn’t count as journalists according to the Texas statute standards, so their news selection doesn’t count as journalist-driven, either. Franklin and Zenger’s newspapers were both party-driven, so they selected their stories based on politics as well as newsworthiness. (Of course, so do most journalists today, but they refuse to admit it.) Since Franklin and Zenger were mostly responsible for all the content themselves, and they don’t count as journalists, their supervision of research, authorship, and editing don’t count a bit. Zenger’s volunteer, inexperienced staff of excellent and clever writers were clearly not journalists, either. NO.

and [(7)] the size, nature, and diversity of the readership and whether the readership relies on the author to obtain news.]

Philadelphia was a pretty decent-sized city in Franklin’s day, but New York was still a small though lucrative port town when Zenger’s trial took place. Most people in Philadelphia and New York were white Europeans. Most of their readership read all the available newspapers, and relied on word of mouth for news as well as newspapers. (And seriously, is there any site or network or newspaper that anybody relies upon for all their news these days? Seriously?) Both papers were very popular, if it matters. Obviously, popular newspapers and websites shouldn’t count as having more rights and freedoms than weeny, unpopular ones. NO.

Two YES answers for both. One YES for Franklin, one YES MAYBE for Zenger, one NO for Zenger’s staff. Four NO answers for both.

It would seem that Franklin and Zenger’s theoretical websites would be deemed not to have enough credentialed journalists to count as real “electronic media” in Texas.

Instapundit filed as an amicus curiae. The world’s most popular newsblogger and pundit doesn’t count as “electronic media,” either.

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The Pyramid Builders Left a Journal

Well, I didn’t hear about this when it came out a month ago, but it’s pretty darned cool.

Archeologists excavating an old Egyptian harbor found a lot of old Egyptian boats and old Egyptian records – including Inspector Merer’s account of transporting stone blocks that would form the casing for Pharaoh Khufu’s pyramid, from the quarries at Tura, and down along canals and the Nile. Three months of timetables and documentation for a 200-man team.

Paperwork. It survives everything.

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Ticklish Baby Jesus!

Rich Leonardi over at Over the Rhine and Into the Tiber has links to a very beautiful and fun couple of Renaissance pictures of Mary and Jesus, along with some learned Dominican commentary on the fun.

Traditionally, pictures of Mary and Jesus contain both realistic portrayal of Mary and Jesus’ humanity, intimations of Jesus’ divinity, and foreshadowings of the Passion. In this case, the learned Dominican argues that a laughing Jesus is a foretaste of Christ’s victorious Resurrection, or even of His victorious Second Coming. Baby Jesus is showing us a tiny eucatastrophe that is also a window to the end of time, when we will all rejoice and be glad in Him. But it is shown to us in the most intimate, tender way.

There is joy at the heart of a universe where Creator and creature can be Baby and mommy, and make each other laugh together with smiling, delighted eyes.

You could also argue that a little motherly poking and tickling, and the Baby’s pleasure in it, is also representative of Jesus’ pleasure in His mother’s prayers of intercession, and hence of God’s pleasure when any of His children poke at Him and ask for something. He might laugh a bit or tease us, or squirm over to another way of granting what we asked, but God is not insensitive to our interactions with Him. (Now, we may not see Him react to our prayers. But whether or not He grants them our way or His way, He certainly does not ignore us.)

There is no particular Biblical mention of tickling (no real reason to mention it). However, the Biblical opposite of mourning is laughing, and it is promised that those who mourn will laugh. Generally the Biblical writers talk about God laughing only when He’s mocking the pretensions of the pagans and the wicked, who somehow think they know more and are more powerful than God. Obviously nobody really wants to hear about Jesus laughing in this way! But as Chesterton points out, there certainly are plenty of times when Jesus does seem to be in a happy and humorous mood, whether or not He actually chose to show us that:

“Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall.

“His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something.

“Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something.

“I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.”

– Chapter 9, Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton.

Classical Roman culture also tended to assume that laughter was usually mocking, and that wit should be appreciated but treated with gravitas. Comedy was something that lowlyborn writers and actors did. As Umberto Eco famously points out in The Name of the Rose, there have been Christian commentators who argued from this Biblical absence of kindly laughter from God, and the not particularly pure nature of Greek and Roman comedy, that no laughter was pleasant and good. (Those would be the overanxious twits.) But following Aristotle, St. Albert and St. Thomas Aquinas (Dominicans!) were both big fans of laughter and play as forms of relaxation for body and mind. Of course a lot of medieval and Renaissance people had good senses of humor. There are a lot of funny true stories about medieval saints (particularly Franciscans), because the truly holy person doesn’t have much to prove.

The usual Latin verbs for “to tickle” are “adtillare” and “titillare,” which latter word also means any form of stimulating or provoking people. Hence “titillate” and the annoying medieval demon humorously blamed for all copying mistakes, Titivillus. But a lot of medieval writers do mention tickling in family life, or between couples.

Btw, stuff about “The Master of the Winking Eyes” is easier to find if you use the Italian version, “Maestro degli Occhi Ammicanti”, or in Ferrara “dagli Occhi Ammicanti.” Apparently “ammicanti” really means something like “crinkled-up” in this case. Most of his work is in Ferrara or Modena. There’s also supposed to be one in New York.

Here’s another crinkle-eyed Mary and Jesus, hugging each other and grinning out at the viewer. Baby Jesus looks a little overheated. He’s wearing a red coral necklace and bracelet, which were common adornments for medieval/Renaissance Italian babies and were believed to have protective or medicinal qualities. (This page also includes other highlights from the exhibition. These are little phone pictures, but good ones.)

Here’s the same work on the webpage of Ferrara’s art museum, its usual home.

The Maestro degli Occhi Ammicanti did some kind of frescoes of Mary, the Child Jesus, and various saints, for the Church of San Giorgio Martire in Modena, Italy. Here’s a picture in black and white and a closeup, also B & W. Here’s another one, of St. Bernardino of Siena.

This church is close to the old ducal palace and is associated with a wonderworking picture/icon hung over the high altar titled “The Blessed Virgin, Helper of the People of Modena.”

Here’s another article about the exhibition. Unfortunately, the reviewer doesn’t seem to realize that a Marian art exhibit held at Christmastime isn’t likely to show Mary by herself, and that it’s a lot easier to maintain goodwill among Protestants if you only show Mary not “alone.” (Because there are people out there who think pictures of Mary-only are a sign of us Catholics revealing our Secrud Pagun Worshup.)

Of course, this person also thinks that Gentileschi is showing Mary just baring her breast, when it’s obvious that it’s Mary preparing her breast for nursing and Baby Jesus zooming in. (And very well done, too.)


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We Can Probably Skip the Exodus: Gods and Kings Movie

God will be channeled by a little kid character named Malak. (That means ruler or counselor.)

Christian Bale is playing Moses, and thinks the man was schizo.

They didn’t actually manage/bother to find any famous actors who aren’t really pale white, and they really didn’t want even Jewish or Middle Eastern actors and actresses. If you cast on merit, color doesn’t matter… but come on, can’t you find anybody of merit anywhere in the world except these clowns?

Ridley Scott used to be a good director. He used to make movies I wanted to go see. Now, not so much.

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In a World of Police Gone Mad…

The police officers of Lowell, Massachusetts decided to go happy.

This is a really cute YouTube video, via Ace of Spades. Someday I will learn to embed. :)

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More Apocalypse Mao: Reeducation Classes for Shanghai Catholic Clergy and Sisters

More re-education classes from the Chinese Communist Party. Apparently they don’t like people resigning from their “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.”

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The World to Japanese Ultra-Nationalists: When You’re in a Hole, Stop Digging

From the same mindset that brought us Holocaust denial, there’s the Japanese ultra-nationalists who deny bad Japanese behavior during WWII.

Now, mind you, there are Japanese ultra-nationalists who don’t deny this stuff. Either they’re not ashamed of it, or they don’t think previous bad behavior should affect their basic idea that Japan is superior to every other country and race on Earth, and should rule everybody. They’re not nice people, but at least they’re honest. But strangely, there aren’t many of them.

Then there are the people who basically want Japan to save face, so they just don’t want to talk about any uncomfy parts of Japanese history (which is most of it). These are the people who keep historical fiction anime in business, because there’s so much you can write about and yet be edgy to teenagers still in school! They’re despicable twits, but at least you can understand why they feel that way.

There’s the total or near-total pacifists, who have kind of stepped back a little, but who are very good at pointing out that Japan should avoid doing bad expansionist things that get it bombed. Because getting bombed is no fun at all. Mind you, these people were essentially refighting WWII in the 1970’s and 1980’s; but then again, there were a few coup attempts that made it relevant.

Another strategy is to accept that “Yep, some of our ancestors were total war criminals, and the Imperial government was totalitarian and evil as heck, so let’s not do any of that junk again,” while sympathizing with those military members who tried to be decent people. This isn’t expressed out loud much, though. It’s much more common to talk around the problem by setting up historical parallels with the Meiji, or to make an sf version of WWII where the German-analogs do all the bad things and the Japanese are part of the Allies, like in WWI.

But the really weird ones you get are the ultra-nationalist deniers, who insist that Japanese history books not acknowledge actual historical events, or who insist that the US attacked Japan by not exporting certain products. They insist that the Rape of Nanking never happened, or that all the Chinese and Korean girls dragged off to become “comfort women” were volunteer prostitutes. But they also tend to insist that if anything bad had happened, obviously it would have totally been the fault of the victims.

So here’s a group spokesman: Mr. Moteki Hiromichi. He is the president of a publishing company named Sekai Shuppan, and he heads an organization called the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact. His group is best known for suing two Chinese ladies who survived the Rape of Nanking for defamation, because they talked about their experiences. They lost, of course, and they had to pay the survivors a certain amount of money. (They dropped a second lawsuit when the lady countersued them in Japan.) But basically, they’re the kind of guys who harass traumatized old ladies. The group’s latest exploit is trying to get the WWII prisoner of war movie Unbroken banned from Japan.

The problem is that, right now, Japan needs friends among nearby countries (Korea, Taiwan, etc.) while simultaneously needing to be patriotically ready to resist anything crazy pulled by China (or Russia). So one would think that “Dude, we’ve changed and we’re not jerks now,” would be a better way to go than “Don’t believe your lying grandparents and ignore those headstones in the cemetery.”

In other news, this week the bishops of Japan (since the government won’t do it) sent an emissary to apologize to the Dutch, and by extension to the Chinese people, for the way a bunch of Japanese soldiers killed a bunch of missionaries for protecting women from rape by soldiers. The Dutch are making a comic book about the martyrs. Tons and tons of Western journalists, missionaries, and ordinary expatriates were killed in Nanking along with the ordinary residents.

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