The Fourth Estate loses the race

I’ve run across a lot of discussion in the blogosphere today about “horserace news coverage” – the kind of reporting that mainly covers what’s happening right now, at this moment, without going into a lot of backstory or explanation of the issues at hand.

The trouble with it is just that: If you’re noscreamt well-versed in the many sides and nuances of an issue, horserace coverage will leave you knowing very little more than you did before you watched it. In fact, you’ll probably have an opinion, but you won’t really know why.

Ta-Nahesi Coates, one of my favorite bloggers, puts his two-cents worth in on the discussion. He thinks we have this sort of coverage of news and issues because it’s what we, as Americans, want. He thinks most of us don’t have the time or the inclination to learn more about issues such as health care reform or global warming – we want our information quick, easy to get and simple – and go bothering us with the nitty-gritty. And to back up his argument, he points to the fact that ratings are the most important factor to these news shows. What they offer may be shallow, horserace coverage that flits from one issue to the next without a lot of context, but it draws lots of eyeballs. And those ratings draw advertisers, and they’re what keep the shows on the air.

To my mind, it’s been like this, at least in television news, for a long, long time now.  Twenty-three years ago, when I left the U.S.A. for a six-year stay in Northern Germany, CNN had barely started up and the networks still held sway in the television news business. When I came back to the States, however, it had all changed. CNN was the news channel to watch, thanks to its awe-inspiring, 24-hour daily, live coverage of the Gulf War. Fox came along soon after and exploded in the ratings. By the middle of the 90s, it seemed to me like the talking heads were deep into the “he said, she said” style of reporting, along with spouting off their personal opinions on everything under the sun. And it wasn’t long before many of them went partisan, as well.

That’s been the norm for the last decade, at least.

Today I can’t watch the news on television, particularly what passes as “news” on cable. The “anchors” argue with their guests and the guests scream at each other and the anchor, so that everyone is talking all at once, interrupting each other making it nearly impossible to glean anything of value from the on-air chaos.  With newspapers going slo-mo off the edge of the cliff, and many people still getting their news from cable TV or in quick snippets off the Internet, it’s no wonder that America has divided into bickering, mean, ugly-minded, partisan factions. Unless we’re willing to spend a lot of time at it – which most of us don’t have – we can’t get a balanced and nuanced grasp of the issues that concern us all.

I rail at the opponents of health care reform and watch, drop-jawed as my fellow citizens rudely yell over their representatives, senators and anyone who disagrees with them at town hall meetings all over the country, but if I really think about it, I can’t blame them. They’ve been propagandized and riled up by the media, which feeds them information in short, one-sided, emotional, agitated bites. No wonder they believe the Obama Administration wants to have death panels as part of American health care. No wonder they think their way of life is threatened.

As a journalist, all this makes me sick to my stomach. And it makes me angry at what used to be known as the “press,” now the “mainstream media,” or “MSM” for short. These are the powerful news organizations, the ones who control what we learn about our government, the issues that face us and the daily news we want to hear. The MSM no longer serves the American People but their corporate, partisan masters.

Perhaps it’s best that journalism – at least as it exists today – dies. We’ve let our fellow citizens down. And what will take the place of in-depth newspaper stories and more nuanced, sane television reporting? Blogging? Sure, I’d like that, but blogging has its drawbacks too, not least in that it’s also wildly partisan. I’m part of that crowd myself, released by the lack of an editor and a salary from the journalistic creed of fair and balanced reporting.

I’m not sure where we go from here. But I do know this: without a strong, ethical, honest Fourth Estate to keep a wary eye on our government, we’re in trouble. I wish I knew how to fix it.

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6 Responses to “The Fourth Estate loses the race”

  1. Thanks to electronic media, newspapers are done the way vinyl records are. They can’t report the news until the next day, and a hundred things have developed by the time they do get around to it.

    We are way more tuned in to the goings on around the world than at any other time in human history. And I mean all over the world. It’s become a cliche to cite information overload, but it may be that our communication technology has overrun our brain’s ability to process it all. We know about stuff now as it happens that in times past we might have learned of a leisurely six months down the road. A crisis in Pakistan is now a crisis in our living rooms, right now.

    Television is fighting for eyeballs, of course, but they are also trying to package all this data in some way that the audience might possibly be able to grasp. For better or worse, the news pipeline is full, the pressure is building and the valves won’t shut off.

    I think the reason there are so many “experts” on all the talk and news commentary shows is that most of us can’t figure out what it all means, and we are seeking someone to interpret for us. Unfortunately, anyone who looks good on camera and speaks confidently gets the green light to tell us.

  2. You’re right, of course, Larry. I think what prompted this particular post was my frustration over what seems like meanness and stubborn ignorance in my fellow Americans as they protest and rale against health care reform that will actually help them, too. What a mess.

  3. So basically you’re saying that anyone who disagrees with you, in this case about healthcare, can only possibly have reached their conclusions due to “the media”, and being misled by it in whatever way, and, in your words, “propagandized” by it.
    I am sure you have no idea how insulting that is. And, I’m sure you’ve never contemplated the possibility that perhaps YOU have reached YOUR conclusions due to having been propagandized, misled, duped, etc, by whatever sources YOU hold dear. That would just be too far outside of your universe of the imaginable.
    Uh, I don’t get cable TV. Of any kind. I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually watched a cable TV talkinghead news program. I’ve lived overseas off and on for many years of my life, and I certainly wasn’t watching CNN or FOX while I was there. I do my own research, I read many books. I even read some papers, and yes, even blogs.
    And, horror of horrors, I am 100% against “healthcare reform”. Furthermore, I applaud citizens exercising their 1st amendment rights for once. If some polititian can’t take being shouted at for a few minutes, then he has no business being in any sort of representative or command position to begin with. They need to buck up or resign from office. I think the most admirable example of it was the Marine Corps combat veteran, who is 1000 times more qualified to hold any sort of executive or political posiiton than 99% of the politicians in office today, including the one in the White House, loudly speaking his mind. He certainly earned his right to yell and shout at any politician he chooses. If that is “meanness”, if that is “raling”, then we need lots more meanness! What would Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson, or any other eminent politician or orator of the 18th century who risked their lives and who braved more than just shouts of protest (and indeed suffered a lot of that!) have said to anyone today who whines about being “yelled at”? You do not realize how wimpy this makes you sound.
    Every side thinks that the platform that their side represents will “help everyone”. No one ever says “I defend my position because I believe it will HURT everyone!” So saying “I can’t believe they’re against something that will help them” is, well, silly. They could say the same about YOUR side.
    Which leads me to my final point. I don’t want the government to “help” me. Ever heard the sarcastic statement “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help”? It;’s always greeted with smirks and laughter. That’s because everyone knows the government, any government, and this is a RULE, tends to screw things up, NOT help things. But, my point here is not to argue for one side or the other. It was simply to point out how snooty, bigoted and childish what you wrote sounded — “oh dear, those poor people who disagree with my point of view disagree with me simply because they’re oh so misled and propagandized!”

  4. Schildtraeger –

    In writing this post I intended no insult nor offense to anyone, but as I’ve both offended and insulted you, I do apologize.

    I do not, however, apologize for my opinion, any more than you would apologize for yours. You and I are free to voice what we believe, thanks to the First Amendment to the Constitution, and I’d be the first to defend your right to disagree with me anytime.

    But I do not believe, as you accuse me, that anyone who disagrees with me can only have reached their conclusions due to being propagandized. That would be silly. As you pointed out, many people don’t get their information from television or radio, but rather read books, papers, blogs, etc., and apply what they learn to their own beliefs and life experiences, just as you have.

    “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.” The First Amendment is, I think we can agree, vital to all of us as Americans. I’ve no problem with people attending town hall meetings to air their views, whatever they may be, about issues that affect all of us.
    That said, the Amendment specifies “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” “Peaceably” is the important word here. People who go to town hall meetings carrying firearms – loaded or not – are not behaving peaceably. There is simply no good reason to bring an assault rifle to a public meeting unless the intention in doing so is to frighten others and quell public speech. People who go to town hall meetings to shout and hoot in derision at their representative to Congress and fellow citizens who don’t share their viewpoints are not peaceable, either. Instead, their aim is to drown out or stop any rational discussion of the issue at hand.

    Such behavior is childish, bullying and rude. Adults who behave like that demonstrate little but loutish, thickheaded ignorance. I believe Thomas Jefferson, at least, would agree with me.

    You’re right that a politician who can’t take being yelled at doesn’t have much business having the job. But the vast majority of them from both parties endured the rudeness of their fellow citizens and did their best to keep the meetings going in spite of it. The trouble is, when people are yelling and screaming, and interrupting their fellow citizens with insults and sarcasm, not much rational talk can take place. Their intent was to shout over those who were speaking, preventing rational discourse by literally making it impossible to hear. I believe such ugly behavior curtails my First Amendment right to free speech, and I find it unacceptable.

    Further, your argument about the Marine veteran being more qualified to hold office than those who already hold it simply by virtue of his service to our country is laughable. I mean absolutely no disrespect to any military veteran – I’m one myself – but please. Military service – including combat – alone does not necessarily make one a good politician. Certainly you know better than that. If you don’t, you need to think about it for a while.

    I respectfully disagree with you that it’s a “rule” that the government tends to “screw things up, NOT help things.” I’d like to point to the U.S. Postal Service, which delivers countless tons of mail to American citizens every day with minimal trouble, as an example of something the government gets right. Another example is the Department of Motor Vehicles. Or fire and police protection, both provided by our government. And how about Medicare, which provides health care to our elderly citizens, many of whom cannot afford private health insurance and would have no health care at all without it. Should we simply leave grandma to become ill, suffer and die because she can’t afford to pay for health insurance? Should we just leave her to the “kindness” of her neighbors, most of whom are strangers, and who anyway could never afford to pay for the care she needs?

    Give me a break.

    Each of those examples represent huge government entities that provide necessary and sometimes vital services to millions of American citizens. Are they perfect? Of course not. What is? Should we abolish them because of that? That’s a very slippery slope, my friend.

    Finally, about that propaganda. I respect your right to refuse help from the government – that’s up to you. If you don’t want the government involved in your health care, then you’re certainly entitled to buy any private health care insurance policy you can afford.

    But don’t tell me that such demonstrably false notions such as “death panels” – which nearly took over the discourse regarding health care insurance reform for most of the month of August – are anything but blatant, in-your-face propaganda, used cynically and without shame by those who oppose reform.

    I have yet to hear a single opponent of reform offer a viable alternative; the Republican party, while it has said it will offer its own legislation, has done nothing of the sort. Instead they’ve united to say “no” to everything the Democratic party offers. The intent is to block and stop health care reform for no better reason than to bring their own, fairly elected President of the United States down and create chaos. One of their most powerful tools is propaganda; it works extremely well to sway an intimidated, confused and yes, sometimes ignorant population in the direction it wants through baseless threats and shameless fear-mongering.

    That is not what the First Amendment intended. You know better.

  5. Your reply, as I suspected it would be, is so “target rich” that I will do my best to address them all.

    1) the beginning of your post reminds me of the cheating husband caught red-handed by his wife, and says to her “who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” well, i’m going to go with my own eyes on this one. Yes, you DO believe that those who disagree with you only disagree with you because they are “propagandized”, i.e., are incapable of making any informed decisions. You stated that very clearly in your first posting, and all you have to do is reread it.

    2) You need not lecture me about the 1st Amendment. I deal with, think about, consider, ponder, use, and indeed, stake my very livelihood, career and life on it on a daily basis, as a police officer. and I can tell you this:
    a) at least in my state, it is perfectly legal to carry firearms OPENLY, that is, not concealed. I would certainly prefer that citizens carry their firearms openly rather than illegally concealed, if they do not have the proper permit for it.
    b) IF IT IS LEGAL TO CARRY FIREARMS into the “town hall meeting” or whatever they are being called (I have never been to one), then it is just that– PEFECTLY LEGAL to carry firearms into the venue. Naturally, if those who run the venue or event ban firearms at that particular venue, then so be it, the citizens must respect that and would not be able to bring firearms into it. And, there is nothing “un-peaceable” about carrying a firearm. I carry one every single day of my life, wherever I go, on and off duty. I am very much at peace, peaceable, and dedicated to keeping the peace. When carrying a firearm becomes “unpeaceable” is when it is brandished menacingly, carried by a convicted felon, used in the comission of a felony, etc. I repeat, THERE IS NOTHING UNPEACEABLE ABOUT CARRYING A FIREARM. If someone else carrying a firearm legally upsets you that much, then perhaps you need to move to another country where firearms are banned. Or, perhaps you would benefit from a familiarization course at your local gunshop or club, so that your reaction to firearms is based more on knowledge of them rather than on a kneejerk reaction to them.
    c) there is nothing in the constitution, nor at least in my state constitution and local laws, that bans armed people assembling in one place. If that were the case, there would be no gun clubs, no gun shows, no hunt clubs, etc. Again, if the specific venue bans guns, then guns should not be allowed. I would have no problem with that. BUT, if guns are indeed allowed at a venue, then you cannot very well rail against those who bring guns to town meetings. Again, I have never been to a town meeting and know nothing about them, but if something is legal, you cannot hold it against citizens their exercising their right to do so. Especially since there is no law that states that ONLY ONE SIDE can bring firearms to Location X. Anyone can, be they leftists, rightists, conservatives, fascists, whatever. So if you feel threatened by citizens exerciszing their rights, you have several options; 1) NOT GOING, no one is forcing you to go or 2) GOING, and exercising the same right yourself! Get over yourself, there is nothing illegal about carrying a firearm in the open and there’s nothing you can do about it.
    d) frankly, in this day and age, it might be a good idea to be armed for your own protection at many locations where tempers are running very high, hopefully concealed (legally). Again, only where firearms are allowed. On the other hand it might be a good idea for the organizers of the meetings to NOT ALLOW weapons at all, for anyone (except law enforcement, on or off duty of course). But for the last time, if they’re legal to carry in a meeting, ya can’t very well excoriate them for doing what’s legal.
    And one last point on that topic– and this really tickles those of us who have carried automatic weapons at one time or another– THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN “ASSAULT WEAPON”, unless you’re talking about early 20th-century high-caliber siege cannons and things like that. I spent years in the Marine Corps and Army active duty, and we never once ever held anything called an “assault rifle” or “assault weapon”. I find that the term “assault rifle” is mainly used by those who have never been in the military, or who largely have no practical knowledge of weapons. And as a policeman, I know that any firearm, from a tiny .22 derringer (which has claimed the lives of officers) to a 12 gauge shotgun can be used to ASSAULT someone. So the term is meaningless and only used to stir up Hollywood-inspired kneejerk reactions from those who don’t know anything about weapons.
    Now, we come to “hooting” and “shouting in derision” (clapping hand on cheek and saying in falsetto “oh dear, shouting!”). Puhleze!!! “shouting” and “hooting” are 100% covered by and PROTECTED by the 1st amendment. This is EXACTLY what freedom of speech is– your right to shout and hoot in derision at anyone you choose, especially if they are A POLITICIAN SPEAKING IN A PUBLIC PLACE!! As a matter of fact, I am very very familiar with a city which was recently prominantly in the news because a singer was charged and summonsed for using the “f” word in a public place, shouted or sung. And that conviction was STRUCK DOWN by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING illegal at “shouting at” or “hooting at” someone, especially if they are speaking publically to an audience. For that reason, my city’s (and just about every city’s in the US) codes regarding “curse and abuse” were thrown out, and we no longer enforce that. There is no way I would ever charge someone with something like that. I can just imagine it in court– “your honor, I charged him because he was, well, hooting!” I’d be laughed out of the courtroom, not to mention having my charge dismissed and possibly sued. The only exception to that would be stating a threat to harm or kill, which is illegal, or continued harassment or stalking. However, harassment codes would NOT apply to politicians making speeches publically, because by making a “town hall meeting”, they are directly inviting editorial comments on the part of the public! The same would go for a rock concert– do you actually think a rock band whose music is not liked by the crowd would have a legal basis for seeking warrants against their fans for “shouting’ or “hooting” at them?? Ever been to a city council meeting in your city that’s open to the public? There is plenty of hooting and shouting, that’s expected. Criminey, again I say, if your politician can’t stand being yelled at, then they need to step down and get off the stage. And– if you are so “intimidated” by someone’s shouting to the point that you allow your own rights to go unexercised, then I think perhaps you are not made of strong enough stuff to be a good citizen. Perhaps your convictions are not strong enough, and perhaps not strong enough for a good reason– if you are so shaken by other citizens exercising their rights, then perhaps you ARE wrong, and you would benefit from rethinking your position. The citizens who were “shouting’ don’t have the beenfit of huge sums of money to pay for advertising or TV commercials, perhaps their only opportunity to be heard is to shout at town hall meetings. They have the right to do so, and if anyone tried to stop them by force, i would unhesitatingly defend their right to do so, in my case, by arresting those who try to keep others from exercising their rights. If those politicians didn’t want to be “shouted” at, then perhaps they should have made the venue CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC! what a concept– pack their hall with only those who agree with them. Again, it’s legal to shout, so ya can’t blame them for exercising their rights.
    And again, you say that people who behave in “that manner” that is, by exercising their 1st amendment rights, are “childish, bullying and loutish”. Well, if that’s the case, we ned a lot more bullying! I am all for the public bullying politicians. They are our servants, and when they step out of bounds, they SHOULD be “bullied”. And of course I am referring to legal, verbal bullying, which I’ve covered above.

    Such behavior is childish, bullying and rude. Adults who behave like that demonstrate little but loutish, thickheaded ignorance. I believe Thomas Jefferson, at least, would agree with me.

    You’re right that a politician who can’t take being yelled at doesn’t have much business having the job. But the vast majority of them from both parties endured the rudeness of their fellow citizens and did their best to keep the meetings going in spite of it. The trouble is, when people are yelling and screaming, and interrupting their fellow citizens with insults and sarcasm, not much rational talk can take place. Their intent was to shout over those who were speaking, preventing rational discourse by literally making it impossible to hear. I believe such ugly behavior curtails my First Amendment right to free speech, and I find it unacceptable.

    Further, your argument about the Marine veteran being more qualified to hold office than those who already hold it simply by virtue of his service to our country is laughable. I mean absolutely no disrespect to any military veteran – I’m one myself – but please. Military service – including combat – alone does not necessarily make one a good politician. Certainly you know better than that. If you don’t, you need to think about it for a while.

    I respectfully disagree with you that it’s a “rule” that the government tends to “screw things up, NOT help things.” I’d like to point to the U.S. Postal Service, which delivers countless tons of mail to American citizens every day with minimal trouble, as an example of something the government gets right. Another example is the Department of Motor Vehicles. Or fire and police protection, both provided by our government. And how about Medicare, which provides health care to our elderly citizens, many of whom cannot afford private health insurance and would have no health care at all without it. Should we simply leave grandma to become ill, suffer and die because she can’t afford to pay for health insurance? Should we just leave her to the “kindness” of her neighbors, most of whom are strangers, and who anyway could never afford to pay for the care she needs?

    Give me a break.

    Each of those examples represent huge government entities that provide necessary and sometimes vital services to millions of American citizens. Are they perfect? Of course not. What is? Should we abolish them because of that? That’s a very slippery slope, my friend.

    Finally, about that propaganda. I respect your right to refuse help from the government – that’s up to you. If you don’t want the government involved in your health care, then you’re certainly entitled to buy any private health care insurance policy you can afford.

    But don’t tell me that such demonstrably false notions such as “death panels” – which nearly took over the discourse regarding health care insurance reform for most of the month of August – are anything but blatant, in-your-face propaganda, used cynically and without shame by those who oppose reform.

    I have yet to hear a single opponent of reform offer a viable alternative; the Republican party, while it has said it will offer its own legislation, has done nothing of the sort. Instead they’ve united to say “no” to everything the Democratic party offers. The intent is to block and stop health care reform for no better reason than to bring their own, fairly elected President of the United States down and create chaos. One of their most powerful tools is propaganda; it works extremely well to sway an intimidated, confused and yes, sometimes ignorant population in the direction it wants through baseless threats and shameless fear-mongering.

    That is not what the First Amendment intended. You know better.

  6. There appears to have been an error in sending my comment, I did not mean for it to be jumbled as it was submitted. Here is the correct version–

    Your reply, as I suspected it would be, is so “target rich” that I will do my best to address them all.

    1) the beginning of your post reminds me of the cheating husband caught red-handed by his wife, and says to her “who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” well, i’m going to go with my own eyes on this one. Yes, you DO believe that those who disagree with you only disagree with you because they are “propagandized”, i.e., are incapable of making any informed decisions. You stated that very clearly in your first posting, and all you have to do is reread it.

    2) You need not lecture me about the 1st Amendment. I deal with, think about, consider, ponder, use, and indeed, stake my very livelihood, career and life on it on a daily basis, as a police officer. and I can tell you this:
    a) at least in my state, it is perfectly legal to carry firearms OPENLY, that is, not concealed. I would certainly prefer that citizens carry their firearms openly rather than illegally concealed, if they do not have the proper permit for it.
    b) IF IT IS LEGAL TO CARRY FIREARMS into the “town hall meeting” or whatever they are being called (I have never been to one), then it is just that– PEFECTLY LEGAL to carry firearms into the venue. Naturally, if those who run the venue or event ban firearms at that particular venue, then so be it, the citizens must respect that and would not be able to bring firearms into it. And, there is nothing “un-peaceable” about carrying a firearm. I carry one every single day of my life, wherever I go, on and off duty. I am very much at peace, peaceable, and dedicated to keeping the peace. When carrying a firearm becomes “unpeaceable” is when it is brandished menacingly, carried by a convicted felon, used in the comission of a felony, etc. I repeat, THERE IS NOTHING UNPEACEABLE ABOUT CARRYING A FIREARM. If someone else carrying a firearm legally upsets you that much, then perhaps you need to move to another country where firearms are banned. Or, perhaps you would benefit from a familiarization course at your local gunshop or club, so that your reaction to firearms is based more on knowledge of them rather than on a kneejerk reaction to them.
    c) there is nothing in the constitution, nor at least in my state constitution and local laws, that bans armed people assembling in one place. If that were the case, there would be no gun clubs, no gun shows, no hunt clubs, etc. Again, if the specific venue bans guns, then guns should not be allowed. I would have no problem with that. BUT, if guns are indeed allowed at a venue, then you cannot very well rail against those who bring guns to town meetings. Again, I have never been to a town meeting and know nothing about them, but if something is legal, you cannot hold it against citizens their exercising their right to do so. Especially since there is no law that states that ONLY ONE SIDE can bring firearms to Location X. Anyone can, be they leftists, rightists, conservatives, fascists, whatever. So if you feel threatened by citizens exerciszing their rights, you have several options; 1) NOT GOING, no one is forcing you to go or 2) GOING, and exercising the same right yourself! Get over yourself, there is nothing illegal about carrying a firearm in the open and there’s nothing you can do about it.
    d) frankly, in this day and age, it might be a good idea to be armed for your own protection at many locations where tempers are running very high, hopefully concealed (legally). Again, only where firearms are allowed. On the other hand it might be a good idea for the organizers of the meetings to NOT ALLOW weapons at all, for anyone (except law enforcement, on or off duty of course). But for the last time, if they’re legal to carry in a meeting, ya can’t very well excoriate them for doing what’s legal.
    And one last point on that topic– and this really tickles those of us who have carried automatic weapons at one time or another– THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN “ASSAULT WEAPON”, unless you’re talking about early 20th-century high-caliber siege cannons and things like that. I spent years in the Marine Corps and Army active duty, and we never once ever held anything called an “assault rifle” or “assault weapon”. I find that the term “assault rifle” is mainly used by those who have never been in the military, or who largely have no practical knowledge of weapons. And as a policeman, I know that any firearm, from a tiny .22 derringer (which has claimed the lives of officers) to a 12 gauge shotgun can be used to ASSAULT someone. So the term is meaningless and only used to stir up Hollywood-inspired kneejerk reactions from those who don’t know anything about weapons.
    Now, we come to “hooting” and “shouting in derision” (clapping hand on cheek and saying in falsetto “oh dear, shouting!”). Puhleze!!! “shouting” and “hooting” are 100% covered by and PROTECTED by the 1st amendment. This is EXACTLY what freedom of speech is– your right to shout and hoot in derision at anyone you choose, especially if they are A POLITICIAN SPEAKING IN A PUBLIC PLACE!! As a matter of fact, I am very very familiar with a city which was recently prominantly in the news because a singer was charged and summonsed for using the “f” word in a public place, shouted or sung. And that conviction was STRUCK DOWN by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING illegal at “shouting at” or “hooting at” someone, especially if they are speaking publically to an audience. For that reason, my city’s (and just about every city’s in the US) codes regarding “curse and abuse” were thrown out, and we no longer enforce that. There is no way I would ever charge someone with something like that. I can just imagine it in court– “your honor, I charged him because he was, well, hooting!” I’d be laughed out of the courtroom, not to mention having my charge dismissed and possibly sued. The only exception to that would be stating a threat to harm or kill, which is illegal, or continued harassment or stalking. However, harassment codes would NOT apply to politicians making speeches publically, because by making a “town hall meeting”, they are directly inviting editorial comments on the part of the public! The same would go for a rock concert– do you actually think a rock band whose music is not liked by the crowd would have a legal basis for seeking warrants against their fans for “shouting’ or “hooting” at them?? Ever been to a city council meeting in your city that’s open to the public? There is plenty of hooting and shouting, that’s expected. Criminey, again I say, if your politician can’t stand being yelled at, then they need to step down and get off the stage. And– if you are so “intimidated” by someone’s shouting to the point that you allow your own rights to go unexercised, then I think perhaps you are not made of strong enough stuff to be a good citizen. Perhaps your convictions are not strong enough, and perhaps not strong enough for a good reason– if you are so shaken by other citizens exercising their rights, then perhaps you ARE wrong, and you would benefit from rethinking your position. The citizens who were “shouting’ don’t have the beenfit of huge sums of money to pay for advertising or TV commercials, perhaps their only opportunity to be heard is to shout at town hall meetings. They have the right to do so. If those politicians didn’t want to be “shouted” at, then perhaps they should have made the venue CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC! what a concept– pack their hall with only those who agree with them. Again, it’s legal to shout, so ya can’t blame them for exercising their rights.
    And again, you say that people who behave in “that manner” that is, by exercising their 1st amendment rights, are “childish, bullying and loutish”. Well, if that’s the case, we ned a lot more bullying! I am all for the public bullying politicians. They are our servants, and when they step out of bounds, they SHOULD be “bullied”. And of course I am referring to legal, verbal bullying, which I’ve covered above.
    Furthermore, and this is a very important point, the Constitution ONLY provides protection for your free speech AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT… “The CONGRESS shall make no law…” The ONLY way your “Free Speech” can be threatened, on an actionable (i.e. legal) level is if the GOVERNMENT kept you from saying, writing, publishing or doing anything that you have the right to do. It is impossible for a private INDIVIDUAL to violate your 1st Amendment Rights, because the 1st amendment does not cover individuals, it limits the powers of the GOVERNMENT. For example, if I as publisher Joe Blow refuse to print your written materials, I would hardly be guilty of limiting your 1st amendment Rights. Or a better example, if I, as private citizen Joe Blow, attempt to shout you down in a room in which you’re trying to speak to an audience which you have specifically invited to hear you, i would NOT be violating your 1st amendment Rights. If I am on private property, i might be legally asked to leave, and if I don’t leave, i could be charged with Trespassing. But you would have no basis to seek a warrant against me for anything, since you INVITED me (a member of the public) to your event, and EXPRESSLY DESCRIBED THE EVENT as a “MEETING”! you are also free to speak anywhere else in the country. On the other hand, if I, as Policeman Joe Blow, came into your gathering, and used the power of my government office to take you off the stage and keep you form speaking, THEN I would be violating your 1st Amendment rights, and would be subject to probable immediate firing, prosecution, and probably a law suit. Why? Because I SPECIFICALLy violated your 1st Amendment Rights to free speech by acting as an agent of THE GOVERNMENT, under the color of law. I hope the difference is clear to you. it is often not clear to those who don’t have a lot of contact or experience with the law. To sum up: it is impossible for an INDIVIDUAL PRIVATE CITIZEN to limit your 1st amendment Rights. it is very possible for the GOVERNMENT to do so, and that is what the 1st amendment is referring to. There is no protection in the constitution from being shouted at by a private citizen, because he himself is exercising his rights in doing so. Remember, the GOVERNMENT HAS NO RIGHTS. Only the citizenry does.
    You are right– military service does NOT make you a good politician. we don’t need “good politicians’ in office. we need SERVANTS OF THE PEOPLE. The more I see, the more I think that if someone is a “good politician”, they have no business being in office. We need people with character. Enough “good politicians”!!!! And furthermore, unless you have served your country in the armed forces in some capacity, you have no business being Commander in Chief of those Armed Forces. This is akin to someone who’s never been a policeman aspiring to be Chief of Police. And, you misunderstood me– I never said that simply because the Marine veteran served his country, he is therefore the best-qualified person to hold office. My point was that he is 1000 times BETTER qualified than someone who has never served. The ideal situation would be to choose between several military veterans. But someone who’s never served— no way! YOU need to think about it for a while lady, not me!
    The next part is just so rich that I am salivating to get to it—
    THE POST OFFICE IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF THE GOVERNMENT WORKING CORRECTLY???? Are you freaking kidding me???? My god, this is just so rich… allow me to quote your hero, Obama– “UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”

    Let me repeat that quote–
    “UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.”
    Even Obama himself acknowledges that the Post Office is riddled with problems, and that PRIVATE COMNPANIES do a MUCH better job. If I want a package “absolutely positively delivered overnight”, I don’t call the post office, I call FedEx. The post office is mismanaged, slow (ever heard the expression “snail mail”??), not dependable, and not reliable. Everyone knows that. I can’t stop laughing. but the next one is even juicier—
    THE DMV??? are you kidding me??? anyone who’s reading this, raise your hand if you have a horror story about the DMV— LONG slow lines? RUDE employees who seem to have been hired from among the bottom the barrel?? When I read what you wrote, I thought you were being comedic at first…. THE POST OFFICE AND THE DMV HELD UP AS GREAT GOVERNMENT ACHIEVEMENTS?? My god, the material can’t get any better than this. I think I can speak for the vast majority of people when I say that I DON”T WANT MY COUNTRY LOOKING OR OPERATING LIKE THE DMV!!!! You are the poster child for statism and everything that’s wrong with it– “I want the country to run like the DMV”…. sorry, i’m picking myself up off the floor now.
    Next, you ask about “granma getitng sick”. I assume you are asking me about my OWN grandma? Of COURSE I am not going to let my grandma get sick– I am going to pay for the best healthcare I can afford for her, and make her life as good as possible. I can only assume you’re asking about my own family. Or are you asking me about YOUR own family, and whether I would pay for YOUR grandma’s healthcare? Frankly, uh, no, I would not pay a dime for your grandmother’s healthcare. Why? First of all, i don’t know you guys, you aren’t part of my family. You’ve never spent a day with me, didn’t raise me when I was growing up, you didn’t give me any presents for Christmas, never got me a pet dog, never attended any of my Graduations, etc. Who are you?? If you knocked on my door and said “my grandmother’s sick, I need you to pay for her healthcare”, after telling you I’ve got my own family to pay for, I’d politely tell you to take a long walk off a short pier. The nerve! and you would do exactly the same thing if I came to your door demanding that you pay for my or my wife’s or my dog’s or cat’s hospital bills. and that is exactly what using our tax money to pay for other peoples’ hospital bills is. Sorry, if I don’t know you, and I am not a member of your family, I am NOT responsible for your life. Just because YOU are sick, does not mean that *I* have to pay your doctor bills. that’s crazy. You need to pay YOUR OWN bills. If I get sick, I am NOT going to come knocking on your door demanding payment, nor am i going to break into your house and steal the money out of your safe to pay for my doctor bills. But that is what the government does when it uses (or will use) force of arms to force you to pay for other peoples’ bills. What’s next, force me to pay for your electric bill, and your water bill, and your gas bill, and for the roofer’s bill? Where will it end?
    Oh and another thing, just because someone “needs” something, does not mean that we all must be FORCED to pay for it. Charity is one thing. Donations are one thing. But FORCING me to pay for people whom I’ve never met? Well, taxation without representation is… well, we’ve heard that before, and we know how that ended.
    And no, we should not abolish them because they are IMPERFECT, “friend”. They should be abolished because THEY ARE ILLEGAL ie. Unconstitutional. That’s all that counts. Abolish them because they should never have existed in the first place.
    I have no idea what “death panels” are. they didn’t take over my “discourse’, because I don’t do “discourse”, that’s not how I formulate my thoughts. My objections to what you have said are PHILOSOPHIC, and very basic and systemic. I oppose reform. I have neevr even heard of “death panels”, and I have never “used” them “cynically and without shame” in any circumstances. I have been too busy working. So, once again, you are WRONG— those of us who disagree with you do NOT disagree with you due to “propaganda”, but because we are THINKERS. There you go again– saying that i disagree with you due to “propaganda”. It STILL does not sink into your head that why I OPPOSE REFORM has nOTHING to do with propaganda. you are incapable of dropping that idea from your head.
    A viable alternative to reform? How about NOTHING! we don’t need reform. We don’t need to “form” anything to begin with. And, again, anything the governemnt gets into, it ruins. So I DEFINITELY don’t want the hands of government in anythign like healthcare. The less “reforming” the government does, the better!!
    And again, if the President can be “brought down”, as you stated might be a possibililty in your last paragraph, perhaps he should never have been president to begin with. Have you ever considered the possibility that it might be a GOOD THING for him to be “brought down”? And again I am speaking 100% legally– “brought down” by Consittutional, legal means. Basically, if he’s so weak that we can bring him down, perhaps he should never have assumed the office in the first place! The power of the people is sweet.. let us savor its power.
    .

    I have yet to hear a single opponent of reform offer a viable alternative; the Republican party, while it has said it will offer its own legislation, has done nothing of the sort. Instead they’ve united to say “no” to everything the Democratic party offers. The intent is to block and stop health care reform for no better reason than to bring their own, fairly elected President of the United States down and create chaos. One of their most powerful tools is propaganda; it works extremely well to sway an intimidated, confused and yes, sometimes ignorant population in the direction it wants through baseless threats and shameless fear-mongering.

    That is not what the First Amendment intended. You know better.

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