The Irrelevancy of the Constitution
by The Cranky Media Guy
As the old joke goes, I love humanity, it's people I can't stand.
Actually, with me, it's the other way around. I like people singly
or in small groups, but humanity as a group? Scary and getting
scarier all the time, Boss.
My favorite bumper sticker/T-shirt slogan of all time?
"Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large
groups." Truer words have never been spoken. Whereas I merely
suspected the truth of this before, I now have absolute, undeniable
confirmation of it. Would you like me to share, Brother?
This past Sunday, I was reading a story in my local paper (The
Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, VA, just in case you're
wondering) about the public's attitude toward the press. It was an
AP story about some egghead group called the First Amendment Center
at Vanderbilt University that asked people what they thought about
freedom of the press.
The first part said that 53 percent think that the press has too
much freedom. Think about that for a minute. A majority of American
adults think that the press has "too much freedom". Um,
ex-cuse me? Later in the story, I read that only 65 percent
think that newspapers should be able to publish freely without
government approval of a story. That's when I really lost it.
In case you ever wondered, yes, I actually do believe the
stuff I say in these columns. I really am cranky in person.
When I read that last little statistic, I was ranting and raving and
scaring the rest of the Cranky Family. Down deep, I really, really
want to believe that humanity is worth saving, but I keep stubbing
my metaphorical toe on depressing stuff like this article.
If you're wondering why this was so upsetting to me, may I humbly
suggest that you stop reading right now and go turn on the TV. Right
about now, QVC is selling some magnetic shoe inserts that, although
as the crawl says "are not yet recognized as effective by the
medical community", are still supposed to relieve your back
ache. (One afternoon, I watched in fascination as the QVC lady shill
reassured me and all her viewers that these insoles had the
"bipolar magnets" in them. I don't know about you, but I,
for one, absolutely refuse to buy any magnets that aren't
bipolar. If you don't understand what's stupid about this, I
sentence you to a month of watching Bill Nye, The Science Guy.)
If you're still here and haven't reached for the phone to buy
those nifty shoe inserts yet, I'm assuming that you, also, are
distressed by American citizens so fucking stupid that they actually
WANT the government--the same government run by the same politicians
that they tell pollsters they distrust--to censor the news. At least
I hope you are.
For the moment, let's put aside the absolute stupidity of someone
who claims to be a freedom-loving American wanting the government to
prescreen their news for them. I mean, how Forrest Gump-like do you
have to be to not see that we just recently wrapped up a nearly
half-century "Cold War" against a political system that,
among other things, censored the news its citizens could read?
Remember that that was one of the Big Things we said was WRONG
about Communism? If it was wrong for them, what would make it
right for us to do? (Okay, so I didn't "put it
aside". I'm a little worked up here.)
Since conservatism seems to be the "default setting" of
American politics (if you ask an American, even one who knows
absolutely nothing about politics, what his persuasion is, chances
are he'll say "conservative"), I'm gonna assume that many
of the people who answered this poll consider themselves to be
conservatives. Isn't one of the Big Principles of conservatism that
the government should be as small and unobtrusive as possible? In
that case, I have a question. "Hey, Mr. So-Called Conservative
Who Wants to Censor the News Media," I'd ask (in that charming
way that I have). "Exactly how big a bureaucracy do you think
it would take to pre-read and approve or censor every news story in
advance and who's gonna pay for this?"
I figure, since the news is a 24-hour-a-day thing nowadays, you'd
have to have three big shifts of civil servants seven days a week
checking every story coming across the wire. The tab for that's
gonna add up pretty quick, don't you figure? Why, it would be almost
like the old Soviet Union (Remember them? They were the "Evil
Empire" Reagan said was Bad with a Capital B 'cause it did
nasty stuff like restrict people's access to information), where
it's estimated that one out of every three people worked for the
Even if you're SO stupid that you still think government
censorship of the news is a good idea, I'm assuming you wouldn't
want to pick up the tab for this in the form of a higher tax bill.
Well, guess what, Sparky? If you really, really want that,
you can have it since we are, at least in theory, still a democracy,
but it ain't gonna be cheap. Totalitarianism never is. You gotta pay
the Secret Police real well if you want to keep their loyalty. With
the potential tab running to multi-billions a year, you still
want a Ministry of Information? If you answered "Yes" to
that question, you are hereby barred from ever again calling
yourself a "conservative". From now on, the correct term
to use is "Fascist".
Wanna know what the real problem is? It isn't that the press has
too much freedom. That's nonsense. It isn't that the press reports
too much on what's wrong with the government. If anything, it's the
opposite of that. With the huge mega-mergers in the communication
industry, what you're seeing, for my money, is way too much cooperation
on the part of the press and government. If you want to make sure
that the Justice Department doesn't look too closely at your merger,
what better way than to assure the Powers that Be that you won't
make too much noise about any scandals that might rear their ugly
little heads? The closer we get to monopolies in mass communication,
the more the power to report is also the power to suppress
information. It's the ol' Quid Pro Quo, boys and girls. One hand
washes the other. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Call it
what you want.
Wait a minute. Know what? I'm a jerk. I'm sitting here typing
this tirade and I could be putting together a business
venture that would make me a fortune. If 53 percent of American
adults want a censored newspaper, why not just give it to
them? I mean, that's a hell of a big demographic, isn't it? I doubt
I'd have trouble finding some branch of the Federal government to
censor what went into my paper, if I promised them I'd only run what
they approved. Shoot, I'll bet if I asked real nice, they'd give
me the stories in the first place. That would save me the trouble
and expense of having reporters.
This is brilliant! Why am I wasting my time on this "Cranky
Media Guy" hobby BS when I could be the next Rupert Murdoch? If
you can't fight 'em, join 'em, right? Okay, that settles it, I'm
gonna do it! Be watching for my new, government-approved paper,
coming soon to a newsstand near you. I've even come up with a catchy
name for it: Pravda.