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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 government.

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.




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