With all the talk about the need to provide accountability through gun control using a national firearm registry and background check, it might be time to think about applying this framework to other constitutional rights as well. Let’s start with the Freedom of the Press, as provided through the First Amendment.
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the “right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference.” Freedom of expression consists of the rights to freedom of speech, press, assembly and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, and the implied rights of association and belief.
Our founding fathers had a lot to say about a free and unfettered press. They knew that a government-controlled press could not properly serve its citizens, it would only tell the people what the government wanted them to hear. A good example being “Pravda” in the Soviet Union. The “free press” in the United States, while still not controlled by the government, is mostly under the direction of large corporations which dictate, based on biases, the content of the newspapers, magazines, and TV networks they own, so except for small independent efforts it is no longer “really free.”
While our founding fathers thought that the freedom of the press (speech) was so important that they made it the first of the amendments, they said nothing about not being able to register those in the press who want to exercise this right. Because speech can have a more devastating impact on our every day lives than firearms, ensuring accountability of the press should be of paramount to our national interest. In order to ensure the proper use of the first amendment, we need to know who is saying what, when, and where. This National Press Registry is not about control, it is about accountability.
The argument can be made that the nation is hurt when the press is not acting in a free fashion, unfettered by political agendas. Wouldn’t you rather see them keeping reporters and press agencies accountable for their actions and liable for any statements made with those words than see the federal government banning all reporting out right? Oh course, this is the “smart” approach to accountability. One note, the national registry will NOT be used in the future to “find and stop” reporters for speaking out of issues.
In addition to a National Press Registry, we also need to run background checks on all registered reporters. It is important to ensure that mentally ill and criminal minded people do not have access to the press, we need rational and logical thinkers that do not have biases on the issue at hand. The only way to ensure that reporters for the press are sane people, is to have a national background check covering criminal and mental health.
Because congress acts too slow, the President should issue an Executive Order (EO) authorizing the Department of Homeland Security to create a database of national press correspondents. The database shall collect information regarding who they work for (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, etc.), political orientation (progressive/conservative, democrat/republican, etc.), types of articles written and whether they are “for or against” the issue at hand, and other attributes deemed necessary by the Czar of Press Accountability. This information will be used to “study the press” in order to find “ways to hold them more accountable” to the first amendment, ultimately ensuring the security of our great nation. The executive order should also authorize the sharing of this information with other departments, such as FBI, NSA, and CIA.
A question, what prevents the federal government from doing this? Yes, you can argue that it is poor policy, but that does not mean that our federal government could not do it. You could argue we don’t have the money for it, but that does not mean the President could have the DHS start a national database on reporters. There is an answer to this question, thank GOD and the Founding Fathers, that in theory should prevent such an act by the federal government. When you truly understand why we can not impose a national registry and background check on the press, you will know why they can not impose similar conditions on the second amendment as well.