When A Senator Reads 'Green Eggs & Ham' On The Floor, What About The Copyright?

from the questions-questions dept

You may have heard that Senator Ted Cruz spent a fair bit of time on the Senate Floor doing an old fashioned filibuster. Of course, what seems to be drawing almost more attention than the thing he was filibustering about was... the fact that, as part of that, he read aloud the classic Dr. Seuss book, Green Eggs and Ham (though many people pointed out that he appeared to totally misunderstand the meaning of that book).

But more interesting from our standpoint are the copyright questions this raises. Some even pondered if his reading the book on the Senate floor would impact the public domain status of the book. The answer to that is no, though some other questions may be a bit more obscure. I've emailed some copyright lawyers for their take on the question, but we might as well discuss them here in the comments. The book is clearly covered by copyright. Cruz's reading of it is likely protected by the speech or debate clause, and even potentially a fair use claim. The bigger question is about everyone else who's showing it. Are TV news programs who show it violating the copyright? It may depend very much on how they present it, and it seems likely that many would have a very strong fair use claim -- it's newsworthy (in some sense), it's unlikely to negatively impact the work, etc. Of course, if a TV program decided to use it, instead, as a "storytime hour with Senator Ted Cruz" in which he reads the book to entertain children... there might be some copyright questions raised. Still, it's worth noting that the owner of the copyright, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, has a history of going legal over pretty clear fair use claims.

Still, there is a larger point in all of this: this is yet another example of a politician realizing that there's benefit in being able to use copyright covered material for his personal benefit, without the permission of the copyright holder. This is why fair use is important, and why attempts to limit it are so problematic. While I've never seen Senator Cruz involved in any copyright debates, but it will be interesting to see, should copyright reform issues ever finally reach the Senate floor, if he's willing to stand up for expanded fair use, based on his own recognition of the value of being able to, say, read an entire book to try to make a point.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:00pm

    Congressional record

    Isn't everything said on the floor of the Senate and House put into the Congressional record, copied, archived, and distributed?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:17pm

    Clear copyright infringement, Take him to court, and ruin his life. Make an example of him. Then maybe, just maybe. There will be an actual discussion, in the senate and congress, of how absurd copyright has become.

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:23pm

    This could be one of the stupidest articles ever posted on this site.

     

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  4.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:28pm

    Re:

    How so? What if a senator reads an entire work, and this reading is recorded? Aren't all works produced by the federal government automatically public domain? Would someone then using that recording in their own way be violating a copyright or making using of a government produced public domain work?

    If it's your opinion this article is stupid, fine. That's your opinion. But please, give your reasoning.

     

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  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Why the lack of confidence? Techdirt's never been shy of saying "this is the way it is", " this way is right", "this way is wrong".

    Just yesterday, "Yes, It's Fair Use To Mashup Charlie Brown And The Smiths,". Is it?, who knows?, except Techdirt.

    It's a shame, the hubris is part of what keeps me coming back here.

     

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  6.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:42pm

    A better question

    Dr. Seuss died 22 years ago. How in the hell is he benefiting by having this 53-year-old work under copyright?

     

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  7.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:45pm

    Re: A better question

    Because copyright was created by the spirits of ancient Egyptians!

     

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  8.  
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    Oblate (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:47pm

    Finally someone who understands public speaking.

    An important rule of public speaking- target your speech to the educational/mental level of the audience. I believe that this was done in this case.

     

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  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:48pm

    Well, he could have read the Constitution; most in Congress NEED that.

    @ Rikuo: If it's your opinion this article is stupid, fine. That's your opinion. But please, give your reasoning.


    It's stupid because Mike writes: "drawing almost more attention than the thing he was filibustering about was..." WHILE he too is totally ignoring the filbuster.

    It's stupid because Mike writes: "But more interesting from our standpoint are the copyright questions this raises." WHEN DOESN'T RAISE ANY -- except maybe among weenies who want to destroy copyright.

    It's stupid because Mike writes: "use copyright covered material for his personal benefit" when it's on the floor of Congress and that's always The People's business -- whether they want it or not -- I can't imagine how Mike construes that as "personal benefit", but ask him.

    In fact, being generous as I can: a) I've NO idea what Mike's point is here: he's basically a machine that spews out text with "copyright" or "DMCA" or "fair use" or other key words in it b) there are DOZENS of more important items on Drudge that he could rant about: my favorite is that Apple has already admitted it's in cahoots with NSA and will turn over fingerprint data! Now THAT'S of interest.

    But I do have to disagree with the AC's "could": This MUST be one of the stupidest articles ever posted on this site.

     

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  10.  
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    kog999, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 1:59pm

    "WHEN DOESN'T RAISE ANY"


    out_of_the_blue: here are some issue to be raised.

    Should the Senator be fined or jailed for reading a copy written work in the open senate, is that illegal?.

    Should he have been required to pay a license fee?

    If not, what about this being done by a senator make this different then someone reading the book to a group of friends or even charging a feel for a public reading

    Can the text of the book now be repeated by other in reference to the events that took place on the senate

    If reading the book was "Wrong" either legally or morally, why didn't the senator know that. Or is he just a terrible person who is morally corrupt? How can a common citizen be expected to respect copyright if their senators don't.

     

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  11.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Well, he could have read the Constitution; most in Congress NEED that.

    You hate it, and yet you keep reading it. Who's the stupid one here?

     

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  12.  
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    Rapnel (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:18pm

    Re: Well, he could have read the Constitution; most in Congress NEED that.

    a) It looks like several critical copyright observations
    a1) Senator moshed Dr. Seuss with a filibuster
    a2) Senator provided a public performance
    a3) Senator's words are on the record (recorded, copied, disseminated etc.)

    b) Copyright is important because it absolutely BLOWS right now.

    As for personal gain, well, senator just made himself a little more famous by rallying for something he stands for and at the same time providing entertainment by reading other peoples' works.

    They're valid questions to which legal answers would be worthy.

    Fair-use is critical to the public. It needs to be better defined and apply to every created work ever.

    Creators create. Copyrights manipulate. It's well past overdue to right copyright.

     

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  13.  
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    Ben (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:24pm

    Hmmm seems like Article I Section 6 needs updating...

    They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, Breach of the Peace, and Copyright Infringement, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
    Article I Section 6

     

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  14.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Well, he could have read the Constitution; most in Congress NEED that.

    You should try actually reading the article.

    BTW... Drudge? Really? He's one of the yellowest of "journalists" around. People still pay attention to him?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:32pm

    Re: A better question

    One day a rich man was diagnosed with cancer, fearing death and loss of his wealth he preyed each night that God would let him take his hard earned wealth with him to heaven.

    A few weeks before death God answers his prayers and agrees to let him bring just one suitcase. After death he approaches the pearly gates where St. Peter stops him stating "you can not bring anything with you." The man replies "I have permissions from God to bring just one suitcase." St. Peter checks the roster "Ok, I see it here but I have to inspect the contents."

    The suitcase is opened and St. Peter looks at the man confused and asks "Why did you bring a suitcase of paving bricks with you?"

    After that the spirits hired lobbyists to get copyright extended past death. Gold has no use in heaven but apparently locking up works in a twisted web of copyright transfers makes your status in Heaven better. I hear Dr. King is Jesus right hand man for making sure his speeches were under strict copyright.

     

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  16.  
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    s2lim, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:33pm

    Imagine if he had recited a Prince song? That guy would be going down! Cuffed and stuffed.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:36pm

    They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, Breach of the Peace, and unauthorized use of Intellectual Property, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

    FTFY

     

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  18.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:36pm

    Re: Re: A better question

    Perhaps someone truly believed Disney would be brought back to life, and wanted to keep his copyrights warm for him.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 2:53pm

    Another example of just how judiciously politicians use the money they steal from us.

     

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  20.  
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    gorehound (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 3:27pm

    Cruz is a scumbag grandstander.........does what he does for himself.He does not care about others and he is so unintelligent.Has about the same intellect as the people who actually Voted for the creep.
    He does not know History either and makes up stuff like his little Munich Speech where he quoted the wrong Year it occurred.

     

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  21.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 4:14pm

    Re:

    This could be one of the stupidest articles ever posted on this site.


    Thanks. We always strive to top our previous bests.

     

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  22.  
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    anonymouse (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 4:36pm

    Re: Cruz is a scumbag grandstander

    fyi - name calling and belittling people with whom you disagree removes credibility from your opinion.

     

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  23.  
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    JMT (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 4:38pm

    Re:

    You've just accused Techdirt of having both a lack of confidence and hubris in one short comment. Perhaps you should learn the meaning of these words before making completely contradictory claims.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 5:37pm

    Re:

    This could be one of the stupidest comments ever posted on this site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 5:40pm

    Re:

    huh, my reaction was that it was one of the funniest articles ever posted on this site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 6:36pm

    Queue Rush Limbaugh...

    ...who played the entire reading on his radio broadcast this afternoon. Any wild speculation on the copyright or fair use implications of *that* ?

     

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  27.  
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    The Original Anonymous Coward (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 7:01pm

    Can I get a free copy of Green Eggs and Ham now?

    After all, it will be in the Congressional Record, and that document is available to everyone for free. It starts on page S6732 in the Congressional Record for Tuesday, 24 September. Here's a link to that PDF document:

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2013-09-24/pdf/CREC-2013-09-24-senate.pdf

    Oh oh, did I just post a link to an infringing document?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 7:21pm

    Re: Re:

    Nothing is more contradictory than intellectual property.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2013 @ 9:02pm

    Re: Re:

    You should just read it again.

     

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  30.  
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    Liz (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 9:22pm

    I'm wondering if Sen. Cruz realizes the irony of reading Green Eggs and Ham when grandstanding against the ACA.

    The moral of Green Eggs is "Don't knock it until you try it." In the end, Sam I Am actually liked green eggs and ham!

     

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  31.  
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    Atkray (profile), Sep 25th, 2013 @ 10:22pm

    meh

    Cruz was OK but, I still think that the reading Jesse Jackson did of Green Eggs and Ham on SNL was the definitive version.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 4:19am

    Re: Re:

    The reading is public domain, the text in the federal record is public domain but I doubt you could get away with selling either stripped of the settings of C-span and the federal record.

    The best thing Cruz did was provide 21 hours of source material for anti-Cruz messages for political ads.

    Cruz proved he failed to read Dr Seuss critically. Green Eggs and Ham goes from irrational hatred of Green Eggs and Ham to love of Green Eggs and Ham. I'm pretty sure he wasn't trying for that argument.

     

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  33.  
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    Ninja (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 4:34am

    Re: A better question

    I've said before, how the heck are our fine creators going to maintain their afterlives without copyright? In fact I believe we should amend the DMCA to provide spiritual money payments for eternity so these poor souls will benefit from their works properly in their afterlives. You know, converting real currency to spiritual currency needs quite the effort (see: Pharaohs and their pyramids).

     

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  34.  
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    Rocco Maglio (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 5:22am

    Re: Re: Well, he could have read the Constitution; most in Congress NEED that.

    You are claiming Drudge is a yellow journalist even though he does not write articles. He simply picks articles from other news sites to highlight and writes a short title that links to the article. I guess you like the news being controlled by a few gatekeepers that choose to highlight the articles that provide the narrative that they are pushing. I guess that you do not like to have to read articles that talk about things that challenge your beliefs.

     

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  35.  
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    Rocco Maglio (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 5:33am

    Affordable Care Act Meant to Fail

    You do realize that the Affordable Care Act, he was railing against is intended to fail. It is intended to be an unworkable combination of public and private bureaucracies that leads to the creation of a government run healthcare system. President Obama has implied that this public option was his preference, but the public was not ready for it.

     

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  36.  
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    Pragmatic, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 6:05am

    Re:

    Not to mention linking. Oh, the horror!

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 6:07am

    Re: Queue Rush Limbaugh...

    Oh, good one! Yes indeed, how long till the Dr. Seuss estate comes after him for "diluting the currency of the work," or some such crap?

    And why hasn't Blue slammed him for stealing Dr. Seuss's work from his cold, dead hands, etc.? Enquiring minds want to know. That filthy grifting Senator needs to be called to account! /s

     

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  38.  
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    dennis deems (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 6:07am

    Re: Re: A better question

    I don't get the point of the story. Why was the suitcase full of bricks? Was the man Ignatz Mouse?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 6:10am

    Re: Affordable Care Act Meant to Fail

    Actually, the public has been misled by the Far Right, whose tinfoil-hattery has stifled debate and turned it into a case of Death Panels V Freedom instead of Public Good V Private Healthcare rip-offery.

    All the while forgetting it was a Heritage project picked up by the Dems in the name of bipartisanship... and rejected for that reason.

     

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  40.  
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    FarSide (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 6:12am

    Re:

    Yes, because if you don't like Green Eggs and Ham you can choose to never eat it again.

    And, if we don't like the ACA, we can just repeal it, right?

    Yeah, right.

    This argument/comparison is ludicrous.

    "Don't knock it till you try it" is about as juvenile as you can get when you are discussing national laws with huge impact on every person in the country.

     

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  41.  
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    Rocco Maglio (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 6:26am

    It was a bed time story to his kids

    He read the story as a bed time story to his kids. I agree that it is interesting to look at the copyright implications of this. In fact, it is interesting to look at the copyright of reading bed time stories to your kids when you are on the road. Copyright is broken and leads to all sorts of unjust outcomes. Lets put the Green Eggs and Ham story in context, it was a minuscule part of what he was talking about. It is kind of interesting that this is the tiny unimportant part of the speech is getting all the coverage.

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: Re: A better question

    Heaven is commonly depicted as having streets of gold.

     

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  43.  
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    Liz (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re:

    I can tell that your Irony Meter is broken if you can't see the irony in Sen. Cruz using the story in an attempt to stall, block, and repeal ACA. That or you're one of those annoyingly stubborn and misinformed Dead Dog Republicans.

    The programs that have been enacted so far have greatly benefitted me. For instance, insurance companies can no longer charge me a higher premium because I'm not a man. Also since I have the breast cancer gene (most women in my family do) I cannot be denied coverage due to a "Pre-existing condition." Even though I do not have breast cancer and may not get it until much later in life (if I even do). There's more that works in my favor so I don't really see any issues with ACA as it is now.

    But then members and leadership of the Republican party have been attacking women's health for the better part of a decade now so I'm not surprised at this turn either.

     

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  44.  
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    Out_of_the_Hubaloo, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: A better question

    RETUUUURRRN THE SLAAAAB.

     

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  45.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: A better question

    I must be an idiot. I still don't get the joke.

     

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  46.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 26th, 2013 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Well, he could have read the Constitution; most in Congress NEED that.

    He does occasional journalism -- that's how he made his name -- but it's the worst kind, false character assassinations.

    Also, you should check out how new is intentionally slanted to advocate a certain point of view. The primary technique involves which stories you select to print (or, more importantly, which ones you don't select to print. Writing the stories yourself isn't necessary. The most influential person in setting a newspaper's slant is the editor, not the reporter.

    Also, Drudge is just as much a gatekeeper as any other new disseminator, so I'm a bit confused about why you raise that as an argument at all.

    Also, you know nothing about me. I love nothing more than reading things that challenge my ideas -- but that's irrelevant to the question of Drudge.

     

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  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 11:50am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: A better question

    Gold is often cast into bars that resemble paving bricks.

     

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  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 26th, 2013 @ 9:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: A better question

    What's yer offer?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Sep 27th, 2013 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: A better question

    Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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