Stupid Law Making Assaulting Journalists A Federal Crime Revived By Congress
from the scoring-cheap-points-to-impress-the-cheapest-seats dept
As an overreaction to President Trump’s mostly-hyperbolic verbal attacks on the journalism profession, a few legislators from the other side of the political fence have revived their stupid idea from last year. Here’s the law’s author in his own
A #freepress is essential to a healthy democracy. We must send a strong, clear message that such violence will not be tolerated ? that?s why I introduced the Journalist Protection Act today w/ @SenBlumenthal & @SenatorMenendez. 2/2 pic.twitter.com/7ixXQfurGF
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) March 12, 2019
If you can’t read/see this tweet, consider yourself lucky. Here it is in all its hashtagged glory:
A #freepress is essential to a healthy democracy. We must send a strong, clear message that such violence will not be tolerated – that’s why I introduced the Journalist Protection Act today w/ @SenBlumenthal & @SenatorMenendez.
This dumb law was defended in an inane but noisy statement by Rep. Eric Swalwell.
“From tweeting #FakeNews to proclaiming his contempt for the media during campaign rallies, the president has created a hostile environment for members of the press,” said Swalwell in a statement. “We must protect journalists in every corner of our country if they are attacked physically while doing their job, and send a strong, clear message that such violence will not be tolerated.
Yes. Swalwell’s official statement on his zombie legislation contained a hashtag. Here’s what the “Journalist Protection Act” [PDF] does: turns an existent crime into a slightly worse crime if the victim is someone the federal government considers a journalist. “Bodily injury” or “serious bodily injury” are the flavors of the felony enhancement, adding 3-to-6 years to violators’ sentences respectively.
Fortunately, the definition for journalist is broad enough to keep bloggers and livestreamers in the loop. Unfortunately, this just means more people are going to face enhanced sentences for harming members of our nation’s newest protected group.
Once again: this isn’t a good idea for anyone. It’s never a good idea to give extra protections to people who practice certain careers, whether they’re journalists or cops. Blues Lives Matter laws elevate cops above the people they serve. The Journalist Protection Act makes journalists’ lives worth more than those of the people they cover. One set of laws is “justified” by an imaginary “war on cops.” The other is “justified” by a bunch of boneheaded public statements by the Blowhard in Chief.
In both cases, the only thing happening is legislators scoring easy points preaching to the converted… and hoping the converted remember the stupidity they enacted in their names when reelection time comes around.
No real journalist should want this. Unfortunately, a bunch of journalistic groups are acting like it’s just the thing this nation’s been missing. The Society of Professional Journalists is offering its endorsement. So is the NewsMedia Alliance. Scrolling through the feed of tweets referencing this law reveals a disappointing number of journalist groups buying into this bullshit. This administration does pose a threat to journalism, but it takes the form of a crackdown on whistleblowers and placing journalists under surveillance, if not under indictment. It has very little to do with Trump encouraging physical violence against members of the press.
This isn’t anything any member of these groups should honestly want, unless they’re cool with legislators turning cops, bank CEOs, international arms dealers, bitcoin speculators, or other groups of people a certain percentage of the public finds loathsome into “protected classes.” If it’s cool for your own kind, you can’t bitch too much when it starts elevating exactly the sort of people you don’t like.