Freedom to Print Redux


Okay, this is a warning, there are times I just need to rant. There are times when the sophistication of our culture, our times, just gets to be too much. By the way, the root of sophistication is not a lover of knowledge, it is “unnatural”. So much is lost and obfuscated by layering a basic truth until the original intent is completely gone, or the focus is now on something entirely new.

Case in point, the First Amendment, if I were to ask what it was about, I probably wouldn’t get a word for word description. For most people, after stumbling around the right to bear arms, or freedom of housing troops, people would get to freedom of speech. And if pressed again, people would clarify freedom of the press. But is that right? There seem to be so many, one reply I remember was that the fourth amendment was freedom to print. Wait, that was me. I get lost as well, no wonder I rant. Let’s go to the source and clarify things.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Freedom of religion and free exercise of the same, the freedom of speech, or of the press, or to assemble, or to complain about things.

These are statements of several “can do” and one “can’t do”, that’s a huge difference that is often overlooked. It is phrased such that the people “can do” and the government “can’t do”. The government can’t force you to follow a religion, it doesn’t say there is no religion, it says the government can’t create one. Then it shifts to empower the people with several rights, religious freedom, speech freedom, press freedom, assembly freedom, and bitch freedom to be redressed.

One more thing before my rant is finished, it plainly says “freedom of the press”. If I were to ask 100 people what that meant I would get about four different versions.

1) freedom of newspapers to investigate without fear of government 2) freedom of reporters to gather stories 3) freedom of the media to express views 4) freedom to print information without governmental interference.

They are all sorta right, Wikipedia likes the “media” focus. Well, basically they are all wrong. The Framers weren’t speaking metaphorically, the fourth statement is close but still not accurate. The Framers wanted to guarantee the right, the “can do” of the people to own a press, and print whatever they wanted on it. The “press” isn’t a concept, it is an inky, clumsy, mechanical contraption, that you have the right to own and play with. My press is this iPad. Not so inky anymore, not so clumsy. I am guaranteed by a promise of the American government that I can own it, and print with it, on paper or the internet. Wow!

It’s the simple things that get lost, the amazing things.

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