The argument is often made that First Amendment protections means we can’t do anything about the Media.
Well, yes and no.
You see, the Media is a Thing, just as a corporation is a Thing, the FBI is a Thing. You know what I’m saying. Liars, traitors, criminals of every stripe, are people…with names and faces, and dozens of personal weaknesses, even addictions.
And this ‘Thing’ is protected by the First Amendment.
You can sue a corporation, but you can’t put it in jail. You can bring criminal charges against a corporation, but then you have to dig way deep to find the individual “trigger finger” that did it. Then you have to make sure you can prove your case and not convict a fall-guy, which large organizations are filled with.
Finding the genuinely guilty is often very difficult to prove and teams of lawyers are there to try to blight your path every step of the way.
And for the Media, the First Amendment is there to blight your path almost every step of the way, generally beginning in 1971.
These days, the most difficult task is to simply know what is actually a crime, or civilly, an actionable injury, or tort, since the law makes so many exemptions, especially for the Media.
In the 1971, New York Times v United States, (the famous Pentagon Papers trial) the Supreme Court ruled that the NYT was protected by the First Amendment.
All that was sought in that case was an injunction, stopping the publication of a “classified” history of the United States involvement in SE Asia going back to the Eisenhower Days.
Virtually no one even knows what that history revealed, probably more damaging to the Democrats than the Republicans on the history end, but more damaging to The Republicans politically since, by 1971, Vietnam was Nixon’s War, and the leftwing media wanted to hang that war around his and the GOP’s neck, which they effectively did. Most Millennials believe he started it, and lost it.
In 1971, CNN was still almost a decade away from being born, and the founders of Buzzfeed’s fathers were still in college, their sons but gleams in their eyes. Besides the Pentagon Papers case said nothing about Fake News, or the malicious intent to do injury. No lies were involved in the passing by Daniel Ellsburg of the Papers to an NYT reporter named Neil Shaheen.
Ellsburg was indicted under the federal law for giving Shaheen the Papers in 1973, but his case was dismissed for misconduct by the Nixon DOJ five months later, and three years after SCOTUS allowed the NYT to publish the Papers.
Let’s just say a constitutional pall hangs over that whole idea that the Media gets a free pass on “receiving classified information” for the statute only calls them “unauthorized persons” and does not go on to mention any punishment for them.
Note: No one ever made a move toward Shaheen for receiving the classified papers.
Suffice it to say that it is an expensive proposition to bring civil or criminal charges against the Media and its component parts doing “media things.”
In all truth, lying has always been one of them that seems most protected. But lying with the intent to do injury (malice) is always available, only very expensive to get a jury.
But lying with the intent to bring down a duly constituted government? You know, the “T” word.
I don’t think people actually look at things that way.
But they should.
Take Buzzfeed, whose private motives are not exactly clear, does seem to meet the “with malice aforethought” of bringing criminal or civil actions against them. And the individual actors with fingerprints, versus corporations, are easier to identify.
Media companies have many moving parts, each member with their own set of ambitions and dreams, even ideals or political agenda, and their own sense of honor, integrity, right-and-wrong.
This includes having no sense of honor, integrity, right-and-wrong. at all, which has seen a hallmark of the print media in America since the 18th century, and best expressed (believe it or not, by Hollywood) during the Depression, and best portrayed, for my tastes, by the Ben Hecht Broadway plays rendered to film, “His Girl Friday” (1940) one of my favorites.
It’s mostly about ambition, and the owner-editors of Buzzfeed, both in their 40s’ (Gen X’ers) are likely very ambitious. It was founded by a fellow named Jonah Peretti. Its Editor-in-Chief is Ben Smith, from a prominent New York City legal family. In 2012, BuzzFeed was acknowledged to be worth a billion dollars, so is worth much more than its name recognition suggests. I’d never heard of them until the Dossier story broke in Jan 2017, although I’m sure many all the insiders in DC and NY have known them for years.
Where do they want to take Buzzfeed?
I don’t pay attention to irrelevancies until they try to horn in on the relevant world (no offense intended) but either as a name of praise, or damnation, Buzzfeed just doesn’t carry the cachet of a CNN, either as a “respected” news source, or as a biased news prevaricator. CNN is very much still the king of the hill of Fake News.
And if you haven’t noticed, quite proud of it.
But there’s a Monty Python-esque quality to so many of their roundtables and monologues, even personages, it’s obvious to me that many are aware of the larger-than-life persona they have with some in their audience. Rock stars. It’s like when Stepin Fetchit drove his touring car through Harlem, and gave nickels to neighborhood kids who crowded around, just like John D did in other parts of Manhattan. Somebodies.
CNN is worth about fives times more than Buzzfeed, but is also almost as old as its founding principals, Peritti and Smith. Buzzfeed has a ways to go.
But it’s more difficult to prove “malice” with so many of CNN stars, they are so star-struck with themselves, without “smoking guns” I doubt good lawyers would want to chance the arguments before judge or jury. If there is litigable malice or sedition at CNN it would be found upstairs in the executive offices.
So is Buzzheed a #2 Avis, just “trying harder” to out-scoop and out-fake the news-rental king, CNN, or do they have another end-game altogether?
They seem far too serious about themselves, and, as we have observed since this Cohen lie has been revealed, a certain defiant meanness reminiscent of Harold Ickes, Jr or Sid Blumental, both part of Hillary’s original brain trust.
So far, Buzzfeed’s only calling card is fake news, albeit, for those who read, so with a different twist.
While CNN is content to own its own secure niche inside the anti-Trump machine, wishing he could serve twenty terms, he’s been so lucrative to their lime-lit careers, Buzzfeed seems deadly serious about bringing down a sitting president.
Actually, “a presidency” – as in Section 2 of the US Constitution, for one cannot neglect the now out-in-the-open agenda of the Democratic Party, and their co-conspirators in the deep state, who are actively moving to redraw the Constitution to secure their niche for all time and not just to remove one man. (There are other signs out there, which we’ll discuss at a later time.)
Buzzfeed midwifed the Dossier story, and if there was any doubt they were just some ne’er-do-well news outlet who had just fallen upon a great scoop, that notion went away when Buzzfeed recently broke this latest story attempting to establish a lie as a proven truth simply by compounding Hearsay Witness #1, 2, 3, etc. What Donald Trump did or did not tell Michael Cohen could only have been known to two people, Michael Cohen and Donald Trump. But neither could prove his version is true, which is the fundamental nature of “he-said, he-said” stories. Gossip, hearsay, not legal evidence. With no tape recording, no letter, no third party listening in. No judge would ever allow it to go to a jury.
So the clear objective of the story is to shape public opinion, and bolster the power of the Media to undo a presidency.
I think we have a case here. Actually several.
At least these are my grounds, which I think can be shown in court, and actually by tying Buzzfeed’s malice in this recent Cohen charge, sort of like a criminal enterprise, to the Dossier story, for which I believe can be leveled criminally against Buzzhead principals, a broader theory of the case can be developed.
In civil court, all is needed are qualifying “targets” or victims of Buzzfeed. Donald Trump is not one. Donald Jr? Carter Page? Probably. Gen Flynn? Maybe.
I’ll leave you with the last verse of Don McLean’s “Bronco Bill’s Lament”, 1973 or thereabout.
You know I’d like to put my finger on that trigger once again
And point that gun at all the prideful men
All the voyeurs and the lawyers who can pull a fountain pen
And put you where they choose
With the language that they use
And enslave you till you work your youth away
Oh God how I worked my youth away