Saturday, October 24, 2009

Straw men and the Constitution: in which Hube and Dana make the same mistake

With reference to the Obama administration's continuing war against Fox News, specifically referring to the recent attempt to impose the exclusion of Fox from the White House press pool for an interview opportunity, I said,

The State having the power to restrict the free--even partisan press--is a greater danger to the American republic than anything that press might ever say.

To which Dana Garrett responded,

And if the Nazi press wanted to be part of the press pool and attend White House News briefings, then as far as your concerned the White House is OBLIGATED to oblige them?

You are the one who claims to be the constitutionalist. Please point out in the constitution where the President is obligated to recognize just any "news organization" as responsible purveyors of free speech.

And, amazingly, Hube fell for this line:

As often as I disagree with Dana, I must say he's on the money with the above.

Did anybody notice Dana palm that card?

Neither my statement nor anything in my post asserted that the Obama administration's attempt to exclude Fox News was unconstitutional.

Unwise. Yes. Dangerous. Check. Unconstitutional? Unfortunately, not.

Freedom the press, as asserted in the First Amendment, amounts to freedom from prior restraint, and the inability of Congress (or, later, thanks to the Supreme Court) or any State legislature to make laws that allow the government to view and censor in advance what a press outlet will publish. The only exceptions that the Courts have ever sustained have to do with national security.

But not every threat to the freedom of the republic is directly covered under the US Constitution, nor is every tradition or mechanism that has developed in the past 220 years explicitly addressed. The US Constitution does not address, for example, who is allowed to vote, only [and this in the amendments] who may not be restricted from voting for certain reasons. The US Constitution does not address the role of political parties in the government, because national political parties did not exist when it was written.

I made a statement of political philosophy: that the direct attempt to undermine a major news network by the President (regardless of that network's shortcomings) is dangerous. Dana, in an attempt to defend the indefensible (note that none of the other news networks went along with this either, and their coverage of this imbroglio is increasingly hostile to the President), tries his two favorite tactics: (a) reductio ad absurdam [would you protect Nazis?] and (b) making up a charge I did not make and attributing it to me.

By the way: what about the Nazis? Well, let's see. The White House press pool for interviews is an agreement between the press corps and the administration that all of them who belong to the pool will get to use common equipment for interviews and such [i.e., CBS takes its turn to bring the equipment and everybody else gets to use its microphones]. Belonging to the pool requires a network to (a) have all the requisite equipment and (b) to have White House press accreditation. Fox meets both criteria. If there were a Nazi News Network with millions of viewers and White House press accreditation, then damn right I would support their access.

But this is again being disingenious on Dana's part. Let's do it by analogy. Lots of people in American don't like the coverage done by Al Jazeera, but the outfit is a world-recognized major cable and satellite news network that the US government (under GW Bush no less!) recognized and accredited to have embedded reporters with the US Marines in the attack on Iraq in 2003. During that operation, Al Jazeera filed multiple accounts (some of which were challenged by our State Department as being extremely biased and factually in error), but the US government did not seek to yank AJ's pool access based on this.


Because Al Jazeera is not Al Manar, just like Fox News is not Dana's mythical Nazi News Network.

Here's a link to a brilliant documentary on Al Manar [the film is about halfway down the page], just in case you don't understand the distinction.

As for Hube: don't take Dana's bait next time.


Delaware Watch said...

"The State having the power to restrict"

Nay, no one could ever mistake your words of savoring of "prior restraint" because you always say things so clearly. LOL.

As for the my so-called method of reductio ad absurdum--well, you know what they say about people who live in glass houses. You won't even allow your readers to respond to your post about the possibility of govt regulation of children using all terrain vehicles until they first answer why you shouldn't be allowed to let your children play field hockey w/o govt interference (even though that is not at issue). You are a counterexample monger. So if you don't like it coming from me--oh, well, you have it coming.

Steven H. Newton said...

I have to admit that this is the first time I have ever seen the term "counter-example monger" used in a sentence.

Good way to ignore the fact that you made up my supposed constitutional objection to the Obama administration's tactic.

And as for you won't even allow your readers to respond to your post in the ROV thing, exactly where did I prevent you or anyone else from responding as you wished?

In fact, Dana, cite a single instance in the two years of this blog in which I have ever deleted a comment that was not spam.

Quit making stuff up. It's not becoming.

Miko said...

Lots of people in American don't like the coverage done by Al Jazeera

I doubt that "lots of people" in American even have the background knowledge necessary to have an opinion on the coverage done by Jazeera.

Delaware Watch said...

"exactly where did I prevent you or anyone else from responding as you wished?"

My bad. That was not what I meant. (See how easy it is to be misunderstood and to communicate poorly.) I simply meant that you often do not respond to your readers when they reply to the issue you raised (e.g., ATV's)w/o first besieging them w/ a counterexample they must answer your children playing field hockey and an imagined govt prohibition against it. Now how is that for fair play?

Delaware Watch said...

"Good way to ignore the fact that you made up my supposed constitutional objection to the Obama administration's tactic."

I didn't ignore anything. I honestly believed your words suggested a constitutional objection...and so did Hube apparently.

Hube said...

That's my fault, Steve -- I should have added a line in my piost that made it clear you did NOT say it was unconstitutional. I had it in mind the whole time I was writing the thing, and I just reread my post .... unfortunately I neglected to make that clear.