Saturday, December 27, 2014

Stiffling free speech the "fair and balanced" way

Stiffling free speech the "fair and balanced" way

 

For all the brouhaha about the expanding power of the federal government, how come no one is out in the streets protestintg the massive expansion of the power of Fox News and its related ventures, which apparently includes the power to order confiscation of newspapers without a valid reason and otherwise restricting the rights of a free press (which seems like an odd priority for a media company, but...).

Think I'm wildly exaggerating? Not in these two disturbing cases, one on each coast.

In New York:

On Monday, I reported on an incident that took place at the News Corp. headquarters building in midtown Manhattan, where three volunteers handing out copies of a New York Post parody issue were detained and their newspapers confiscated.

The episode raised a couple of troubling questions: Why did NYPD officers take it upon themselves to interfere with citizens who were exercising their First Amendment rights without breaking the law? And did News Corp. -- a journalistic enterprise that has a vested interest in defending free speech -- have anything to do with it? The answers I've gotten are not reassuring.

What happened?

But that changed sometime after 7:30 a.m., when one of her fellow volunteers succeeded in placing a paper into the hand of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch as he entered the building. Shortly after that, says Lockwood, two police officers who had been observing from a patrol car parked nearby approached her and instructed her to stop what she was doing.

Read the whole thing -- it's hard to not to reach the conclusion that New York police officers blocked the delivery of and even confiscated copies (as pictured at top) of a perfectly legal parody edition of the New York Post, perhaps at the behest of News Corp. exexs and maybe even Rupert Murdoch himself. That's alarming, and I hope the proper authorities in NYC investigate what happened here. The news comes at the same time that Fox News is reportedly seeking to block journalism on the other coast:

There will be no press credentials for the sold-out "Welcome Home Glenn Beck" event, 7:30 p.m. Saturday at McIntyre Hall — with the exception of one member of the local press who will accompany Mayor Bud Norris.

Norris, who planned the instantly controversial evening, said the directive came from Fox News and syndicated-radio personality Beck and his representatives, and that he wasn't told why: "No, I didn't ask for a reason." Norris said he would be choosing the one reporter allowed but hadn't decided who it will be.

The event in Washington State sure sounds like a public event -- the mayor of the town where Beck grew up giving him the keys to the city -- except that you need to buy $25 tickets and the press is mostly barred. The whole thing is kind of silly -- I'm sure a few reporters will pay $25 to "infiltrate" the ceremony -- but it just shows how Fox News tries to have it both way, bragging about its commitment to journalism even though its institutional and cultural values are basically hostile to journalism and a free press. Maybe someone can hire James O'Keffe and Hannah Giles to sneak into the Beck event with a hidden camera.

(Photo by Jason B. Nicholas)

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Will Bunch
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