FreeSpeech and Censorship: Thread
grarpamp at gmail.com
Thu Aug 26 22:45:16 PDT 2021
"Who Watches The Watchmen?" Infowars Case Raises Difficult Question
For Both The Biden Admin & The Media
Authored by Jonathan Turley,
“Who watches the watchmen”?
That question from a federal judge this week came in a confrontation
with the Justice Department over its targeting or charging
At issue is the prosecution of a controversial host of a far-right
website called Infowars.
Owen Shroyer was charged with trespass and disorderly conduct during
the Jan. 6th riot.
However, Shroyer claims to have been present as a journalist while the
Justice Department insists that he is an activist. When U.S.
Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui asked for the basis of that distinction,
the Biden Administration refused. The conflict exposes the problem
with new regulations protecting journalists without clearly defining
who is a journalist.
Recently, news reports of the Biden Administration targeting
journalists in criminal investigations led to congressional hearings
and a new policy that Attorney General Merrick Garland promised would
protect the journalists in the future. I testified before the House
Judiciary Committee on how this was just the latest in such
controversies extending from the Clinton to the Biden Administrations.
As I wrote on these pages at the time, the most glaring flaw is the
continued failure to define who is a journalist. Without such a
definition, the new reform is as worthless as the long litany of prior
Shroyer was arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct
on the Capitol grounds. Prosecutors also alleged that he violated an
agreement not to engage in such conduct after he was removed from a
2019 impeachment hearing for heckling a Democratic lawmaker. Shroyer
was openly advocating for the protest and the underlying view that the
election was stolen. He marched with a crowd toward the Capitol
shouting, “We aren’t going to accept it!” However, he insists that he
entered the Capitol to report on the events for Infowars.
Under the Justice Department guidelines, the attorney general must
approve the investigation or charging of a member of the news media
with a crime. That led Judge Faruqui to ask the obvious question of
whether the guidelines were followed or whether the Biden
Administration simply refused to recognize Shroyer’s claim of
journalistic status. The judge noted that “The events of January 6th
were an attack on the foundation of our democracy. But this does not
relieve the Department of Justice from following its own guidelines,
written to preserve the very same democracy.”
The Justice Department however simply defied the court and said the
regulations were “scrupulously followed,” but refused to explain how
the guidelines were satisfied. John Crabb, head of the Criminal
Division of the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C., wrote “[s]uch
inquiries could risk impeding frank and thoughtful internal
deliberations within the Department about how best to ensure
compliance with these enhanced protections for Members of the News
Faruqi was not satisfied by such refusals and noted “the Department of
Justice appears to believe that it is the sole enforcer of its
regulations. That leaves the court to wonder who watches the
The court’s inquiry highlighted the fact that the earlier pledge is
worthless without some ability to review such decisions and, most
importantly, some definition of those protected by it.
It is not just the Justice Department that is discomforted by the
question. The media itself is equally uneasy. As with the status of
Julian Assange, the media would prefer not to address the distinction
between Shroyer and other advocates in the media.
Newspapers like the New York Times have rallied around journalists
like Nikole Hanna-Jones who have declared “all journalism is
advocacy.” She is now going to teach journalism at Howard University
and other academics are encouraging the abandonment of traditional
views of objectively and neutrality in the media. Stanford journalism
professor, Ted Glasser, insisted that journalism needed to “free
itself from this notion of objectivity to develop a sense of social
justice.” He rejected the notion that the journalism is based on
objectivity and said that he views “journalists as activists because
journalism at its best — and indeed history at its best — is all about
morality.” Thus, “journalists need to be overt and candid advocates
for social justice, and it’s hard to do that under the constraints of
Once you discard objectivity, the rest is easy. Schroyer was an “overt
and candid advocate” but he was not deemed an “advocate for social
justice.” Thus, advocacy on sites like Infowars or Fox News is not
real journalism, because it is false or “disinformation” while
advocacy on sites like the Daily Kos or CNN is based on truth.
Reporters not only now define what is true but can actively protest
against those with opposing views. Recently, National Public Radio
made it official and said that, for the first time, its journalists
will be allowed to actively participate in protests. However, NPR will
pick the causes that journalists can openly join. The rule allows
reporters to become protesters for causes that support “the freedom
and dignity of human beings, the rights of a free and independent
press, the right to thrive in society without facing discrimination on
the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, disability, or
religion.” Two examples of worthy causes offered by NPR are Black
Lives Matter protests and Gay pride protests. It is doubtful that NPR
would view pro-life or pro-police protests to fit that vague
definition. Like the Justice Department, it reserves to itself to
state which causes are worthy and which are unworthy.
Advocacy in the media is now rampant. Indeed, the White House
regularly promotes the views of media figures like MSNBC’s Joy Reid
and the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin who have been long criticized
for their blind advocacy of pro-Democratic and anti-Republican causes.
They would likely be protected under the Justice Department rules.
Even when they are proven false in their assertions, they are treated
as media advocates for the truth.
Advocacy reporting is the new touchstone of the journalistically woke
. . . unless, that advocacy is for conservative causes or groups. I do
not agree with Shroyer any more than I agree with Reid. However, they
are both engaged in what is now celebrated as advocacy journalism. It
is bad enough to witness the demise of traditional journalism but the
Shroyer case may foreshadow an even worse future where only certain
forms of advocacy will be allowed. As with NPR, what is being
advocated will determine who is still a journalist. That will bring
the movement of advocacy journalism to its inevitable end, leaving
only advocacy in the wake of journalism.
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