World Press Freedom Day

  1. You have the freedom to be fake news
  2. You have the freedom to shut up
  3. You have the freedom to …

Raif Badawi is still in prison in Saudi Arabia, still under threat of being beaten to death. Raif was an apostate, but he was also a blogger. Is he ‘press’? [wikipedia]

Anwar Al-Awlaki is still dead. Was he ‘press’? I’m sure the powers that killed him would say not. But what did Al-Awlaki say that was worse than what Trump or Nugent have said?[nyt]

Shahzah Akbar is still denied US visas so he can’t come here to speak about drone strike deaths caused by the US. Is he ‘press’? [guardian]

Desiree Fairooz is being charged with laughing at Attorney General Sessions. There ought to be lines around the block to be arrested for that one. Is she ‘press’? [esq]

Milo Yiannopolous got his 15 minutes. I still don’t approve of his ability to speak being blocked; I think he’d have just continued to make a fool of himself. But he’s ‘press’.

John Cleese has been told by anonymous sources that speaking on campuses may get one criticized. Is he ‘press’?

Free speech is under attack, in many ways, in many forms. It is essential that people be able to speak their minds, because their minds cannot be controlled and communication is all we have other than action. When the establishment (or anyone else) prevents speech, they invite violence, since violence is the form of self-expression that’s next in line. I could have gone on for a long time, listing people who may be considered ‘press’ even though they don’t attend correspondents’ dinners, but whose speech is being blocked and who may be being threatened for it.

I appreciate freedom of the press, but I don’t think there is a ‘press’ any more. The removal of long-established barriers (erected by the media in their self-service) on communications media has made us all ‘press’ – as much as I loathe Twitter and Facebook: when you publish something on there, you have just made your little editorial column on a global ‘magazine.’ When you laugh at Jeff Sessions, you’ve joined Comedy Central’s stream of political commentary – you just have a smaller viewership.

On this day, we must remember that there are always forces that want to silence the press, and that those forces are pushing humanity down a path toward violence, when they do so. We are all the press, and the press is a target.

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Update: Desiree Farooz has been convicted of laughing at Jeff Sessions. Two counts: engaging in “disorderly or disruptive conduct” with the intent to disrupt congressional proceedings and “demonstrating or picketing”  Laughing at politicians should be a sacrament not an offense. [cbs] Demonstrating or picketing should be protected self-expression, like “free speech” especially in a political arena.


  1. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    “Disorderly conduct” is one of those offenses that they throw at you when they don’t have a real offense.

    Having said that, it seems quite reasonable to remove a disruptive person from the audience of a congressional session. However, criminal charges are almost certainly excessive, and contrary to the first amendment.

  2. says

    I agree that disrupting events amounts to a heckler’s veto, and generally I don’t think it’s appropriate (nor necessarily protected free speech) – however, I also am uncomfortable with politicians that want to do their dirty work away from public scrutiny. If the premise of the situation is that we are pretending to be a democracy, elected officials out to be required to hear from their citizens. And that includes LOLing at them when they lie particularly egregiously.

  3. says

    If we could come up with an agreeable standard for that, I’d be all for it. Social conventions are what make civilizations.

    I’d envision a modified form of parliamentary debate, in which the speakers’ initial statements of position were accepted in silence, then a brief break for general raucosity, before a tiered question-and-answer period broken into two parts: formal and informal. The formal part would be questions collected from the audience and asked by the MC (with the audience listening quietly) then an open mic part, where the audience is allowed to throw anything smaller than a cabbage and lighter than an egg. Depending on how well that goes, the event is ended by clearing the hall with pepper spray and shock batons, or everyone files out politely and riots in the designated riot-pit.