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Media Conference: Amend the First Amendment

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: media, media reform, National Conference for Media Reform, independent press, first amendment,

Big, bold, and occasionally crazy-sounding ideas get thrown around at the National Conference for Media Reform. Abolish the FCC. Take down Fox News. 9/11 was an inside job. But the most out-there notion I’ve heard yet this weekend has to be this: Let’s rewrite the First Amendment.

“The First Amendment is an amendment, meaning it can be amended,” is how community activist Malkia Cyril announced her brainstorm during the well-attended panel titled “From Broadcast to Broadband: The Next Frontier of Media Reform.” Malkia had already admitted that she had forgotten until this morning that she was speaking on the panel, and she spent the first part of her address riffing on the colonial implications of the word “frontier” before dropping her First Amendment bombshell.

The crowd, which had gotten into the habit of politely applauding any remarks regarded as potentially hell-raising, delivered a notably tepid response to this suggestion, though it should be noted that a few people clapped exuberantly. But as Cyril further delineated her idea—something about the First Amendment being the “product of a slaveocracy” that needs to be redefined to include more marginalized groups—it became clear that not only did her suggestion have little to do with the panel’s topic, it had possibly just occurred to her.

Now, I’ve seen Cyril fire up a crowd with well-prepared, impassioned speeches before, and she made some good points even in her off-the-cuff remarks. But of all the many things on the media reform movement’s agenda, taking a bottle of Wite-Out to the first item in the Bill of Rights is way, way off the radar, and I daresay it’s a pretty stupid idea. But of course—thanks to the First Amendment—she’s got a right to speak about it, even in a crowded theater.

For more on the National Conference for Media Reform, click here.