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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.

jayj jacobs
6/15/2008 7:53:37 AM

CONTINUATION CONTINUED: which continues, "or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Was anything said about crowd control & dispersal; or room capacity & occupancy? Why doesn't "petition for redress of grievances" require national initiatives & referenda? Or does it? What does it imply about Net Voting & instant democracy? Were those concepts discussed? While I'm sure the importance of Freedom of the Press got pressed home everywhere, as well as the responsibility of journalists with Mega-Corps to maintain their objectivity & independence. Progressives need to keep their heads up -- and not up theirs -- as well. But how does that stack up against the professional responsibility -- and moral obligation -- to not only tell 'nothing but the truth', but to tell "The Whole Truth" as well? Without trivializing -- or over-personalizing -- important news that some blogger or reporter --- or even editor -- looks askance at? Perhaps the press needs to better inform itself, factually & historically, before it attempts to 'inform' us? IMO, we were barely half-served by a half-baked, half-story from a half-a$$ed, half-of-half-funny, half-informed reporter. This was neither the Utne Reader, nor the Free Press' Media Reform newsletter I've come to know and respect. I'll trust that you wouldn't be here if you couldn't do the job. I ask you to now please do it. Please inform me when you have. Mahalo i Aloha, Jayj Jacobs [Signed] Jayj Jacobs Polychrome AdVentures @ The Center of Time 86 Fairmount Ave Oakland, CA 94611-5948 JayjJacobs@aol.com : 415-987-5872


jayj jacobs
6/15/2008 7:48:21 AM

CONTINUING MY TRUNCARED COMMENTS: And it has been ... Given the current climate of religions involved in the political process, and media events, I think it will be again. But did Ms Cyril mention anything in this domain? The First Amendment continues, "or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;". For an extended period in our history this 'Protected Speech' was conceived as being limited to 'political discourse'. Courts now hold it to protect most forms, means & manners of expression as well as most content. The notable exceptions being yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater (or change in a "well-attended panel'), libel, & variously-defined 'obscenity'. I, for one of many (thousands? millions?), would like to know if increased clarity, specificity, breadth, or broader protections in this arena were discussed - and what particulars were discussed? Were any thoughts thought to be more 'epicentric' than "out-there"? How crowded (percent of capacity) does a theater have to be before 'fire' is unprotected speech? Does the screamer's acting talent have any bearing on the case? If no one believes the call, is it neither criminal nor actionable? Does Carmen have more, or fewer, rights than Cruz? With skin pervasive in the media & porn pandemic (& highly profitble) on the net; when Porn Stars are media darlings - and vice-versa - yet Erotic content producers, and clerks in video stores with only small adult sections, are convicted of trafficking in obscenity, when MILF may be a compliment, rather than one of the seven deadly four-letter words, isn't it time to ask, "What is it about 'no' that you don't understand? Was anyone asking? 'Got MILF? MILF & Cookies? Certainly there are other issues that could be clarified in a revised, updated, First Amendment, which continues, "or the right of the people pea


jayj jacobs
6/12/2008 7:32:50 AM

Aloha All Y'all Given that I sent this post with my initial sign-up moments ago (altho I'm a long-time Utne Reader reader), I thot it worth the risk of your smirks @ double posting to re-send it - especially since it wasn't listed here when I arrived. IMO, its worth reading twice. Naturally you decide. _____________________________ Aloha Keith, How do I exercise my 1st Amendment guaranteed Right to Freedom of Speech to express my half-thanks for reporting (roughly) half of the story? I don't suggest that you told us any untruths or half-truths; just that you only reported the less important half of the truth. That a woman of your acquaintance, "community activist Malkia Cyril," delivered spontaneous remarks on modifying The First Amendment after a 'Eureka' moment to a startled audience, mixed in its response, but that you find the idea less than inspiring -- less than disdainful -- only tells us what happened. It is reporting full of observations, factoids, opinions & personal references. Its akin to sportscasting, a la one Mr. Cosell. Sadly, it is devoid of any substantive meaning. Where is the content of Ideas? "Where's the Beef?" in this empty 'wrye' bread 'sandwich'? What amendments to The First Amendment were suggested and discussed? Your illusion to a trademarked correction fluid may suggest Cyril's suggestions were to remove Rights, which I would adamantly oppose. Or, it may merely point to painting over archaic & ambiguous language & to replacing or rephrasing the phrases & sentences in the amendment so as to improve clarity. This is not a new Idea. But what Ideas were discussed at the Media Conference? "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" is more than ambiguous; it can be interpreted in many, if not a myriad ways. And it has been. Given the curre