Tin-Foil-Hattery and the Associated Press

Benghazi.  Fast and Furious.  The Internal Revenue Service.  The Associated Press.  The White House has landed firmly in Scandalpalooza, a weird world in which the president watches news unfold with the rest of us on television, the IRS apologizes yet didn’t necessarily do anything wrong, and David Axelrod is making the case for smaller government.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.

The most instructive part of Scandalpalooza is the Associated Press finding itself targeted by the Department of Justice.  Jon Stewart had an amusing take on the series of scandals, but at heart, there’s nothing funny about it.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The First Amendment sets several basic rights side by side, codifying the limits of our government.  But the culture today seems to be saying several things:

  • The government shall protect you from experiencing someone freely exercising his religion
  • The government shall mandate speech codes on the campuses of our schools and universities
  • The government shall restrict political speech in the form of campaign contributions
  • The government shall deny citizen groups non-profit status if they oppose the government’s actions

Reporting from major news sources on these issues has tended towards support of big intrusive government.  Major news outlets happily served as the public relations arm of the government, rather than a check to its power.  Conservatives have noticed this bias for years; it’s in the way headlines are crafted, in the way stories are underreported (or not reported at all) and in the way reporters ask anything except the hard questions.  And they’ve consistently spun away charges of bias, attempting to marginalize critics and skeptics as partisan fringe paranoids.

Yet what happened this week?  The Associated Press found itself the target of the Department of Justice.  Two years of phone records have been in the government’s hands for quite a while now.  The president and CEO of AP responded this way:

 In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said the data could “reveal communications with confidential sources and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”

“We regard this as a serious interference with The AP’s constitutional right to gather news,” he added, demanding that the agency return the data and destroy copies. 

That’s good, and an appropriate response from AP.  But what bothers me is that this sort of big government intrusion is PRECISELY the thing tea parties have been warning about, while the lapdog media has done their best to marginalize us and our message.

  • When we complain that government is too big, the media default to all the programs that were created to “help people.”  Translation: Conservatives want to ignore the poor and disadvantaged.
  • When we say it’s dangerous for government to control the health care system in our country (with enforcement by the IRS, by the way), the media fill their air time and column inches with stories of the uninsured.  Translation: Conservatives want to deny care to the poor and disabled.
  • When we say that spending is out of control, and that Medicare and Medicaid are unsustainable, the media trot out spokesmen for the progressives who scare older Americans.  Translation: Conservatives (specifically that rascally Paul Ryan) want to toss Grandma over a cliff.
  • When we say that mandating religious institutions to provide contraceptives against their beliefs is a severe blow to religious liberty, the media amplify the progressive accusations that we are greedy and hateful.  Translation: Conservatives are in a War on Women.
  • When we say that government ought not to be able to use the power of the DHS to profile and harass people who band together to provide a check to that power, the media cast us as conspiracy theorists. Translation: Conservatives are the Tin Foil Hat Club.
  • When we say that a national gun registry is an outrageous intrusion on our personal liberty and right to self-defense, the media line up scores of family members of tragic shootings, exploiting their pain and desire for a solution in an effort to demonize us.  Translation: Conservatives are hateful gun nuts who don’t care if more people get killed.

All of the rights listed in the First Amendment are important, crucially so, in order for our Republic to survive.  Yet for years the media treated only the freedom of the press as sacrosanct; all the others, if those exercising them didn’t line up with the leftist ideology, are negotiable.  So they watched, and in some cases cheered with tingles up their legs, as the rest of these First Amendment rights were violated.

The media have been mocking, denigrating and marginalizing conservatives and their views for years now.  The words “conservative” and “Republican” have been systematically dirtied in a concerted effort to make us seem weird, fringe, scoldy and crazy.

But I ask you, given the latest at AP, is there more than just a small chance that the government has done this to another news organization?  Is it possible that we’ll find Fox News has been tapped, or that CNN has been spied upon?  Is it conceivable that conservatives, that tea parties, were RIGHT to warn you?

I ask you, Associated Press, do we sound crazy NOW?