The First Amendment guarantees several rights to American citizens, two of which are freedom of the press and freedom to peaceably assemble. Recent events in Ferguson, Missouri have highlighted the threats to both of these supposed rights, with police attempting to shut down reporters and protesters simultaneously.
Unfortunately, it seems like many reporters never bothered to finish reading the First Amendment: plenty of journalists like to use broad strokes to paint protesters as fools and discredit their efforts. Here are journalists who benefit from press freedoms, but dismiss the right to assemble:
1. Greg Gutfeld, Fox News
Pundit Gutfeld has had some pretty outrageous things to say about the Ferguson situation this week. In addition to firming up an unfair association of protesters with rioters and looters, Gutfeld alleged that protesters were only participating in the first place because it seemed like the “cool” thing to do. By labeling protesting some kind of “fad,” he’s conveniently ignoring a long history of oppression in the community and eliminating the notion that Ferguson residents might have legitimate grievances.
Fortunately, we have people like Russell Brand who are happy to take down Gutfeld point by point. He rightfully calls out his complete lack of empathy and laughs at Gutfeld’s own claim that Americans should be cheering for Goliath (the police) rather than David (the protesters).
2. Rosemary Church, CNN
Church probably thought she was being generous when she made a suggestion on how the police should handle Ferguson protesters: “Why the use of tear gas, stun grenades? Why not perhaps use water cannons?”
Why not? For starters, water cannons are just as violent as the other forms of protest suppression, and the pressure of the water alone caused significant bodily harm to Civil Rights demonstrators of generations past. Church’s co-anchor, Errol Barnett — who probably has a better knowledge of this madness – gave her a quick distressed look at the mention of water cannons.
We’ll chalk some of Church’s comment up to ignorance, but if she really had any respect for the protesters’ right to assemble, she wouldn’t call for police force to be used against them at all.
3. Alison Kosik, CNN
Just before heading over to cover the Occupy protests a few years ago, reporter Kosik tweeted some unflattering opinions about the protesters. In addition to writing that Occupiers’ “list of whines was too long,” she claimed that the purpose of the protest was to “bang on the bongos, smoke weed!”
While it shows a lack in journalistic integrity to put these biases on display before even visiting the protesters, it also illustrates her general contempt for people exercising their First Amendment rights.
4. Joe Scarborough, MSNBC
Then there are some special journalists who don’t have much respect for even the press freedom portion of the First Amendment. On his show Morning Joe, Scarborough denounced journalists who had been targeted in Ferguson, putting the blame on the reporters for getting arrested in the first place.
After insisting that he would listen to a police officer’s orders no matter what, Scarborough alleged that the arrested journalists just “wanted to get on TV.” At a time when reporters around the world are decrying the Ferguson police for stifling, threatening and even attacking reporters, Scarborough sides with the police in ignoring press freedoms.
One arrested reporter, Wesley Lowery, subsequently criticized Scarborough for pretending to know anything about the situation when he was supposedly “reporting” on the situation from a cushy studio hundreds of miles away.