Let’s face it, you of conservative persuasion, there is an early amendment to the Constitution that simply has to go in this modern day and age. It is an amendment that has permitted the commission of heinous acts and led to innumerable deaths. It ought to be repealed. Let it go, guys.
I am speaking, of course, of the First Amendment, the one that guarantees freedom of speech and the press.
I found myself thinking today about Don Bolles, the Arizona newspaper reporter who was murdered in 1976 with a car bomb. Because I was a reporter for many years myself, the Bolles murder is never far from my mind. There but for the grace of God….
Bolles became the poster boy exemplifying the dangers of a free press, and his murder was never solved, although the list of suspects dwindled to just a couple.
It was theorized that Bolles was murdered either by organized crime, or by crooked (but not necessarily organized) businessmen, the two groups whose exploits he was most fond of exposing as an investigative reporter. The latter may be more likely, because organized crime seldom kills reporters. It is considered terrible public relations to do so.
Naturally I looked Bolles up on Wikipedia, to refresh my recollection of the case. I discovered a link to another Wikipedia page, listing the many American newspeople who have been murdered because they exercised their First Amendment freedoms.
In 2007, to cite a recent example, a reporter for an Oakland newspaper was shot to death, allegedly to stop him from publishing an investigative story about a local bakery.
In 1993, a radio reporter in Miami was killed for speaking favorably about a leading politician in Haiti.
In 1992, a reporter for a Spanish-language newspaper in Queens was murdered after publishing reports about the Colombian drug trade.
That is just a sampling, but the point is clear. If it weren’t for the First Amendment, these reporters wouldn’t have gone out on their limbs, and they might still be alive.
They would have restrained themselves, lest they be subject to crippling lawsuits from the individuals they singled out in their reports. Furthermore, if the government wanted to shut them down for their bold reporting, it could do so.
Chances are all those reporters would have opted instead to cover gardening, community social events, and personnel changes at local corporations.
That sounds bleak, doesn’t it? But really, it would have been the better way to go. They would still be alive, although perhaps lacking in self-fulfillment.
If just one life can be saved — does that sound familiar? — then by all means let us give the First Amendment the heave-ho.
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