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Princess Diana’s body was barely cold before some reactionary politicians in California were proposing the kinds of restrictions on First Amendment activities that would make our Founding Fathers turn over in their graves.
State Sen. Tom Hayden, ironically, a left-wing activist propelled into office because of the money and celebrity status afforded by his failed marriage to movie star Jane Fonda, wants to create a 50-foot media-free bubble zone around all public figures in the state. Photographers violating the rule would be subject to stiff, yet-to-be-determined fines.
This law would apply to the very people the press has a sworn duty to watch — government officials. Hayden is even exploring a licensing system for professional photographers and limits on the amount of money that could be paid for their pictures.
I have a better idea, Tom. Why don’t you get an honest job for once in your life? How about going to work for a living instead of trading off on your unearned wealth and exploiting your undeserved notoriety? Want to create a bubble zone around yourself? Then retire from politics. Or at least stop proposing outrageously unconstitutional legislation that sets up different rules for the elite and the rest of us.
Remember, this is the same Tom Hayden who in 1968 hid behind First Amendment protections when he was accused of initiating riots outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He did it again a few years later when he traveled to North Vietnam during the war to give aid and comfort to the Soviet-backed Communist government. Of course, he didn’t believe in the Constitution of the United States then any more than he does now.
Even Hayden admits he hasn’t reconciled his half-baked notion with the First Amendment. But, in his arrogance and zeal for the public eye, he just knows it’s the right thing to do — a classic case of moral relativism in a politician who has no moral center.
But the tragic aspect of this proposal is that it is being taken seriously by establishment politicans on the left and right — as well as millions of Americans who are disgusted with the media for their own, sometimes legitimate, reasons. Apparently, Gov. Pete Wilson, a finger-in-the-wind-style Republican, is seriously considering signing such legislation should it reach his desk later this year or next. It will have wide appeal in Hollywood where the pampered elite love to have their cake eat it, too.
It’s a phony issue from the get-go. Princess Diana wasn’t killed by paparazzi. She didn’t die in California or in the United States. She craved and cultivated the media attention she got when it suited her purpose, just as politicians and celebrities in this country do.
If there’s blame to be directed in her tragic death, from what we know, her irresponsible boyfriend and his apparently drunken chauffeur certainly deserve more of it than the photographers.
Come to think of it, I can’t recall paparazzi ever being responsible for killing or maiming anyone, anywhere. They may annoy people, but so what? Do we need to destroy the foundation of the First Amendment because Liz Taylor has a crying jag on national TV?
The idea that the elite are deserving of or entitled to special, taxpayer-supported protections when it’s convenent for them is un-American to the core. The First Amendment is a uniquely American concept. Britain and France have no such blanket protections for the press. If they want to pass freedom-restricting laws in the name of “compassion” or to score a few cheap political points, let them. We should not emulate such phony symbolism.
The real trouble with the press today is that journalists are not aggressive enough in covering the mideeds of politicians and government officials. The news media are too cozy with the rascals.
We have a government-media complex that manipulates the public’s emotions with scare stories, then proposes drastic government action that does nothing but curb our God-given freedoms and inalienable rights. The last thing we need is for more direct government control of the press. What we do need is for the press to re-establish its traditional role as watchdog of government.
Few politicians are 100 percent, these days. But Tom Hayden is. He’s been wrong every time. The one-time “anti-establishment” radical is today a proponent of bigger, more authoritarian government as an answer to every problem — real or imagined. Let’s keep that in mind as we ponder his latest bid for the limelight.