"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."
That's the full text of the First Amendment. But (with apologies to the old Far Side comic), this is what many in the press, academia and government would hear if you read it aloud: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, blah blah blah, or abridging the freedom of the press, blah blah blah blah."
Don't get me wrong: The revelation that the Obama Justice Department has gone to unprecedented lengths to hamper or punish journalists is real news. DOJ trawlers dropped a gill net over the Associated Press in the hope of landing a single fish.
James Rosen, a reporter for Fox News (where I am a contributor), is the first journalist ever treated as a criminal under the Espionage Act. Other reporters at Fox -- a news outlet the president has spent years trying to delegitimize -- have been investigated by the DOJ as well.
The press can always be counted upon not just to speak up for itself, but to lavish attention on itself. "We can't help that we're so fascinating," seems to be their unspoken mantra.
And that's fine. What's not fine is the way so many in the press talk about the First Amendment as if it's their trade's private license.
The problem is twofold. First, we all have a right to commit journalism under the First Amendment, whether it's a New York Times reporter or some kid with an iPhone shooting video of a cop abusing someone.
I understand that professional journalists are on the front lines of the First Amendment's free press clause. But many elite outlets and journalism schools foster a guild mentality that sees journalism as a priestly caste deserving of special privileges. That's why editorial boards love campaign finance restrictions: They don't like editorial competition from outside their ranks. Such elitism never made sense, but it's particularly idiotic at a moment when technology -- Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Vine, etc. -- is democratizing political speech.