Rising Democratic Party star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided to pick a fight with the presslast Sunday. Why? Well, she wanted to create a safe spacefor her constituents. I’m not kidding. She’s a public figure. She’s running for Congress; she’ll win, by the way. And she wants to…bar the press. It’s funny, given how the media banded together to tell President Trump they’re not the enemy in 300+ op-eds last week. The poor media—they just can’t catch a break. They’re not in danger. The government is not black bagging reporters. It’s just they’re not use to getting their feelings hurt. Well, screw your feelings, national news media. Our guy punches back—and he’ll always win because you’re too stupid to know when you’re being played. It’s the art of the slow own. So, while the president is being cast as some dictator, Ocasio-Cortez took a page from authoritarian socialist regimes and tried to bar the press from entering her safe space town hall event. It failed miserably.
Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defends banning the press from public town hall.— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 17, 2018
"This town hall was designed for residents to feel safe discussing sensitive issues in a threatening political time," she says. https://t.co/oZHV0e0sLy pic.twitter.com/jF19vCFDfK
Politico wrote about how idiotic this move was since she lost this fight before it began. There will always be someone in the room who is willing to detail what went on to the press, some reporters know how to gain entry into these events and report anyway, and if all else fails—send the interns:
Ocasio-Cortez’s advocates insist, she hadn’t done anything more egregious to reporters than banning them from a fundraiser, something candidates do all the time. But, yeah, yeah, say her critics, there’s a difference between an open meeting where all are welcome except the press and an event convened for donors only.
Is there such an unbroachable difference? I’m pretty convinced that the press is part of the public, but I’m enough of a libertarian to be sympathetic to people like Ocasio-Cortez who want to control the gate for campaign listening tours. If she wants to hold a meeting with supporters without reporters (and it’s not an official government meeting) and can pull it off, more power to her. The press corps’ sense of entitlement doesn’t guarantee them automatic invitations to privately funded affairs, even if the subject is campaign politics. But I don’t see how an organizer of a mass event can hope to keep reporters out of such sessions unless they maintain an accurate database of the facial-signature of every member of the Fourth Estate. Even then, an enterprising news outlet could send an intern who hadn’t been scanned into the database to circumvent the blackout. It’s a losing war for a candidate.
If those analogies don’t move you, try this one. A movie distributor doesn’t owe a film critic an invitation to pre-release screenings, but once the movie is out, he can’t bar critics from attending a free screening or a paid one.
The funny thing about the Ocasio-Cortez kerfuffle is that her ban didn’t work. According to the Queens Chronicle, which broke the press-ban story, meeting attendees issued reports of the event on their social media accounts. “We’ve been polite with racist people for far too long,” Ocasio-Cortez was quoted as saying by Twitter user Nick Gulotta. Gulotta also tweeted a photo of Ocasio-Cortez speaking at the Queens meeting, proving that her moat was verbally and visually permeable.
Politicians have been trying to prevent reporters from hearing them speak for as long as politicians and reporters have walked the Earth.
If Ocasio-Cortez really thinks she can control the press, wait until she takes her place in the next Congress, Washington Post reporter Seung Min Kim tweeted, where reporters “roam freely at all hours of the day and night.” Banning journalists won’t stop the reporting.
I look forward to more of these ‘socialist versus press freedom’ fights. They’re very bourbon-worthy.