Privacy SOS

What’s wrong with this picture? (Media silence on H.R. 347)

Earlier this week we covered the passage of a terrible bill that now awaits the President's signature. Only three representatives voted against H.R. 347, which restricts speech rights at demonstrations.

The bill would criminalize entering a "restricted building or grounds without lawful authority" and intentional disruption of "Government business or official functions" at any event that has protection from the Secret Service, whether it is on government property or not. These "crimes" would be punishable by up to 10 years in prison with a fine if anyone got hurt, or one year and a fine otherwise. 

You'd think that the media would be all over such a story, right? That's not the case — at all.

Glenn Greenwald has written that when both parties agree on an issue, it ceases to be newsworthy or a topic for public debate and discussion. That analysis is spot on when it comes to the media and H.R. 347.

Here are a few screenshots taken from Google news at about 7:40 ET on 6 March 2012. First, Google's top news stories:

That's a bunch of celebrities, a couple of politicians, some sports stars, and of course, Rush Limbaugh.

Here's a screenshot showing how many stories Google rounded up about H.R. 347 (they missed ours!):

That's 47 stories, among the top are no major media outlets.

The top news articles Google returns on H.R. 347:

Not much noise from CNN, The New York Times, AP or other major media outlets on a story that has profound implications for protest in our society, at a moment when the people are protesting all the time and everywhere.

So what is the media talking about? Kim Kardashian, for one thing, who returns nearly 3,500 news results. 

But also other stuff that's relevant for the future of democratic exercise in the United States. From CNN's US news page:


Depressing. But it isn't all bad. In other news, members of the AP team that valiantly exposed the NYPD's spying on Muslims just won a Goldsmith award to add to their Polk award for the series.

Their work truly has been exemplary, but sadly stands out too sharply against the backdrop of other media noise that occupies the airwaves. Among the major news outlets in the US the kind of investigative reporting challenging to power they tenaciously executed is increasingly rare. 

On H.R. 347, the media seems to have given the government a pass to take our rights to assemble without so much as a whisper. The powerful have come to a consensus: our protests are a nuisance. 

But it doesn't seem as if the protests are going away:

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.