Hey Amy Goodman, Calling Yourself a Journalist Is Not License to Break the Law


Amy Goodman, who creates left-wing propaganda for Democracy Now, is decrying trespassing charges filed against her because she says she was acting as a journalist when she charged onto private property alongside #NoDAPL protesters earlier this year.

“There’s many justifications and legal justifications for why you’re on somebody’s property,” her attorney, Bismarck-based Tom Dickson, told the Bismarck Tribune. “She wasn’t picnicking or on a summer lark. She was reporting the news to the American people.”

Goodman is hardly an objective reporter. She sides with the protesters and was on hand during a September 3rd riot, which saw hundreds of protesters break down a fence and attack private security workers, to produce videos whitewashing the actions of those protesters. In Goodman’s version of reality, it was the security workers and their dogs who stood still on private property while the protesters came at them – who were the aggressors.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…you don’t get to skate on criminal charges because you were broadcasting on Facebook or live Tweeting your escapades.[/mks_pullquote]

But whatever. That’s her point of view and she’s entitled to it.

It is not, however, justification for breaking the law.

Any more than the filmmaker Deia Schlosberg – who was charged with conspiracy, trespass, and criminal mischief – was justified when she assisted a group of activists who made the dangerous choice to manually shut down an oil pipeline up in Pembina County, North Dakota.

A host of celebrities are now criticizing the charges against Schlosberg – including singer Neil Young, actor Mark Ruffalo, anti-fracking propagandist Josh Fox of Frackland fame who called them “unfair, unjust and illegal.”

So what’s the standard, then, if the charges against people like Schlosberg and Goodman are “unfair, unjust and illegal” because they were acting as journalists? In this digital age anyone with a phone in their pocket can commit an act of journalism.

Which is a good thing! On the whole this explosion in communications capability has made our world a better place. Some of us are making a pretty good living at it.

But you don’t get to skate on criminal charges because you were broadcasting on Facebook or live Tweeting your escapades. There are no exemptions for media in the criminal code. Journalists don’t have extra rights under the law.

Nor should they.

I object to wind power. I think the public policy which subsidizes the construction of wind turbines in various ways is misguided and potentially risky to our power grid. But if I went down and harassed workers building a turbine, if I trespassed on private property to film others harassing the workers, I would be arrested and charged. As I should be. That I might write a newspaper column about my experiences later, or that I might have been live streaming my antics to the internet, is no get-out-of-jail-free card.

Calling myself a journalist – even though I do regularly report facts and opinions to a very large audience – would be no shield against my culpability for illegal activities.

Schlosberg and Goodman will have their day in court. The state will present the evidence against them – which seem overwhelming since they recorded themselves committing alleged crimes – and their guilt or innocence will be adjudicated based on that evidence.

What should be irrelevant to that process is whether or not these women considered themselves journalists while breaking the law. That simply doesn’t matter.