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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11088/professor-embraces-social-value-over-free-speech/

Professor Embraces “Social Value” Over Free Speech

November 24, 2009 by

I’m never surprised when a college professor embraces state censorship. Still, Rick Karcher makes a particularly laughable attempt. He considers it a violation of “journalistic ethics” for the Associated Press to report on, um, government activity:

The Associated Press published a story yesterday on a very tragic, sensitive and private matter involving the death of a famous professional athlete’s mother. The report not only discusses details surrounding the death, but also personal information about the player’s relationship with his mother.

The issue here is not whether the facts of this publication are untrue. The disclosure of private facts tort claim subjects the press to liability for the publication of truthful private matters that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and that are not of legitimate public concern. In many respects, we as a society have become brainwashed into thinking that the press has a constitutional privilege to publish whatever truthful matters it wants, especially when the matter involves a public figure.

Now, you may be wondering why I referred to “government activity.” The report in question — and, yes, I’m violating journalistic ethics by providing a link — deals with New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees*, whose mother died recently. The Associated Press reported that the Grand County coroner ruled Mina Brees’ death a suicide. How Karcher thinks it falls outside the “constitutional privilege” of the press to publish a report made by a government official is just beyond my understanding.

Karcher says it’s the role of government to establish standards of “newsworthiness” that would censor even truthful speech that experts like him deem too private for public consumption:

There is a very tenuous connection between the details surrounding the death of a player’s mother and what makes the player a public figure, that being his status as a professional athlete. This publication, having no social value and intruding into an extremely tragic, private and sensitive personal matter, turns journalism ethics standards on its head.

Karcher later comments that since journalists cannot be trusted to uphold his standard of “social value,” “external enforcement is (unfortunately) necessary.” Well that settles the matter.

*I’d note that Mr. Brees is a key employee of an organization that receives millions in state subsidies, which might strengthen the “nexus” that Professor Karcher desperately seeks. Of course it’s irrelevant, since one need not establish such a nexus to exercise his or her right to speak without fear of state censorship.


Ted November 24, 2009 at 9:50 am

The only thing scarier than this bit of fascism is the fact people like this are educating future generations, and have been, also…A possible explanation of the lack of ethics found in our Congress of late.

Brad November 24, 2009 at 10:14 am

If this gentleman wants to put forth what “good taste” should be in a case like this, and the self censorhship involved, then speak on. To make it a matter of bureaucratic filtering by people who can confiscate property or fling people into cement and metal cages? Please shut the cake hole.

It is depressing just how quickly all sorts of people are to default automatically to a Forceful solution to everyday life. That’s why we are in the mess we are in, and radicalization is amping up. People can’t go through life with every action they take being criminalized or tortious whether it happens to be enforced or litigated or not. We are all lawbreakers and offenders before we’ve had our first cup of coffee most days and it’s due to the endless layering on of laws to fix everyone else’s hash.

And this is a perfect case in point for me. Do I like sensational journalism to move a few more copies? Not really. Do I want to establish criminal of tortious conduct for those who do? No. Culture is what it is and we can hope to make it more to our liking as best we can through the “invisible hand” because resorting to skull bashing isn’t much of an answer. Unfortunately it is the simplest answer too many people resort to.

Deb Tiedemann November 24, 2009 at 10:40 am

Ethics….ETHICS? If Karcher wants to discuss ethics, how about delving into the questionable ethics and predatory extortion attempt by ATTORNEY Mina Brees?


Core November 24, 2009 at 2:13 pm


let’s hope the people this professor is talking to, are independent thinkers. When it comes to our government, I want to hear every bit of factual news I can whether its painful to hear or not.

Matthew November 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Publishing private information… unethical?

Putting a gun to the head of those who publish private information… ethical?

Something’s wrong here…

C November 24, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Isn’t “journalistic ethics” an oxymoron?

Dan Rather November 25, 2009 at 8:39 am


What slander!

We journalists are the defenders of the downtrodden, with nothing but the purest of motives, the highest of integrity, and ethical standards that should be an example to the entire world!

Truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability — if only the rest of the world were as saintly as us, we would be out of a job!

Rick Karcher December 1, 2009 at 7:33 am


I certainly don’t advocate state/government censorship in any form (as you incorrectly asserted). The issue is one of an individual’s right to privacy when a private individual or entity (i.e. the press) invades that right. What is the remedy for such an invasion? The publication of private facts tort claim is civil law’s version of the Fourth Amendment that protects the privacy rights of individuals against government intrusion, of which I (and I suspect you and your readers as well) am a strong advocate.

So the question is, why shouldn’t we be strong advocates for the protection of individual privacy rights when a private entity (the press) violates those rights? I think you’re placing way too much emphasis on the fact that this report came from a governmental official and that the player works for an organization that receives state subsidies. What does that have to do with the player’s privacy? (perhaps because the report came from a governmental official, maybe we should be even more concerned about the player’s privacy just as we would in a Fourth Amendment context). For example, I’m assuming you wouldn’t advocate that patients at government hospitals forfeit their right to privacy if a private individual or entity requests to see their medical records, or much worse, seeks to publish them in the newspaper!

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