Arthur Louis's Blog

Arthur Louis

Arthur Louis
February 28
I was a writer and editor for more than forty years with four newspaper and magazine publishers. I am the author of two non-fiction books: "The Tycoons" and "Journalism and Other Atrocities," and one novel, "The Little Champ," all available on


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JANUARY 24, 2013 3:11AM

The Constitutional Amendment That Has to Go

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Let’s face it, there is an early amendment to the Constitution that simply has to go in this modern day and age. It is an amendment that has permitted the commission of heinous acts and led to innumerable deaths. It ought to be repealed. Let it go, guys.

I am speaking, of course, of the First Amendment, the one that guarantees freedom of speech and the press.

I found myself thinking today about Don Bolles, the Arizona newspaper reporter who was murdered in 1976 with a car bomb. Because I was a reporter for many years myself, the Bolles murder is never far from my mind. There but for the grace of God…

Bolles became the poster boy exemplifying the dangers of a free press, and his murder was never solved, although the list of suspects dwindled to just a couple.

It was theorized that Bolles was murdered either by organized crime, or by crooked (but not necessarily organized) businessmen, the two groups whose exploits he was most fond of exposing as an investigative reporter. The latter may be more likely, because organized crime seldom kills reporters. It is considered terrible public relations to do so.

Naturally I looked Bolles up on Wikipedia, to refresh my recollection of the case. I discovered a link to another Wikipedia page, listing the many American newspeople who have been murdered because they exercised their First Amendment freedoms.

In 2007, to cite a recent example, a reporter for an Oakland newspaper was shot to death, allegedly to stop him from publishing an investigative story about a local bakery.

In 1993, a radio reporter in Miami was killed for speaking favorably about a leading politician in Haiti.

In 1992, a reporter for a Spanish-language newspaper in Queens was murdered after publishing reports about the Colombian drug trade.

That is just a sampling, but the point is clear. If it weren’t for the First Amendment, these reporters wouldn’t have gone out on their limbs, and they might still be alive.

They would have restrained themselves, lest they be subject to crippling lawsuits from the individuals they singled out in their reports. Furthermore, if the government wanted to shut them down for their bold reporting, it could do so.

Chances are all those reporters would have opted instead to cover gardening, community social events, and personnel changes at local corporations.

That sounds bleak, doesn’t it? But really, it would have been the better way to go. They would still be alive, although perhaps lacking in self-fulfillment.

If just one life can be saved -- does that sound familiar? -- then by all means let us give the First Amendment the heave-ho.

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Snarky as hell...... but very nicely done!


Thanks, sky. You're a doll.
Does the threat of lawsuit really stop a reporter from reporting?
In the real world , free speech only exists on paper. If you express a position that is not in synch with your employer, political leaders and lobby groups, you can expect to be punished in some fashion.

I agree that the facade on free speech should be recognized.

Clever analogy. Aside from those exercising their first amendment rights being at risk of being victims, while those exercising their second are more likely to be perpetrators, it's fine.
Dandy, I thought someone might say that. There have been cases where newspaper (and other media) reports have inflamed the minds of unstable individuals, causing them to go out and kill people mentioned in the reports, but not the reporters.
phyllis, you might be surprised at how careful the press is to avoid overstepping the restrictions against libel. i have had articles thoroughly vetted by lawyers before publication. read any investigative report and you will see where they occasionally pussyfoot around the facts. They rarely give you the whole story.
Lyle, your employer can do whatever he wants to your story, but the government is supposed to keep hands off. However, I agree that they exert influence and even administer punishment when they can. That anti-Muslim filmmaker on Youtube comes to mind.
Jeana, thanks. You're a doll too.

Another likely candidate for 2d amendment comparison's sake: The 8th Amendment provision prohibiting excessive bail. We have a problem in my part of the country of defendants committing further crimes while out on bail, sometimes violent ones. Why not solve the problem by permitting the state to lock people up from arrest until found innocent. A lot of crimes would be prevented--but a lot of innocent people would lose their freedom.
Con, You have certainly identified the pro and the con. I don't feel comfortable with imprisoning people for crimes they might commit but haven't. But if some preventative measure must be taken, perhaps ankle bracelets?
I guess there are some who want to repeal the Second Amendment, but I believe that most reasonable people simply want some regulations in place, such as universal registration and background checks, as well as a prohibition on certain types of weapons (although I realize that there is room for lots of discussion on what that actually means).

So that is where I think your analogy, although clever and well written, falls somewhat flat.

There certainly are restrictions on free speech, and people generally accept those restrictions, realizing they are necessary for the common good. But many gun advocates seem to look at any proposed restrictions on weapons as equivalent to being rounded up and put into concentration camps. The NRA rhetoric needs to be toned down.
Jeanette, I fear that remedies such as universal registration are just cosmetic. They make well-meaning people feel good, but what do they accomplish? The guns used by that nut in Connecticut weren't in his name. Someone intent on mass murder will find a way. I would like to see potential mass killers identified before they strike. That may even happen, and we don't hear about it. But there may be no way of intercepting them all. The problem may not be solvable.
I do share some of those concerns, Arthur. If new regulations are going to be enacted, will they accomplish what they were written to accomplish?

And with 300 million guns in circulation, as you speculate, can we really solve this problem? One thing for sure, though, as we have seen in Newtown and Albuquerque, parents need to keep their damn guns locked up. If people are going to have guns, they need to be MUCH more responsible.
Under the original 2nd amendment--not the one rewritten by Scalia--government inspectors would come to your home and inspect your gun and other required hardware to make sure you were keeping with militia regulations. That could be done now, but the screaming fanatics who falsely claim fealty to the 2nd would poop yeller and cry Nazi Gun Grabbers!

I could say a lot more about the 2nd and 1st and "originalism," (the real originalism also) but I'll save it for another time.
Paul, That inspection program sounds like an expensive proposition. Just think of the costs for luxury suites to house the BATF inspectors, and of course the call girls. It really is time to look for spending cuts.
Well, Arthur, if it was a Pentagon program it would cost more. Let's call home storage of guns an entitlement and have the Republicans cut the costs to the point it doesn't work anyway.

I knew that, between the 2 of us, we'd figure this out.
Sounds bout right. Git rid of the Second? We'd sure like to give them librals in Washington a taste of our lead.
Great article, especially the wry twists. Now, can I be a doll, too?
Thanks, Gordon. Is it enough if I just say that it is good to see you back?