New York’s Journal News has published a map showing the homes of pistol permit holders in two New York counties. (They are acquiring data for a third.) Now, on the Journal News website, you can click on any of the dots indicating a permit holder and see his name and address—very useful, should you want to go to the owner’s home and kill him, since we all know gun owners have “blood on their hands” after the massacre in Newtown. The Journal News acquired the personal information through the Freedom of Information Act.
A story like this one renders me depressed, confused and lost. It should not be unnecessary for me or anyone to explain what is wrong with this conduct, and yet not only has a media organization done it, but many Americans undoubtedly will cheer them on. If people can’t figure out on their own what is wrong with this—the ethical offense is “publicizing citizens’ names and addresses in an attempt to intimidate them and expose them to harassment for exercising their legal, Constitutionally protected rights in a responsible fashion”— I suspect that it is a waste of time trying to enlighten them.
Still, the raw excess of arrogance, recklessness, self-righteousness, unfairness—-the list of appropriate adjectives is almost endless—exhibited by such a journalistic attack on privacy is stunning, and the breach of journalistic ethics it represents leaves me numb. The Journal News is publishing information that is in no way news or critical public information. It is doing so to punish and shame individuals for their demonstrated support of the Second Amendment, and thus using the press’s special privileges under the First Amendment to burden and threaten citizens for exercising their own First Amendment right to express their beliefs and opinions, and act on them within the law. Awful.
That constitutes a disgrace to journalism, as well as First Amendment abuse. When some anti-gun fanatic murders one of the innocent citizens on the Journal News map, I expect there will be high-fives all around in the news room for a mission accomplished. The paper will be just as culpable if the targeted gun owner dispatches his gun-hating assailant with a well-placed bullet right between the eyes, demonstrating why he acquired his permit in the first place. Either way, it will be the Journal News with “blood on its hands.”
Pointer and Graphic: The Blaze
Facts: Journal News
Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at firstname.lastname@example.org.