Escondido, CA

Making my writing fit the regulations


“Congress shall make no law regarding Freedom of the Press — except for regulations.” —The First Amendment, amended.

I started my editorial way ahead of the game when I applied for my initial permit to write “an opinion.” The rationale for the permitting process from the Department of Housing and Verbal Development is that there are only so many opinions to go around, and no one, not even an award-winning journalist (who has probably gotten more than his share and should probably spread the wealth a little bit) is entitled to use up more than the allotted number.

“You need to be able to demonstrate that your opinion is more deserving of dissemination than an opinion by, say, a homeless person, someone of color, a recent immigrant, a woman or someone who can’t read or write. We only have so many column inches available and we can’t discriminate by allowing only skilled literate people to dominate the arena,” said a clerk at the Bureau of Verbalization and Utterization.

Second, I needed to be able to demonstrate that my editorial would not contribute to Greenhouse gases, or in other ways add to Global Warming, which meant that I required a permit from the Air Quality Control Board. That body grilled me to determine how much carbon dioxide I would be releasing into the air in the production of the editorial.

“Well, ideally, none,” I said evasively. “I’m actually not delivering it as a speech, so there shouldn’t be any carbon dioxide released, and only a slight amount of heat. Certainly, no more than is required to lift a small hot air balloon.”

The clerk looked at me without humor. “We don’t joke about emissions here,” he said coldly. He said that it was possible that I would be required to purchase a mitigation document produced by a writer whose computer is powered by wind or other renewable resources — such as methane utterances from a dairy ranch.

“You drove here to apply for the permit, didn’t you? And you’re releasing greenhouse emissions by speaking to me, which requires a form for Specific Emission Sources Not Requiring a Written Permit Pursuant to Regulation II,” said the clerk.

I paid the extra licensing fee.

“Do you have typographical error insurance?” asked the clerk.

“We have proofreaders and fact checkers.”

“Do you have liability coverage for fake news?”

“It’s not news, it’s a matter of opinion,” I countered deftly.

“So it’s no better than anyone else’s opinion?” came the question.

“Does the truth have anything to do with it?” I asked naively.

“Actually,” said the clerk, “the truthfulness, veracity and factuality of your article will count against you. It’s unfair to dismiss out of hand a work of non-fiction merely because it’s not factual. Facts and non-facts are objective reality, which discriminates against subjective non-reality.”

I was also docked several points because my article did not adhere to the ADA (American With Disabilities Act) because it discriminated against persons with low IQ’s by framing opinions that were too complicated for them to follow. “You need to be able to provide a verbal ramp from your most complicated argument to the simplest way of stating it. Ideally, you would take the four points of your argument, the claim, the counterclaim, the reason and evidence, and boil them down into just one or two,” said the clerk.

We went to do a checklist where I was asked to account for “fugitive punctuation,” “information storage and dispersal,” and “trigger warnings,” and was required to show that the newspaper I work at provides a “safe space” for persons who might disagree with my opinions if they accidentally are exposed to them.

At the end of the process I breathed to myself “Thank God we have the First Amendment, or else things could have gotten really complicated.”

Upon which I was docked one final fee for violating the Separation of Church and State by mentioning God in a government building.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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