Et tu, L.A. Times?

An L.A. Times story that ran early last week focused on a new clause in Capital One’s credit card agreement–one of those lengthy, small-print “disclosures” that cardholders get periodically, and rarely read.

The story described an unusual clause in Capital One’s most recent contract iteration. The update sent to cardholders specified that “we may contact you in any manner we choose” and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or even a “personal visit.”

The L.A. Times story, written by someone named David Lazarus, characterized the “personal visit” warning as creepy and over the top–an understandable enough reaction. But in the course of criticizing the provision, he suggested that  Capital One might be violating the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Excuse me while I hit my head repeatedly against this wall.

The L.A. Times used to be one of the nation’s premier newspapers. How is it that they have a reporter who doesn’t know that the Bill of Rights only restrains the government? How is it that no editor caught an error that egregious?

This is civics 101. Private parties cannot violate the Fourth Amendment. Only “state actors” (people acting on behalf of the government) can.  Ignorance of this absolutely foundational principle should disqualify one from being a journalist.

I’ll grant you, banks seem to occupy a highly privileged status, and too many bankers seem to consider themselves above the law. But whatever their pretentions, they aren’t government–at least not yet.

They ought to be worried about being punished for a lot of things, but “breaking” the Fourth Amendment isn’t one of them.

When we cannot rely on reporters to understand the most basic principles of the constitution, is it any wonder that the broader American public is civically illiterate?


  1. Sheila, allow me a tongue in cheek response. Corporations have become a defacto state, our form of Government can at least IMHO be called Corporatism. I believe it was one of the French Louie Kings that said, “I am the State.” Today Corporations and their traveling companions the PACs with their power of Campaign Funding pre-select who we can vote for. Then when the pre-selected person is elected, this person now controls the steering wheels of government. Need a loophole to pollute, no problem. Change the law, or simply defund the Regulatory Agency, or appoint a friend of the Polluters to head the Agency. If wrong doing is discovered, well Too Big To Fail and Too Big to Jail.

    I can understand the confusion as the lines between Corporations and Government have blurred, i.e., Privatized Prisons.

  2. Yes Prof K. the reporter issue is a problem. I want to scream when a TV reporter stands there nodding when a Pol spills a whole bucket of BS on them The fact that what was just said is NOT TRUE is totally disregarded by the reporter. Not even a WTF??? And the local yocals are the worst. Our president can make a major presentation. They don’t report what HE said, they get some corn fed Republican to tell us why he is a dumb ass. Really? Good Reporting. And when will they learn the Rural and Rule are not the same word? YIKES. Standards at journalism school must be just awful. And in the newsroom too.

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