Friday, January 21, 2011

Freedom Of Speech?

We live in a world where a significant proportion of the population thinks speech that makes them uncomfortable is the same thing as shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre.

And no few of those people are public officials.

After a lunatic with no regard for human life opened fire on a meet-your-congresscritter event in Tucson, killing six people and injuring 14 including U. S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, reaction was mixed. The Left blamed "Tea Partiers" and Sarah Palin; once more was known about the shooter, advocates for the mentally ill reminded us that most crazy people aren't a danger; magazine bans and "safe zones" were proposed and debated and though it all, Gabrielle Giffords lay in a hospital bed, shot through the head, clawing her way back to world. Most bloggers and other commentators deplored the shooting of an American politician, even if they didn't share party affiliation or philosophy.

But not everyone agreed. In less emotionally-charged circumstances, I have used the hyperbolic "Congress. Tree. Rope. Some assembly required," and I am far from the only one.

In Massachusetts, a state that boasts of its commitment to core principles of freedom, a blogger headed his post on the event, "1 down, 534 to go!" and allowed as how he wasn't upset when a Congressbeing was shot.

Uncivil? Tacky? Harsh? --Sure it was. But it was his opinion. He wasn't fomenting sedition; he was engaging in political speech. The sort of thing you might think would be covered by the First Amendment, not to mention the high traditions and constitution of the Commonwealth in which he resides. For example:
Article XVI. The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth. The right of free speech shall not be abridged.
Reaction to his posting was swift; persons disagreeing with his notions organized a boycott of his online business and made critical posts and comments -- as they had every right to do. It was all churning right along, the normal workings of a free society, when--

The police showed up and confiscated all his guns and ammunition. For uttering threats? Well, gee, they didn't actually charge him with anything; they are, they averred, merely investigating the suitability of his having a firearms license. And in the meantime, hand 'em over! (And what does the oldest constitution still in use have to say about that?
Article XVII. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.
H'mm. I'm not seeing any limitations on that right, which would leave only the Federal proscription of felons from bearing arms and the blogger in question has not even been charged with a crime.)

Welcome to Massachusetts. Where the exercise of your State and Federally-protected right to free speech can get your State and Federally-protected right to keep and bear arms removed. And heaven knows that couldn't possibly have a chilling effect on one's willingness to speak out.

I want to be very clear: I don't agree with what he wrote. Oh, Congress is a bunch of power-mad ninnies, by and large; I don't think a one of them would be much missed by anyone other than friends and family, but I'd sooner see them voted out, impeached, or rendered impotent by advancing technology. Shooting them sets a bad precedent; one day it's politicians, by the end of the week it'd be dogcatchers and ordinary citizens would follow. It's not a good plan. It's rude.

But you don't muzzle political speech, because that sets a bad precedent, too; it starts out with stepping on bloggers expressing harsh notions and by the end of the week, if your Mom's mass e-mail gripes about the Mayor not getting the snow plowed, she'll have cops at the door wanting to take her shovel away -- and her computer. And government censors at every news outlet, making sure only the most inoffensive and positive news and opinion gets through. The five-year plan has been a glorious success, citizens!

I don't think anyone wants that. Not even in Massachusetts. But maybe I'm wrong. In any event, count me in on the side of freedom:
Maybe you should be, too.


Anonymous said...

People do stupid things when they're scared. They guy that popped the congress critter gave all kinds of warning signs before he snapped - and no one acted. Even if they had, some snot picking civil liberties idiot would have been screaming about how his rights were violated.

Now the cops are literally gun shy. It goes without saying that if you are in a group of armed,angry, scared people - you had better be damned careful with what you say and do with your hands.

You can't have it both ways; you can't have a secure public AND respect their personal rights and freedoms.

robnrun said...

I was wondering why his blog was down; I am not surprised that my guess was the right one, though I had hoped (forlornly) that it was a computer glitch.

Midwest Chick said...

Anonymous--There is absolutely no way to have a completely secure public. Life is risk. I'm not sure who said it originally, but there is no safety this side of the grave.

Personal rights and freedoms should always trump an unreachable goal. Otherwise we end up with the TSA and the confiscation of personal property without due cause.

The 1st Amendment came first because it was considered by the Founding Fathers to be the most important. To punish speech through the violation of the 2nd and 4th Amendment rights is abhorrent in a free society.

Roberta X said...

What Midwest Chick said, +10!

Borepatch said...

I particularly like the way you tied the excesses of the mob (Robspierre, anyone?) with the excesses of State Control. Two extremes between which we must balance.


Anonymous, you're telling us we have to pick one of these. I agree with Roberta that we need to be grownups, and keep the balance. Is there a cost to maintaining balance? Sure. But it's less expensive than either of those two extremes.

That's the way grownups think.

Anonymous said...

It's like Katrina: the "authorities" siezed upon a tragedy to do what they always wanted to do but knew they couldn't get away with in normal times.

Although, in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Massachuetts, I'm guessing that the police could have summarily executed this guy and the sheeple wouldn't have protested.

As an aside, this is EXACTLY why registration of firearms should be fought tooth and nail: if the cops don't know you've got 'em, they have a really hard time stealing them.

Stranger said...

While states do not seem to be able to secede; a theory that would outrage the 57 Founders; any State that cannot fully honor the Constitutional rights of its citizens should be given an option.

Either become a Territory, with the Constitution enforced by the Federal Government; or be expelled from the Union.


Josh Kruschke said...

Well said everyone, well execpt the first Anon. poster that couldn't even bother to give a name.
The difference between Liberty and Anarchy is Liberty has Personal Responsibility.

Eck! said...

While I find his comments brash and rude it's _was_ his right to say it.
As such political speech was protected.. I guess not so much anymore.

Two items from deep in the heart of MA.

If and when they get to due diligence and find either a charge or none what happens?

Assuming (here thats a flier), he is allowed his PROPERTY back will it all be there or will some go "missing".

In either case they have confiscated HIS PROPERTY with no certainty of proper renumeration or good care.

Anyone that says no one will come to the door and demand your firearms are now officially a liar. Thats what happens in a state where guns (all) have to be registered.

I am TJIC.


Anonymous said...

Sorry for the misunderstanding everyone. I do not defend what happened there.


We have to nail this issue down and be exact and spell it out in iron clad terms and law so the cops can do their jobs.

What consitutes a 'warning sign' or violation that requires them to act? Do we allow people like Loughner to pop off - or do we act when they show 'signs' that may indicate psychotic behaviour?

To me it very much IS a choice: we either respect rights to keep and bear arms, and pay the occasional price as we did in Tucson...or start putting limitations on gun rights, knowing full well we will never catch all the crazies and that our cops will make mistakes. (And also knowing that the liberals won't be happy until they have disarmed everyone).

I think there is a happy middle ground but that would take common sense on the part of everyone to establish...and when you have a huge number of people blaming Sarah Palin and talk radio for stuff like this...I don't think common sense will have a role in any of this. Sorry for the negativity, but it is what it is.

To me the way forward is clear: the cops apologize, give the guy back his guns, and everyone STFU and settle down.

Stock up on high cap magazines and be prepared for more gubbermint ass hattery would be my advice.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"You can't have it both ways; you can't have a secure public AND respect their personal rights and freedoms. "

"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin, ~February 17, 1775

"Personal rights and freedoms should always trump an unreachable goal. Otherwise we end up with the TSA and the confiscation of personal property without due cause."

+100, though I would have said "Otherwise we end up with Airstrip One."

"As an aside, this is EXACTLY why registration of firearms should be fought tooth and nail: if the cops don't know you've got 'em, they have a really hard time stealing them."

Exactly. Registration leads to confiscation. Period.

Midwest Chick said...

Anonymous: The issue is already nailed down so the cops can do their jobs.

The problem in the Loughner case is that the citizens did not do theirs. If anyone had stepped up and filed charges when he threatened them, things might have been different. Since we don't have a time machine, there is no way to know. He is a aberration and there is no way to safeguard against that.

In TJIC's case, the Arlington police are, IMO, in violation of the law in their actions. They are also, an aberration but an aberration whose actions can be corrected and guarded against.

And sorry to burst your premise, but there really are not a lot of people blaming Sarah Palin. There are a small number of people screaming the same thing over and over.

Jake--Love "Airstrip One". Gonna have to use that, if you don't mind (with attribution of course).

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"We have to nail this issue down and be exact and spell it out in iron clad terms and law so the cops can do their jobs."

There is already a large volume of case law and statutory law on both First Amendment Rights and limitations and on when and how someone can be involuntary required to undergo a psych evaluation.

In other words, it already has been nailed down and spelled out exactly, including the necessary due process protections.

"I think there is a happy middle ground but that would take common sense on the part of everyone to establish."

We have already gone past the "middle ground" and are firmly into the gun-banners' territory. No more "compromise!"

Midwest Chick: No problem! Use it freely! :)

Anonymous said...

Are the laws clear, Midwest? If they were, the cops would have left our blogger alone, IMO. Contrary to our libertarians that prefer to view police as jack booted thugs, our cops are only as good as the laws they work by.

I don't think the cops want to stomp anyone here, I think they over-reacted out of honest concern for the public safety. I also think our blogger was within his rights to say what he did. In the perfect world the whole thing should be thrown out and dropped.

Don't worry about bursting my bubble, I live in the real world and if I am mistaken - I am happy to stand corrected.

Sorry for hogging your comments Roberta - it was a good post and made for some excellent debate.

og said...

"Are the laws clear, Midwest? "

Yes. It's called the First Amendment, and the Second Amendment. Anything else is unconstitutional. That being the very definition of unconstitutional. If there is some regulation that has made the police's understanding of those laws unclear, then that regulation is wrong. Period. There is no wiggle room, there is no room for interpretation.

Josh Kruschke said...

Well everyone its up to the courts to decide of if Massachusetts law is Constitutional; as, there is no court case asking this question, that I'm a where of, it might be a while be for we find out.
Current Massachusetts law is current Massachusetts law, and under that law they (the government) had the right to take his guns and ammo. If we don't like it we need to work to change the current laws of Massachusetts.


Josh Kruschke said...

ps./ corection.
Last centance should read:

"If we don't like it we need to work to change the current laws of Massachusetts to better reflect our understanding of The Constitution of the United States of America."


Josh Kruschke said...

And so theres no confusion.

The Mass. law is you need a permit to own or have gun/s in your possession. They revoked his permit. He could not be in possession of the guns so the(government) are holding them for him I am not sure if they will be distroyed if he doesnt get his permit back or if he will get to sell them.

This is my understanding the law.

Earl said...

"Congress is a bunch of power-mad ninnies..." I could grow to like your opinion if it weren't so dangerous to the idea that you need only to know the truth to set you free.

I like the newest law proposal, no government people within a 1,000 yards of any of our arms. Yeah, it won't fly, but gee went there isn't a well regulate militia there really won't be a Free State.

TJIC said...

Thanks for your support, Roberta!

BobG said...

I'm with Og; I think he summed it up just right.

Roberta X said...

Joshkie: and on what basis? Man is not charged with a crime.

As it stand, he's got three basic rights violated without a day i court, without a warrant, without anything but the ill-informed opinion of local officials. This is a government of laws, not the whims of powerful men?

Lookit, had they shown up with a warrant and thrown young TJIC in the hoosegow pending a Grand Jury, I'd still be irked but not quite so much; there's a path out of that valley.

But as it stands, he can linger, stuck in pending-investigation hell for a long, long time, disarmed without due cause or chance of replevin, deprived of his property without due process and effectively silenced. It's unfitting, contrary to the spirit of the law and immoral. It's how subjects are treated -- not citizens.

og said...

"This is my understanding the law."

The law is an ass.

In this circumstance, the law is an unconstitutional ass.

As Roberta has pointed out, if he's done something wrong, arrest him. The cops in fact understand that they are in the wrong; they also know if they arrested him they'd all be working as Wal-Mart greeters in ten days. So they did what they could; they deprived him of his rights.

Anonymous said...

I have a modest proposal. I don't see any way to trackback here, or would have let that do the job.


Stranger said...

It was not actually a private citizens duty to commit Loughner. Tucson police involuntarily committed a man who uttered a threat to a local TEA Party leader at an ABC taping.

Pima County had 51 reports of Loughner's erratic behavior on file, and there are reportedly several juvenile reports still sealed, and were supposedly aware of Loughner's creeping around the school he was kicked out of.

If Tucson PD could get the job done on first offense, Pima County SO should have been able to get the job done by the 25th incident. If not before.


Anonymous said...

So I am correct (although I wish I weren't)- there IS 'wiggle room' here, and we need to address it or the incursions on our rights will only get worse.

I miss Kim du Toit. He recommended that this politician get fired out of a cannon, that that one should be flogged and pilloried, and still others should be hung from the lamp posts and their rotting corpses used for bayonet practice by laughing conservatives. Probably would have made his day to have some gun grabbing nannies break his door down to confiscate his guns too.

Ken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pat said...

You've made me rethink moving to MA...NH is looking much much better.

mike said...

I'd never heard of TJIC until reading about him the last couple of days, and being a Brit and on the other side of the world I'm an "outsider", in more than one sense, and enough so to disqualify me from the intended range of Martin Luther King's words when he wrote "...Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality...", but I say that, in the relevant ethical sense, his delimitation of those remarks to the borders of the United States was wrong: I'm TJIC too.

Roberta X said...

Pat, I would totally advise NH. Tax structure is better there, too.

Mike of Britain: I see no reason why you, too, would not be TJIC.

og said...


Sure, There is always "Wiggle room" for morally bankrupt equivocating lawyer types. Not for freedom loving Americans.

There's a reason the first and second amendments were written

This is the reason. There is NO wiggle room.

Josh Kruschke said...

Og & Ranerta X-

I agree with both of you as that is how the law should be set up. The law should be in compliance with the constitution.
But as I said the law is set up in MA in such away that a local Buricrat gets to decide at his whim who gets to own and have a gun. They don't have to charge him with anything as this is at the whim of the official who gets a permit and who doesn't. If there are guidelines that are supost to be followed that is an issue to be brought up in a law suite challenging MA's gun laws.
As far as I know, it's left up to the issuing officer who gets a permit and who doesn't.
There are several groups in MA that are challenging the law in court and we need to suport them, not just talk about how unfair the law is or how un Constitutional it is.

Getting the message out is all well and good, but at some point it needs to be turned into action.