Congressman Reportedly Moves to Criminalize Threatening Speech Against Members of Congress

Unfortunately, one of the most predictable things to follow a madman’s attack in this country is a slew of new laws proposed by politicians — often laws that threaten first amendment or fourth amendment rights. In the first of what may be a slew of such measures following the Arizona massacre, Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) has indicated that he now plans to introduce legislation that would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress. The law will be designed on the model of the law criminalizing threats against the President. That law has long been controversial with civil libertarians and Rep. Brady’s law will only magnify the constitutional concerns.


The despicable attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) (who was shot with 18 other people) has prompted the call to criminalize speech. The matter is simple for Rep. Brady: “The president is a federal official. You can’t do it to him; you should not be able to do it to a congressman, senator or federal judge.” Of course, that ignores the serious constitutional concerns raised by the presidential provision — a crime that has led to columnists, cartoonists, and others being put under criminal investigation for expressing their opposition to past presidents.

In discussing the matter with CNN, Brady appears to see his effort as part of an effort to curtail violent speech: “The rhetoric is just ramped up so negatively, so high, that we have got to shut this down.” Violent speech, however, is protected in the United States, as discussed in this column. Political speech is often passionate and passions can lead to the use of obnoxious or irresponsible speech. Putting aside the constitutional problems, we need to think seriously about criminalizing this large area of speech in our country. We are fast criminalizing every aspect of American life with politicians refusing to accept anything other than a new crime to signify the importance of their views.

Politicians often act with emotions are running high with voters — pushing through popular but short-sighted legislation. I am not saying that Rep. Brady is pandering to such emotions. I am willing to accept that he is acting as he honestly believes is necessary. However, it is not the motivations but the means that concern me in his worthy effort to protect members of Congress.

If this bill is introduced, I am concerned about the intestinal fortitude of members to oppose it. Congress has long been short on civil libertarians and has historically shown little inclination to put constitutional values ahead of popular legislation. I hope that I am wrong. However, civil libertarians need to react quickly to this proposal to educate members and the public alike over the implications of a sweeping criminal provision by Rep. Brady below. Here is his bio.

Source: Hill

Jonathan Turley

129 thoughts on “Congressman Reportedly Moves to Criminalize Threatening Speech Against Members of Congress

  1. “Good morning! I hope you have a good day!” can be interpreted as hate speech.

    Any words, spoken or unspoken, can be interpreted as hate speech directed against someone by someone who so interprets the spoken or unspoken words.

    While it may be said that, as a philosophical principle, the eternal Tao cannot be told, no less may it be said that, as a philosophical principle, the eternal Tao can be understood.

  2. I just happen to have a copy of the manual for the U.S. Marshals Service Prisoner Tracking System. It includes 7 pages of offense codes. These include “0105 sedition” as well as 5307 assembly — unlawful, 3904 card game, 5005 contempt of court, 5704 eavesdropping, 3899 family offense, 5799 invade privacy, 0913 John or Jane Doe No warrant, 4104 — liquor possess, 3808 Nonsupport of parent, and 3608 Seduction of Adult.

    It is weird because USMS FOIA officer Bordley wrote me just last month that USMS uses the offense codes on the FBI website but they used one of the old offense codes on me, and I don’t understand why they don’t just update their directions.

    In any case, they already have sedition on their computer systems.

  3. What if you’re not really serious?

    We have got to learn to deal with free speech, fast. Banning threats is not going to make anyone safer, knucklehead.

    Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but I don’t think threatening speech is in the ear of the listener. It can only be found in the mind of the speaker.
    Small example: suppose I say the world probably would’ve been better off without the Bushes. That doesn’t mean I’m asking you to go shoot Dubya. I cannot be held responsible for anything any idiot makes my words out to be, can I?

    I sure hope I’m right… or we have seen nothing yet.

    Can we say “McDonalds is bad for ya”?

  4. Although I would probably agree with the professor about the inadvisability of passing this sort of law, I think that a national discussion about threatening speech is long since overdue…

  5. Congress has NO authority to do such a thing. That a sitting legislator thinks it does indicates how utterly stupid our leaders are and demonstrates that they have no idea what the Constitution says.

  6. We don’t need a law about this issue, we as a society just need to think and behave responsibly.

    Here in the United States many people don’t seem to understand that the right of free speech comes with responsibilities. Your words have consequences, just as your actions have consequences.

    This Loughner character is a lunatic, and that is why he did what he did. But it does not take an advanced degree in psychology or sociology to understand that if a lunatic is exposed to an abundance of violent or extremist rhetoric, especially as so well distributed and pervasive as that delivered by the American media (news and entertainment) establishment, that “protected” speech will quite likely be one of the triggers that sets off the lunatic.

    Political figures with media exposure, whether elected to office, or pundits taking pot shots on the sidelines, no matter their party affiliation, need to be circumspect and carefully chose their words before opening their mouths or setting pen to paper. Reckless words stimulate reckless minds.

  7. Slart:

    I am saying congress has no such authority whatsoever to make such a law unless it changes the 1st amendment. And I don’t see where the executive branch has any such power either.

    If someone is too scared to be president (a job for which we provide adequate, abundant, and expensive security) then he or she shouldn’t run for the position.

  8. Wayne:

    It is better to have rancorous free speech than polite fearful mutterings.

    The most dangerous group of individuals in the history of the world is government. Not lone wackos who may or may not have been inflamed by words.

  9. Tootie,

    I assume the current law against threatening the president was passed by Congress and it clearly hasn’t failed a Constitutional challenge (I have no idea if it has ever passed one, either…), so I am guessing that if a law criminalizing threats against Congress was passed that it wouldn’t be declared unConstitutional – I think that this is something where civil libertarians better win the debate, because if the law gets passed I doubt that they will win in court…

    Wayne Frost,

    Well said – that’s why I welcome debate on the subject but don’t support the law. We need to police ourselves better regarding violent rhetoric and condemn those who still choose to use it – if the tactic becomes a poison pill it will disappear pretty quickly…

  10. Small example: suppose I say the world probably would’ve been better off without the Bushes. That doesn’t mean I’m asking you to go shoot Dubya.

    They made a movie about his assassination called Death of a President. Anybody wanna fess up who seen it.

  11. It is better to have rancorous free speech than polite fearful mutterings.

    Without free speech it leads people to the underground.
    Hows the Weather

  12. Bdaman,

    Although you have the right to say that, you probably shouldn’t. If you say it in a private conversation or the comments of a blog it’s not a big deal (it’s just adding one more snowflake to the avalanche), but if you are making that statement in a public forum where it will be widely distributed, then there is a responsibility to choose your words more carefully when you exercise your right to free speech. Suppose you said, ‘the world would be better off without the Bushes’ on a platform like Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and a week later they were assassinated – would you regret using that phrase? No one is saying that, for instance, Sarah Palin should be arrested for her graphic ‘targeting’ Rep. Gifford’s district with crosshairs, but if Ms. Palin is a decent human being then she should at least feel some shame about it…

  13. It doesn’t help when you have a president who is trying to fire up his base by using such rhetoric.

    Obama, during his private pep talk to Democrats, … asked, “Does anybody think that the teabag, anti-government people are going to support them if they bring down health care? All it will do is confuse and dispirit” Democratic voters “and it will encourage the extremists.” – Nov. 7, 2009

    “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun, because from what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl.”

    Obama told latino’s to “Punish your enemies”

    Said that anyone who agrees with the Arizona Immigration Law was anti-immigrant

    Called people bitter gun owners and something about clinging to their religion.

    Told a group of supporters to argue with their friends and neighbors to get in their face.

    On and on and on and thats just off the top of my head.

    Then you have the democratic machine caught in a lie by saying they were spit on and called racial epithets and now want to blame the latest incident against the T-Party movement. Shame Shame.

  14. Keep free speech, but do something about the sale of weapons to the mentally ill. Free mental health care to those that can’t afford it could help. Also republican leaders such as Palin and Bachman might self police and tone down their violent rhetoric.

  15. Sarah Palin should be arrested for her graphic ‘targeting’ Rep. Gifford’s district with crosshairs, but if Ms. Palin is a decent human being then she should at least feel some shame about it…

    Of course not because then they would have to arrest the owner of the Daily Kos.

  16. Obama to ACORN “I don’t want to quell anger. I think people are right to be angry! I’m angry!”

    Obama to supporters Republican victory would mean “hand to hand combat”

    Oh and lets not forget hostage analogy.

    “I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers, unless the hostage gets harmed.

  17. Slarti it don’t matter, as soon as I get my new ID is when I’ll have to be careful. They can assign what I say to my number. Like they can’t do that already.

  18. bdaman: How many people did the members of Acorn shoot? They were run out of business while the neonazi groups expanded.

  19. Yesterday Arizona state Rep. Linda Lopez was on FOX News and blamed tea partiers for the attack at the Safeway. Of course, she had no evidence of this. Rep. Lopez also suggested that Loughner was an Afghan veteran.
    Today, veterans are demanding that Lopez apologize for her hateful rhetoric.

    we’ve got a HUGE problem she said

    ”the shooter is likely, from what I’ve heard, an Afghan vet..”

    She was running her alligator mouth if front of her canary ass.

    We now know it didn’t make it pass the recruiters office.

  20. Bdaman,

    Most of the quotes you posted from President Obama I would characterize as confrontational rather than violent (for instance, ‘getting in someone’s face’ is far different than ‘targeting’ them for ‘removal’, while the remaining quotes which did make use of violent rhetoric were (mildly) inappropriate, they were also far milder than that which many on the right make use of far more frequently. If President Obama jaywalks it doesn’t give the right wing permission to go on a crime spree…

  21. the congress person was wounded, and seven or eight bystanders killed.
    how about we increase the penalties for collateral damage instead of going after what might be said in the heat of the moment.
    the last thing we need is possible charges for something misspoke or missinterpreted at a townhall type meeting.

  22. Bdaman:

    how did you find that Daily Kos post? Since the guy had left wing leanings, it is more probable that he got the idea from the Daily Kos.

    Just like the guy who flew his plane into a building a few years ago, he turned out to be a lefty but was labeled a tea party member.

    Funny how things work out.

  23. I think that threats of death or grevious bodily harm against anyone are not free speech. I also think speech that has, as its primary purpose, the incitment of violence against others or their possessions is likewise not free speech. Under those parameters I will wait to see what issues forth from the legislative sausage mill.

    Legislation made in reaction to seismic or horrific events is usually ill-considered and emotion-packed. Cooler heads will prevail, but later sometimes much later.

  24. If someone got “up in my face” I would kick their ass. That Obama is telling people to do that is promoting violence. No other way to look at it.

    The democrat party and the left has a very violent history starting with the KKK.

  25. pete,

    I’m guessing that there are no penalties to increase here – killing a federal judge is probably a capital offense and I doubt that the premeditated murder of six people would ever get anyone less that life without parole. Anyone who does this sort of thing is clearly willing to trade their life for their victims or is too irrational to be considering possible punishment.

    Bdaman,

    ACORN was brought down by lies and propaganda, nothing more, and was never shown to have committed any wrongdoing.

    Bdaman said:

    “If I was to get in your face and scream I’m pretty sure your gonna push me.”

    You’d be wrong (at least based on history). The only time someone has ‘gotten in my face’ (yelled at me with our noses separated by about an inch) I returned the favor, but did nothing to escalate the situation to violence (he had (incorrectly) accused me of leaving dirty dishes in the sink and retaliated by putting the dishes in my bed). I may not be a pacifist, but I believe that they are right 99% of the time. Besides, in an intellectual confrontation with you, I would be confident in victory – a physical confrontation, not so much…

    The Truth,

    No one is saying that someone told Mr. Loughner to kill Rep. Giffords – we’re saying that when people use violent rhetoric that seems tailor made to incite ‘lone wolf’ action which is followed by a lone wolf (of any ideology) taking action that it is not unreasonable to suggest that there is a connection between the two. Also, I wouldn’t be too quick to call Mr. Loughner a ‘leftist’ – the currency thing is much more right-wing (or Libertarian – and he certainly seems to share Glenn Beck’s obsession with gold…) and some of his rhetoric is similar to that of the sovereign citizens movement.

    FYI,

    Jared Loughner’s ‘Hello’ video had 340 hits as of Saturday morning and was over 1.8 million hits this morning…

  26. ACORN was brought down by lies and propaganda, nothing more, and was never shown to have committed any wrongdoing.

    If you say so.

  27. Bob,

    So does that mean speech can only be prosecuted if you are advocating that someone to commit a specific lawless act? What about yelling ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater – how does this relate? Could the argument be made that (a particular expression of) violent speech is an implicit attempt to incite an (unknown) individual to violence?

  28. Bdaman,

    The only criminal acts I am aware of being committed in the ACORN affair were in regard to James O’Keefe and Hanna Giles taping people without their consent…

  29. Slarti,

    Arent you responsible for your own actions, regardless of what words come out of anyone else’s mouth/computer? If so then how can their speech be held responsible for anyone else’s actions? This entire line of reasoning is absurd.

  30. Ekerya,

    All those people surrounding Jim Jones all just happened get thirsty at once?

    While I believe everyone is responsible for their own actions, I just happen to put “influencing others” as an action.

  31. ekeyra,

    No one is saying that any of this excuses Mr. Loughner in any way – just that people are responsible for their actions (even when those actions are protected speech) and that an incident like this one is a predictable and expected result of the regular use of violent and inflammatory rhetoric and the demonization and delegitimization of opponents by a large group of people in the public discourse.

  32. The only criminal acts I am aware of being committed in the ACORN affair were in regard to James O’Keefe and Hanna Giles taping people without their consent…

    and showing people how Acorn tries to game the system. In other words get around the rules to get the rules to work for you.

    For example lets say you a white male needs an SBA loan to start a business. You see a program that really looks good only to find out it’s for minorities like a 504C program. You immediately recognize that you don’t qualify because your white, but wait if your married to a white woman you do qualify because she’s a minority. Solution, put it in her name. Kinda like give me the most exceptions so they don’t take alot out of my check. It’s called gaming the system.

  33. Mespo and Slart are right, Bob Esq is wrong:

    “According to the FBI complaint, a man named John Troy Davis has been calling Bennet’s office in Denver, Colorado for some time, asking for a hearing regarding his Social Security benefits. During a call in December, Davis allegedly threatened a staff member “by stating that he might come down and shoot people.” On Jan. 6, Davis called again, and allegedly told a different staff member, “I’m a schizophrenic and I need help,” and later said, “I’m just going to come down there and shoot you all.”

    “During a second call on Jan. 6, Davis allegedly told a third staff member that he was upset about not having a hearing about his benefits. According to the complaint, the senator’s office had arranged a meeting in the past, but Davis had failed to show up. In the second Jan. 6 call, Davis allegedly said “I killed that woman. To get your attention, I will go down there and set fire to the perimeter.” He also allegedly said he “may go to terrorism.” When the staff member told Davis he was making threats to a senator’s office, Davis allegedly “screamed.”

    “Davis is being charged with one count of assault on a federal employee.”

    Just exercising his constitutional right to freedom of speech. Sure.

  34. Bdaman:

    how did you find that Daily Kos post? Since the guy had left wing leanings, it is more probable that he got the idea from the Daily Kos.

    What the right is doing now they learned from the left the last eight years.

  35. Kevin,

    J. Douglas: “The line between what is permissible and not subject to control and what may be made impermissible and subject to regulation is the line between ideas and overt acts.

    The example usually given by those who would punish speech is the case of one who falsely shouts fire in a crowded theatre.

    This is, however, a classic case where speech is brigaded with action. See Speiser v. Randall, 357 U. S. 513, 357 U. S. 536-537 (DOUGLAS, J., concurring). They are indeed inseparable, and a prosecution can be launched for the overt acts actually caused. Apart from rare instances of that kind, speech is, I think, immune from prosecution. Certainly there is no constitutional line between advocacy of abstract ideas, as in Yates, and advocacy of political action, as in Scales. The quality of advocacy turns on the depth of the conviction, and government has no power to invade that sanctuary of belief and conscience.”

    Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444, at 456-457 (1969)

  36. Observer: “Mespo and Slart are right, Bob Esq is wrong.”

    1. I didn’t write Brandenburg.

    2. Last I checked, it hadn’t been overturned.

    3. Thanks for playing anyway.

  37. Bdaman:

    how did you find that Daily Kos post? Since the guy had left wing leanings, it is more probable that he got the idea from the Daily Kos.

    Daily Kos has a long history of scrubbing things like this, so those are the screen grabs above for a hit piece Kos ran on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on Thursday January 6th, 2010.

    The article, entitled “My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi! And is now DEAD to me!”, was written by someone calling him/herself BoyBlue.

    It eerily presaged the assassination attempt on the Congresswoman, with the Kos author angry Giffords opposed Nancy Pelosi’s radical agenda.

    Daily Kos, DemocraticUnderground, and other George Soros-funded Leftist sites routinely use turns of phrase that seem to encourage bodily harm towards their political opponents. If someone at Kos, in particular, does not like you, stories will appear there urging Kos readers to teach you a lesson in physical ways, to get you to either shut up or toe whatever line the Left is insisting on that day.

    It remains to be seen if the gunman involved in today’s shooting of the Congresswoman and a dozen others is directly connected to Daily Kos, but it would not be at all surprising if he was.

    http://hillbuzz.org/2011/01/08/my-congresswoman-voted-against-nancy-pelosi-and-is-now-dead-to-me-eerie-daily-kos-hit-piece-on-gabrielle-giffords-just-two-days-before-assassination-attempt-on-her/

  38. Bob,

    Thanks. In light of this it seems even more important to point out the connection between violent speech and violent acts – if there is no legal punishment (which I agree with) then there should be a political cost for using such speech (ideally, the speaker should be condemned from all sides for making such a poor choice in how they exercise their rights).

    Bdaman,

    Gaming the system is not illegal and I have no problem with an organization dedicated to gaming the system for the poor and oppressed (the rich and powerful typically have no problem figuring out how to game the system on their own…).

    Observer,

    I wasn’t disagreeing with Bob, I was asking questions (which I didn’t know the answers to…).

  39. I have no problem with an organization dedicated to gaming the system for the poor and oppressed

    or a pimp and his whore

  40. Bdaman,

    I think that people who played along with a self-confessed pimp and whore in order to get as much information as possible which they then relayed to the police are to be commended, don’t you?

    As for your Daily KOS diary – first off, ‘BoyBlue’ is highly unlikely to be Jared Loughner (for reasons that should be obvious even to you) and secondly saying that someone is ‘dead to you’ is not violent rhetoric – it’s a common idiom indicating that someone has done something that you consider unacceptable and not in any way an incitement to violence.

  41. Bdaman-

    Your Obama quotes are pretty tepid stuff. For some stronger quotes, try Harry Truman’s letter to the newspaper music critic who trashed daughter Margaret Truman’s singing recital, or any number of reported quotes from Dick Nixon or Lyndon Johnson. I wish we could see that kind of anger and passion occasionaly from our current President. Particularly on the subject of civil liberties.

    On a personal note, Bdaman, I was happy to read last night that the prognosis for your Mom looks very good. I hope she recovers quickly.

  42. Thanks Hen Man I was trying to think where I just read an article about Trumans Letter the last few months and can’t remember where I read it at the moment.

  43. Bdaman,

    What I described was exactly what happened (in the San Diego ACORN office, I believe) – how many indictments against ACORN resulted from Mr. O’Keefe’s ‘journalism’? How many indictments against Mr. O’Keefe?

  44. Gyges, jonestown is a great example of why I abhor the idea of obedience and find it one of the most distateful words in the english language. If you can guess its a small part of why I am who I am.

  45. Unless he was physically forcing those people to drink the kool aid, they are still responsible for their own actions. Nuremberg didnt let the nazis off with “just following orders” did they? I think the same standards apply whether your ordering someone to kill themselves or someone else.

  46. Bdaman,

    Yes, I am aware that you have no compunctions about achieving your ends by the use of any means available regardless of the innocent people hurt (or the truth about the situation).

  47. henman, The inflammatory language is all coming from the tea party not Obama. Do you really think a black president could use inflammatory language in the good old USA? He might be called a radical communist black muslim.

  48. Ekerya,

    Why are you ignoring a third of what I wrote (other than it was poorly written)?

    People are responsible for their own actions. However, that doesn’t mean that other people can’t influence them. There’s a reason why Fraud is illegal.

  49. ekeyra,

    The people at Jonestown died as a result of their actions, so I don’t see how they could be held any more responsible than that – and no one was let off of the hook for issuing orders because the soldiers chose to follow them…

  50. anon today,

    Why did you change your name? Please go back to using Kay
    Sieverding so my web browser add-on can easily block out all the gibberish that you have been posting, for every topic that has absolutely no relevance to your situation.

    By the way, michellefrommadison have been making threats about beating up/shooting/or hurting police officers that he or she thinks may have been abusing their authorities in various blog entries. It seem to me that maybe michellefrommadison may be not of right frame of mind and might end up shooting an innocent police officer. I’m just call FBI just to be safe so that they investigate her/him.

    Heck, I do support freedom of speech, but going far with threats is going too far and I don’t think it should result in any form of punishment, but SHOULD be investigated by local authorities to make sure, just to make sure other people aren’t really off their rocker and are actually going to do what they threatened to do.

    I don’t like Sarah Palin at all, but blaming her website with crosshair for what happened in Tucson? Oh, please! Use your frickin’ common sense. Just putting a crosshair on you just doesn’t mean they want to kill you. In political forum, it just means that you’re “targeted” to be removed by voting you out. That’s all. Sarah Palin, even though I don’t like her at all and I don’t want her to be President of USA, are entitled to her freedom of speech and I’m getting tired of people from both side of political spectrum twisting everything up to make themselves a victims and their opponents an unmerciful antagonist/provoker of lethal uprising.

    Again, it’s bunch of you wackos who keep perpetrating those stupid blathering about your un-favorite politicians being (fill in blank be it marxist, socialist, neo-nazis, devil worshiper, new world order devotees, whatever) and expounding about how we will lose all of our rights and subject us to constant state of slavehood of poverty, “police state”, high taxes, bad medicare plan, and shitty bureaucracy.

    Tootie, you definitely need professional counseling. You are definitely off your rocker big time and in fact, I don’t like Obama, but geez you are going way off your handle as if he’s an anti-christ or something that spark your stupid beliefs of stupendous biblical prophecies which has absolutely no foundation of truth at all. Go see your counselor and get on medication, please!

    Sorry, I gotta get everything off my chest before they pass the law making it illegal for me to do so.

  51. Swarthmore Mom,
    Well said! The right is so guilty of using inflammatory langauge that they are trying to pull the old Wizard of Oz move. “do not pay attention to the man behind the curtain”

  52. I don’t have a problem with a law that criminalizes actual threats or incitements against members of Congress, the federal bench, or senior executive officers. Those types of threats have a much greater impact on the country as a whole than threats against other people. As such, a federal law would be appropriate, rather than dealing with such threats piecemeal at the local level.

    However, based on the description of the proposed law:

    would make it a federal crime to use language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.

    I don’t see how it could pass constitutional muster. Even if it somehow did, I don’t think we’d want it. I’m all for civility in political discourse, but surely we don’t want to criminalize speech based on the most cynical reading of our words, rather than what our intent was or what a reasonable reader would perceive.

  53. Bdaman: “The article, entitled “My CongressWOMAN voted against Nancy Pelosi! And is now DEAD to me!”, was written by someone calling him/herself BoyBlue.”
    —-

    Bad example. Slarti is right about the use of the above phrase. I’ll give you an example: Marcos was on a news-commentary show and just lit into one of my 3 favorite politicians, said outrageous things about him, laid the loss of a national election at his feet, so I turned to my husband and said, “F*** him, he’s dead to me” and I haven’t visited his site or stayed in the room when he’s been on TV since. He’s dead to me. LOL.

  54. ChaZ,

    While Sarah Palin is not personally responsible, she is contributing to a polarized culture of over-the-top rhetoric. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should be using the crosshairs of a gun to indicate political opposition.

  55. The problem isn’t a lack of laws but a lack of balance. The concentration of conservative pov in radio, TV and newspapers leaves few moderate voices in the media to push-back against even the most outrageous, violence tinged speech from the right.

    I further think that the FCC has simply failed to follow up on its own regs. I would like to know how many complaints about what could easily be labeled hate speech the FCC has received and failed to follow up on.

    I was greatly disturbed by something advocated by a radio personality. I thought, in all good faith, that it crossed the line into advocating violence at a specific time and place against a specific person. I wrote the FCC and made a complaint. All I got was a letter of acknowledgement some time later, but that was all. I didn’t even get a t-shirt. The FCC needs to get back in the business of enforcing its own regs, we don’t need new laws.

  56. I think it’s beneficial for the crazies to post overt threats online. This puts them on the radar screen of the Secret Service or local police and enables them to pay a visit and evaluate whether the person is just a stupid blowhard or a real threat to someone. In either case it may serve as a wake up call to rethink his behavior now that the gov’t knows who he is. Swarthmore mom’s link at 1-10-11 6:14p.m. has many examples of thwarted acts of terrorism. My one caveat on the government investigating an individual’s computer usage- GET A WARRANT FIRST!

  57. Mespo: “Legislation made in reaction to seismic or horrific events is usually ill-considered and emotion-packed. Cooler heads will prevail, but later sometimes much later.”

    You’re right about that: the Patriot Act comes to mind.

  58. RE: Bdaman, January 10, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    “If I was to get in your face and scream I’m pretty sure your gonna push me.”

    I know that those words were not an answer to any comment I made; however, I wonder whether you would be pretty sure I would push you if you screamed in my face.

    I find that someone screaming in my face, or slugging me because of an inadvertent misunderstanding, has not, in the past ever resulted in my retaliating.

    When I was slugged by someone who inadvertently misunderstood something, I left my glasses where the blow knocked them, many feet away, and hugged the person only tightly enough to not get slugged again.

    Another time, also many years ago, another inadvertent misunderstanding and someone was clawing at my arms until I was bleeding. I also hugged that person, while saying, “You can’t hurt me that way,” gently, over and over until the person relaxed. Scabs formed shortly thereafter, and there was not a mark on me the next morning.

    Retaliation only gives someone else reason for retaliation.

    Vicious cycles of hate and harm can be made that way.

    Not by me.

  59. Regarding that posting to Daily Kos by BoyBlue. He deleted that diary with the offensive title himself and offered an abject apology. No one told him to or pressured him. He did it because it was the right thing to do.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2011/1/9/934674/-My-Apologies-to-This-Site,-The-Victims,-and-Rep.-Gabrielle-Giffords

    I have not seen an equivalent mia culpa from anyone on the other side. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, I am looking at you.

  60. OS,

    “He did it because it was the right thing to do.”

    And because there was no downside to him doing so. If he didn’t take it down, it would make liberals look bad. (guilt by association). It doesn’t matter that nothing has linked the ‘hit list’ rhetoric or ‘crosshair’ imagery to the shooter. By having an anonymous commenter on a liberal website take down their target, it made people decide it must be linked, therefore Palin must have some culpability. It’s called controlling the spin.

    I’m not a fan of Palin. I don’t need to despise someone to have a reason not to vote for them. It’s enough for me that I don’t consider them to be qualified for the position. I’m content to let others make up their own mind.

    I don’t know what led the shooter to do what he did. I cannot begin to comprehend that. I probably never will. If it should come out that the hit list rhetoric and/or the crosshair imagery had a role in the shooter’s actions, I’m sure many people will feel pretty bad about it.

    Was Palin the first to use the ‘hit list’ rhetoric? Not from what I found.
    http://www.thedemocraticstrategist.org/strategist/2009/09/whos_really_on_the_gop_hit_lis.php

    http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/78035/gop_engages_in_'political_extortion‘,_draws_up_hit_list_of_dem_lawmakers/

    (I would post more, but I don’t want my post to be held in moderation.)

    Searching for the use of crosshairs is not so easy, but I will try to find some earlier usage tomorrow.

    The vitriolic speech from the right is no different than that of the left. The only difference is that we see the speech from “our side” to be the truth; so we accept it as being OK.

    I’m not pointing fingers here. I’d just like to see more thought about how we can (without sacrificing individual liberties and protected rights of good law abiding citizens) find a way to reduce the occurence of this kind of carnage.

    As a dear friend always says; “The best part about taking the moral high road………….Is the view”. Someday I hope to be along for the ride.

  61. BBB,

    You’re just preaching the false equivalency of violent rhetoric on the left vs. the right. While some on the left have been guilty of violent rhetoric (and if Bdaman’s pathetic list of quotes is any indication, the left hasn’t been guilty of much in this regard), it is the bread and butter of a large group of politicians and pundits on the right. Also, why did Sarah Palin take down the image with crosshairs on Rep. Giffords’ district, but not apologize? If there was nothing to apologize for, why take it down?

  62. Slartibartfast,

    “the left hasn’t been guilty of much in this regard”

    Says the left. From my centrist point of view, both sides are guilty of fanning the flames. I’m probably considering more years than you are, too. The Party in power is always going to be the subject of the harshest rhetoric. The last two years are fresh in your mind.

    I don’t know why Palin took anything down. She doesn’t consult me. :) Maybe she decided that this wasn’t a battle worth fighting. Taking it down will be seen as an admittance of culpability by the left. Nobody on the left will praise her for doing so. (Unless they read my comment first. :))

  63. This was said by David Frumm on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show tonight:

    The reason why extreme language is bad is not because it leads to people going on killing rampages – that’s not who does killing rampages. It’s bad because it prevents government from working well, from compromises being made, from results being delivered. It’s the impact on normal people of this extreme language, not crazy people, that’s the problem.

    I couldn’t agree more (although I think extreme language can also make it more likely for people to go on killing rampages (more so for politically motivated rampages like the killing of Dr. Tiller or Oklahoma City than mental illness motived rampages like this appears to be – I don’t have any evidence of this, just my opinion). As President Obama pointed out, calling him a communist or unAmerican makes it impossible for Republicans to compromise in any way without their constituents thinking they’ve sold out. The fact is that the kind of partisan, obstructionist politics that we’ve seen in the last 4 years, and especially the last 2 is unprecedented in my political lifetime (I first voted against Vice President Bush). Anyone using extreme speech in politics (on either side) needs to tone it done for the good of the Republic, but I doubt that any unbiased study would find more examples of extreme speech (and violence) on the left than on the right (during the last two decades or so, in any case…). All politicians need to be rewarded for extreme speech with losses on election day – it’s the best way to get them to stop doing it.

    BBB,

    I’m definitely focusing more on the last 2-4 years, but do you ever recall the partisan divide being as large as it is now? I know it’s been bad in the past, but it seems much more rancorous to me in the age of Obama than it was in either the Clinton or Bush years…

  64. It appears that Sheriff Dupnik may be trying to deflect criticism away from himself and his department. Loughner had previous run ins with the law. The question or questions need to be how much did the Sheriffs office know about Loughner and what actions did they take, if any, in keeping the public safe from him.

    Jared Loughner has been making death threats by phone to many people in Pima County including staff of Pima Community College, radio personalities and local bloggers. When Pima County Sheriff’s Office was informed, his deputies assured the victims that he was being well managed by the mental health system. It was also suggested that further pressing of charges would be unnecessary and probably cause more problems than it solved as Jared Loughner has a family member that works for Pima County. Amy Loughner is a Natural Resource specialist for the Pima County Parks and Recreation. My sympathies and my heart goes out to her and the rest of Mr. Loughner’s family. This tragedy must be tearing them up inside wondering if they had done the right things in trying to manage Jared’s obvious mental instability.

    http://thechollajumps.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/jared-loughner-is-a-product-of-sheriff-dupniks-office/

  65. Slarti,

    “The people at Jonestown died as a result of their actions, so I don’t see how they could be held any more responsible than that – and no one was let off of the hook for issuing orders because the soldiers chose to follow them…”

    Way to miss the forest for the trees. In this discussion of speech influencing people its not the person making the speech or giving the orders im referring to, it would be the follower who would attempt to escape responsibility for their actions. The fact of the matter is, your brain and your conscious do not turn off when you are issued an order, or watch fox news, or read an internet article. YOU and YOU ALONE are responsible for your actions regardless of any “violent rhetoric” or “hate speech” that happens to finds its way into your mind. By suggesting otherwise is to allow people to simply hang their violent and anti-social actions on the notion that “society made me do it”, “fox news made me do it”,”sarah palin made me do it”. All of which is horseshit.

  66. By having an anonymous commenter on a liberal website take down their target, it made people decide it must be linked, therefore Palin must have some culpability. It’s called controlling the spin.

    Giffords was a target of Loughners since 2007. The Daily Kos put the “Bulls Eye on Gabrielle Giffords Back” June 2008. I doubt that Loughner was a follower of Palin. When was it that Palin used the target symbol? I’m sure he didn’t attend any T-Party rally’s. He was described as a left wing pot head.

  67. Henman,

    “I think it’s beneficial for the crazies to post overt threats online. This puts them on the radar screen of the Secret Service or local police and enables them to pay a visit and evaluate whether the person is just a stupid blowhard or a real threat to someone.”

    Thats a wonderfully naive theory you have there but it seems when they fbi catches wind of you spouting angry, violent notions, they just give you a bomb.

    http://www.herald-review.com/news/state-and-regional/article_e9d7dd86-c641-11df-b334-001cc4c03286.html

  68. Sandra Bernhard issued a blistering warning to Sarah Palin during a performance of her new one-woman show.

    The Republican V.P. nom would be “gang-raped by my big black brothers” if she enters Manhattan, Bernhard said. Palin is said to be making a campaign stop in New York next week.

    Bernhard isn’t the only celeb to speak out against Palin. Pamela Anderson, Lindsay Lohan, Matt Damon and Pink have all expressed their disdain for the Alaskan Governor.

    Damon called her candidacy “a really scary thing,” telling CBS News, “I think the pick was made for political purposes, but in terms of governance it’s a disaster.”

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2008/09/19/2008-09-19_sandra_bernhard_issues_gang_rape_warning-2.html#ixzz1Aj1MHPSa

  69. Dredd,

    “Was Hal Turner correct, then, when he claimed innocence at his sentencing for verbally advocating the killing of federal judges?”

    Of course. Why shouldn’t he be? Regardless, you do know turner was an fbi informant for almost a decade right? I doubt they held him accountable for his speech or actions when he was on their payroll.

  70. Slart:

    The legislation you refer too IS unconstitutional. The reason it still exists are several.

    Some of these are: that the congressmen and women who wrote the law were too stupid or ignorant to know they were violating the Constitution; and also, when it matters, the morons at the ACLU are generally more concerned about burning crosses and little baby Jesuses at city hall than hounding congress about what it most precisely is forbidden to do: infringe on speech.

    I speak about the cross-buring methaphorically, of course.

    There are absolutely positively NO exceptions provided in the 1st amendment for congress to limit speech. The written words are so clear, and the understanding of original intent so easily knowable, it is likely that a mildy retarded person could have figured this out at the time the law you mentioned was passed.

    I reckon a third grader could be taught all the relevant information regarding this matter in less than an hour and know such legislaton is unconstitutional.

    Those in power who seek to overthrow the will of the people and trample the Constitution like to play stupid by pretending the common man cannot understand the meaning of the Constitution or the intent of its words as understood by the people who ratified them. These people I put in the category of criminally-minded despots, tyrants, and usurpers.

    So there is no excuse for this rampant and persisent unconstitutional conduct by government, especially at the federal level. The problem is villiany by our leaders and not any supposed difficulties in the Constitution’s words or the intention of its ratifiers.

    And now that a long chain of abuses has led us to a state of ultimate danger by government (a totalitarian police-state despotism), we can be sure now who was right or wrong long ago in that great controversy about the extent of federal powers: the Federalists (Hamilton, et.al.) or the Republicans (Jefferson, et.al).

    The Federalist party was wrong.

    Their concentration of federal powers have now lead us back to King George III’s tyrannies.

    The verdict is in: Jefferson and Madison were right. Hamilton and Adams, wrong.

    Bang the gavel. The case is closed.

    Federally, only after a violent attack is committed, are words and speech to become relevant to a legal case. And not any time before that (except authorities can collect words available to all, etc.)

    Only the states may limit speech.

    This was clearly understood at the time the 1st. was written. Jefferson mentions this fact during the controversy of the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798. (I think that’s when he said it, though I might have the timeline wrong).

    Within the STATES lies the power of government in this case. They can limit speech. I think any such limiting should be severe, narrow, and exactly precise.

    Unfortunately, I don’t believe you can trust government officials to write legislation about what we can say about THEM. Clearly, as the legislation you refer to indicates, they have already proven themselves too stupid to write about such things.

    Like you, I don’t think the federal law has been challenged. Though, I think wise states could simply nullify the federal law now, provoke a Constitutional challange, and create standing before the Supreme Court.

    Then the matter can be cleared up by SCOTUS (if they have a lick of sense they will deem the law unconstitional). The federal law can then be abolished by congress (as opposed to being struck down from the gods….I mean SCOTUS). And then, if the people wish and I don’t suggest they should wish, they could change the first amendment to allow such federal law. That, I, most ardently, do not recommend. Let the states handle speech matters.

    Maybe, if government officials would pay better attention to the people and stop stealing from them and destroying their lives, they would not have to fear so much. Maybe if they would stop violating our Constitution themselves and set a good example for others, citizens attend to their own lawful conduct. Maybe if our government officials were not a pack of criminally-minded people themselves, the people would lead more virtuous lives.

    This is still no excuse and certainly no shield from murderers hell bent on evil deeds. I believe there is adequate security available offerred to officials to help with that.

    Additionally, people need to put their safety in God’s hands even after taking reasonable steps to increase security. Then they need to grow up and learn to live with the fate their life brings and stop trying to prevent every last bit of evil from occuring. That is an Utopian dream which, if chased to the nth degree, leads to a totalitarian police-state.

    China has little civilian violent crime only because the people are tied down and locked in “legal” chains that forbid them to make one false step. They had to be stripped of weapons to do that. To get there, the Chinese government had to slaughter and enslave billions of people. That is the only way to get to absolute safety.

    That is not acceptable.

    Someone said, and I cannot remember who, that the last victim of continual warfare by a government is liberty. The same goes with limited “warfare” for personal safety. Like the one we now wage through the Department of Homeland Security. The more one wages it to the nth degree, the more liberty must be extinguished.

    It is generally the godless, thinking this is the only life they will ever have, who tend to have no peace of mind about living in a world where risk and danger are the ONLY guarantees outside of death. This kind of thinking tends to move such individuals (and groups) towards an extreme tyranny of perfect safety and elimination of all crime. Examples again are the Chinese. The Communists, etc.

    But such a quest is extremely destructive.

    Note, that the crime rate (by civilians) in North Korea is probably extremely low. This is not a good tradeoff. A balance has to maintained in favor of greater liberty and faith in God, over against less liberty and faith in government.

    Even clean water is a threat to our existence if we have too much of it.

    Many of the godless are so freaking afraid to die or suffer, they won’t let the rest of the living live in freedom.

    Those of us who have faith in God have already come to terms with that which cannot be perfectly avoided: suffering, injustice, and death. And they merely wish to move forward from there in a more perfect liberty.

    This is not to say modern Republicans (made up of many believers) accept this. They don’t. They move the totalitarian police-state forward as much as the Democrats do.

    Democrats, like the congressman who is calling for a violation of the Constitution because of this weekend’s tragedy.

  71. Tootie:

    “Even clean water is a threat to our existence if we have too much of it.”

    ***************

    Amazing how you can reveal your entire philosophy in just 16 words. I’ll summarize: Everything good is bad and everything bad is good.

    I deem you the Reactionary Poet!

  72. Tootie,

    I’m sorry that you cannot see the wonder (both beautiful and terrible) of the world or deal with the inequities that occur in life without the crutch of your religious delusions, but this atheist has no problems with peace of mind nor do I fear death. While I don’t care to take the time to answer your comment line by line, suffice it to say that most of the rest of your arguments are equally daft… As for the law against threatening the president, I never expressed an opinion as to its Constitutionality, I just don’t think that the current SCOTUS would rule it unConstitutional – but go ahead and try if you want to…

  73. ekeyra,

    Are you implying that the person giving an order has no responsibility for that order? I’m not arguing that a person is not responsible for overt acts that they commit – quite the contrary – I’m arguing that, in addition, people are responsible (morally if not legally) for their actions in the form of speech.

  74. Slart:

    I didn’t say you said the “law” about the threatening a president was unconstitional; I agreed with you that the “law” hadn’t been challenged in court.

    While writing my post to you, I serendipitiously drifted into matters of religion. This is because, I guess, the subject matter deals with real serious life and death issues.

    Only after most of my post was composed, did I suddenly remember our past discussions about God, religion, and such. But I kept the religious drift in my post without edit because I believe it is relevant to the issue and serves to explain why I can live with high levels of freedom and many (though not all of course) of the godless (like the Communists) cannot.

    In other words I didn’t think “gee, I think I will agitate Slart about religion/atheism”. It never occurred to me until afterwards.

    And I didn’t say all the godless are not at peace. I used the word “tend” specifically to recognize a general trend among atheist peoples, especially in the form of government officials who are despots or tyrannical.

    Of course, religious people, even those who claim to be Christians, can be despots and tryants. George Bush, for example. John McCain, Cheney, and Obama as well. But this despotism would be counter to their stated religious beliefs. And thus we could point out their errors.

    The Bible teaches Christians, and even Jews, to resist evil leaders who violate justice. On the other hand, I don’t know of a codified ethics subscribed to by atheists, which if disobeyed, could let us see which atheists were violating such a code.

    If you know about a Bible of sorts for athesis morality, I’d be interested in learning about it. But from what I’ve seen atheists just make up morality as they go along, reinventing the morality wheel with each new generation of atheists, and pretty much consider their own minds as being the beginning and end of right and wrong.

    So, please don’t be offended. I honestly, from the core of my being, believe the issue of Christianity (and even other faiths) is important when talking about living with real fear and dread, and even death.

  75. Slarti: “Are you implying that the person giving an order has no responsibility for that order?”

    Two words: Charles Manson.

  76. James M. said:

    “While Sarah Palin is not personally responsible, she is contributing to a polarized culture of over-the-top rhetoric. There is absolutely no reason why anyone should be using the crosshairs of a gun to indicate political opposition.”

    Absolutely no reason?

    Are you saying that our government should have ability to discern between all pictures, all writings, all publications if they are for good reasons or no reasons for censoring purposes? Do you really want to give our (or any) government that kind of power to make that determination?

    For me, I prefer that everyone have 100% freedom. If you give government the 1% power to monitor our press, then they will take more and take more and take more because they will use that same argument “Oh there is absolutely no reason for people to read that or see that”.

    Giving 1% power of press control to government is a slippery slope that will eventually lead to full control.

    Congratulation, you’ve just put a crosshair on our constitution. Mentally.

  77. mespo:

    You wrote:

    “Amazing how you can reveal your entire philosophy in just 16 words. I’ll summarize: Everything good is bad and everything bad is good.

    I deem you the Reactionary Poet!”

    LOL

    No. Not a reactionary.

    But, in a sense, all poetry is reactionary, is it not? But I think you meant to say political reactionary.

    And to that I say this. Every is really a reactionary since, really, nothing is new under the sun. IMO.

    What Obama wants is what Marx wanted. It’s old fashioned. It’s what Robespierre wanted. It’s all a rehash.

    All of government is a do-over. All of it reactionary. So, I suppose, we should make being a reationary a normal condition of the human race. Perhaps even a positive unique condition.

    We (as a government or governments) shall do things as we have always done. We shall change things around, add this, add that, delete this and that; but there are only so many conceivable ways to organize the human race that virtually all of them have been done and make any new attempt reactionary.

    We are limited by our biology and by our creature-ness. By matter. By space. Physics. Etcetera.

    We cannot leave the planet (yet) and create a new civilization with a perfect justice. The desire to do that here and now has usually led to more injustice. Especially when the means are compromised by injustice.

    As to up being down or right being wrong, your analysis is fautly. I did not say water was bad. I said it could be bad.

    A Tsunami comes to mind. Or do the non-reationaries just pop a cork and toast the glories of nature?

  78. mespo:

    A correction of my gibberish is required.

    A sentence in my third paragraph (written in response to you) read:

    “Every is really a reactionary since, really, nothing is new under the sun.”

    It should read:

    “Everything is really reationary since, really, nothing is new under the sun.

  79. Tootie,

    Whether or not I’m offended is beside the point – you are once again making bigoted and uninformed comments about atheism. I happen to think that atheists tend to be more moral than theists – they act in the way that they believe is right rather than the way that they think will allow them to avoid punishment from their magical sky daddy. It’s not really all that hard to come up with rational reasons for behaving in a moral way – personally I believe that acting morally and ethically are in my self-interest (I have other reasons for acting ethically, but that one is generally sufficient…).

    Bob,

    I certainly don’t believe that a person has no responsibility for orders they give. The example that I was thinking of was the Nazis – I seriously doubt that anyone at Nuremberg was prosecuted for following orders while the person giving the orders was absolved of guilt…

    ChaZ,

    I don’t think anyone here is saying that what Sarah Palin did should be illegal – just that people who do that sort of thing should be called on it. You know, people should take responsibility for what they say…

  80. Slartibartfast said:

    “I don’t think anyone here is saying that what Sarah Palin did should be illegal – just that people who do that sort of thing should be called on it. You know, people should take responsibility for what they say…”

    You know, long ago, people used that same reasoning and sued recording company for teenagers committing suicide because of heavy metal music.

    I also recall a rap song about killing cops. Was he held responsible for any murder of cops?

    I do not think anyone should be held accountable just because other people did something in relation to what they said or wrote.

    How about actually holding people responsible for their actions?

  81. Chaz,

    ‘Held accountable’ DOES NOT MEAN ‘Held LEGALLY accountable’. I’ve said that I think that the best way to deal with this is to not vote for politicians who use extreme speech. Surely anyone who wants to has the right to suggest that people don’t vote for a politician who says things they think are inappropriate – or does freedom of speech only cover incitement to violence?

  82. Slarti: “I certainly don’t believe that a person has no responsibility for orders they give. The example that I was thinking of was the Nazis – I seriously doubt that anyone at Nuremberg was prosecuted for following orders while the person giving the orders was absolved of guilt…”

    Charles Manson never killed anybody; he just gave the orders and Bugliosi nailed him anyway.

  83. Slarti,

    I’m with Bob on this one. Past a point, incitement ceases to be rhetoric. It garners legal culpability.

  84. It is most difficult to SEE what history is while you live it. If it were easy it would be snap to avoid the pitfalls common to the human race.

    There are few people on earth who SEE so clearly during the timeframe they exist. One of those rare people is Glenn Greenwald (yes, I know he is a homosexual so don’t bother wasting your time thinking you got one over on me and come up with a snarky post to me).

    He has a brilliant article about the current despotism and tyranny on the rise all around us as I write. As Glenn writes. And as many here write and condemn.

    If this crackpot nicompoop congressman gets his way, things will get rapidly worse.

    God bless Glenn Greenwald.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/spl3/govt-created-climate-of-fear.html

    If you don’t trust Rockwell (crybaby) here it is at Salon.

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/01/10/fear/index.html

  85. ChaZ,

    I stand by my statement that there is no reason why anyone needs to use that over-the-top, violent rhetoric (which you effectively ignored). I never said that the government should censor all such speech.

  86. Buddha,

    I don’t disagree with Bob – my questions were purely for information purposes (thanks for the answers, Bob). I’m not sure where the line of legal culpability should fall, but when any sort of incitement is universally reviled (and more importantly is the express lane to losing elections or audience), then it will cease to be a problem – any sort of criminalization is a stop-gap measure (and one fraught with logistical and Constitutional issues) at best…

    Colleen,

    They’re just following their standard M.O. of making sure that the truth is never unopposed by their propaganda…

    Tootie,

    The statement you quoted was not an example of rhetoric (violent or otherwise) – it was a statement of fact. If you can’t see the difference between your quote and people, for instance, using tactics borrowed from the KKK to paint President Obama as unAmerican and whip crowds into a frenzy, then I can only conclude that you are willingly blinding yourself to the truth.

  87. Ekerya,

    “The fact of the matter is, your brain and your conscious do not turn off when you are issued an order, or watch fox news, or read an internet article.”

    Descarte’s got nothing on you: I think therefor I am (in control). As any addict will tell you, there are times when your conscious mind doesn’t call the shots, but only rationalizes them.

    You want to see what on a deep level how humans are programed to behave? Look at chimps. See how much say the non-dominate members of the tribe get in their behavior.

    However, we’ve got just enough awareness to be damning. You can’t blame a chimp for being a chimp, but you can blame the human for being a chimp. It’s just silly to pretend that the inclination isn’t there.

  88. Bob Esq said there is no judicial review in the Constitution.

    Bob Esq cited the Supreme Court engaged in judicial review.

    Ha!

  89. I am sorry, but if someone says to a Member of Congress, or to her staff, that “I’m just going to come down there and shoot you all,” it should be, and is, a crime, as Rep. Brady says it should be, and such a criminal statute would not, and does not, infringe on the civil liberties or constitutional rights of anyone, at any place, or at any time, because the Constitution is not a suicide pact, Professor Turley to the contrary notwithstanding.

  90. Observer,

    The issue is that the proposed law covers far more than the direct threat that you hypotheses. It criminalizes any language which could be perceived as threatening (not an explicit threat). Someone saying “We need to get rid of that bum!” (referring to a specific member of Congress) could conceivable be perceived as threatening.

  91. Since the argument says “If this bill is introduced,” there appears to be no “proposed law” yet, is there, so how do we know it “criminalizes any language which could be perceived as threatening”? Let us see the language of the bill, if introduced, but in the meantime, we do not have to suicidally protect “We need to [shoot and kill] that bum!”

  92. Threatening language directed towards an official proceeding is already criminal. It’s in the Witness Intimidation Bill.

    The deal is that DOJ has been using 18 USC section 1512 as a sentence enhancer when it already has criminal charges against the person but it doesn’t enforce it when it doesn’t have pending criminal charges against the person and it uses some sort of selection process to decide when to press criminal charges. If the perps are connected and the victim isn’t, DOJ doesn’t press criminal charges.

    But as far as Congressional representatives and their staff, the existing law already authorizes 20 year sentences for threats.

  93. […] This has proved trickier ground to negotiate in a post-9/11 world. Speech that threatens harm, especially against the President, does not exactly go unnoticed; Eugene Volokh distinguishes between investigation-triggering speech v. criminal speech here. (It is worth noting that even “just” investigation of certain speech—after tending to initiate visits from the FBI or the nice men and women who speak into their wrist cuffs, would have a chilling effect on future speech of this content and caliber.) And this shooting has already inspired calls to criminalize threatening speech or symbolism against representatives or federal officials, what some view as legislative excess. […]

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