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Is Free Speech No Longer Protected?

Written by | May 7th, 2009

Being a writer, I will often put things on paper or in electronic format that quite honestly makes people cringe or even comes across as vitriolic. It would be a fair assessment that with the vast majority of the writing I do, someone, somewhere is likely to be offended, made angry, or perhaps even emotionally hurt by the content of my writings. I make no excuse for that and I do not and will not cowtow to the pressure our government has repeatedly put on media, with the exception of course being the media that is in love with our current president.

It has come to my attention and the attention of hundred of thousands of others across this country that Congress has introduced legislation that would make it a felony, imprisonable by 2 years in federal prison for the mere act of offending someone through an electronic communication.

One has to find the irony in this bill, while it is a very serious matter there is the added twist that under this self same legislation, the writers of this document could conceivably be held liable under its language. The Congress, Senate and President; all of which have offended me to a degree, some more than others; are purposefully and with intent, posting this bill online to coerce me and others like me, to cease and desist.

In part the bill says: “Whoever” … this means you, me, congress, the President, everyone … “transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication” … this is all communication … “with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person” … this is the qualifier, you must intend for your communication coerce among other things … “using electronic means” … this means the internet, email webpages etc. … “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.” … and the punishment SHALL be a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 2 years.

This seems all well and good, except with other laws currently on the books, one could conceivably be charged under the RICO act for continuing dates of enterprise or you could be charged each time someone is offended, each being a distinctly separate crime. This means that a single post that makes someone angry, could net the offender up to 2 years for each act and the sentence quite possibly could be ordered served consecutively. It isn’t hard to imagine that with as few as 10 people beng offended, your freedom can be removed from you for as long as 20 years, perhaps longer depending upon how they categorize each offence.

I have long been a proponent of free speech, not suprisingly I write very often with the express intent to get peoples’ blood pressure to rise, most often to get them to take notice and do something positive in their life; to stand up against tyranny and the unmitigated corruption running rampant in Washington. Our government, with the insane group of politicians who support such a bill needs to be turned out on their heads for writing such a piece of garbage. Of course I understand the purposes of HR1966 and that is to stop cyberbullys in their tracks, however, the chilling effect it has on free speech cannot and must not be tolerated. I will be waiting to see if the mass media gets behind this latest pile of excrement, but I don’t hold out hope.

I have read alot of hatemongering protected speech in my lifetime, and a great deal of it was through electronic media. I don’t subscribe to it, nor do I approve of the methods these people take in an effort to coerce and intimidate those who have opposing viewpoints. This is actually healthy, it is important that as a society we feel free to speak our minds without the burden of offending others and without the fear of government reprisals if we do. Our founding fathers knew that beyond any doubt. They hated (yes I know .. hate is such a strong word) the press. The media of the time were newspapers that would print all sorts of slanderous and demeaning articles with spins so fast they would make any fair-goer puke with disgust. However, they also recognized that when govenment becomes too big or unresponsive, it is the media who will ultimately incite the citizenry to rise up and squash just such a government.

We are to that point now … our government has methodically, with malice and intent, passed numerous laws and regulations that would never have been allowed in the 18th century. Our founders would have taken up arms and would have marched right down to the capitol building and demanded that those in charge be removed from office, but alas, our society today lacks the stomach to demand that such shenanigans be stopped immediately.

Now lets set the record straight; I don’t support cyberbullies, nor do I support the mean and hateful things people do in an attempt to demean and otherwise denegrate people, however, the far reaching unintended consequences of this legislation will certainly cause a severe curtailing of the expressiveness of people as individuals. I do however support the right of people, like minded or not, to state their true and honest opinions, regardless of whether I like their comments or find them offensive. In the meantime while this is being shuttled through Congress to effectively render the free speech protections of the Constitution meaningless, it is imperitive that every person who supports free speech contact the naer-do-wells in Congress to tell them that you don’t support such a bill.

Please join me in letting these people know that you don’t support them:
http://www.govtrack.us/congress/findyourreps.xpd
 
Ms. Linda T. Sanchez (D – CA)
Ms. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D – CA)
Ms. Lois Capps (D – CA)
Ms. Marcy Kaptur (D – OH)
Mr. John Yarmuth (D – KY)
Mr. Tim Bishop (D – NY)
Mr. Brian Higgins (D – NY)
Mr. Bruce Braley (D – IA)
Mr. Raul Grijalva (D – AZ)
Mr. Philip Hare (D – IL)
Mr. Danny Davis (D – IL)
Mr. William Clay Jr. (D – MO)
Mr. John Sarbanes (D – MD)
Mr. Joe Courtney (CT-2)
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2 thoughts on “Is Free Speech No Longer Protected?

  1. markross

    As most of us know, The First Amendment to our Constitution, prevents the government from abridging the freedom of speech…

    First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    While I must admit that I can see “some” of the good intentions that they are proposing, I am wise enough (like you) to see the slippery slope that could be coming down the pike, if this bill, or similar ones become law.

    After reading all of the findings in the bill that you have linked (HR1966) to, I have concluded that each and everyone of them could be avoided. Like many other things, this goes back to personal responsibility and good parenting.

    I agree, we should contact the above representatives and express our concerns.

    Mark

    Reply
  2. markross

    Here is the part that really concerns me…


    Sec. 881. Cyberbullying

    (a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

    They need a “precise” definition of what Cyberbullying means, otherwise it could give Congress unprecedented power over Internet communications.

    Reply

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