Tag Archives: Freedom Of Speech

Judge Napolitano: President Trump and the Freedom of Speech

When James Madison drafted the First Amendment — “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech” — he made sure to use the article “the” in front of the word “freedom.” What seemed normal to him and superfluous to moderns was actually a profound signal that has resonated for 227 years. The signal was that because the freedom of speech existed before the government that was formed to protect it came into existence, it does not have its origins in government.

The freedom of speech has its origins in our humanity. It is a natural right. It exists in the absence of government. By the exercise of normal human reasoning, all rational people are drawn to exercise this freedom. Madison understood this. He could have written, “Congress shall grant freedom of speech.” He did not because that freedom is not Congress’ to grant or to abridge.

I am presenting this thumbnail sketch of the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the freedom of speech by way of background to a hot dispute now raging off the front pages. The dispute addresses whether the president of the United States can use federal courts to block the exercise of this right. CBS News wants to air an interview with an adult-film actress who alleges a sexual relationship with Donald Trump — a relationship he denies — and President Trump wants to prevent the airing.

The actress, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels, signed an agreement in October 2016 to accept $130,000 in return for remaining silent about her alleged sexual relationship with Trump, which she claims occurred shortly after the birth of his son Barron, who is now almost 12. The lawyer who negotiated the agreement with Daniels’ lawyer claimed that he was doing this on his own, that the hush money came from him and not Trump, and that Trump was not his client.

That claim raises profound campaign finance issues, but they are not the point of this piece. The point of this piece is about the freedom of speech.

Daniels, whose present lawyers have sued to invalidate the agreement, recently gave an interview about her relationship with Trump to the CBS News program “60 Minutes.” CBS plans to air that interview in the coming weeks, and Trump wants to prevent that from happening. The stated legal basis for Trump’s lawyers asking a court to block the broadcast is the existence of the hush agreement, which, in plain words, bars Daniels from discussing anything about her alleged sexual relationship with Trump. Obviously, Trump does not want any allegations from Daniels — true or false — to become a topic of public conversation and a distraction to his presidency.

Can the president legally persuade a federal court to enjoin the airing of an interview? In a word: no. Here is the back story.

In 1931, in a famous case called Near v. Minnesota, the Supreme Court generally rejected the concept of “prior restraint.” Prior restraint is the use of the courts to prevent the media from disseminating materials they already have. The Near case dealt with an anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, anti-African-American newspaper that Minnesota state courts had silenced. The Supreme Court overruled the state courts and held that the freedom of speech presumes that individuals will decide for themselves what to read and hear and the First Amendment keeps the government — which here includes the courts — from censoring the marketplace of ideas, even hateful ideas.

Forty years later, in the Pentagon Papers case, the Supreme Court made a similar ruling. There, Daniel Ellsberg, an employee of a contractor to the Department of Defense, stole highly classified documents that demonstrated that then-President Lyndon B. Johnson and his generals had knowingly deceived the American public about the war in Vietnam.

When Ellsberg gave the documents to The New York Times and The Washington Post, the Nixon administration hurriedly persuaded a federal judge in New York to enjoin the Times from publishing the documents. Before a federal judge in Washington could rule on a similar request — and bypassing the intermediate appellate courts — the Supreme Court took the case and ruled in favor of the freedom of speech and reinforced the judicial condemnation of prior restraint.

But the Pentagon Papers ruling went a step further than the Near opinion had. It ruled that no matter how a media outlet has acquired matters material to the public interest — even by theft of top-secret documents — the outlet is free to publish them. This, of course, does not absolve the thief (though the case against Ellsberg was dismissed because of FBI misconduct), but it makes clear that no court can block the media from revealing what they reasonably believe the public wants to hear.

Now back to the president and the adult-film star. Because whatever Daniels said to CBS arguably speaks to Trump’s fitness for office, individuals have the right to learn of it, to hear Trump’s denials and to form their own opinions. In Trump’s case, he has a bigger megaphone than CBS does — via his adroit use of social media — and the volume and ferocity of his denials might carry the day.

But the point here is that individuals can make up their own minds about the president’s character; they don’t have to endure the prior restraint of a court’s silencing a voice in the debate, even a tawdry voice.

What if the hush money agreement Daniels signed — and the president did not — is valid? Could that trigger prior restraint? In a word: no. The Madisonian values underpinning the freedom of speech, as articulated consistently by the Supreme Court, will prevail. Anything short of that would prefer government censorship over personal choices in matters of speech, a preference the First Amendment profoundly rejects.

Russia Bans George Soros’ Open Society Institute, Calls It National Security Threat

The office of Russia’s Prosecutor General announced on Monday that Russian citizens are banned from working with George Soros’ Open Society Institute and Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation.

Soros, a politically progressive billionaire investor and philanthropist, was listed by Bloomberg earlier this year as the 25th richest person in the world.

[RELATED: Billionaires Charles Koch, George Soros to Team Up on Criminal Justice Reform in 2015]

A statement by Russia’s top prosecutor declared the Soros foundations to be threats to Russia’s national security and constitutional system.

Under the Law on Undesirable Foreign Organizations, which passed in June of this year, Russia’s Prosecutor General has the power to declare certain international organizations undesirable. Once such a declaration has been made, Russia’s Justice Ministry will freeze the organization in question’s locally-held assets, prohibit the distribution of its promotional materials, and close down its office space. Russian citizens who work with a banned organization could face fines or prison time.

[RELATED: U.S. Official: Russian Jet Shot Down Inside Syrian Airspace]

RT notes, “Prosecutors launched a probe into the activities of the two organizations – both sponsored by the well-known US financier George Soros – in July this year, after Russian senators approved the so-called ‘patriotic stop-list’ of 12 groups that required immediate attention over their supposed anti-Russian activities. Other groups on the list included the National Endowment for Democracy; the International Republican Institute; the National Democratic Institute; the MacArthur Foundation and Freedom House. In late July, the Russian Justice Ministry recognized the US National Endowment for Democracy as an undesirable group after prosecutors discovered the US NGO had spent millions on attempts to question the legitimacy of Russian elections and tarnish the prestige of national military service.

Suggesting that the move may be largely symbolic or preventative, Zero Hedge wrote, “It is doubtful that Soros still has any active assets in Russia – his foundation, which emerged in Russia in its early post-USSR years in the mid-1990s, wrapped up active operations in 2003 when Putin cemented his control on power.

EXCLUSIVE: University of Missouri Protesters Physically Block, Intimidate Journalists

A viral video posted on YouTube on Monday by Mark Schierbecker shows Concerned Student 1950 protesters at the University of Missouri blocking journalists from covering the continuing protests over racial tension that led MU president Tim Wolfe to resign.

In the video, protesters can be seen swarming student journalist Tim Tai, who according to The Washington Post was covering the protests as a part of a freelance reporting gig for ESPN.

[RELATED: Missouri President Resigns After Football Strike]

Hey hey, ho ho, reporters have got to go,” chanted the protesters, who claimed that the journalists were invading their privacy by filming their public protest without their permission.

The First Amendment protects your right to be here and mine,” Tai said.

As the tensions in the video escalate, the mob of protesters can be seen pushing Tai away from the protest encampment. “You’re pushing me!” he warned.

At the end of the clip, a woman identified by The New York Times as University of Missouri assistant professor of mass media Melissa Click is seen ordering Schierbecker to leave, grabbing his camera, and shouting, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.

Tim Tai told the New York Times, “We’re documenting historic events with our photographs, and when people are crying and hugging when Wolfe resigns, it becomes a personal issue that people all over the country can connect with. It’s my job to help connect those people to what’s going on.

Truth in Media spoke exclusively with Mark Schierbecker, who filmed the video. “It seems to me that the idea that we are supposed to only care about Concerned Student 1950 and not free speech is a false one. There is no reason journalists can’t have their moment without detracting from the racial debate. It is not a zero-sum game,” he said.

A tweet by the Concerned Student 1950 protest group explained the rationale behind its effort to prevent journalists from covering the protest encampment, “We ask for no media in the parameters so the place where people live, fellowship, & sleep can be protected from twisted insincere narratives.

Another Concerned Student 1950 tweet read, “If you have a problem with us wanting to have our spaces that we create respected, leave!

Stapleton: Progressives Now Fear the Demon They Created: Social Justice Backfires on College Campuses

I’ve said for years that progressives don’t think logically. They think emotionally. Every decision they make, be it political or personal, is always filtered through how they “feel.” This not only leads to bad personal decisions but also bad political decisions. It stifles debate, the free exchange of ideas and even free speech.

But that doesn’t matter much to the current generation of college students who think they have a right to not be offended. These ideas have been promoted and fostered in the halls of academia for 30 years and now even college professors are afraid of what they’ve created.

All that and much more will be discussed today on The Jason Stapleton Program.

The Jason Stapleton Program is live from 11:05 am to noon eastern. Enjoy replays from earlier episodes before and after the live show. You can also find recorded episodes on iTunes.

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Julie Borowski: That’s NOT Freedom of Speech!

Video by Julie Borowski; text by Annabelle Bamforth

In her latest video, Julie Borowski discusses freedom of speech and the different ways that Americans interpret its meaning. People sometimes perceive the subject incorrectly, says Borowski.

The government cannot punish a person for their speech, says Borowski, but many individuals assume that negative reactions to a person’s speech are equal to violating free speech. With commentary on Facebook pages being used as a prime example,  Borowski argues that “freedom of speech” does not mean that Facebook page owners are required to give every person a “platform”.


High School Protest Erupts After Officials Tell Students Not to Discuss Sex Assault Cases

Students at Plum High School in Pittsburgh, PA organized a protest this morning in response to the way in which school officials and local police have been dealing with an ongoing sexual assault scandal that plagues the school. According to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, around two dozen students launched a demonstration in front of the school while others wore tape over their mouths to protest comments made by police and school officials at an assembly last Friday. As the above-embedded footage by WPXI-TV notes, students were told at the assembly that they could face criminal charges if they discuss on social media an ongoing investigation into institutional sexual assault allegations that had been raised against two of the school’s teachers, Jason Cooper and Joseph Ruggieri. The Patriot-News pointed out the fact that Ruggieri also serves as vice president of the local teacher’s union. The assembly took place under 24 hours after Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. asked victims at the school to come forward.

14-year-old freshman Amber Stawecki told The Pittsburgh Tribune Review, “It’s wrong for the school to take away our freedom of speech. We know what the First Amendment is. In some ways I still feel like they are trying to shut us up. I can tell they know more. It looks like a cover-up.”

Another student, 15-year-old freshman Cody Stockman referred to the comments at the assembly as “scare tactics” and said, “The fact that the chief of police was there is ridiculous. The police department lost its credibility.”

Plum Police Chief Jeffrey Armstrong said that, by speaking at the assembly, he was trying to prevent students from harassing victims of the sexual assaults, not interfere with free speech. “The intent of the assembly was not to tell kids not to use social media, but to be careful about the content and context of social media. We wanted to get out in front of this. The witnesses and the victims to an outpouring of hate and other comments directed to them.”

The District Attorney’s office issued a statement on the assembly, which said, “It would not be prudent for us to comment on what was said in the assembly until we have a chance to speak with Chief Armstrong in order to determine what he was trying to accomplish with his remarks. Having said that, we have no indication at this point in the investigation that either the student victims or student witnesses have been on the receiving end of threatening or harassing communications from other students.” However, another teacher at the school, Drew Zoldak, was charged last Wednesday with attempting to intimidate one of the other teacher’s alleged victims.

According to CBS Pittsburgh, Plum Borough School District Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said in a statement, “It is the position of the Plum Borough School District that the District will not take actions that infringe upon the First Amendment rights of its students or staff with respect to their use of social media. The District will not prevent or inhibit any individuals from engaging in constitutionally protected speech. The comments made at the assembly were not intended to infringe upon any First Amendment rights. It is not the District’s intent to prosecute or discipline any students for exercising those rights to the extent they are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Be assured that the intent of the assembly was to provide protection to all of our students. We would again urge that all individuals refrain from engaging in any irresponsible, harassing and/or intimidating communications with respect to the ongoing investigations.”

All Mainstream Media Must Publish the Hebdo Cartoons

To all those media outlets who have convinced themselves that they don’t need to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in reporting the recent events in Paris: you are profoundly wrong.

Your raison d’etre is to present news. The Hebdo cartoons are a natural part of the story of the murders in Paris. To assert that a description of an image is anything like the image, itself, is a rationalization of cowardice. The only reason to “describe images” without publishing them is fear of the consequences of publishing.

charlie hebdo1

The official reason offered by many Western media outlets for not showing us the images that have at least in part provided the excuse for three fanatics to murder is “so as not to cause offense”.

First, you can’t cause offense. Offense is always taken, never given. Western society depends on that – on responsibility for one’s emotions, and if not for one’s emotions, then for what one does with one’s emotions. Many of us get offended on a weekly basis. The “right” not to be offended is not a right at all. Rather it can only ever be, by definition, a claim made to limit the rights of others.

Some people and organizations do indeed get-off on causing offense for attention or for its own sake. I have little time for such behavior. Indeed, all my political work is geared to mutual respect and finding common ground.

But that is not at issue here. Any sane person can see that the presentation of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in stories about the murders in Paris is a very natural and legitimate part of telling the story of those murders – a purpose that is entirely and necessarily consistent with the much greater and deeply necessary purpose of the media in a civilized society.

charlie hebdo2

This is all very basic stuff. Murders have been committed because (among other reasons) the murderers dislike the way their victims exercised their freedom of expression. Some media organizations whose existence depends on that freedom, and that have the greatest responsibility to defend it (because they exercise that right every day), are giving it up without a fight. That responsibility to defend it is a responsibility to self-interest, let alone to the free society that allows them to operate, and to the people from whom they gain their revenues.

If these mainstream media outlets have adopted “not causing offense” as a new standard for editorializing, then I hereby inform them that I – and millions like me – choose (because it is always a choice) to be deeply offended by much of the mainstream media’s credulous reporting of our own government’s actions – especially in foreign policy, military and civil rights matters – since 9/11.

I don’t expect them to be very bothered by that, of course, because it’s not the causing of offense that concerns them – and all editors know as much from a moment’s introspection. They’re not concerned by my taking offense because I, being a civilized human being whose mind has not been ossified by religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism, am not going to use my offense as an excuse for violence against them.

Everyone who’s working at these media outlets realizes that one goal of the attacks in Paris is to render the Western press unfree, or to punish it for exercising its freedom (which is exactly the same thing). Now, by definition, only the media, and those who work in the media, can decide whether to give the attackers what they are demanding – a veto by one group on everyone else’s freedom of expression.

A media executive might protest that his job is not to take political, cultural or religions sides … that the presentation of information doesn’t entail direct engagement in such controversy. And that is correct … and that is why the editors should do their job without fear or favor, which is to tell the story in full. It’s by not publishing those cartoons, therefore, that media outlets are acting politically and morally – and they are doing it for the wrong side.

When George Bush famously said, “either you are with us or you’re with the terrorists”, he was profoundly wrong. At that time, the media collectively failed us miserably by promoting the fear-driven propaganda that resulted in the deaths of many American servicemen, many more innocent foreigners, and the take-down by our government of the very rights that the terrorists in Paris would also like to see taken down as they establish their silly caliphate.

But now if you’re in the media, there is a clear sense in which “either you are for freedom of the press, or you are with the terrorists” – because you can’t be for freedom of the press if you would prefer not to do the proper job of the press so as to avoid the possible consequences of defending press freedom by exercising it.

Think about that. If you’re an editor who’s not publishing those cartoons today, you’re not just failing to defend press freedom, you’re acting against a free press because you’re giving up your job to tell the whole story at the very time when the story is about the freedom on which your job depends.

That is not a neutral position.

As Sartre said, “What is not possible is not to choose”.

This is not about multiculturalism or cultural sensitivity. It is not about imposing images of a prophet on people who don’t want to see them. My deep sensitivity and respect for the values and lives of Muslims around the world, many whose lives have been destroyed by Western policies that I oppose, in no way requires me to engage in a wholesale suppression and denial of my own values – which include media that tell the truth without knowing distortion by either falsity or omission.

Ironically, perhaps, in the next few days, the media’s actions will speak louder than their words. And to turn to another idiom, a picture is worth a thousand of those. Right now, then, one cartoon is worth even more than that – but, crucially, no cartoon is worth an order of magnitude more.

Much of the American media, in particular, spent many years rather uncritically providing platforms for people who have asserted that defense of our freedom requires killing innocent Muslims abroad – while legislatively compromising away those very values that we were purportedly defending… without any of the sensitivity to Muslim sensibilities (let alone lives) that they have found over a few images.

The events in Paris have shed light on something that has always been true: that the fight to maintain our liberties can ultimately only be won or lost in the minds of the people whose liberties they are. They are won or lost whenever people choose to preserve those liberties by exercising them even when doing so feels risky, or when, alternatively, people decide not to exercise them because they are less important than avoiding discomfort.

So media, are you with us, the People, and our freedom of speech – which is also yours, or are you with the terrorists? Because if you will not do your job at this time when your freedom even to be the media is attacked – then what the heck are you for?

And please don’t come back with the tired trope about protecting your employees. If they don’t like the fact that their organization is choosing to do the right thing, rather than fall into gross hypocrisy, then they can exercise another beautiful freedom … the freedom to get a job that suits them better.

TN City Bans Negative Social Media Comments About City Government, Employees, Contractors

Social media and mobile technology have empowered civic activism on levels before unseen. Matters that once went on behind closed doors now emerge in vivid detail on YouTube, and activists, alternative media journalists, and everyday people use sites like Facebook and Twitter to express themselves on issues that would have in the past been ignored by mainstream media outlets. However, the increased transparency and civic engagement come at a cost to elected officials and bureaucrats who prefer doing business in smoky backrooms without debate or public comment.

According to Chattanooga Times Free Press, city officials in South Pittsburg, TN have been overwhelmed by negative comments on social media and consequently enacted a new policy, passed in a 4-1 vote at a December city commission meeting, banning all elected officials, city employees, city contractors, and anyone else doing official business with the city from making any negative comments on their private social media accounts about anyone or anything with any connection to city government. The policy falls short of criminalizing negative comments by citizens not directly affiliated with the government, but does force elected officials, contractors, city employees, and anyone else doing business of any kind with the city to sign a contract which stipulates that they be punished in the event that they violate the rule. The rule specifically states that affected parties are banned from making negative social media comments about the city itself, its elected officials, and its associates, which would seemingly include private contractors.

Commissioner Jeff Powers, a supporter of the policy, explained his frustrations with social media comments to Chattanooga Times Free Press, “It seems like every few meetings we’re having to address something that’s been on Facebook and created negative publicity.” He also said, addressing critics of the policy, “The first thing everyone wants to say is ‘I can’t post anything on Facebook.’ Well, you can. Just not [anything] that sheds a negative light on any person, entity, board or things of that nature. You can go ahead and post all you want.”

Commissioner Paul Don King, the lone board member who voted against the measure, said, “But what we [the board] are trying to say is that if I’m a city employee, you’re trying to tell me what I can say at night. I call that freedom of speech. I can’t understand that.”

Mayor Jane Dawkins said the measure was aimed at silencing what she called “out-and-out lies and untruths.” City Attorney Billy Gouger gave his opinion on the rule’s impact on freedom of speech, “What this policy tries to do is reconcile that right with other rights.”

Banning elected officials from making negative comments about the city or other elected officials seemingly transfers significant power to an administration backed by a majority, as dissenters, such as Paul Don King in this case, could in the future be accused of violating the rule while advocating policy positions on social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. Also, city employees appear to now be banned from commenting on their consumer experiences with private businesses that incidentally have contracts with the city.

Lawsuit: Cops Arrested WI Man for Posting Angry Facebook Comment Accusing Them of Racism

Arena, WI man Thomas G. Smith says that police violated his rights when they arrested him in July of 2012 after he posted an angry comment on a status on the Arena Police Department’s now-deleted Facebook page. According to The Star Tribune, Arena police posted a status pertaining to the detention of two African-American teens, upon which Smith commented, calling the officers racists in a tirade that included profanity. Smith was charged with and convicted of unlawful use of computerized communications and disorderly conduct before a state-level appellate judge overturned the conviction, citing freedom of speech. Lawyers representing Smith subsequently filed a federal lawsuit last Monday alleging that police violated his rights by arresting him for the comment.

After Smith made his feelings known on Facebook, Officer Nicholas Stroik allegedly deleted the comment along with comments by two other community members who accused the officers of conducting racial profiling. Arena police then reportedly called Smith on the telephone to confirm whether or not he posted the comment. Smith proudly replied that he did and specifically pointed out that he meant what he said. Officers then visited Smith at home and arrested him, citing the fighting words legal doctrine that limits speech intended to directly cause violence.

A local jury convicted Smith of the charges against him, and he was sentenced to community service. However, the conviction was overturned on appeal, as an appellate judge found that Smith’s posting of an angry comment with vulgarities from his own home miles from the police station constituted protected free speech. The judge indicated that Smith’s comments could not be viewed as fighting words if he was not located within close proximity to the officers at the time that he made them. In the case Cohen v. California, the US Supreme Court held that vulgarities are protected speech under the First Amendment.

Smith’s lawsuit alleges that the Village of Arena failed to train Nicholas Stroik on constitutional rights, that his arrest violated Smith’s First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and that officers deleted the comments of critics on Facebook while leaving up comments by supporters, thus using public law enforcement resources to censor citizens on the basis of their views. The suit also points out the fact that, by attempting to punish Smith for his comments critical of the Arena Police Department, Stroik’s actions could have the effect of chilling free speech as publicity surrounding the arrest could cause others who would speak out to remain silent out of fear of retaliation.

Rapper, Charged Under Newly-Enforced CA Law, Faces Life in Prison for Gang-Related Song Lyrics

San Diego rapper Tiny Doo, who has no criminal record, may end up being held criminally liable for a series of gang-related shootings to which prosecutors admit he has no direct ties, simply because he claims to be affiliated with the same gang on his new album No SafetyAccording to ABC News10 San Diego, he is the first person to be charged under a California law, passed in 2000, which seeks to punish anyone who benefits in any way from gang-related crimes. In this case, prosecutors argue that Brandon Duncan, also known as Tiny Doo, should be tried along with fourteen other alleged gang members who face attempted murder charges for a series of nine shootings, even though he did not participate in the crimes, because the shootings increased the notoriety of the gang mentioned on No Safety, thus boosting his album sales.

Duncan’s attorney Brian Watkins told ABC News10 San Diego, “It’s shocking. He has no criminal record. Nothing in his lyrics actually say go out and do a crime. Nothing in his lyrics specifically reference any of these shootings, yet they are trying to hold him liable under a conspiracy theory. There are huge constitutional issues.” MTV notes that, in 2000, prosecutors unsuccessfully attempted to pin charges an an Oregon rapper on the basis of his song lyrics. In that case, an expert witness pointed out the fact that artists who rap about gang culture, much like actors in Hollywood movies, rarely live out the lifestyles depicted in their respective art forms.

Thomas Jefferson School of Law professor Alex Kreit discussed the broader implications of Tiny Doo’s prosecution in comments to ABC News10 San Diego, “Where does that end if that’s the definition of criminal liability? Is Martin Scorsese going to be prosecuted if he meets with mafia members before he makes his next film? The Constitution says it can’t be a crime to simply make gangster rap songs and hang out with people that are committing crimes. You have to have more involvement than that.” Given the facts that many popular films depict criminal activity, rely on consultations by former criminals for accuracy purposes, and produce profit based on those depictions, the law could also have a chilling effect on the film industry’s freedom of speech.

During a preliminary hearing last Friday, Deputy District Attorney Anthony Campagna characterized No Safety as criminal content and noted the fact that it contains no love songs and features a picture of a firearm on the front cover. On Monday, the judge assigned to the case ordered Brandon Duncan to stand trial. If convicted, Duncan faces a lengthy prison sentence and could even end up behind bars for the rest of his life, merely due to the lyrical content on his new album.

Heavy Metal Fan Arrested for Posting Exodus Lyrics on Facebook

WFIE 14 News is reporting that 31-year-old James Evans of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky was arrested on terroristic threatening charges after he posted lyrics from a song by the heavy metal band Exodus on Facebook. On August 24, Evans posted the following quote from the song “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)”, “Student bodies lying dead in the halls, a blood splattered treatise of hate. Class dismissed is my hypothesis, gun fire ends in debate.” Shortly thereafter, he was taken into custody by authorities under the rationale that his posting constituted a threat “to kill students and or staff at school,” according to his arrest warrant.

Evans remained in jail for eight days before he was released at a hearing at which his case was deferred for six months. An updated report by WFIE 14 News notes that Evans will be required to undergo a mental evaluation.

It is unclear exactly which school that officials believe the 31-year-old was targeting with his verbatim posting of heavy metal lyrics online, but Muhlenberg County school resource officer Mike Drake claimed that multiple government agencies received warnings about the Facebook status.

Ashelynn Evans, James Evans’ sister, told WFIE 14 News, “Whenever we found out that he actually got arrested for lyrics, we were all shocked. We couldn’t believe that you could do that or get in trouble for that. I don’t personally agree with the band or the music but I agree that you should have the choice to listen to it if you want to.”

After his release, James Evans said, “It’s nonsense. I feel like my civil rights have been violated. You know first amendment freedom of speech out the window. Even all the guys I was in the cell with they thought it was nonsense themselves. I had several officials tell me it was nonsense, that there was no reason why I should have even been here.” An avid heavy metal fan, Evans frequently posted various song lyrics on Facebook prior to his arrest.

Exodus’ management commented on the issue in a press release, saying, “The band Exodus does not promote or condone terrorists, threats or bullying. That being said, the band is somewhat baffled by the fact that this man being charged for what seems against his first amendment rights of Freedom of Speech.”

The heavy metal music site Loudwire quoted additional comments by Exodus guitarist Gary Holt, who said, “The idea that an individual in this great country of ours could be arrested for simply posting lyrics to a song is something I never believed could happen in a free society. James Evans was simply posting lyrics to a band he likes on Facebook, and he was locked up for it… It was the Virginia Tech massacre perpetrated by Seung-Hui Cho that was the subject and inspiration to write the song, one in which we put the brakes on playing it live after the Sandy Hook shooting, as we did not want to seem insensitive.”

Gary Holt continued, “As some of us in Exodus are parents, of course these things hit close to home, it’s every parent’s worst fear. These moments are the stuff of nightmares, and life, as well as music, isn’t always pretty. But when we start to overreact to things like lyrics by any band, including Exodus, and start arresting people, we are caving in to paranoia and are well on our way to becoming an Orwellian society.”

Military Police Detain Journalists and Confiscate Equipment

LIMA, Ohio – On Friday outside the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, two The Blade reporters were detained and had their equipment confiscated by military police.

Reporter Tyrel Linkhorn and photographer Jetta Fraser were in the driveway of General Dynamics’ Land Systems, a tank plant, taking pictures for an upcoming story. They both claim they never went past the armed guards or gated area. However, that did not stop military police confronting them, detaining them and confiscating their photography equipment.

“I’m personally shocked by this incident,” Mr. Block, editor in Chief of Blade said. “I believe our people were totally in the right.”

It was not until after U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s office made a call to General Dynamics, that the military police agreed to release the photography equipment but only after the photos were reviewed.

The equipment was in the military police’s possession for seven hours. When the equipment was finally returned, Blade employees examined the equipment to find that all of the photos of the building were missing.

The military police denied deleting the photos and said that a representative from the facility deleted them. However, when Keith Deters, manager of the plant, was asked he said no one from their company had handled the camera. Deters stated that “I would have no idea” who would have deleted the photos.

Ms. Fraser said that she was told that taking photos of the building raised concerns of terrorism.

“I really don’t understand what I was not allowed to photograph. If I can see it from the road, it’s available to the public eye,” she said. “If there is something terribly significant there, then they should probably hide it from the public.”

The Blade is considering legal action.


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Senate Bill Attempts To Make The “Right” of Free Press a “Privilege”

The Senate Judiciary committee has moved forward a bill that would offer “Shield Law” protections for journalists and prevent them from having to testify about their work. The bill, moved forward on Thursday after members of the committee took it upon themselves to define who is a journalist and who is not.

Senator Charles Schumer says that this bill “balances the need for national security with that of a free press.” Though wouldn’t that beg the question, if the press (media) is restricted (balanced with security), how could it be free?

Of course the real story here centers around Senator Dianne Feinstein who has for weeks insisted that the committee must create and limit a definition for the title of “reporter”. Feinstein says that she cannot support everyone who has a blog with “special privilege”, going on to say “If Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have privilege. I’m not going to go there.”

Senator Feinstein

Some groups like The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press are supporting the bill which was approved by a vote of 13-5 as being a step in the right direction. The group supports a Feinstein amendment to the bill which allows it to cover journalists on several levels including freelancers, part-timers and student journalists. Though the bill itself doesn’t actually cover anyone because it goes on to allow the Feds to “compel disclosure” from journalists who have information that could stop or prevent crimes, prevent acts of terrorism or information that could cause “significant harm to national security.”

So lets go back for a minute to what Senator Feinstein said about Edward Snowden. The Senator believes that the shield law should be limited because if it is not, Snowden could start his own website and be protected? But if the Feds believe that what Snowden shares with a reporter is a danger to national security, even under the structure of this law, the shield law would be ineffective.

Of course, through all of this, the biggest issue is that Congress is attempting to pass a law to “define a privilege” that is not a privilege at all. Freedom of the press is a right. According to Black’s Law Dictionary “a constitutional right is a right that has been guaranteed by the United States Constitution that cannot be violated by laws or by Congress.”

Freedom of the press is a Constitutional right and cannot be revoked, even for national security purposes. You likely already know this, so why is it important? Because please notice that Senator Feinstein above refers to extending shield law protection as “special privilege”.

Go back to Black’s Law Dictionary. A privilege is defined as “A particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person, company, or class, beyond the common advantages of other citizens.”

The biggest difference between a right and a privilege… one can be revoked and the other cannot. Consider for a moment the men who helped to frame revolution for the colonies at the birth of the country. No single person was more influential in sowing the seeds of revolution than Thomas Paine, who in 1776 self-published a pamphlet titled “Common Sense.” Paine, was not a “professional journalist” in fact, he was a corset maker by trade. And yet it was Paine who was among the first to openly reject the idea of the colonies subjecting themselves to the British government thousands of miles away. During the early battles of the Revolution when the Continental Army suffered humiliating defeats, it was Paine who published papers titled “American Crisis”.

Poet Joel Barlow might have best described the role of Thomas Paine, one of the original “alternative journalists” in America by saying “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.”

When Senator Feinstein claims that protecting a “real reporter” is important but protecting the rights of a “17 year-old with a website” is not, she and other members of Congress are attempting to define who has permission to speak and who does not.