Don’t Speak, Especially When We Subpoena You: Free Speech In The USA *Open THread*

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A Facebook friend tagged me with the following article from The Daily Beast, How the Feds Asked Me to Rat Out Commenters, by Nick Gillespie. She knows that I have a blog, and that I care about the Constitution, so this was right up my alley.

And oh, what a disturbing article it is. It goes right along with other Free Speech issues we have been discussing here of late. It also goes along with what I have been reading in Sharyl Attkisson’s, “Stonewalled…” Bottom line, it is chilling:

Reason.com, the website I edit, was recently commanded by the feds to provide information on a few commenters and not discuss it. Here’s why we’re speaking out.

Is there anything more likely to make you shit your pants out of a mix of fear and anger than getting a federal subpoena out of the blue?

Well, yes, there is: getting a gag order that prohibits you from speaking publicly about that subpoena and even the gag order itself. Talk about feeling isolated and cast adrift in the home of the free. You can’t even respond honestly when someone asks, “Are you under a court order not to speak?”

Far more important: talk about realizing that open expression and press freedom are far more tenuous than even the most cynical of us can imagine! Even when you have done nothing wrong and aren’t the target of an investigation, you can be commanded, at serious financial cost and disruption of your business, to dance to a tune called by the long arm of the law.

I told you this was chilling. Who the hell knew all of this could happen, no, IS happening, by the Federal Government?

There is more:

This all just happened to my colleagues and me at Reason.com, the libertarian website I edit. On May 31, I blogged about the life sentence given to Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the “dark web” site Silk Road, by Judge Katherine Forrest. In the comments section, a half-dozen commenters unloaded on Forrest, suggesting that, among other things, she should burn in hell, “be taken out back and shot,” and, in a well-worn Internet homage to the Coen Brothers movie Fargo, be fed “feet first” into a woodchipper.

The comments betrayed a naive belief in an afterlife and karma, were grammatically and spelling-challenged, hyperbolic, and… completely within the realm of acceptable Internet discourse, especially for an unmoderated comments section. (Like other websites, Reason is not legally responsible for what goes on in our comments section; we read the comments sometimes but don’t actively curate them.)

But the U.S. attorney for U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York thought differently and on June 2 issued a grand jury subpoena to Reason for all identifying information we had on the offending commenters—things such as IP addresses, names, emails, and other information. At first, the feds requested that we “voluntarily” refrain from disclosing the subpoena to anybody. Out of sense of fairness and principle, we notified the targeted commenters, who could have moved to quash the subpoena. Then came the gag order on June 4, barring us from talking about the whole business with anyone outside our organization besides our lawyers.

You can read a detailed account of how events, including the lifting of the gag order, played out here. As the legal blogger Ken White of Popehat has argued, the episode is plainly a huge abuse of power.

Isn’t that crazy? I mean, really – if the Feds go after every whackadoodle who makes hyperbolic comment on the internet, they are going to be tied up for some time to come, for starters. But for seconders (!), what about FREE SPEECH?? The subpoenas were bad enough, but then a GAG order to boot?? Good grief.

The issues here are even more insidious when you consider the scope – and who is paying for it. Yep, us:

[…] But that’s your tax dollars at work, costing a reputable, award-winning website—albeit one that is sharply critical of government when it comes to snooping in the boardroom and the bedroom—time and money to comply with a subpoena for non-threatening readers. Even worse, the feds are doing the same to readers who may or may not have any resources to help them comply with legal proceedings that can go very wrong very quickly.

“Subpoenaing Reason’s website records, wasting its staff’s time and forcing it to pay legal fees in hopes of imposing even larger legal costs (or even a plea bargain or two) on the average Joes who dared to voice their dissident views in angry tones sends an intimidating message: It’s dangerous not just to create something like Silk Road,” writes former Reason editor Virginia Postrel at Bloomberg View, concisely defining the chilling effect such actions have. “It’s dangerous to defend it, and even more dangerous to attack those who would punish its creator. You may think you have free speech, but we’ll find a way to make you pay.”[…] (Click here to read the rest of this disturbing article.)

We have seen this intent before, of course. This kind of silencing, this targeting. It is precisely what the IRS did to a number of groups, both conservative and religious, who dared speak their minds.

Our ability to say what we think and believe these days is coming into serious question. If we aren’t being silenced by the government, we are by the PC Police.

An Army officer, Jordan Thompson, has quite a bit to say about the impact of Political Correctness on our country as he made clear in the following Facebook rant (h/t Daily Caller):

I’m offended that everyone is offended by something.

[…]

I’m offended that people care more about taking down an outdated Confederate flag but don’t get riled up when their American flag is being burned in the street. I’m offended that people care more about blocking homosexuals from getting married than fixing their own, broken and unstable, heterosexual marriages. I’m offended that fast food workers get paid more than my soldiers yet still expect to get paid more than nurses.

[…]

I’m offended by people who vote for a person based on the party they represent, the race or gender, age or a religion of a candidate… instead of how the candidate proposes to address each issue, respectively. I’m offended by people who aren’t open-minded and think they’re always right, no matter what. I’m offended by people who don’t listen and read and legitimately try to understand unfamiliar concepts before brushing them off. I’m offended of what our country has become. […] (Click here to read the rest.)

I am offended by a lot of those same things, sir. Absolutely. And I am offended that our government under Obama refuses to call Islamic terrorism what it is, something the French have no problem doing. And sadly, they are having to do so again today after an ISIS attack against an American company there. And that is not the only place overnight. Three different attacks in three different countries, but we cannot even call it terrorism, but will blame a FLAG for the deaths of nine people.

There is something seriously, seriously wrong in this country when our right to free speech is continually under assault under the guise of “Political Correctness,” or worse, for speaking out against the government. I don’t know how we got here so fast, and I am not sure how we get out of this. But we must try. And we must speak, no matter how much they try to silence us.

This is an Open Thread.

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38 Responses to “Don’t Speak, Especially When We Subpoena You: Free Speech In The USA *Open THread*”

  1. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    SCOTUS just came out with its ruling in FAVOR of same-sex marriage. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion; Justice Roberts the dissenting opinion.

    WOW!

    • kenoshamarge Says:

      So if I read this right Roberts is FOR ObamaCare and AGAINST same sex marriage? The man’s an idiot!

      • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

        Seriously – as I noted below, his opinions are EXACTLY the opposite of each other from one day to the next. It is just nuts.

        Now Judge Napolitano is saying these two opinions do not seem to be written by the same man.

        Something is off.

        And I do appreciate the issue of – you guessed it – STATES RIGHTS when it comes to this. How are these two things squared?

      • foxyladi14 Says:

        😆

    • cindyindie Says:

      Congratulations, Cuzin and Suzy!! We’re so happy for you!

  2. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    I’ve decided that Chief Roberts is bi-polar. His rationale for NOT supporting this, i.e., that the Bench should not legislate, is exactly how he justified supporting the ACA yesterday. Seriously. They are talking abt it now, and it is really STUNNING to see the massive hypocrisy one day from the next. Is someone else writing these things? Is he schizophrenic? WTH with him?

    Shannon Bream literally said the same thing just now – hard to believe these were written by the same man. No. Kidding.

  3. kenoshamarge Says:

    I am offended by the same things that offend you and Jordan Thompson. I loved his rant!

    Hey wait a minute, I’ve got an idea…

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      Isn’t he something? There was more to his rant, but I had to leave some out so the post wouldn’t be TOO long.

      Suzy showed me a flag today to offend everyone – I’ll see if I can find it. It was pretty funny.

      • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

        Let’s see if this shows up:

        • kenoshamarge Says:

          That’s a good one. But the left wouldn’t get as upset about it as they do about the Confederate Flag because…

          • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

            Oh, yeah – there is that… 🙂

            • cindyindie Says:

              Cuz—-Let’s see, the Confederate flag was flying in South Carolina when the first black Senator since Reconstruction was elected….from South Carolina!!!…..and was a Republican!!!! And it was flying when a black man was elected Prez of U.S. for the very first time, not to mention the U.S. Senate confirming not one, but two black Attorneys General of the U.S………..So, ye gads! What a detriment to integration and equality that Confederate flag has been……Oh, wait! 🙂

      • foxyladi14 Says:

        sharing

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Isn’t it funny? Cracked me up…

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Cuz’n, what a great observation! Yes, all those things managed to happen even with the existence of the Confederate Flag. I dunno, maybe i am a little sensitive since I am one of the 70 million Rep Ben Jones keeps mentioning as being descended from a Confederate soldier (at least a couple if not more, one of whom, a grandfather a few times great was an officer in the CA) that I am a little sensitive to all of this, but mainly it is because it is an on-going attempt to diminish Southern culture and history. That just irritates me…

          • cindyindie Says:

            I understand, Cuzin—I’m VERY sensitive about the South…my people were good decent people! My gg grandfather from Mississippi died in that horrible yankee prison camp in Chicago, Camp Douglas. The conditions were so deplorable there…..it’s very hard to read about it.
            Well, can’t wait to see what the damn liberal yankees have in store for us, this time around with their version of “Reconstruction”! God help us.
            P.S. My doorbell still plays “Dixie”—they’ll have to pry it from my dead cold hands! LOL!

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          Oh, WOW, Cindie – that is incredible abt your gg Grandfather and the prison camp! Holy smokes.

          Your comment abt the “damn liberal Yankees” and what they have in store for us is the question, isn’t it? Confederate graves, statues, all that being desecrated or people screaming to take down as if the War just ended or something. It is ridiculous. They have taken this opportunity and just gone WAY over the edge with it, IMO.

          It is the refusal, as one friend noted, to acknowledge the Recent Unpleasantness, as they refer to it in Charleston, was abt anything OTHER than slavery, not understanding basic history. And that mentality is being pushed relentlessly as a way to put down the South. Any opportunity, it seems…

          LOL abt the doorbell!

  4. insanitybytes22 Says:

    That really is frightening. Free speech really is a fragile and tenuous thing, holding on by a thread at the moment. I do not like what I am seeing.

    I hate to show any empathy or understanding for this subpeona because I just think it’s wrong on so many levels, but on the flip side I can’t cover my eyes to some appalling behavior on the internet. Nearly all of it is bluster and bravado from keyboard warriors blowing off steam, but some people take it too far, start issuing death threats, doxxing people they disagree with, notifying employers. My point being, things can get ugly on the internet. Just because we CAN say it, doesn’t mean we SHOULD say it. I’ve been on this campaign to try and convince people to act like a human while on the internet, a futile task I’m sure, but the fact of the matter is that you cannot run around issuing death threats towards public official without attracting some attention from the Gov.

    The real problem however, is the code of conduct that starts being embraced when we cross those lines, so the politics of personal destruction become the name of the game. A lot of small time bloggers have actually shut down because of harassment and bullying from random strangers on the internet. The Feds have the full force of the Gov to protect themselves with, the little people don’t.

    I sound like a mom here, but when is it okay to issue death threats and reveal your secret revenge fantasies? Like never.

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      I agree that real death threats MUST be taken seriously, but as Gillespie noted, many of the comments were abt Karma, what should happen in the hereafter, and one particular commenter had over 5,000 comments that were hyperbolic, but not actual threats.

      And he also noted what a cesspool much of the internet has become. I agree that many people have lost any sense of good manners, decency, and decorum, allowing their most base selves to spew freely from the freedom of their basements or wherever. But that the site made clear that it does not monitor comments in the first place should have been a marker for the Feds, but then to demand information abt the commenters was pushing it.

      Anyway, I appreciate your campaign – truly! So keep it up, sister!

    • foxyladi14 Says:

      Free speech is a myth these days. 😡

  5. helenk3 Says:

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      So true. And apparently, as happy as I am abt this ruling for me personally, the distinction between the legislative and judiciary is now blurred in a big way, isn’t it?

  6. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    This tongue-in-cheek piece abt Justice Roberts sounds about right: http://www.whitehousedossier.com/2015/06/25/roberts-to-teach-creative-writing-class/?awt_l=GqfMw&awt_m=3dyb7TtvSyTM1Od

  7. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    In other news, what in the HELL is going on with the Vatican signing a treaty with Palestine? Wow: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/26/us-vatican-palestinians-idUSKBN0P618120150626

  8. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    Ohmygosh, how can you not love this young man:

  9. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    I just don’t even know what to say abt the State Department’s response to what Iran does to its gay and lesbian citizens: http://dailycaller.com/2015/06/26/state-department-officially-calls-irans-forced-sex-change-surgeries-confirmation/

  10. kenoshamarge Says:

    Here’s the delightful Jonah Goldberg exposing the lefties as the liars and frauds that they are and doing it with humor and facts. Love that Jonah!

    Liberals Are Playing A Racial Shell Game

    So: We live in a world where Bobby Jindal is a fake Indian, but it’s racist to say an older white woman isn’t a real one (the correct term being “Native American,” of course). Nikki Haley is a villain for “suppressing” her Indian roots, but Sen. Ted Cruz is a fraud for touting his Cuban roots. (Cruz was recently grilled by Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin about how authentically Cuban he really is. At least Halperin later apologized).

    http://townhall.com/columnists/jonahgoldberg/2015/06/26/liberals-are-playing-a-racial-shell-game-n2017713

    • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

      EXCELLENT!! So love this man and his writing. He is so right. Can you IMAGINE if any MSM outlet had said the same thing abt a Democrat that is being said abt Jindal or Haley or Cruz or Rubio? People would be going berserk. But since it is the liberals, they can say whatever they damn well please.

      Thanks for this!

      • kenoshamarge Says:

        Always happy to share Jonah with another fan! 😉

        • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

          And I so appreciate that. I could not BELIEVE when a MAJOR “news” outlet made that claim abt Jindal. WTH is wrong with these people?!?!

          But Jonah Goldberg said it much nicer than I just did! 🙂

  11. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    For a little trip down Memory Lane, Hillary then and Now: http://www.ijreview.com/2015/06/353955-hillary-clinton-in-2004-vs-hillary-clinton-in-2015-on-gay-marriage/

  12. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    I want to share with y’all the speech my Senator, Tim Scott, gave on the Senate floor this past week. It is powerful indeed: Thank you Mr. President

    I stand before you today, before the nation, not as a Senator, not as an elected official, but as a humble South Carolinian. The past week has been one of terrible tragedy – and amazing unity.

    Last Wednesday night, we experienced an unimaginable tragedy. Nine men and women…nine mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters lost forever. The hateful and racist actions of one deranged man have changed 9 families forever; it has changed South Carolina forever, Charleston forever.

    But, what we saw from the 9 families at last Friday’s bond hearing was simple, it was powerful, and absolutely the best of who we are as Americans.

    Just a few minutes ago I was back in the Cloakroom and I had the opportunity to talk to one of the victim’s son, Daniel Simmons Jr. And I was talking to him back there and I said, “Is there anything you want me to share when I go on the floor of the Senate?” He said, “Please, share that God cares for his people. God still lives.”

    And I was amazed. And then he said with great enthusiasm and energy, a sense of excitement, that this evil attack would lead to reconciliation, restoration, and unity in our nation.

    Those were powerful words.

    It is with great sadness and amazing hope that our future as a nation has been changed. It has been changed because one person decided to murder nine. It has been changed because the response of those nine families has been so courageous, so inspiring. And if you will permit me I will read the names of those nine individuals.

    We honor the Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, a beloved teacher, coach at Goose Creek High School. Her son Chris has shown us all what an amazing mother she was through his strength over the past six days.

    We honor Cynthia Hurd, whose love for education has been shared with so many over her 31 years as a librarian in the public library system.

    We honor Susie Jackson, who at 87 years young still offered her beautiful voice to the choir, and had recently returned from visiting her family in Ohio.

    We honor Ethel Lee Lance, who served her church with pride, whose daughter calls her the “strong woman who just tried to keep her family together.”

    We honor Depayne Middleton-Doctor, who dedicated her life to serving the poor and helping her students as an enrollment counselor at Southern Wesleyan University.

    We honor, my good friend, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, an amazing man of faith, a great dad and a wonderful father.

    We honor Tywanza Sanders, beloved son of Tyrone and Felicia, whose warmth and heartfelt spirit has kept us moving.

    We honor the Reverend Daniel Simmons, Senior, whose granddaughter said, “My granddaddy was an amazing man. It seemed like every time he spoke it was pure wisdom.”

    And we honor Pastor Myra Thompson, who served the Lord with grace and dignity. She loved her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.

    If you would just pause for 9 seconds, a second for each one I would appreciate it.

    Thank you.

    In closing, I want to thank all of my colleagues in the Senate and in the House for their kind words over the past week, and for the prayers that continue to come into our city from across the nation.

    We are Charleston. We are South Carolina. And we are absolutely united.

    And we are committed to replacing hate with love, pain with kindness, and ill will and hostility with good will and comfort.

    Amen to that.

  13. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    Here is another outstanding piece by Jonah Goldberg on Charleston, the Flag, the South, and the bigoted opinions of too many abt us (h/t Facebook): http://www.nationalreview.com/article/420204/charleston-shooting-response-south-left-condescension?eXzCgdyMvTd8Ml53.01

  14. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    Oh, boy – check out this warning from Justice Roberts about religious groups and their tax exempt status in regards to the change by the SCOTUS: http://dailycaller.com/2015/06/26/roberts-warns-churches-could-lose-tax-exempt-status-for-opposing-gay-marriage/

  15. Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

    My beloved great Aunt June passed away this morning. Her faithful caregiver, Josie, was at her side. The Rehab staff said they had never seen anyone love their mother more than Josie did. They were mighty surprised to learn that she and her family, who came to see Aunt June regularly, were not blood kin to her. Thank heavens Josie was with her, and I am thankful for the time I had with her this past week. She is Home now…

    • kenoshamarge Says:

      My deepest sympathy for your loss Amy. And my belief that I share with you that she is home now. Safe in the loving arms.

      • Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy Says:

        Thank you so much, Marge. I appreciate it. And yes, she is home, in no pain, and reunited with her family…

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