USA Today suspends columnist Glenn Reynolds for one month

Re: USA Today suspends columnist Glenn Reynolds for one mont

Postby admin » Wed Dec 28, 2016 8:18 am

Wrong Colors: Larry Elder explains why it’s “not news” when “Unarmed White Teen Killed by Cop; Two White Cops Killed by Blacks.”
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds
August 13, 2015

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The media enthusiastically remind us that it’s the first anniversary of the death of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, a death that spawned the so-called Black Lives Matter movement.

In a September speech at the United Nations, President Barack Obama said, “The world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri — where a young man was killed, and a community was divided.”

Never mind that both a grand jury and the federal Department of Justice exonerated the officer who shot and killed Brown. Never mind that neither the physical evidence nor eyewitness testimony corroborated the assertions that Brown had his hands up or that he said, “Don’t shoot.” . . .

The media enthusiastically remind us that it’s the first anniversary of the death of Ferguson’s Michael Brown, a death that spawned the so-called Black Lives Matter movement.

In a September speech at the United Nations, President Barack Obama said, “The world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri — where a young man was killed, and a community was divided.” . . .

In just the last two weeks, two cops, who happened to be white, were killed by two suspects, who happened to be black. And an unarmed white teen was killed by a cop.

In Tennessee, Memphis police Officer Sean Bolton approached an illegally parked car, apparently interrupting a drug deal that was taking place inside. The car’s passenger got out, engaged Bolton in a physical struggle and shot the officer multiple times. Bolton, a 33-year-old Marine vet who served in Iraq, died at the hospital. . . .In Louisiana, Shreveport Officer Thomas LaValley was dispatched to investigate a potential prowler, an armed man reportedly threatening a family member inside a house. When LaValley arrived, he was shot multiple times, and pronounced dead at the hospital. . . .

In South Carolina, an unarmed teenager was shot and killed by a cop. Zachary Hammond, 19, was out on a first date when he was fatally shot by a Seneca police officer during a drug bust. . . .The Hammond family wonders why so little national attention has been focused on their son’s death. “It’s sad, but I think the reason is, unfortunately, the media and our government officials have treated the death of an unarmed white teenager differently than they would have if this were a death of an unarmed black teen,” said Eric Bland, the family’s attorney.


We all know that it’s #BlackLivesMatter, with the emphasis being on black. It’s an overtly racist movement, focusing on police killings of blacks, not any other race, and without regard to any actual statistical data or evidence in particular cases. Instead of shunning such overt racism in 2015, top Democrats are embracing it, and Republicans are trying to stay as quiet as possible, lest the racist ire be directed toward them, as it was recently with Bernie Sanders.

#BlackLivesMatter is racially divisive at a time when this country desperately needs unity, and its votaries have on blinders about the biggest problem of all in the black community: black-on-black murder. The only candidate who seems to have the courage to acknowledge this is Ben Carson. So far, the Black Lives Matter movement has left Dr. Carson alone, presumably because of his race. How typical of them. Perhaps they are also afraid that a thoughtful, fact-based response by a black Republican candidate might take away some of the momentum of their self-righteous, divisive, racist indignation?
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Re: USA Today suspends columnist Glenn Reynolds for one mont

Postby admin » Sat Dec 31, 2016 9:19 pm

True Threats v. Protected Speech, Post-Election Edition
by Ken White
November 16, 2016

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So. Thank goodness everyone seems to be going about this really calmly.

Dateline: Rutgers. Kevin Allred, a professor of Beyoncé Studies, is not taking recent news philosophically. In the course of a rant he offers these:

Kevin Allred
‏@KevinAllred
if i see any Trump bumper stickers on the road today, my brakes will go out and i'll run you off the road.
7:35 AM - 9 Nov 2016


Kevin Allred
‏@KevinAllred
“Will the 2nd amendment be as cool when I buy a gun and start shooting at random white people or no…?”
11:20 PM - 9 Nov 2016


Days later, the NYPD shows up at his home and hauls him off to Bellvue for a psychiatric evaluation.

Analysis of when law enforcement can detain you and forcibly commit you for psychiatric evaluation is complicated and beyond the scope of this post. Let's look at the easier question: were those tweets illegal threats, or protected by the First Amendment?

The answer: they're probably protected speech. Remember, only "true threats" are outside the scope of First Amendment protection. A statement is only a "true threat" if a reasonable person would interpret the words, in their context, as an expression of actual intent to do harm. In addition, the speaker must either intend that the words be taken as a statement of intent to do harm, or at least must be reckless about whether or not they would be interpreted that way (that's still a bit up in the air, legally).

Here, the context is a tweet rant by a Rutgers professor. The Second Amendment tweet is part of a rant about gun control, and the bumper sticker tweet is part of an attack of intellectual and emotional incontinence about Trump. Neither threatens a specific target and both sound figurative and hyperbolic. So: the government probably can't satisfy the objective test (that a reasonable person would read these as sincere threats), let alone the subjective test (what he intended). It's likely protected by the First Amendment. Legally.

Practically, this sort of thing will get you arrested, if someone happens to catch a cop's attention with it. Stuff that is far more clearly satirical results in arrest and prosecution all of the time. Usually the people arrested are a lot less privileged than a Rutgers professor, and it's much easier to be arrested if you say something mean about police officers. But these tweets were close enough to the line (especially read out of context, as cops tend to read such things in the heat of the moment) that an arrest isn't surprising. You might even wind up having to take a case like this to trial if you get charged. Allred's threatening to sue — but if it's on the theory that his speech was protected, he'll probably lose, because the speech is close enough to the line that the cops are likely protected by qualified immunity even if a judge agrees that the tweets were only hyperbole.

I think that the tweets should be protected, embedded as they are in a figurative expression of rage. But Allred's an asshole. If I were one of his co-workers, or students, I would be a little worried about being around him, because I wouldn't be sure that these are hyperbole. If I were his employer, I'd spend the whole day dealing with the fallout and trying to weigh risk and liability and the fears of other employees.

(The flip side is that far worse stuff gets said online all the time without anyone taking action — because law enforcement is arbitrary and capricious.)

Dateline: San Diego. Matt Harrigan, founder of PacketSled, is nonplussed:

Matt Harrigan
I'm going to kill the president. Elect.

***

Matt Harrigan
Bring it secret service.

***

Matt Harrigan
Nope, getting a sniper rifle and perching myself where it counts. Find a bedroom in the whitehouse that suits you motherfucker. I'll find you

***

Matt Harrigan
In no uncertain terms, fuck you America. Seriously. Fuck off.

***

Matt Harrigan
Bring it.


This ends with Harrigan resigning his position and, I suspect, waiting for a visit from the Secret Service.

This, too, was likely protected speech. As I explained in 2012 when jackasses were incensed over Obama's reelection, threats against a President or President-elect are subject to a true threats analysis as well. Under the federal statute prohibiting such threats, there are two questions: (1) would the statement be understood by people hearing or reading it in context as a serious expression of an intent to kill or injure the official? and (2) did the defendant intend that the statement be understood as a threat?

Here, Harrigan was talking to Facebook followers, and the statements were part of a stream of rage. Despite the fact that he offered details about how he would kill President-Elect Trump, given the context and audience reasonable people probably wouldn't take this as a genuine statement of intent to do harm, and it would be difficult to prove he meant it that way. People familiar with the context would likely interpret it as the venting of someone who is accustomed to getting his way suddenly being thwarted. Therefore it's likely protected by the First Amendment, and because it's part of hyperbole, ought to be. But it's damned close to the line.

Once again, this sort of outburst gets people arrested all the time. Sometimes it gets people charged. Sometimes it results in convictions. Harrigan is well-positioned to skate because he's an affluent white techbro on Facebook. If you're a disturbed jobless nobody or a prisoner, you may get convicted, even though objective analysis ought to suggest that your rant is even more impotent and unlikely than Harrigan's. "Reasonable person" analysis tends to discredit threats from people like Harrigan and Allred and credit threats from people who are offensively dark, poor, incarcerated, or unbalanced in a way that does not lead to tenure. That's the way the system works. Sorry, no refunds.
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