On the National Day of Blogger Silence, Stand Up for the First Amendment

Jimmie Bise Jr. by Jimmie Bise Jr. on June 8th, 2012

This is article 64 of 114 in the topic Free Speech

The ongoing saga of lying felon Brett Kimberlin has advanced this week with news alternately good, bad, and good again. Aaron Walker, arrested thanks to a judge’s inexcusable disregard for the law has legal help on the way. First Amendment legal giant Eugene Volokh has agreed to help Walker’s defense. Parts of the story, particularly the parts where Kimberlin or someone acting in sympathy with him and his goals “SWAT” innocent Americans, have reached the MSM. David Hogberg of the Investor’s Business Daily’s Politics and Markets Blog has written about the story and ABC News (not CNN, who had one of its commentators SWATted) has reported on the SWAT-related part of the story in some detail.

The National Bloggers’ Club, a non-profit organization devoted to protecting and promoting new media, signed on to help Walker get a good legal defense. That act of civic engagement, however, put the group’s President Ali A. Akbar squarely in Kimberlin’s sights. A photograph of his mother’s house and a lengthy post about Akbar and the NBC appeared on an anti-Andrew Breitbart site — a website about which Kimberlin to my knowledge claims no connection — and shortly after that he received a threat of legal action from a lawyer who claimed to represent Kimberlin’s Justice Through Music Project.

One might question the timing.

So that was the good news, then the bad news. The second helping of good news? The American Center for Law and Justice has stepped in to represent Walker in his appeal of what I believe are bogus charges against him. The ACLJ is one of the true heavy hitters on First Amendment issues. It is a mortal lock that if some judge like C.J. Vaughey tries to pull his “Hey, let’s get this thing wrapped up in ten and to hell with the Supreme Court” routine, the ACLJ will have him for lunch. Also, today, the story reached Congress. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) have asked for the Attorney General to investigate the SWATting cases. Given the predelictions of our current Attorney General, it’s not likely their requests will be taken seriously, but they’re out there and where there are two, there can be many more.

That is the story, at least the broad strokes of it at any rate, to date. I understand if it seems confusing. It’s sometimes confusing to me. It’s not necessarily important, though, that you know all the details. Here is what is important.

The goal of Kimberlin and those who act like him is simple. They want you to be afraid, so afraid that you will not speak out freely and boldly in the public arena. Their message, so plain any reasonable person can see it is this: if you disagree with us in any way in public, we will make a spectacle of you. Kimberlin and his ilk have assaulted the First Amendment in a way we have not seen in this country in a very long time. They want our silence and, today, that is what they will get. Ace has called for a National Day of Blogger Silence in which I will participate. This will be the only post I write at The Sundries Shack today (my co-bloggers might have posts of their own later). I won’t post to my Twitter feed either, except to send the link to this post.

Now it is time for our elected officials to act. Their core mission is to uphold the Constitution of the United States. The most fundamental freedom, so important that it is spelled out specifically and first among all the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, is the Freedom of Speech. Our Founders knew it was essential that the citizenry be free to speak as they pleased, especially about matters of politics. To speak far more crassly, there are quite a few Republicans on the Hill today who owe us in new media for stumping for them, promoting money-bombs, introducing tens of thousands of people a month to them, and encouraging those people to vote for them through an entire election year. We spent a lot of time and effort working for them. It is time they spent a little time working for us. It is, after all, their job.

I ask Congress now to guarantee our Freedom of Speech. My suggestion is a national anti-SLAPP law, modeled on the California state law outlined here by the law-blogger Popehat. That law would serve as the a basic minimum on which the states could build more stringent protections against abuse of our legal systems. No matter what they do, however, it is imperative they take this attack on the First Amendment seriously. Congress could bring in Mr. Volokh, Popehat, Kurt Schlichter, and James Skyles — experts on First Amendment law and SLAPP lawsuits — to help craft the law.

Here’s where you can help. Find your members of Congress on this list and contact them (that is the most comprehensive list I can find. I know nothing of who put it together, however). Ask them to look into the stories of Aaron Walker, Patterico, Stacy McCain, Erick Erickson, and others. Ask them to learn about SWATting and the frivolous use of the legal system to squelch political speech. Then ask them to take decisive action to protect your First Amendment rights. Be polite — always be polite — but be insistent. Make it known that your support of their re-election effort could hinge on what they do about this important issue. If you are well-versed on the matter, offer to speak to your member of Congress or a very senior staffer to explain things to them in terms they can easily understand. Send them links to good blog posts (like the ones I linked here to Popehat’s blog or this one by Stacy McCain). Let them know that Senator Chambliss and Rep. Marchand have already spoken out. Give your best effort to get them on the issue, then asks your friends and family members to do the same.

As individuals, we are easily intimidated and silenced. As a throng, a throng that demands our elected representatives represent us, we all remain free.

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