Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, April 7th, 2009.

Sedition and Crowded Theaters

criminal justice, The Constitution

In the comments to the last post several of you mentioned sedition, so let’s talk about that. Sedition is the incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority, the dictionary says. You can find plenty of that in the delusional rantings of Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck.

We know now that part of what set off Richard Poplawski’s shooting of three policemen was the belief that Barack Obama was going to take away his firearms. This belief has no basis in fact, but it’s been propagated by well-paid right-wing media figures and the National Rifle Association. Isn’t this something along the lines of falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater?

We don’t have to speculate that right-wing hate speech has real-world, violent consequences. It’s happened. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

As a liberal, I am loathe to dig up the Smith Act — which I understand is still on the books — or enacting any anti-sedition legislation to prosecute people for their speech. In U.S. history sedition laws mostly have been used by people in authority to harass citizens they don’t like, or whose associations were suspect, not to suppress speech that was actually dangerous to anyone. And you know if sedition prosecutions become an issue now, as soon as the Right gets back into power (which is bound to happen eventually) everyone they don’t like will be in jeopardy. Got to suppress the fifth columnists in the name of freedom, of course.

So, what’s to be done? I haven’t a clue. You know they can’t be shamed into shutting up.

Update: Here’s a couple of videos I just picked up from Kos:

Newt is a politician. It’s hard to make them go away.

See also Joan Walsh.

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