Imagine, gentle readers, that you make an anonymous comment on an article here at SMM. Imagine further that comment is not flattering to a government official, say a federal judge. Imagine that a US Attorney sends me a subpoena demanding your identity and obtains a gag order that prevents me from notifying you about what is going on, and also prevents me from telling anyone you–and SMM–are being investigated.
Would that–because you are an American citizen–bother you?
That’s just what recently happened to Reason.com. Six anonymous commenters left hyperbolic comments about a federal judge who, in their opinion, handed down an excessively punitive sentence in a specific case. The U.S. Attorneys for the Southern District of New York involved were US Attorney Preet Bharara and Assistant US Attorney Niketh Velamoor. Accompanying their subpoena was a “voluntary” demand that Reason tell no one, including the anonymous commenters, about the subpoena.
Reason did not comply and told the commenters. Several hours later the same day, Velamoor obtained a gag order, preventing Reason from telling the commenters–it had already been done by that time–and ordering Reason to say nothing to anyone about the subpoena and gag order. Velamoor subsequently threatened Reason, but the gag order was eventually withdrawn, and Reason is now writing about the case, and the egregious, dictatorial abridgement–actual prior restraint–of free speech it represents. By all means, go here and read the entire thing. Also go here to Popehat, for additional, pertinent commentary.
Theoretically, Bhrara and Velamoor were acting within the law if they actually, in good faith, were investigating those comments as viable threats. If not, they were petty tyrants trying to punish the little people who dared question the majesty and brilliance of the best and brightest, the masters of the little people. It’s very unlikely they believed those comments represented actual threats in violation of federal law. Could they be that stupid? More likely they were merely drunk with power, and determined to hurt people because they could, and they knew they’d get away with it.
This seems a good time to explain my general comments policy here at SMM. This is my scruffy little blog. I am the sole author and solely responsible for its content. I am not so foolish as to imagine that some amoral minion of the federal government drunk with power may not some day serve me with a subpoena, or perhaps send federal agents to my door. I know how these people think–or fail to think–and what they are prone to do. That such things have not yet happened is probably more a function of the fact that I am not in the top rank of most-read blogs like Instapundit, and I generally avoid the kind of hyperbolic commentary and comments that are at issue in the Reason case. In other words, I’m reasonably small potatoes in the blogosphere even though my writing is often reblogged and linked all over the world, including, upon occasion, on some of the high traffic sites.
That, of course, is no proof against governmental abuse, particularly in the age of Obama, where Mr. Obama obviously believes in the Chicago way. What’s the point of having near absolute power if one can’t use it to bludgeon one’s political enemies and to keep the little people in line with a bit of soft–even hard–tyranny? Would the last sentence be prone to get me in trouble with a petty federal bureaucrat like Mr. Bharara or Mr. Velamoor? Of course, but they do tend to have bigger, more heavily trafficked fish to scorch.
I ask that commenters be civil, not because I fear the tyranny that is the subject of this article, but because I try to make SMM a blog where reason and civility reign, where smart people can find and make rational arguments and perhaps find the occasional insight into the human condition. Perhaps readers can actually find thought-provoking ideas about how life might be better lived.
To that end, I don’t allow abusive language, obscenities, and general stupidity and expressions of anger. Occasionally, I’ll allow less rational people to express a bit of overt passion because their lack of control and intellect speaks for them and I know SMM readers will see that point. I also ask that readers not embed videos, but include links to video instead. Embedded videos use up my graphics memory allotment, which can get rather pricey rather fast. I also don’t allow threats. Satire or parody might occasionally approach that line, but again, I trust readers to recognize humor and metaphor.
As the Reason article suggests, there must surely be a great deal more unlawful suppression of speech going on, far more than people imagine. The Obama Administration’s lawlessness is, for the time being, mostly unknown. We’re seeing only the tip of that particular iceberg.
One day, when Barack Obama is running the United Nations or something similar worthy of his talents–golf bum? Selfie taker?–we may discover just how lawless he and his minions were. It’s far, far worse than we imagine. I would hope that when we do, a Republican is in the White House, and Republicans are in control of Congress, and not the wimpy RINOS currently in charge, actual patriots, people who take seriously their oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution. I hope that President and those representatives do not foolishly avoid making federally employed criminals pay for their abuse of the American people due to a misguided sense of altruism. It has to stop somewhere, and merely appealing to the good nature of unaccountable federal thugs will not do the job.
Then, each and every bureaucrat that abused the American people and the Constitution must be professionally investigated, and if charges warrant, prosecuted under the rule of law. Their fundamental rights must be fully upheld, the rights they denied to others. Only then will federal employees begin to understand–when they see their coworkers losing their pensions and spending years in prison–that perhaps they really are the employees of the American people, not their masters, and there are actual consequences for behaving like Stalinist thugs rather than honest servants of the Constitution.
As for Mr. Bharara and Mr. Velamoor? It couldn’t happen to worse people.