Freedom of Speech and State Power as a Threat

The question has arisen in some circles of how advocacy of free speech can be reconciled with retaliatory attacks on Sarah Palin’s PAC web site. The answer is that Sarah Palin has not merely been critical of Wikileaks. Rather, in her advocacy of use of state power against Wikileaks she has issued what amount to criminal threats. Only anarchists correctly recognize that one cannot rightfully advocate that the state (or anyone else) do something that you cannot rightfully do yourself.

Sarah Palin’s credible threats against Wikileaks constitute the original breach of the peace, or aggression. Harassment of her via Operation Payback rightfully ought to be considered “lawful” obstruction of her ongoing crimes — in the sense that human beings have inherent rights, that these rights form the basis of a non-governmental code of justice that can be articulated without and outside of any political government and that aggression against those rights constitutes violation of that code.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech and State Power as a Threat

  1. Has anyone other than Sarah Palin herself said that Operation Payback is targeting her?

    Maybe so, but if so I haven't seen it.

    And she lies.

    My guess is that her claim of being targeted by Operation Payback is simply a desperate, pathetic attempt to get the spotlight back on herself. Is there anything she hasn't or wouldn't do to accomplish that?

    Like

  2. Looking at the cache of the Operation Payback page (http://tinyurl.com/2aw5nw3), it seems unlikely to me that the controllers of the LOIC would turn its fire on a target as minor as Palin. That page is a wiki that's open to suggestions; hers is the 11th of 23 such suggestions, and not one of the more obviously sensible ones.

    If she isn't just making it up to attract attention, it's probably a couple of script kiddies doing their own DoSing, not an "official" Operation Payback distributed DoS.

    Like

  3. I don't think Palin's comments can really be taken as a "threat". If I express the hope that someone should be killed, is that in itself a crime? If I say that the state ought to murder Julian Assange, it's repugnant, but not inherently coercive. Now, if Sarah Palin were actually in a position to put her musings into action — for example, if she were the President of the United States — then stuff like this would essentially be an order to her subordinates to murder someone. It'd be a serious crime. But she's not the president (thank god), she's just a wingnut blustering on Twitter.

    I loathe Palin and anyone who endorses state violence against individuals. But I'll defend their right to do so, as long as their rantings are not actual threats but just sick dreams.

    Like

  4. I don't think Palin's comments can really be taken as a "threat". If I express the hope that someone should be killed, is that in itself a crime? If I say that the state ought to murder Julian Assange, it's repugnant, but not inherently coercive. Now, if Sarah Palin were actually in a position to put her musings into action — for example, if she were the President of the United States — then stuff like this would essentially be an order to her subordinates to murder someone. It'd be a serious crime. But she's not the president (thank god), she's just a wingnut blustering on Twitter.

    I loathe Palin and anyone who encourages state violence against individuals. But I'll defend their right to do say such things, as long as their rantings are not actual threats but just sick dreams.

    Like

  5. I don't think Palin's comments can really be taken as a "threat". If I express the hope that someone should be killed, is that in itself a crime? If I say that the state ought to murder Julian Assange, it's repugnant, but not inherently coercive. Now, if Sarah Palin were actually in a position to put her musings into action — for example, if she were the President of the United States — then stuff like this would essentially be an order to her subordinates to murder someone. It'd be a serious crime. But she's not the president (thank god), she's just a wingnut blustering on Twitter.

    I loathe Palin and anyone who encourages state violence against individuals. But I'll defend their right to do say such things, as long as their rantings are not actual threats but just sick dreams.

    Like

    1. I don't think it's quite as cut and dried as that. I think that whether a given statement constitutes as a threat is an issue that requires consideration of all circumstances. For example, in a town with a history of recent lynchings, a statement by a "known" member of the KKK that "X should be lynched" in the presence of X is something that I believe should reasonably put X in fear for his life. I think it's a little ridiculous to get all objectivist and try to parse out whether it meets some form of formalized legal standard – X would have to be an absolute idiot to not realize what was coming. I don't think the law should require people to be idiots.

      Whether Palin's statement is a threat that should put the target in reasonable fear of being unjustly coerced is a much closer call. I can see both sides of the argument, as it really depends on what one finds reasonable. Of course, the response must be reasonably calculated (under the circumstances, which can include lack of time to make a reasonable decision) to protect the target from the threat. It seems to me that the alleged attack on Palin doesn't really satisfy this standard. As a rear-guard action against a blossoming police state, it may be justified for its publicity value, but I admit that I'm not convinced entirely on the point.

      In contrast, the "incite to riot" is a different issue entirely. That doesn't focus on whether the target should reasonably view the speech as threatening, but rather whether the speech somehow should transfer liability for the actions of third parties. In general, it's an invalid concept, however, if it focused on the issue of implied or express agency, it could be valid. Returning to the earlier example, if the public speaker is "known" as the Grand Wizard, I don't think it is unreasonable to find that the statement constitutes direction to agents.

      Like

  6. Bradley is right.

    "Should it be illegal, we may next inquire, to "incite to riot"? Suppose that Green exhorts a crowd: "Go! Burn! Loot! Kill!" and the mob proceeds to do just that, with Green having nothing further to do with these criminal activities. Since every man is free to adopt or not adopt any course of action he wishes, we cannot say that in some way Green determined the members of the mob to their criminal activities; we cannot make him, because of his exhortation, at all responsible for their crimes. "Inciting to riot," therefore, is a pure exercise of a man's right to speak without being thereby implicated in crime." – Murray Rothbard[1]

    1 http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard144.h

    Like

  7. This article, despite being so brief, touches on one of the fundamental problems of anarchism; namely, how do anarchists deal with people who advocate different political/legal systems or participated in such systems when they were in dominant? This article suggests that the solution to this problem is to treat such people as criminals. I believe that such an attitude smacks of totalitarianism, and I have heard that this attitude has lead to massacres being done in the name of anarchism (during the Spanish civil war, I believe).

    Now that I've made that strong statement, I'm going to back off a bit. I realize that the point of this article is not to justify attacks on Palin, only to distinguish between "the right to distribute factual information" and "the right to advocate attacks against others". However, a reader could easily come away with the impression that C4SS supports these (supposed) attacks against Palin's propaganda system.

    As suggested in the above comments, we should distinguish between speech that has an operational role in the commission of a crime (e.g. orders given to agents) and speech that is part of a public debate that will not immediately lead to criminal action. I think that Palin's speech clearly falls into the later category.

    To treat her speech as criminal implies that anarchists consider any disagreement about the proper use of violence to be equivalent to violence. If that were true, I would not want to live in an anarchist society. Furthermore, if I had any interest in living in American society as it exists today, I would avoid having any association with anarchist organizations (e.g. making donations), lest they be deemed imminent threats by the powers-that-be.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s