Sunday, June 14, 2015

Reason subpoena shows where real threat lies

Reason Magazine Subpoena Stomps on Free Speech - Bloomberg View - Virgina Postrel:

June 9, 2015 - "Los Angeles legal blogger Ken White has obtained a grand jury subpoena issued to, the online home of the libertarian magazine I edited throughout the 1990s. The subpoena seeks information about commenters who posted in response to an article by the site’s editor Nick Gillespie about the letter that Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht wrote to Judge Katherine B. Forrest before she sentenced him to life in prison without parole.... In it, Ulbricht expressed the libertarian ideals he said animated his creation of Silk Road -- the same ideals that Reason upholds. The portion Gillespie reproduced reads:
I created Silk Road because I thought the idea for the website itself had value, and that bringing Silk Road into being was the right thing to do. I believed at the time that people should have the right to buy and sell whatever they wanted so long as they weren’t hurting anyone else.[...] Silk Road was supposed to be about giving people the freedom to make their own choices, to pursue their own happiness, however they individually saw fit.[...]
"Judge Forrest handed down a sentence even more draconian than prosecutors had sought and made a point of condemning Ulbricht’s political views.... Whatever you think of Ulbricht or Silk Road, you can see why libertarians might be upset. A federal judge has just made the belief that it’s good for people to have 'the freedom to make their own choices, to pursue their own happiness, however they individually saw fit' part of her justification for the most punitive sentence short of the death penalty....

"Reason commenters, who often sound like drunk teenage boys trying to one-up each other, ... were furious and, in their fury, some of them got nasty. 'Its judges like these that should be taken out back and shot,' wrote Agammamon. 'Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first,' responded croaker. 'I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman,' commented Rhywun. 'I'd prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well,' chimed in ProductPlacement. (Reason has since removed the offending comments.)

"No one in their right mind would take this hyperbolic venting seriously as threatening Judge Forrest.... Venting anger about injustice is not a crime. Neither is being obnoxious on the Internet. The chances of one of these commenters being convicted of threatening the judge are essentially nil. Conviction isn’t the point. Crying 'threats' just makes a handy pretext for harassing Reason and its commenters....

"The real threats aren’t coming from the likes of Agammamon and croaker. They’re coming from civil servants in suits. Subpoenaing Reason’s website records, wasting its staff’s time and forcing it to pay legal fees in hopes of imposing even larger legal costs (or even a plea bargain or two) on the average Joes who dared to voice their dissident views in angry tones sends an intimidating message: It’s dangerous not just to create something like Silk Road. It’s dangerous to defend it, and even more dangerous to attack those who would punish its creator."

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