Un-Reasonable: Feds Declare War on Web Commenters

Editorial

 

 

By Thomas L. Knapp

I’ve previously written about Ross Ulbricht, an American political prisoner sentenced to life for the “crime” of running a business without the US government’s permission. Among libertarians, the response to Ulbricht’s abduction and show trial has been, in some cases, less than polite and temperate. Now, the state is moving against its critics.

Last week, as Ken White of Popehat reports, the US Department of Justice served Reason — a popular libertarian magazine and web site — with a grand jury subpoena demanding that it provide “any and all identifying information” it possesses regarding certain commenters on reporter Nick Gillespie’s coverage of Ulbricht’s sentencing.

Some of those commenters, it seems, waxed less than respectful of Katherine Forrest, the thug — er, “judge” — who ratified Ulbricht’s abduction and ordered it extended for life.

One or two of those commenters suggested that she should suffer the torments of hell, either in the afterlife or this one. Others referenced the use of a wood chipper to dispose of a body in the film Fargo as fitting punishment for her actions.

Just to be perfectly clear here, I agree 100% with the tone of those comments. While I have not publicly made such suggestions — I’ve limited myself to suggesting that she be thoroughly ostracized, that all persons of good character shun her — I really can’t think of any penalty that goes too far for what she has done and, presumably, intends to continue doing.

I have every right to such an opinion, and to its expression. So do you. Those rights are even enshrined in “the supreme law of the land” in which Forrest committed her atrocities (it’s in the First Amendment to the US Constitution).

This is, in a word, an outrage. But it gets worse.

The feds wanted Reason to keep the subpoena secret. It’s unclear whether they’ve issued a formal “gag order” in connection with the subpoena, but the document itself says that “[t]he Government hereby requests that you voluntarily refrain from disclosing the existence of the subpoena to any third party.”

So: The US government is trying to track down people who say things it doesn’t like — things which no reasonable person could construe as “true threats” — for possible prosecution (grand juries don’t subpoena people to offer them coffee and donuts). And it doesn’t want you to know it’s doing that.

Let that sink in. If you’ve ever doubted for a minute that America is becoming a police state, this chain of events should settle the question once and for all. The US government has declared war on free speech and the free press. It has declared war on YOU. Will you fight back?

internet-censorship

Prior Op-ed:  Ross Ulbricht is a Political Prisoner

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Thomas Knapp

Thomas L. Knapp

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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