Red state blogger and CNN contributor Erick Erickson refuses to fill out his census form. Which means a local census worker might show up at his home. If so, warns, Erickson – and I quote him directly – I’m gonna “pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little twerp likes being scared at the door.”While I agree with Press' assessment, I see one problem. While the members of the Hutaree militia actually circled a date on their calender to murder police officers, Erickson simply states he will draw a weapon on a federal agent should they approach his property. Subtle difference? Yes and no. Erickson is doing what all the conservative political pundits are doing nowadays - drawing a fine line between what constitutes the provocation of violence, so when the time comes, and his followers commit heinous crimes, Erickson can wash his hands of the incident by claiming he never said "shoot," only "draw."
Now, there’s only one way to read that: he is threatening the life of a federal agent. Which is exactly what nine members of a Michigan militia group were arrested and thrown in prison for last week.
So, what I want to know is:
Why is Mr. Erickson still at large? He is as dangerous as any member of any armed militia who threatens the life of federal agents.
And why is Mr. Erickson still on CNN’s payroll? There should be no place for that kind of violent language on American television. Not even on Fox. Certainly, not on CNN.
Two things to remember: One, the census is no threat to anybody, and it IS required by the U.S. Constitution.
Two, I’m all for freedom of speech, but threats to assassinate government officials is not protected by the First Amendment.
Lock Erick Erickson up – and throw the key away.
This kind of rhetoric is dangerous, and I am beginning to come under the belief that this kind of speech is not protected by the constitution, much like yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater, as argued by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in the court case of Schenck v. United States, to demonstrate the concept of "clear and present danger."
Brandenburg v. Ohio expanded the test on free speech that Schenck addressed, by stating that the "government cannot punish inflammatory speech unless it is directed to inciting and likely to incite imminent lawless action," which based on what we have been seeing play out in recent news, is exactly what is occurring. Conservatives have been stepping up their anti-government rhetoric, and infusing the language of right-wing fringe groups to press their message and motivate their base, but in doing so, they run the risk of actually pushing a certain percentage of those people over the edge - point in case, the threats and attacks against Democratic legislators, the attacks against the government, such as the the shooting at the Pentagon and the fly-in at the Texas IRS building, and the arrest of the Hutaree militia.
Here is what the court ruling of Brandenburg v. Ohio, regarding what exactly the "imminent lawless action" means:
The Court upheld the statute on the ground that, without more, "advocating" violent means to effect political and economic change involves such danger to the security of the State that the State may outlaw it.In order for the language to be considered to be excluded from the constitution's protections of free speech, the "imminent lawless action" test must be invoked to judge seditious speech under the First Amendment. There are three elements of the test - intent, imminence, and likelihood.
The constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.Does Erickson's talk satisfy the definition?
What is the intent of Erickson's comment? Erickson was very clear. If the government approaches him to fill out the Census, as required by the Constitution, he will pull out a shotgun on the federal agent.
What is the imminence of the action Erickson described? Since Erickson stated that he won't fill out the Census, a federal agent will come to his residence to try and get Erickson to complete the form.
What is the likelihood that what Erickson said will come true? In Erickson's case, I would say it is 50-50. He is filled with inflammatory rhetoric, but part of me wants to believe that away from the limelight, Erickson will cross all his "t"s and dot all his lowercase "j"s, but, considering the national platform Erickson has been given to espouse his philosophies, there will be a certain percentage that will take his comments as though he were a mouthpiece for God, and the likelihood that violence will happen will increase.
Basically, Erickson's, or Beck's, or Hannity's, or O'Reilly's, or Palin's, or any other person's advocacy of suing violent means against the government, is protected by the constitution, unless it is clear that they are "inciting or producing" lawless action, or what they are doing will likely cause lawless action, which is evident by the increase in violence directed towards the government.
More examples of trying to incite conservatives to conduct themselves lawlessly: Palin's "cross hairs" and "reload" comment, Breitbart's insistence that the government and union thugs have been using racism and violence against the Tea Party, and pretty much every minute of insanity Glenn Beck is on the air.
Want even more proof that pundits on the right are failing the "imminent lawless action" test?
Recently, Gregory Giusti, was arrested for allegedly threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her support on health care reform. Gregory's mother, Eleanor Giusti, blamed the rhetoric found on Fox News for inciting her son to make the threats. Media Matters For America had documented the threats against Pelosi, as well as the inflammatory comments made against Pelosi by Fox hosts.
The Washington Post also had an interesting article regarding threats against congress.
Anger over the health-care overhaul has led to a nearly threefold increase in recent months in the number of serious threats against members of Congress, federal law enforcement officials said.Need I say more?
The lawmakers reported 42 threats in the first three months of this year, compared with 15 in last three months of 2009, said Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance W. Gainer, who had information about threats involving both chambers.
"The incidents ranged from very vulgar to serious threats, including death threats," Gainer said. "The ability to carry them out is another question and part of an investigation to determine what, if any, appropriate steps to take."
Nearly all of the recent threats appear to come from opponents of the health-care overhaul, said Gainer, who also served four years as chief of the U.S. Capitol Police. And, he said, there have been "significantly more" threats against House members than against senators.