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The True THREAT Of Ann Coulter And Her Ilk

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Call Good Morning America at 212-456-5900 and complain. Call Hardball w Chris Matthews at 202-783-2615 EMAIL ACTION PAGE: This last week Ann Coulter said the following on Good Morning America, and for the sake of fairness and completeness we quote its full original context: "Bill Maher was not joking and saying he wished Dick Cheney had been killed in a terrorist attack. So I've learned my lesson. If I'm gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I'll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot." In the first place, Bill Maher did NOT say that he "wished" any such thing, a typical Coulter distortion. But leaving that aside for a moment (and we will return to it in just a moment), is there any doubt that if you had made such a statement, substituting the name of ANY Republican, is there any doubt in your mind that you would be in handcuffs right now. Is there any doubt if you had made such a statement about a Republican running for office higher than county dog catcher, that they would be convening a grand jury to indict you for the crime of threatening violence in the media. Farfetched you say? On June 29th, 2007, just a couple days ago, and after the Coulter incident, an Indian national by the name of Vikram Buddhi was CONVICTED in federal court of a violation of 41 USC 871, et. seq., for posting on a Yahoo blog statements like (his words) "Call for the assassination of GW Bush." The U.S. attorney in the case argued that Buddhi must be held accountable for the words he chose to write on his computer and publicly post for anyone in the world to read. We AGREE. There is no defense for Buddhi's remarks, the only question is are they criminally actionable. But if a man is to be indicted and convicted for making such a statement in an obscure blog post certainly seen by few, why should not Coulter be prosecuted in just the same way, for saying what she did to a mainstream live national audience of millions? 41 USC 875(c) provides that: "Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both." Courts reviewing the application of this statute have established a standard that such a threat must be a "true" threat to be actionable. Factors in consideration of that test would be 1) the intent of the speaker, and 2) whether the statement was in fact threatening. Coulter would argue that she was just making a funny joke. There is NOTHING funny about joking about taking the life of a presidential candidate. Indeed, Barack Obama was given secret service two months ago, because of unspecified threats against him, the earliest in a campaign cycle for president this has ever happened. Judging intent in a criminal case often turns on a pattern of behavior. And here the record is not friendly to Ms. Coulter's stance. She has a HISTORY of such statements, having previously cracked these other "jokes", targeted at those she disagrees with politically: "We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee." "My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times Building." "We need to execute people like (John Walker Lindh) in order to physically intimidate liberals." The last quote is especially significant in the climate of fear which has deliberately been inflamed by the Cheney administration and the vast right wing echo chamber that the corporate media has become. We are constantly bullied with name-calling of the most offensive sort, for the sin of having a differing political opinions. And people like Coulter well know that their physical threats are a form of intimidation. But of course there is another name for this political tactic . . . terrorism. Would it be unfair to say then when it comes to her political opponents, Ann Coulter is WITH the terrorists? There is NO place for threats of violence in our political discourse. THAT is what the terrorists do. That is NOT what upstanding participants in our representative democracy do. We would respectfully submit that we have arrived at crisis situation in political discourse in America. Also last week, a man in New Jersey with a self-broadcast internet radio show put on his web site the home addresses of all U.S. senators supporting the immigration bill, coupled with graphically sick exhortations to commit violence against them so thinly veiled that they amount to little more than legal saran wrap. Before he "called off" his jihad his postings were reposted and disseminated by others, who should be profoundly ASHAMED of themselves. So will the man in New Jersey be prosecuted by the U.S. attorney for acts so very much more a direct and immediate threat than anything Mr. Buddhi did? There is NO political issue that calls for such tactics under any circumstances. The immigration bill was defeated because so many people simply called their members of Congress to express opposition. If we could get that many people to actually speak out on ANY issue we could have any other policy change we might want and immediately. Now, getting back to the Maher incident, the topic of discussion that night was postings on the Huffington Post hostile to the Vice President, with reference to a relatively minor terrorist attack of a base he was visiting in Afghanistan at that moment. To the credit of the Huffington Post, when those remarks were brought to their attention they were purged from the site, as they properly should have been. And while Maher may have been ill advised to himself joke about the incident, he did not CALL for such an attack by any stretch of the imagination in that instance. Read his words, watch the clip yourself and decide. Moreover, Maher has already been once severely punished careerwise by the loss of his ABC Real Time show in 2002, and the comments in that situation did not rise to any possible federal crime, unlike the comments of Ms. Coulter, if we are to use the Buddhi standard currently applied by the U.S. attorney's office. So the question remains of what should be done with Ms. Coulter. Should her career suffer as did Maher's? At a minimum she should apologize. And not just her, but the Good Morning America show who gave her a platform for such vile expressions, knowing up front that she brings nothing to political debate BUT her usual repertoire of offensive personal attacks. And this extends to the Chris Matthews show which further enabled her to amplify on her smears. He should apologize for her behavior as well. But she's not going to apologize. She is not going to repent. She is just going to keep ABUSING free speech in an even more offensive way every chance she gets. Should she be prosecuted for calling for a Supreme Court judge to be poisoned, or wishing out loud for the assassination of a presidential candidate? That is not our call. But is not free speech, and it is not political speech. What it can be fairly be characterized as is suspected CRIMINAL speech, the political equivalent of obscenity. There is no safe harbor for obscenity in free speech, at least not on national broadcast television, and neither should there be one for an act of Coulter's caliber. Time and again Ann Coulter has demonstrated that she is an offensive speech scofflaw, and on that basis we call for a BAN on her appearance on national television. To the networks we say, "You know she is going to say something grossly offensive when you book her." And she rightly deserves to be shunned for that reason, or the next time she will lurch even further over the line and you may YOURSELVES be legal jeopardy, as for example you were over the celebrated Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction. You are on fair notice. But even beyond that, those responsible for posting the deleted Huffington Post blog entries and others like them really need to check themselves. The only way the terrorists win, including those of the verbal variety like Coulter, is when they can drag us down to their level. All those who make references to things like "man Coulter" and such tit for tat insults really need to check themselves. Let us raise the level of political discourse on the issues, not stoop down to the lowest common denominator. It is only by responding to people like Coulter in mean-spirited kind that they can prevail in their purpose, to demean all political speech by turning it into an insult orgy. The rest we leave up to the good independent judgement of the U.S. attorney, assuming such a thing is anymore tolerated under the supervision of Alberto Gonzales.
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