To Some, Any Speech Is “Terrorist Threat”

Cameron D’Ambrosio’s free speech case first caught my attention since his demographics and personality closely parallel my own: we are both young Italian-American men from Massachusetts with a knack for generating controversy via the use of written words.

Of course, there are some important differences between us as well. Unlike Cam, who is a musician, I’m not much of a fan of the rap genre (but if it helps, I don’t really care for country either). And unlike Cam, I didn’t recently spend over 30 days in jail for posting lyrics on Facebook that agents of the state declared a “terrorist threat.”

Basically, the lyrics harbored a passing reference to the “Boston bombing” and the “White House,” but even the police had to admit that there was no specific threat against any specific person.

This is the dimension that really troubles me. A work of art certainly has the power to make people uncomfortable — that’s one of art’s functions, after all — but in today’s America that aspect of art can get one arrested and jailed. The system has come to privilege the real or imagined “hurt feelings” of third party observers over the creators of the content in question. If this trend continues, say goodbye to the First Amendment. 

Cam’s case highlights the consequences of the state’s “if you see something, say something” ethos promoted by Janet Napolitano. Somehow, though, I just don’t regard safety as the highest possible value. There’s a way to construct a society that’s 100% safe, but I wouldn’t want to live there — it’d be a police state. 

The key for those who value liberty over security is to remember that the bureaucrats and commissars want to narrow things down to fit their model of reality. Resist them by ensuring that there’s always an expansive, alternative explanation for anything posted on social media.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that on Twitter, for example, users commonly add disclaimer language such as “retweets do not imply endorsement.” Maybe some of those tweets are indeed endorsements, however, unlabeled exceptions to the rule announced by that disclaimer.

Revel in the ambiguity.

Don’t say less as a result of the “chilling effect” on free speech. Instead, say much more — even if it’s disinformation. Flood them with so much data and so many false hits that it bogs down the ability to process it.

Besides, they can’t throw everyone in jail…can they?

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