The Department of Justice is sending a musician to jail over song lyrics posted on Facebook.
(TheAntiMedia) The Supreme Court of the United States decided to hear Elonis vs. United States, a case regarding what constitutes a threat on Facebook or elsewhere on the web, but the implications reach far beyond a wannabe-Eminem arguing with his wife. It attacks the very fabric of the First Amendment.
Elonis and his wife split, and she left with his two sons. Elonis, an aspiring rapper, took to Facebook to post lyrics and rants about killing his wife. Tara, his ex-wife, felt threatened by the posts and obtained a protective order. The rants continued, and an FBI agent came out to investigate. The Department of Justice (DOJ) contends that he then threatened the FBI agent on Facebook.
When framed in the DOJ’s case, it sounds like a perfect example of the government stepping in and stopping a domestic violence situation from escalating, which would be applauded. The problem is that it wasn’t. The lyrics posted by Elonis were plainly an attempt to ride on Eminem’s coattails. Apparently, nobody told Elonis the “I’m going to kill my wife and put her at the bottom of lake” shtick has run its course.
Most of the threats were posted in lyrical form. Others were so absurd that a reasonable person would not have believed them to be genuine. Still others were obviously sarcastic. There’s also the fact that Elonis had a disclaimer on his page about everything being for entertainment purposes.
One of the lyrics in question:
“There’s one way to love you
but a thousand ways to kill you.
I’m not going to rest
until your body is a mess,
soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”
“Ha-ha, got ya, go ahead, yell
Here I’ll scream with you, ah, somebody help!
Don’t you get it b-tch, no one can hear you
Now shut the f-ck up and get what’s coming to you
You were supposed to love me
Now bleed b-tch, bleed!! Bleed b-tch, bleed!! Bleed!!”
The second lyric wasn’t written by Elonis in a fit of rage; it has been heard by millions. It’s from the song Kim by Eminem. Eminem has yet to be arrested for his threat.
One of the non-lyrical postings that led to his conviction:
“Tell [our son] he should dress up as Matricide for Halloween. I don’t know what his costume would entail though. Maybe [Tara’s] head on a stick? :-p.”
This isn’t something that could be considered a genuine threat. There’s no threat in the sentence, unless Tara believed her son was going to kill her. Maybe expecting federal employees to know what the word “matricide” means is too much to hope for. While it is certainly in bad taste, threats typically aren’t signed with the emoticon for someone sticking their tongue out.
Three days after a judge granted a protective order, Elonis posted this:
“I also found out that it’s incredibly illegal, extremely illegal to go on Facebook and say something like the best place to fire a mortar launcher at her house would be from the cornfield behind it because of easy access to a getaway road and you’d have a clear line of sight through the sun room. Yet even more illegal to show an illustrated diagram. Art is about pushing limits. I’m willing to go to jail for my Constitutional rights. Are you?”
The reader should set aside the fact that Elonis clearly refers to this as “art.” Don’t worry about fact that he had no mortar, nor the fact that he doesn’t know how to use one (the wonderful thing about mortars is that they don’t need a clear line of sight). Instead, the reader should focus that this “threat” was posted along with the video below.
Here’s the “threat” to the FBI agent:
“Little agent lady stood so close, took all the strength I had not to turn the b—- ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist and slit her throat.”
Again, there is no actual threat. He’s talking about a past event.
This is what the Department of Justice is using to send Elonis to prison, but more importantly the DOJ is using this as a method of attacking Free Speech on the web. The DOJ does not care about domestic violence. It never has. If there was any concern about domestic violence inside the Department of Justice, they might have forced a Federal judge to resign after he took a domestic violence plea deal. They didn’t. This is nothing more than DOJ using domestic violence advocates to push the agenda of being able to limit what Americans can say.
Of course, the lyrics and statements are offensive, but that’s why the First Amendment was written. Weather reports do not need First Amendment protections; the offensive, heretical, obscene, profane, seditious, and treasonous need that protection. The First Amendment, like most of the Constitution, was written to protect the people that wrote it. The same men that put together the Bill of Rights are the men that circulated “Common Sense” and “Age of Reason.” Both are pamphlets that could have lead them to the gallows in some countries.
If the statements above can be considered threats and be used to send someone to prison, is there anyone that is safe? Who in the US has not flown off the handle and said something that could loosely be construed as a threat while online?
Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. said that just because somebody says “it’s therapeutic or it’s art” doesn’t protect them from punishment. Chief Justice Roberts is wrong. Offensive art is something desperately in need of, and entitled to, the protections of the First Amendment. With that one sentence Roberts has appointed himself and the other members of the Court as the final arbiters of good taste.
A vague ruling in this case will only serve to enable the federal government to lock up anyone they see fit by simply scrolling through their internet history. If the above can be considered threats worthy of prison, what else could be considered some form of a veiled threat? Where exactly does this end? As with most federal laws, there is no mention of “intent” in the elements of offense for the statute. The government does not have to even show the suspect intended to intimidate another person. It just has to produce someone who says they were intimidated by a statement.
As an illustration, no matter which “side” you took during the Ferguson protests and riots, you probably posted something that, when using the very loose standards set by this case, could be used to prosecute you under this statute for either threatening the protesters or threatening the average citizen. Welcome to America, home of the thought police.
A complete ruling is expected soon.
Author’s note: Nothing in the above should be taken as a condemnation for his wife seeking a protective order. Given the legal proceedings, move, children, and everything else that goes along with a divorce she very likely was in genuine fear. However, that fear without some kind of action on the part of her husband beyond posting idiotic statements on Facebook should not be enough justification for the Supreme Court to rob an entire nation of Free Speech.