Remember last year, when Reason got slammed with a subpoena and subsequent gag order from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York? Yeah, well the guy whose John Hancock is on that grand jury subpoena—Preet Bharara—was hanging out with President-elect Donald Trump today. Bharara has “agreed to stay on” as Manhattan U.S. attorney under the Trump administration after kicking it with the future POTUS for 40 minutes in Trump Tower. “I expect that I will be continuing to work at the southern district,” he told reporters.
Here’s what Reason wrote about the legal assault after the gag order was lifted:
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara subpoenaed all of the identifying information we had about the authors of such comments as, “Its (sic) judges like these that should be taken out back and shot.” And, “Why waste ammunition? Wood chippers get the message across clearly. Especially if you feed them in feet first.” This last comment is a well-known Internet reference to the Coen brothers’ movie Fargo.
The subpoena also covered such obviously harmless comments as: “I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman,” and “I’d prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well.”…
Reason’s unmoderated comment space is rare among comparable publications and has, over the years, developed into a forum that is by turns exciting, intellectually advanced, outlandish, cringe-inducing, and more foul-mouthed than any locker room this side of the Crab Nebula. It is something to be celebrated as a voluntary community that can be engaged or ignored as the spirit moves you (we say that as writers whose work and physical shortcomings rarely escape unscathed from any thread). However trollish many of our commenters can be, they have created a sphere of free speech that delivers on one of the great promises of the Internet, which is unbridled expression, dialogue, and argument.
We took risks by creating an autonomous zone in which our readers are left to their own devices. Some of the risk is reputational—how many other serious outlets allow anonymous commenters to run riot as we do? Some of the risk is legal, as in the current situation.
Since the last webathon, over the past year alone, we have run 844,000 comments (just shy of 100 per hour). Suffice it to say, our speech—and our willingness to host yours—remains unchilled. That’s because when it comes to defending the right of American citizens to say what we believe, Reason has no chill (as the kids say).
As Voltaire almost certainly did not say: We may not like what you say, but we will defend to the death Fist of Etiquette’s “firsts,” Heroic Mulatto’s staunch pining for former Reason staffer Lucy Steigerwald, and everyone’s frankly unhealthy interest in Robby Soave’s grooming habits.
But commenter freedom isn’t free, is what I’m saying here. Given that The Donald and Bharara are besties now, we’re probably going to need to bulk up our legal defense fund. So what better time to do your part to defray the (wildly outsized, utterly infuriating) costs of ill-advised Fargo references with a donation to our webathon?
And if all that isn’t enough, we brought back your nemesis/crush/former Reason Editor in Chief/famous commenter skeptic Virginia Postrel as a columnist in the dead tree magazine. (Subscribers get first crack at commenting on her stories. Just saying.) You’re welcome.