Via Volokh Conspiracy, a disturbing criminal case out of Montana, where Flathead County resident David Lenio, 28, is being prosecuted for making disparaging remarks about Jews on Twitter and denying that the Holocaust happened.
Say what? While this sort of prosecution is common in parts of Europe, Americans enjoy the protection of the First Amendment, which contains no exception for what’s colloquially known as “hate speech.” The only permitted exceptions to free speech protections – as the Supreme Court recently re-articulated – are for obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, and “speech integral to criminal conduct.”
As Eugene Volokh explains, defamation law is generally “limited to false factual assertions. It requires a showing that the speaker knows the statement is false, and isn’t just mistaken (reasonably or not). And it requires a statement about a particular person.”
But under Montana’s ridiculously broad defamation statute, “defamatory matter is anything that exposes a person or a group, class, or association to hatred, contempt, ridicule, degradation, or disgrace in society or injury to the person’s or its business or occupation.” And anyone who “communicates any defamatory matter to a third person without the consent of the person defamed commits the offense of criminal defamation.”
Here’s a sample of the kind of things Lenio has been arrested for tweeting:
USA needs a Hitler to rise to power and fix our #economy and i’m about ready to give my life to the cause or just shoot a bunch of #kikes …
I hope someone goes on a massive killing spree in kalispell school because I’m so poor I can’t afford housing and don’t care about your kids.
Now that the holocaust has been proven to be a lie beyond a reasonable doubt, it is now time to hunt the Nazi hunters.
#Copenhagen It’s important to note that jews hate free speech & are known bullsh-ters, could be #falseFlag
Reasonable people may disagree on whether Lenio’s assertion that he’s going to shoot people constitutes a “true threat.” (U.S. courts have recently been grappling with something similar in a case involving Facebook statements, although in that case the potential threats were directed at specific individuals.) But it’s clear that if any illegal speech is at play here, it’s the suggestion that Lenio might commit violence, right?
The Flathead County prosecutor’s office, however, is charging Lenio not just for “intimidation” but also, independently, under the state’s defamation statute. It argues that Lenio made defamatory statements about Jews by suggesting that they have degraded the economy and dislike free speech and by stating that the Holocaust was a lie.
Credit to RedIceCreations for Finding this!
Only a few days ago, an 86 year old German woman, Ursula Haverbeck, had her home ransacked and she was arrested – facing a five year prison sentence for “Holocaust Denial.” She was the first one to appear on national TV to challenge the official Holocaust (TM) narrative in March. Unfortunately, these draconian methods are quite common in Europe. Despite all of the clamoring and support for “free speech” by European leaders following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, there are people in jail in Germany and other European countries simply for examining history in a critical manner.
Here is the video that has led to Ms. Haverbeck’s arrest:
Share this and the original story with anyone who cares about free speech! Europe is bad enough – but we must at least have the US as a free speech bastion. You don’t have to agree with the “deniers” of the Holocaust, but you must support their right to free speech!
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