Anti-abortion site wins appeal.
March 29, 2001 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Anti-abortion site wins appeal. In a ringing defense of the First Amendment, Judge Alex Kozinski wrote that "political speech may not be punished just because it makes it more likely that someone will be harmed at some unknown time in the future by an unrelated third party.

Courtney Love can sue when her cell phone # is released on a website, and yet doctors have their personal information posted online specifically so they can be tracked and killed. Scary.
posted by jragon (35 comments total)

 
Scary, but in my mind probably the right decision.
posted by Doug at 2:43 PM on March 29, 2001


Sounds like the suit should have been filed as a privacy rights case, then, not a First Amendment one similar to the infamous "Hit Man" case in which a cartoonish how-to book was judged to have been a direct incitement to violence. Still sounds vaguely like direct incitement to me, but that's been the trouble with the case all along. It's iffy.
posted by raysmj at 2:45 PM on March 29, 2001


Courtney Love can sue anybody for anything. It's the winning part that's tricky.
posted by smackfu at 2:55 PM on March 29, 2001


I agree the decision was correct. There's nothing on that site saying, "Here's the addresses of people we want you to go out and kill." It just says, "Here's the addresses of people who perform abortions." It's all public information.

The argument's moot anyway except about money, since the site's now hosted in South Africa.
posted by aaron at 3:13 PM on March 29, 2001



doug and aaron:

Smug little children with such noble ideals: obviously you've never been in the position where someone was gunning for you...

Over the years, I have had the "joy" of meeting many extremists face to face, both on the right (Libertarians, KKK et al) and on the left (ACLU etc.) Apart from the fact that the right-wing assholes are more likely to shoot you, the two extremes are equally repulsive. They both are equally ready to sacrifice people's lives, health, happiness, well-being on the altar of their sacred dogmas, Constitutional-rights-as-they-interpret-them, etc. Perhaps some day, when you or someone you love has been literally sacrificed on that altar, you too will hold extremists of all stripes in the same contempt that I do.

Hal
posted by hal_55 at 3:41 PM on March 29, 2001


Yes, Hal, the ACLU is just disgusting. All that fighting to protect your rights stuff...::shudder:: They're just as bad as the KKK. You don't sound insane, or stupid at all.
While we may soon live in Hal_55 land, we currently live in a nation based on constitutional law. One of our basic freedoms is that to say things that are unpopular, and to freely dispense information, regardless of how that information MAY be used.
It's also be easier to take you seriously if you didn't use terms like "altar of sacred dogma."
posted by Doug at 3:55 PM on March 29, 2001


Libertarians are on par with the KKK?

Open the pod bay doors Hal, Libertarians are all about freedom, and should be balanced pretty nice between right and left.

Why for you always call people names?
posted by thirteen at 4:11 PM on March 29, 2001


Libertarians are all about not accepting any obligation to anybody unless it can be enforced at gunpoint. I suppose the Law of the Jungle is "freedom," sort of--for the survivors, at least.

But since my arguments seem to be going over your heads, respond to this one: since when is publishing the photos, names, addresses, and phone numbers of doctors, "political" speech?
posted by hal_55 at 4:25 PM on March 29, 2001


Thirteen, I'm suprised you don't see the shocking similarity between limiting government and lynching innocent people. If someone tells me that we should return to the gold standard, I say, "Sir, that would be like burning a cross on the lawn of Jesus Christ himself!"
Although it's nice that Hal has brought me, thirteen, and aaron together. I don't think we've ever all agreed on a political issue before.
Hal: Say you wanted to publish a site of all the "extremists" you think the world should watch out for. You know, Harry Brown, civil rights attorneys, those guys...in order that people can know that these people you disagree with are out there, and who they are...do you think it might be valuable to you to be able to do that? Because if you ever want to do that, you have to let the insane-o pro-lifers have their site.
"I'm sorry, you're going to have to close down your site...people are using it in order to find people to harm."
"But we're Yahoo!"
posted by Doug at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2001


I did not think of it as political speech, I thought of it as public record. I am not always so keen on public record, as in cases like this, or the Dale whatsisname autopsy photos, and especially when I found information about what I paid for my house while egosurfing, but without it you don't get the FOIA. If you have any, you have to have it all, and in the end it is probably better.

If you want to talk about pressing obligations on people who don't want them, that makes you the cranky authoritarian. I don't think I'd much enjoy the "freedom" you would "allow" me to have.
posted by thirteen at 4:34 PM on March 29, 2001


Hal, speech doesn't have to be "political" to earn the right to be "free." It's not your place - or mine, or the courts', nor anyone's to be precise, which is the point - to decide what's "political" or "not political," "acceptable" or "not acceptable." The web site apparently reiterated publically available information such as what you've listed there. There was no other incitement to act on that information, according to the accounts I read. That's like banning the Yellow Pages 'cause a bank robber found the address of the bank he just knocked off in them...

(And shut the hell up about Libertarians until you have a better idea what you're talking about. Where'd you pick that "enforced at gunpoint" bullshit up from anyway?)
posted by m.polo at 4:39 PM on March 29, 2001


Got a problem with This page Hal?
posted by thirteen at 4:44 PM on March 29, 2001


Perhaps some day, when you or someone you love has been literally sacrificed on that altar, you too will hold extremists of all stripes in the same contempt that I do.

I'd hope that my convictions are not so weak that I would change them just because I lost something I cared about.
posted by kindall at 4:47 PM on March 29, 2001


Ack!
posted by kindall at 4:47 PM on March 29, 2001


Double ack!
posted by kindall at 4:48 PM on March 29, 2001


>>> (And shut the hell up about Libertarians until you have a better idea what you're
>>> talking about. Where'd you pick that "enforced at gunpoint" bullshit up from
>>> anyway?)

Perhaps you haven't been to as many gun-shows and survivalist Expos as I have. It's striking how often Libertarian literature is found side by side with literature from the KKK and their ilk, on the tables... Ron Paul was on the masthead of the Bircher's "The New American" for many years--go look. Quite a few "patriots" now in jail around the country for bombings and shootings or plots, have been reported by the press to be Libertarians. There is enormous overlap between the Libertarians and other Far Right groups. Hold your nose and go to some of their meetings, if you don't believe me.

The ""enforced at gunpoint" bullshit" comes from face-to-face argument with Libertarians, just as my disgust with the ACLU comes from face-to-face arguments with them about child pornography (they don't believe that owning it is exploitative).
posted by hal_55 at 4:59 PM on March 29, 2001


obviously you've never been in the position where someone was gunning for you...

I'm in that position every day on here! ;)

Other than that joke, I see no reason to even bother attempting a discussion with you, given your inability to do join in a discussion without combining namecalling, hyperbolic rhetoric and an amazing ability to universally brand as extremist any opinion - left, right or moderate - that isn't held by hal_55, in every single paragraph you post.
posted by aaron at 5:05 PM on March 29, 2001



>>> obviously you've never been in the position where someone was gunning for you...
>>> I'm in that position every day on here! ;)

The problem is that you think a death threat--to someone else--is a joke.
posted by hal_55 at 5:08 PM on March 29, 2001


Hal_55, I'm with Aaron, you're not worth arguing with, especially if you can't distinguish between the principles of libertarian thinking, the activities of the Libertarian Party and the right of any individual to be employed in an editorial capacity by the publication of his choice...

The problem is that you think a death threat--to someone else--is a joke.

Yup, it's a friggin' laughfest, Hal. Don't leave home without your bullet proof vest, your concealed handgun and your Morons from Mars decoder ring... You aren't being paranoid, we really are out to get you...
posted by m.polo at 5:24 PM on March 29, 2001


Just waned to add that I'm a member of the ACLU, and I think owning child porn is exploitative.
Sounds like Hal should maybe stop going to so many clan rallies and gun shows. It's making him an extremist.
posted by Doug at 5:31 PM on March 29, 2001


Libertarians on the right? Oh yeah, Bill Maher (link provided in case you don't who I'm talking about, never know...) is definitely on the right.

We're talking about a group of people who want... drug legalization, gay rights, the separation of church and state... hardly what I would call "the right," and I happen to support many of the causes there.

The freedom of speech is not absolute, and this has been ruled again and again. If the speech can cause irreparable harm to the individuals, then it is not a right that can be carried out. Exercising your rights can not deprave others of their rights. In this case, they were, in an indirect way, advocating harm to these doctors. They were endangering the doctors, the doctors' families, the patients.

If I knew the way to the tunnel under a certain Russian embassy, would I have the freedom of speech to tell everyone where it is? Or would, as a matter of national security, it be deemed necessary to keep silent on that, and the government could enforce that silence.

It's a thin line. But these were threats, and must be taken seriously.
posted by benjh at 5:43 PM on March 29, 2001


If things get any more hostile in this thread, I'm going to post a Web site with all of your addresses on it and a drawing of a large stick.

I remember when this most-wanted-list Web site was first publicized, and it made me extremely uncomfortable. There have been enough acts of anti-abortion terrorism in this country to make it very credible that someone would make use of those addresses to harm an abortion practitioner or supporter.

However, I don't see how you can make the publication of someone's address a crime when it's accompanied by angry rhetoric related to the person. If a citizens crime group published a list of sexual predators registered in their city with a pamplet outraged about their presence, I don't think anyone here would expect that to be illegal.
posted by rcade at 6:42 PM on March 29, 2001


We're talking about a group of people who want... drug legalization, gay rights, the separation of church and state... hardly what I would call "the right," and I happen to support many of the causes there.

This would depend on which libertarians you're talking to or reading at the time. "Gay rights," in particular, is not necessarily a rallying call in libertarian circles. And yes, some libertarians are mighty right wing, as anyone who has read the op-ed page of Orange County (CA)'s libertarian paper, The Orange County Register, probably knows.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:46 PM on March 29, 2001


the libertarian party is more of a blend of what's considered 'right wing' and 'left wing' principles. they basically fall down to this: don't tell me what to do with my private life as long I don't hurt anyone; and, furthermore, don't touch my money. libertarians believe that the only purpose for taxes is national defense, and in that regard they are very isolationist (defend america, not the world). aside from drug legalization, they also believe in the right to own guns and the privatization of social security and the healthcare system. they do not believe in socialized medicine or any other form of government social plans. in fact, if you look at the objectivist philosophies (ala ayn rand), you might find some similarites. anyway, thought i'd share that. oh yeah - right now libertarians are a huge threat to the republican party. a LOT of republicans vote libertarian now -- i looked for the link on motherjones.com that talked about this phenomenon, but it's disappeared into the void of their archives for the moment.
posted by bliss322 at 7:00 PM on March 29, 2001


Yow, this thread has gone from zero to hostile in record time.
posted by solistrato at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2001


And from on topic to...libertarian?...pretty quick as well.
posted by Doug at 7:57 PM on March 29, 2001


(Back to the topic...)

It's a thin line. But these were threats, and must be taken seriously.

Wrong, Benjh, and that's why this is protected speech: the website lists publically available information and is very specific about it's purpose: placing information about abortion providers into public view, so "when abortion is illegal," they'll have records of activities to use in court. The only thing that's even vaguely threatening about it is the fact that in the list of abortion providers, there are indicators for those who've left the field or who've died. It doesn't say - or, at least, I couldn't find it - "go shoot these people" or cause them harm or anything. It's just their name and where they practice. You can project all the motives you want onto them but it's just not there.

(Having actually seen and read the site now, I can see why pro-abortion forces would want this taken down; I have a fairly strong tolerance for gore, but some of this really made my stomach heave. Link warning: I'm not kidding, this really is hideous stuff...)
posted by m.polo at 9:06 PM on March 29, 2001


Yes the hostility shown to hal_55 seems quite overboard given his comments really. My experience of those three groups (leftwingers, conservative and libertarians) indicates that some of the really, really committed ones can be pretty scary people indeed.

Ideologues are just like that.

Too bad that link m.polo posted is down (for me anyway), I would like to see the site for myself. I'll try again later.

So without having actually seen the site in question, it still seems to me that incitement to murder (even if carefully veiled) is simply just that. Is there any doubt about these people's intentions here?

Whether the information is publicly available already or not is not really the issue. I could suggest that someone should murder the US President (everyone knows where he lives) or some celebrity and that could (and should) land me in a lot of trouble.
posted by lagado at 10:29 PM on March 29, 2001


the website lists publically available information and is very specific about it's purpose: placing information about abortion providers into public view, so "when abortion is illegal," they'll have records of activities to use in court.
(My emphasis)

hmm maybe I should have read m.polo's post more carefully before posting.

How is that supposed to work exactly? How are the addresses supposed to be used? Are they suggesting that people spy on these doctor's activities after abortion is made illegal to gether evidence or what? Currently these doctors are performing legal operations.

Is this justification credible or just a smoke screen?
posted by lagado at 10:44 PM on March 29, 2001


Smoke screen. They're asking for infomation on people conducting entirely legitimate business (whether one agrees or not) under the pretence that once abortion becomes illegal they can use this information as evidence.
Evidence of what? What these people are doing is currently legal, you cannot prosecute someone for doing something which is legal at the time if it later becomes illegal.
Seems to me that this is just a way to gather information on abortionists - for whatever means. it's not illegal but I'd have to question what the information will be used for. All seems a bit sinister to me.
And Hal_55, some libertarians may be outspoken in their right wing views, but you're way off the mark in labelling them right wing extremists.
posted by Markb at 3:58 AM on March 30, 2001


I dunno, Markb - their thesis is that legal abortion in the US equates to the Holocaust. I'm not a WWII scholar, but I do remember reading that the Nuremberg trials after the war were frustrated by a lack of primary evidence about the activities of the Nazi figures being tried. Those activities were ostensibly "legal" - as abortion is now legal - and then after the war, the perpetrators were held accountable for their now "illegal" behavior - as the site owners claim to want to do when their goal of having abortion declared illegal is achieved.

I should state very clearly that I in no way support the idea of murdering doctors to achieve one's political ends; but based on the evidence of that site, I still think there's nothing there that promotes that murder. (Then again, websites can be changed - just ask 123Hosting.com...)
posted by m.polo at 4:32 AM on March 30, 2001


Its hard to believe that they honestly expect to raise the abortion issue to the levels of "Crimes against Humanity" and by implication make the ban on abortion act retrospectively back to the present.

Then again they are total nuts, I suppose...

Nah that's baloney, it's just a smokescreen, looking at their site doesn't reassure me. I still think it's incitement to violence and intimidation that is the true purpose behind this site.
posted by lagado at 6:24 AM on March 30, 2001


Lagado, you may think the secret intention is for people to kill these doctors, but that would have to be proven in a court of law. We can't take away people's right to speech because some people feel they have an intuitive insight into the minds of the publisher. You equate this with making a threat to the president...no threats were made here. It is exactly the same as the list Thirteen posted. There are tons of "Hategroup Watch" sites out there that keep lists of people.
posted by Doug at 8:30 AM on March 30, 2001


m.polo, I see what you're saying but i don't think we'll be seeing abortion clinic doctors being tried for crimes against humanity, whatever these people claim.
It's a bit of a stretch to equate abortion with the holocaust though I can see the temptation if you're beliefs are so fundamental that you believe an aborted foetus has the same rights as the rest of us.
posted by Markb at 8:43 AM on March 30, 2001


I think the doctors should carry a gun and return fire if fired upon.
posted by a3matrix at 4:19 PM on March 30, 2001


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