Mr. Olbermann, can we talk a minute? Let the Dog start off by saying he is a huge fan of your show Countdown, he and Mrs. Dog have watched for years, all the way back to when you were counting the days since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq in the low 1000’s. This all prefaces to talk about an issue the Dog has with you in one very particular area.
"Originally posted at Squarestate.net"
Last night in your “Worst Person In the World” segment you made a Boss Limbaugh your number two award for making statements about Hondurans coming to the United States to “help get our government back”. You then went on to ask why it was you instead of the Department of Homeland security asking if Mr. Limbaugh was advocating armed insurrection using foreign nationals. You then stated it is a Federal crime to advocate such an action.
This is true as far as it goes. There is a Federal Statute passed in 2008 (Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 15, number 2385) which states in part;
Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or
Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or
Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.
This is the law of the land, whoever given the history of the First Amendment in the last 100 years it seems likely that anyone arrested under this law would have many avenues for having it declared unconstitutional. This statute is very similar to the one in which was upheld in Whitney v. California, which used the same language of “or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State” though in that case it was aimed against the Communist Labor Party.. That was upheld in the early part of the 20th Century, but was overturned in 1969.
The Dog is not a lawyer, but it seems pretty clear that a law going back to the way things were previous to a Supreme Court decision, a decision which other rulings have been based on for the last 40 years, is not going to be upheld by the current Supreme Court, no matter how conservative it has become in the last few years. On the subject of basic constitutional liberties such as habeas rights the Roberts Court has been pretty clear they will keep what we currently understand those rights to be from infringement by the government.
This also means people like Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher are protected in their right to say things about Sen. Dodd like “why hasn’t someone strung him up yet?”. While it is clear the above statute would prohibit that, the Supreme Court has found that such utterances, while foolish in the extreme and despicable in their content, are protected speech. The need for a free people to be able to criticize their elected officials outweighs the States interest in zealously protecting those who serve.
For statements like that to cross the line into illegality the Supreme Court has held there must be an element of immediacy. If Mr. Wurzelbacher had said “I am going to hang Sen. Dodd from the highest tree, right now!”, then it would have been an illegal threat. However dangerous a rhetorical question like that is, it is protected under the First Amendment from government interference. This includes passing laws which would prevent a foolish citizen from speaking his damned fool mind in such a way.
So we get to the Dog’s request; is it possible Mr. Olbermann that you could leave out the legal parts of your skewering of these fools? There is no need to confuse the issue of their malignant idiocy with legal reasoning which is at best confusing to the public who often don’t take the time to understand their actual rights and the laws and Supreme Court rulings which shape them. The fact Boss Limbaugh and Joe “the plumber without a license” Wurzelbacher would say these types of things is enough to mock them with, surely.
Let the Right make spurious claims about what the law is and means, and then skewer them for it. You have all the material you need without following a tactic they use, and frankly, Sir, you are above that kind of thing anyway. Thanks for listening to this nit that gets under the Dog’s skin about your otherwise exemplary show.
Keep fighting the good fight!