Annoy me, Go to Jail

Why is it that I don’t have much faith in the Republicans? I guess it’s because I don’t trust their motives.

As a result of goggling on “bloggers for free speech” I came up with the following blog posted in January by Declan McCullagh entitled “Create an e-annoyance, go to jail”

The blog starts out: “Annoying someone via the Internet is now a federal crime. It’s no joke. Last Thursday (Jan 2, 2006), President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity. In other words, it’s OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.”

What came to my mind is, isn’t this a great way for Bush and his corporate Cronies and Republicans to further intimidate those exercising free speech. How great for them to go after someone that criticizes (read annoys) Bush and his friends because they did not identify themselves.

But if they identify themselves, well then Bush doesn’t have to wait for the FBI to id them, they already know.

Remember the anti thought police ejecting Cindy Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of a Republican Representative, for both wearing t-shirts to Bush’s State of the Union address. The Bush and Rove atmosphere is to control totally what we think and do.

As the article on Sheehan and Young pointed out, while a 1946 law “prohibits demonstrations within any of the Capitol buildings” a later U.S. Capitol Police Board regulation clarified “demonstration activity” to include “parading, picketing, speechmaking, holding vigils, sit-ins, or other expressive conduct … but does not include merely wearing Tee-shirts, buttons or other similar articles of apparel that convey a message.”

They were released but not before the Bush people made their point. Don’t question what they do. Don’t dare create controversy. Let’s let Americans believe that everyone is happy by writing dissenters out of the movie script. Make certain that nowhere on the Bush set is there any little annoyances while we’re filming The Great American Dream of George Bush as he Battles the Evil Empire Around the World.

So far wearing of t-shirts does not require that one also have a name tag. But then if you refuse to identify yourself to police if asked that’s another story. But we’ll all soon be in a huge databank anyway with our National ID cards.

The new law on not annoying people over the internet was stuck into the Women Against Violence and Department of Justice Reauthorization Bill. As McCullagh notes: Buried deep in the new law is Sec. 113, an innocuously titled bit called “Preventing Cyberstalking.” It rewrites existing telephone harassment law to prohibit anyone from using the Internet “without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy.”

To grease the rails for this idea, Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, and the section’s other sponsors slipped it into an unrelated, must-pass bill to fund the Department of Justice. The plan: to make it politically infeasible for politicians to oppose the measure.

The tactic worked. The bill cleared the House of Representatives by voice vote, and the Senate unanimously approved it Dec. 16.

Yes another favorite tactic of Republicans. They control both the House and Senate and they can do whatever they want. They love to slip things into things. I wonder if it’s some kind of sexual perversion. In a way it’s akin to sexual harassment. The male dominated Republican Congress thinks that somehow the public loves things secretly being slipped in.

The reality is that if people really knew what they were doing and it was openly discussed first, it probably never would happen.Yet there is nothing like doing it in the dead of night, in the dark when they think nobody is looking. The Republicans don’t have the courage to do it in the open.

So while they do it secretly in the dark without identifying themselves beforehand, if at all; they want you to identify yourself if you are going to make any comments that may annoy them..

Here’s the actual language: “Whoever…utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person…who receives the communications…shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

The problem is that the new language is too broad. While I’m sure it was originally meant to dealt with a legitimate issue – harassment of women and others at places like abortion clinics, Republicans have expanded the issue to include a vague term of annoy and extend the provision beyond what was originally phone calls to all internet interactions.

Unscreened Blogs frequently carry a lot of annoying comments, and comments that frequently go beyond that. While there may be legitimate reasons for anonymous e-mails and posting, like losing your job, that is not, as I have written a number of times on the widely read Washington State blog, the reason that trolls and others post anonymously and try to hide their real identity.

Because even when Republican trolls are exposed, like one was recently on, they still get to keep their job it seems because that is their job. For most of those people it is that they would never say what they say if they had to identify themselves because it would be embarrassing to them. They are just cowards. And they are not out for a serious discussion of the issues.

But beyond this, the ambiguity of the meaning of the word annoy should remind people that Bush does not like to be annoyed. And that we are at war as Bush is fond of reminding us these days.

But its more than just a war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read the March 6 Capital Hill Blue’s blog. Bush declares war on freedom of the press. And if that isn’t enough to get you going do a little history refresher on the Sedition Act of 1918. Even though is was repealed in 1922, some of the language sounds pretty similar to attitudes of Bush.

Taken from the Act as printed at Wikipedia “Whoever, when the United States is at war ……shall willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States, or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy of the United States into contempt, scorn, contumely, or disrepute, or shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any language intended to incite, provoke, or encourage resistance to the United States, or to promote the cause of its enemies, or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully by utterance, writing, printing, publication, or language spoken, urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production in this country of any thing or things, product or products, necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war in which the United States may be engaged ,with intent by such curtailment to cripple or hinder the United States in the prosecution of war, and whoever shall willfully advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated, and whoever shall by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war or by word or act oppose the cause of the United States therein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or the imprisonment for not more than twenty years,”

Even though the Act was repealed, doesn’t it sound in many ways like things Bush has said. While not fining you or sending you to prison, he and Rove and the Republicans are trying to brand anyone who opposes them as a traitor because we are at war. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. Is it 1984?

See also FAQ The New Annoy Law Explained.

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