The corporate media has linked teen idol Miley Cyrus, who plays schoolgirl rock star Hannah Montana in the hit Disney series and movie, to an unconstitutional bill now working its way through Congress.
According to Reuters, Cyrus recently posted an angry tirade on her Twitter web page in response to criticism about her weight. “Those remarks that you hateful people use are fighting words, the ones that scar people and cause them to do damage to themselves or others,” the teenager wrote. “Kids hurt themselves. This is not something to be taken lightly.”
The First Amendment of the Constitution shouldn’t be taken lightly, either. If passed, the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act (HR 1966) would outlaw speech meant to “coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person.” According to the text of the bill, individuals who “bully” others via any electronic means could face fines, two years in prison, or both. Critics call it the Censorship Act of 2009.
As UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh noted on his blog, a number of common situations could be considered felonious under the language of the bill. “I try to coerce a politician into voting a particular way, by repeatedly blogging (using a hostile tone) about what a hypocrite/campaign promise breaker/fool/etc. he would be if he voted the other way. I am transmitting in interstate commerce a communication with the intent to coerce using electronic means (a blog) ‘to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior’ — unless, of course, my statements aren’t seen as ’severe,’ a term that is entirely undefined and unclear,” Volokh wrote.
Volokh’s example is demonstrative. If the bill becomes law it will undoubtedly be used by government and political groups to go after opponents and critics. The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act is less about assuaging the crushed feelings of teenagers and others easily hurt by insults and taunting than it is about shutting down the free speech of targeted individuals and groups.
The Anti-Defamation League is a strong supporter of the bill. “Research by the Anti-Defamation League found as many as half of U.S. teenagers are affected by cyber-bullying, whether through emails, instant messaging, cellphones, texting or websites, with the anonymity of electronic media emboldening bullies,” reports Reuters.
The ADL is a special interest group dedicated to shutting down the free speech of people accused of defaming the Jewish people and allegedly engaging in bigotry and other forms of racism (incidentally protected by the First Amendment). It is not specifically interested in protecting the feelings of teenagers teased because they are fat.The ADL also tracks “extremists” and was instrumental in the production of the Department of Homeland Security’s document characterizing advocates of the Second Amendment, pro-life activists, and returning veterans as “rightwing extremists” deemed a threat to the country.
In March of this year, the ADL described Joe Banister, Tommy Cryer, Pat Shannan, Dave Von Kleist, Jack McLamb, Greg Dixon, Ted Gunderson, and Michael Badnarik as “extremist speakers.”
In April, the group attempted to link talk show host Alex Jones to the accused cop killer Richard Poplawski. “One of Poplawski’s favorite places for such conspiracy theories was the Web site of the right-wing conspiracy radio talk show host Alex Jones. Poplawski visited the site, Infowars, frequently, shared links to it with others, and sometimes even posted to it,” the ADL wrote on its website.
The Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act would allow the ADL and other groups to effectively shut down the First Amendment for individuals they believe promote “hate speech,” that is to say speech not considered politically correct by favored groups (i.e., federally protected minorities). It would allow the government to shut down “hate” radio (conservative, libertarian, and patriot radio) without reimposing the so-called Fairness Doctrine. It would theoretically criminalize talk show hosts such as Alex Jones, Micheal Savage, and others who call for government officials to be arrested and tried for treason.
Moreover, the bill would put a federally-imposed damper on the internet where the democratization of speech is widely accepted, much to the displeasure of the government and protected groups intolerant of criticism.
“Put simply, this legislation would be used as a tool for a judge and jury to determine whether there is significant evidence to prove that a person ‘cyberbullied’ another,” wrote the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Linda Sanchez. “That is: did they have the required intent, did they use electronic means of communication, and was the communication severe, hostile, and repeated?”
Free speech — especially free political speech — is often severe, hostile, and repeated. If enacted, the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act would turn passionate and even vehement political speech into a crime punishable by two years in prison.
According to the founders, political speech was the only kind of free speech that government was strictly required to permit, as free speech is a natural right. Ten of the fourteen early state constitutions or Declarations of Rights, including the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution, name freedom of speech and the press as a fundamental right.
Rep. Linda Sanchez and the supporters of this bill would deny that natural and god-given right.