John W Dozier Jr just completed final editing of "Google Bomb", a book about online attacks and just the sort of thing that precipitated the arrest by the FBI of a blogger for what he said on his blog. Paul Alan Levy, the internet lawyer with Public Citizen who is no stranger to attacking judges with words and imploring his netizen constituency to online action against his adversaries, was the apparent "go to" guy to put this alleged misconduct in perspective. So it was a bit odd to see Levy offering his impliedly unbiased opinion to journalists. He stated that with respect to the comments from the blogger about specific federal Judges...."The question is, 'Is it a threat, or is it advocacy'." Well, given the facts internet lawyer Levy had available, let's see if this could possibly be simply idle chatter from a well intentioned and likely vehement follower of Levy's propaganda. This is what the FBI and Department of Justice allege Mr. Hal Turner said in threatening Federal Judges after they decided a case:
1) "These Judges deserve to be killed."
2) "Apparently, the 7th Circuit court didn't get the hint after those killings (more on this below). It appears another lesson is needed."
3) "Judges offical public work addresses and a map of the area are below. Their home adresses and maps will follow soon."
4) A photo of the Federal Courthouse in Chicago modified with arrows and a label noting the "anti-truck bomb barriers".
The reference to the other murders in number two? When the same Circuit Court decided to allow stand a conviction of an individual for soliciting murder of another federal judge in Chicago, that federal judge's mother and her husband were murdered in their home.
Now, I am all for offering up balanced perspectives to all of the online netizens who look to a real Internet Lawyer to help them understand appropriate conduct and where the lines are drawn. And we need vigorous advocacy by Internet lawyer types on both sides of these issues. But Levy is an extremist, and legitimate journalists need to stop relying upon him as an objective, fair or balanced source. Here's what I would like to have heard Paul Alan Levy say. Maybe he can learn that the message of the value of free speech can be protected without assuming extreme positions that will influence the ignorant and make him look foolish when he is challenged on it. Here, if Paul Alan Levy could learn to exercise discretion and judgment, is what he could have said:
"From a moral standpoint, respect and protection of our judicial system is essential. This situation is a lesson for the hundreds of millions of uninformed netizens relying upon us as their moral compass. If these allegations are true, and Hal Turner meant what he was saying, there is no place for such misconduct. His words erode the moral fabric of online society and put at risk the right to free speech we all enjoy. There are legal issues with respect to whether the government has to prove an imminent threat to physical harm, which is almost always the defense raised in cases in which threats are made to public officials, and other free speech matters may arise in the course of this case. But no matter what the legal outcome, we cannot condone in any way attacks on Judges, their families, or the administration of justice. Our justice system is not perfect, and we'll continue to work everyday to point out the problems and offer solutions, but it is the best in the world. And we must all be ever vigilant to preserve, protect and defend the Judiciary."
So, I have to wonder-at what point is Paul Alan Levy and Public Citizen just no longer relevant in today's debates about online rights and speech? I think they still deserve to be at the table. Just so far out on the left of center that while they are accorded a plate-setting, their voice is barely decipherable. The term "extremist" understates what Public Citizen is doing to the moral fiber of the online world. And you'll hear much more about internet lawyer Paul Alan Levy and Public Citizen in "Google Bomb", the book. Much more.