An aspiring rapper posts his lyrics on Facebook, suggesting a Halloween costume with his estranged wife's "head on a stick."
He goes on: "I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts. Hurry up and die, bitch, so I can..." and so on and so forth.
Anthony Elonis insists that he was merely engaging in artistic expression per his right to free speech. His wife disagreed. She saw his writings as a real threat of bodily harm, a crime not protected by the First Amendment.
Courts sided with the wife, and Anthony spent 44 months behind bars.
But the case won't hurry up and die. It's now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in the fall.
A core issue will be Elonis' intent in writing those words. Did he mean it?
His defenders say that social media make the job of getting into anyone's head so much harder. And that's what makes this case interesting.
"In social media, you're deprived of interaction" with the author, Elonis' lawyer, John Elwood, told me. "People can't see your face, can't hear your voice."
The Facebook audience is crowded with strangers who don't know the writer. They're not well-equipped to judge whether he's the type to follow through on a threat or merely prancing on his stage. Miscommunication is easy in these circumstances.
But, you may say, his wife knows him and insists she's terrified. That brings up a long-running debate in such cases over whether to be a crime, a threat has to look real in unbiased eyes or simply strike fear in the target.
Elwood believes that the lower courts ignored the cues in Elonis' Facebook posts suggesting, "I don't mean anything by this."
For example, Elonis quoted and linked to a comedy group called The Whitest Kids U' Know. He also wrote in the middle of a post, "Me thinks the judge needs an education on true threat jurisprudence."
"These things indicate this is not intended to intimidate anybody," Elwood said, "but that he is blowing off steam."
Clearly, not everyone has caught the yuk-yuk-yuk disclaimers. And not everyone appreciates Elonis' brand of wit or, more to the point, identifies it as such.
Many of today's threat prosecutions are based on things said on social media platforms, a reason the Supreme Court has taken up the case. No easy task labeling impermissible speech on the Internet, where fantasies run amok alongside sober opinions, insanity, stupidity, irrationality and just plain bad writing.
Recent history shows not all of these online threats are idle. Elliot Rodger posted warnings on YouTube and online forums before stabbing and shooting several people to death in Santa Barbara, California. Jerad and Amanda Miller wrote of their "coming sacrifices" on Facebook before embarking on a murderous rampage in Las Vegas.
Some worry that the nine justices have not shown themselves to be keenly aware of communications technology. Questions such as these will arise:
Elonis didn't tag his wife on the Facebook threats. Does that mean that they weren't directly aimed at her?
He put an emoticon with a tongue sticking out at the end of the Halloween reference. Is this evidence that he was only kidding around?
Do the Supreme Court justices know what an emoticon is?
"Art is about pushing limits," Elonis has posted. But if a threat is written as rap lyrics — or in iambic pentameter, for that matter — does it get a pass as art?
Heaven knows we don't want to lose the sacred right to say moronic things online. And yet...
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 July 2014 07:36
To The Daily Sun,
As a former small-business owner, the gas tax affects me in a very negative way.
My business was greatly affected by gas prices. I ran a moving company, and anytime gas prices went up our profit margin went down.
The increase in the gas tax to 22.2 cents per gallon is completely unreasonable. The gas tax increase would make it harder any small business to be successful. I do not know what the governor thinks she is doing, but she is not helping any small-business owners.
Anyone who owns a business knows that the first thing you need to get under control is your budget. However, that is something that Maggie Hassan, as governor, has not done. As a result she needs to increase revenue, which means taking more money from my business with her gas tax.
Businesses cannot just create revenue by picking it from someone else's pocket, so why is it fair that she can?
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 July 2014 10:31
To The Daily Sun,
A local Moultonborough company, CruCon Cruise Outlet Plus, recently had a grand opening, at which their employees officially greeted the community, providing a tour of their operation. I believe the event was significant because it represents how we can attract commerce and jobs to our area. This marvelous company has attracted career-minded employees, many of whom, are just starting their families. In a short time, the company has grown to more than 100 employees, with $160 million in gross sales.
Employees expressed to me their delight that the company is situated in an ideal location with its beautiful lakes and mountains, and easy lifestyle. Through technology, a company like CruCon can operate just about anywhere. Through the telephone and the Internet, the company books cruises to anywhere in the world, on any cruise line.
Using this company as an example, we can attract other growing businesses. One way is to establish an Enterprise Zone in our district that provides businesses with certain incentives to relocate, such as tax breaks and help in finding investment. Businesses can also offer services to each other. Called "B2B," — business-to-business creates a strong middle class that invigorates our entire economy.
In my race for State Representative in Moultonborough, Sandwich and Tuftonboro, I am not running against any individual. I'm campaigning against an extreme philosophy that sees no role for state government or any public agency in helping people or businesses succeed.
As a former entrepreneur and businessman, I know how important government is to the success of any enterprise. A CEO knows it's important to relocate to a business-friendly area. A builder knows the importance of public construction projects. An independent tradesman knows the expense of medical care. Even a piano teacher knows that terrible winter roads can prevent her students from getting to their lessons. These are the types of things that should concern your state representative.
Candidate, NH. House of Representatives
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 July 2014 10:23
To The Daily Sun,
Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier from Idaho, is on American soil after nearly five years in the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Seemingly invisible for all that time, he has been the subject of media intense concern since his release and return to the United States.
Media ignorance and governmental avoidance have plagued POW/MIA advocates for decades, and offered us challenges that were and are huge impediments to our fulfilling our pledge and a tragic disservice to those we attempt to serve.
For those who know the Northeast POW/MIA Network and many who joined us in our drive to make Bowe's return a reality, may I first extend my sincerest and most heartfelt appreciation? I don't know how many of you were encouraged by the concerns and information we presented, but, please, understand that we were offered nothing by the U.S. government in this instance and, based on decades of POW/MIA activism/advocacy, anything we might have been given would have been scrutinized very carefully and required corroboration by multiple sources before being accepted as fact.
The family's request for privacy was honored every step of the way, but limited opportunity for direct communication, also, made this journey much more difficult. Our efforts were apolitical and coincident with the founding goals of this organization: The return of all live American POW/MIAs, repatriation of the remains of those who have not survived, and comprehensive explanations for cases where the previous two options do not exist.
Once Bowe was listed as a Prisoner of War, our responsibility was clear, and we pursued it with vigor, and an American soldier came home.
Bowe made it home amid a barrage of information from every possible corner. To date, separating fact from fiction remains a herculean endeavor. He faces an exhaustive journey the result of which remains unknown. But one fact is certain: His life and those of his family and loved ones have been altered forever.
I will never know what part the Network played in this entire process, but I remain firm in my belief that we adhered to the dictates of our organization and I neither regret our involvement nor offer any excuses. Our stance remains solid and unaltered. Should another American in uniform find himself/herself in enemy hands — and I hope they won't — our response will be one of focused, unrelenting resolve.
Giving up is not a choice.
Donald C. Amorosi, President
The Northeast POW/MIA Network
South Glens Fall, N.Y.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 July 2014 10:20
To The Daily Sun,
HR Bill 7311 is legislation that allows all the illegals to come here and to stay here. This was written by a Chris Smith (R-N.J.). Who signed it? It was G.W. Bush (R) who signed three bills, starting in 2002 with the Homeland Security Act, expanded it in 2005 and expanded it again in late 2008 when he was leaving office and "nobody" would notice it. These all helped with the resettlement and protection of immigrants to the point where we cannot make them leave. Both the House and Senate passed these bills. The House by a voice count so nobody will know who vote for or against it, and the Senate it was a unanimous "yes" vote.
The confusion with Obama was because of the green cards and instant citizen provisions he had for younger kids, age 7, that were here and stayed. Now everyone thought they would get the same treatment, so they come and we, by law, have to keep them until they are 18.
The 2008 version was called the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. Wilberforce was an early 1800s English antislavery advocate. It also provided $80 million to investigate and prosecute those that traffic in the commercial sex acts from 2008-2018. It was supposed to reduce our deficit by $2 million, by 2008 estimates. Luckily for the Dems, it was passed under the GOP or can you imagine the screaming by Izza.
But in reality both sides are to blame but I feel there is more blame by the GOP than by the Democrats just because they wrote and signed it.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 July 2014 10:10