Ken at Popehat has an excellent post about attacking people in real life to squelch their speech, using as an example the Nadia Naffe threat against me. Ken says:
Naffe released assertions publicly in a clear bid for publicity. The notion that a blogger who happens to be a lawyer can’t comment on her claims without straying into “legal advice” to a party is ludicrous. Such a wide interpretation of ethical rules would not survive First Amendment scrutiny. Similarly, the notion that an attorney is “interfering” in a public civil matter by commenting upon it is fatuous. Naffe and her hangers-on will not be producing any authority supporting their arguments, because (1) it doesn’t exist and (2) they aren’t capable of finding it if it did exist.
But Naffe and her supporters aren’t relying upon the legal force of their arguments. They are relying upon openly censorious thuggery — on politics by other means. Misconduct allegations against an attorney — even when they are sub-literate and specious — are embarrassing, inconvenient, and annoying. That’s the point of the tweet pictured above, and of Naffe’s celebrations of censorship-by-complaint. Naffe and her supporters do not seek to persuade, or to prove their cause is right — they intend to make frivolous complaints to a public entity in hopes of silencing a critic. For this, they deserve our contempt.
The “tweet pictured above” is one encouraging Naffe to file a complaint against me because doing so will reduce my power as a blogger. Or so the guy thinks, anyway.
One point I would add to Ken’s excellent observations: perversely, threats against a blogger not only serve as an attempt to intimidate, but are used as a tool to delegitimize the blogger. Here’s how it works: if a blogger criticizes someone in the public eye, the anti-free speech thug simply attacks the blogger in real life. If the attack fails to intimidate him, the thug now has the argument that anything the blogger posts about the thug in the future is done out of “revenge.” Even though the thug is the one who made it personal, while the blogger was simply reporting on the news, the thug’s personal attack on the blogger now enables the thug to claim to be the victim of a personal attack.
This is how the thugs use their weapons of real life attacks: not just as intimidation, but as attempts to delegitimize. They also can report you to the authorities for made-up crimes and ethical lapses, and then describe you as being “under investigation.”
It’s all part of a playbook. Ken does a great job explaining why it’s wrong. Read his post here. And don’t miss his epic takedown of one of these thugs in the comment section.