“Just send a few threatening messages, and you’ll win”

Free people should never, ever cave in to threats of violence if demands to sacrifice their freedoms are not met.

Volokh Conspiracy: Thugs Win Again:[*1]

This time they are pro-Israel thugs as opposed to extremist Muslim thugs (and various other thugs), but thugs are thugs. Here’s what happened; I quote Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign v. King County (W.D. Wash, decided last Friday): The county Department of Transportation in Seattle sells advertising on buses; the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign bought space for an anti-Israel ads: “The proposed ad read ‘Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work,’ and featured a picture of children next to a bomb-damaged building.” When this hit the news, the Department got lots of objections, including “four [messages that] suggest[ed] an intention to disrupt or vandalize buses, four [that] communicate[d] violent intentions, [and] approximately twenty [that] express[ed] concern for rider safety.”
. . .

The Department then canceled the ad contract, partly based on these messages. And the federal District Court held that the action was likely constitutional, because the ad violated city policy that excluded ads that are “so objectionable under contemporary community standards as to be reasonably foreseeable that it will result in harm to, disruption of, or interference with the transportation system” or that are “directed at a person or group” and are “so insulting, degrading or offensive as to be reasonably foreseeable that [they] will incite or produce imminent lawless action in the form of retaliation, vandalism or other breach of public safety, peace and order.” This policy, the court said, was viewpoint-neutral and reasonable, when applied to this ad, because “The threats of violence and disruption from members of the public … led bus drivers and law-enforcement officials to express safety concerns.”

Now on the one hand I sympathize with the Department’s safety concerns, and its desire to protect passengers. But on the other hand, behavior that gets rewarded — here, the making of threats — gets repeated.

The message is clear: If you want to stop speech that you dislike, just send a few threatening messages and you’ll win. You don’t actually need to act violently, and risk punishment for that. You could send the threats anonymously, in a way that makes it quite unlikely that you’ll be punished.

This is a travesty.

This is, if you think of it, exactly what the union people are doing in Madison to the citizens of Wisconsin–threatening them.

It is an extremely dangerous road to keep going down. We should probably stop. Before the threats begin turning into something much, much worse. I really, really do not want to live through a civil war.

People who threaten violence in order to advance their goals are outlaws, and should be treated as such. They should not be defended by the very laws they threaten to violate.