I am a free speech absolutist, but I find this case to be a difficult test. Basically, Anthony Elonis was criminally prosecuted for ranting on Facebook, posting violent fantasies and rap lyrics about his wife, an FBI agent and others. Should his speech be seen as an illegal threat, or protected by the First Amendment?
I am not sure what to think. Elonis’ ex-wife certainly felt threatened, and the posts were directed toward her. These were not generic fantasies or lyrics. These were fantasies about specific people, and what Elonis wanted to do to those people. It is now easier for someone to make a real threat and claim he was simply posting rap lyrics protected by the Constitution. Where should we draw the line in a case like this?
This is not like the case of Justin Carter, who spent five months in prison for making a stupid, tasteless and offensive “joke” that was prosecuted by a thoroughly corrupt prosecutor as a “terroristic threat.” Someone clearly needs to be in prison for the rest of his life in this case, but it should be the prosecutor and the so-called “judge” that perpetuated this injustice and this frightening abuse of power.
But we have to be careful, especially in the age of political correctness that has gone to a completely absurd extreme. We actually have so-called “college students” claiming that differing opinions cause them to be “unsafe” while the “university” actually encourages this nonsense instead of telling the little snots to grow a spine and deal with the fact that not everyone agrees with them. Since more and more people are fed up with the pathetic whining that speech is “offensive,” extreme Leftists have now started to use “safety” as an argument for censorship.
The slope really is slippery.
So where do you draw the line? It is wise to err on the side of free speech, especially given the oppressive atmosphere we are seeing with regard to freedom of speech. This should also be a lesson that posting violent fantasies on social media is likely to only cause you trouble, and it is wise to refrain from doing that. Anthony Elonis’ life would have been a lot easier these last few years had he followed that advice.