Defrosting the Chill

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up my e-mail recently I read Burt
Blumert’s impassioned plea
for financial support for LRC. As
an attorney, let me tell you why you should contribute to this organ
of free speech.

have handled many cases involving the Constitutional rights of citizens.
In the area of 1st Amendment rights, there is a concept
referred to as the “chilling effect.”

stated, the courts have recognized that when government uses its
coercive powers to punish certain behavior (including speech), it
creates a chilling effect on the free exercise of those behaviors
by others in the future.

powers may involve taxing the behavior, censoring the behavior or
otherwise punishing those who engage in the behavior. When others
witness this, they naturally tend to hedge their risks by avoiding
the behavior in the future.

Bush Administration has taken great steps to quash dissent and criticism.
From the Draconian measures of the ironically named Patriot Act
to seizing and imprisoning citizens without access to due process
of law, this Administration has gone where no other has gone before
it. More importantly, it has allowed its steamroller approach to
civil liberties to become public knowledge precisely to intimidate
critics who will see the specter of themselves hanging hooded from
electrical cables in some foreign (or domestic) dungeon as too great
a price to pay for the exercise of their 1st Amendment

approach is hardly new to history. It has been carried out for centuries
by any number of tyrants. Consider the scourging and crucifixion
of Jesus of Nazareth and the resulting retreat of his previously
ardent apostles as a starting point.

is a target because those who target it fear it. They do not fear
the actual authors who contribute to the site. They fear the site
for providing those authors a widely read forum from which others
learn information they do not want others to consider. This is information
that the mainstream media will not publish for fear of losing their
precious government sources or incurring FCC retribution. For me,
LRC is Paul Revere or the Chinese student standing in front of the
tank in Tiananmen Square.

you value your rights, demonstrate
that with a contribution to LRC
. You are actually contributing
to your freedom.

28, 2005

M. Peters [send him mail]
is a practicing attorney in Michigan.

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