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Defrosting the Chill

Opening 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.

I 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.”

Simply 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.

Coercive 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.

The 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 rights.

This 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.

LRC 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.

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

December 28, 2005