Monday, April 19, 2010

Joe Klein's seditious hyperbole

By Donald Sensing

I'm not saying Joe Klein of Time Mag is being seditious. I'm saying that he doesn't know what he's talking about - but that's right up there with "dog bites man" for news value.

Klein thinks that disagreeing with the government through the exercise of First Amendment rights is sedition.

On NBC's April 18 "The Chris Matthews Show," Time columnist Joe Klein all but accused former GOP vice-presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, along with Fox News host Glenn Beck of sedition.

"I did a little bit of research just before this show - it's on this little napkin here. I looked up the definition of sedition which is conduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of the state. And a lot of these statements, especially the ones coming from people like Glenn Beck and to a certain extent Sarah Palin, rub right up close to being seditious."

As Klein pointed out, the legal definition of sedition is "a revolt or an incitement to revolt against established authority." And, sedition has been declared a felony in Supreme Court opinions, thus making Klein's national television accusation a fairly serious one, one of which New York magazine's John Heilemann agreed with. However, Heilemann added conservative talker Rush Limbaugh to that list.
"... on this little napkin here" seems about as deep as Klein ever gets. But of course, Klein is wrong. Sedition is in fact illegal under Title 18, US Code, which Klein could have found online as easily as I did if only Klein was as interested in accuracy as I am. Here's the title's main page. Drilling down, we read how US law, rather than Joe Klein, defines sedition. First, "§ 2384. Seditious conspiracy," in its entirety (my italics) is this:
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
I challenge Joe Klein or any of his ideological allies to point one single sentence of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck or  Rush Limbaugh that advocates any of these actions. Frankly, I don't listen to Beck (tried twice, couldn't handle it), occasionally listen to Rush and I've already posted my opinion of Palin. But the legal requirement for seditious conspiracy requires that these persons advocate overthrowing or destroying by force the US government. And the conspiracy must be directed at the government itself, not just a selection of enactments of the Congress or policies of the administration.

Next is § 2385. Advocating overthrow of Government, my italics:
Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

As used in this section, the terms “organizes” and “organize”, with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons
Are you seeing a pattern here? Do Klein or his host know that absent the design to "overthrow or destroy" the government "by force or violence" there is no sedition? All I have ever heard, or heard of, these figures urge is for the electorate to vote in new members of Congress this fall. But to Klein, that's sedition.

Back in 2003, the present Secretary of State said this:

But no more. Why? 'Tis simple. Just see Bill Clinton's latest tirade against his party's opposition this week in a speech marking the 15th anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building by Timothy McVeigh. Clinton again attempted to connect - without any evidence whatsoever - conservative talk radio and internet sites with the 1995 bombing. But W. James Antle III sees through the ruse:
Protest against a Republican-run federal government, no matter how intemperate, is patriotic. Protest against Democratic-controlled government leads inexorably Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. No matter how anfractuous the logic, the fact that such protest is now widespread is what has Clinton seriously disturbed.
Back to Joe Klein's belief that mere speech opposing policies of the government is actually sedition. In fact, here is the text of the relevant Congressional enactment that was in fact signed into law by the president:
SECTION 3. Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully make or convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States, or to promote the success of its enemies, or shall willfully make or convey false reports, or false statements, ...or incite insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty, in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall willfully obstruct ...the recruiting or enlistment service of the United States, or ...shall willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States, or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States ...or shall willfully display the flag of any foreign enemy, or shall willfully ...urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of production ...or advocate, teach, defend, or suggest the doing of any of the acts or things in this section enumerated and whoever shall by word or act support or favor the cause of any country with which the United States is at war or by word or act oppose the cause of the United States therein, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both. (cite)
This was enacted in 1918 as an amendment to the Espionage Act of 1917. The amendment, above, has become known as the Sedition Act. Who controlled the Congress in those years? Of which party was President Woodrow Wilson? Democrat and Democrat.
More than 2,000 prosecutions occurred under the original and amended Espionage Act, the most famous of which was that of Socialist spokesman and draft opponent, Eugene V. Debs, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Both the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act were repealed in 1921.
And who took office in 1921? That would be Warren G. Harding, Republican, who also pardoned Debs. But 89 years after this tyrannical act was repealed, Joe Klein seems to think that equating mere speech with felonious sedition is the way things ought to be. The more things change, etc.


"Distrust, Discontent, Anger and Partisan Rancor"
By almost every conceivable measure Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days. A new Pew Research Center survey finds a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government – a dismal economy, an unhappy public, bitter partisan-based backlash, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.

Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, the public now wants government reformed and growing numbers want its power curtailed. With the exception of greater regulation of major financial institutions, there is less of an appetite for government solutions to the nation’s problems – including more government control over the economy – than there was when Barack Obama first took office.
"An alarming outbreak of 'regime' amnesia" - the hypocrisy of Klein's host, John Heilemann, who said that Limbaugh was seditious for referring to the "Obama regime." But (my italics),
In the January 19, 2009 issue of New York, Heilemann wrote that Barack Obama had no particular expertise in economics, "So it's ironic, to say the least, that the first defining moment of the Obama regime happens to revolve around matters macroeconomic -- dealing not just with a nasty and potentially prolonged downturn, but with a wrenching, epochal crisis of capitalism on a global scale."
And that wasn't the only time.

Update: Glenn Reynolds asks, "Remember when protest was patriotic?"

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Rich Vail said...

It's ok for them to make these sorts of accusations...because once the Obama regime took control, then protest, which used to be the highest form of patriotism...became sedition.

Don't you understand that? It's ok to accuse anyone who isn't a Democrat of just about anything...

Anonymous said...

The concerns of the terminally self-loathing are of no interest to me...

Anonymous said...

And I thought my neice was immatture. Oh wait, she's 7, what's any of these folks excuse?
Everyone of the far end of boths sides needs to grow up. Wait, make that just grow, somehow...