Video: Can politicians be bullied?

posted at 6:31 pm on June 29, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

No one likes a bully, but are speech laws the solution?  Reason TV takes up the argument in its Nanny of the Month video, thanks to a law proposed by a New Mexico legislator that would make a crime out of verbal bullying … of a child, or a politician, or anyone experiencing “substantial emotional distress” from criticism.  Sounds like a perfect way for incumbents to silence the opposition, no?

School’s out for summer and Nanny of the Month is taking the opportunity to salute the zealots within the otherwise laudable anti-bullying movement. They take a real problem–few things are more loathsome than picking on the vulnerable–and bungle the response, as has been done with most every “get tough!” effort from D.A.R.E., the failed anti-drug program, to all the idiotic iterations of the “zero tolerance” fad.

Do we really need to ban trash talking at high school sporting events? Do we really need attorney general investigations of foul-mouthed jocks? And for the love of whatever remnants of common sense remain in our schoolhouses and statehouses, do we really need to fight bullying with jail cells?

Not only did this month’s top nanny introduce a bill that would criminalize speech deemed to be bullying–up to a year in the clink!–she introduced a bill that, according to UCLA First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh, is not limited to speech about children (despite it being touted with the typical “for the children!” justifications). Volokh notes that the bill, if passed, could punish harsh speech directed at journalists, academics, celebrities, politicians, and the like, if the speech results in “substantial emotional distress.”

Presenting the Nanny of the Month for June 2013: New Mexico State Rep. Mary Helen Garcia!

Actually, the issue of punishing speech that causes “substantial emotional distress” for public figures has already been addressed, even in civil complaints, by Hustler Magazine v Falwell. The court ruled in that case that such speech is only actionable when it contains a “defamatory falsehood … made with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”  Without that standard on public figures, the ability to criticize public figures would be essentially dead, and so would liberty. “Were we to hold otherwise,” the Supreme Court explained in its unanimous decision, “there can be little doubt that political cartoonists and satirists would be subjected to damages awards without any showing that their work falsely defamed its subject.”

Granted, that standard doesn’t necessarily apply to private figures publicly maligned or bullied, but publicly is another term of art, too.  Yelling “You swing like a girl!” at a Little League game at an opposing player may not be the highest example of sportsmanship for a youngster, but it’s hardly something that requires intervention by law enforcement or the courts … not even when the parents yell that kind of nonsense, which is more often the case.

Even more to the point, these are issues that should be handled by private interaction, not by law enforcement.  If the bullying gets physical, then assault and battery is occurring, and that’s another matter entirely, but verbal bullying is one of the less-pleasant consequences of free speech.  It doesn’t require court intervention, but better supervision and exercise of authority, be it parental, educational, or both.  Otherwise, we will soon find ourselves in the position of filling court dates up with complaints that come down to “He called me a boogerhead!”

The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” has a lot more wisdom than we realize.  Don’t give name-calling power it doesn’t otherwise have — especially not the power to gag us, as these laws eventually will do.

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The 1st amendment is being killed slowly by political correctness, and the criminalization of any speech that is deemed offensive for any reason. The lawyers will be the big winners as usual.

simkeith on June 29, 2013 at 6:37 PM

It’s a hierarchy, a pecking order.

Nothing hard about this.

We Citizens are at the bottom.

Liam on June 29, 2013 at 6:38 PM

Somewhere, Dan Rostenkowski is kicking himself and asking ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

Resist We Much on June 29, 2013 at 6:39 PM

We are a third world banana republic now. The constitution means nothing anymore.

The Rogue Tomato on June 29, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Well…I did want to wash Linda Blair’s mouth out with soap when she tormented the priest with: “Your mother sews socks in Hell!” (or something).

;)

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on June 29, 2013 at 6:41 PM

New Mexico is rapidly coming “The New Colorado”.

jeffinsjvca on June 29, 2013 at 6:44 PM

Imagine how Muslims would use this against ‘those that defame the Prophet Mohammed.’

‘Defame’ being defined as loosely (in the case of Muslims) and narrowly (in the case of everyone else) as necessary,

Resist We Much on June 29, 2013 at 6:44 PM

Hardest hit: DWS

BobMbx on June 29, 2013 at 6:44 PM

Somewhere, Dan Rostenkowski is kicking himself and asking ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

Resist We Much on June 29, 2013 at 6:39 PM

You really need to stop being right all the time.

Why don’t you do something wrong for once? You know — like grab a six of Bud when you wanted Miller?

Liam on June 29, 2013 at 6:45 PM

she so ugly she should wear a mask.

losarkos on June 29, 2013 at 6:45 PM

It’s a hierarchy, a pecking order.

Nothing hard about this.

We Citizens are at the bottom.

Liam on June 29, 2013 at 6:38 PM

….and politicians are the peckers.

Uh oh, now I’m in trouble.

ElectricPhase on June 29, 2013 at 6:46 PM

Don’t give name-calling power it doesn’t otherwise have — especially not the power to gag us, as these laws eventually will do.

Politically correct behavior codes are already spreading. Hate crimes laws and speech codes already exist as law and within universities and corporations. Closing the barn door now won’t change much.

sharrukin on June 29, 2013 at 6:47 PM

….and politicians are the peckers.

Uh oh, now I’m in trouble.

ElectricPhase on June 29, 2013 at 6:46 PM

Got the point.

I’m into surgical castration of them all.

And it’s not elective surgery.

Obamacare can stop the bleeding.

Liam on June 29, 2013 at 6:48 PM

Little known fact: Mary Helen Garcia is the illegitimate offspring of Fidel Castro..

MTF on June 29, 2013 at 6:49 PM

Little known fact: Mary Helen Garcia is the illegitimate offspring of Fidel Castro..

MTF on June 29, 2013 at 6:49 PM

She’s less of a threat than Ho Chi McCain.

Liam on June 29, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Saul!

<3 Reason

EddieC on June 29, 2013 at 6:56 PM

I resent being bullied by unattractive women.

Seth Halpern on June 29, 2013 at 6:58 PM

these are issues that should be handled by private interaction,

That’s correct. Nothing stops bullying faster than a good old fashioned punch to the nose.

BacaDog on June 29, 2013 at 6:58 PM

If the bullying gets physical, then assault and battery is occurring, and that’s another matter entirely, but verbal bullying is one of the less-pleasant consequences of free speech.

Or as my sainted mother used to say,

If he’s close enough to throw a punch at you, he’s close enough for his fly to accidentally collide with your knee.

After which, his a$$ and the rest of him generally “collided” with the ground. My point having been made, I then walked away.

Trying to walk away before this point is ineffectual. Since bullies of any stripe suffer from colossal egos rather than “low self-esteem”, they inevitably pursue. (“How dare you ignore me! I’ll fix you!!“)

Of course if such an “anti-bullying” law were applied exactly as written to all concerned, most politicians would be in the dock, more likely sooner than later. And progressives would be the fastest arrivals by several lengths.

What this really is, is an attempt to pass a law to keep people from “talking back to their betters”. Just like the bratty kid who hits you in the back of the head, then runs and tells the teacher that you hit him.

Inside, they know they can’t win honestly. So they want the rules changed to make sure nobody else can beat them, ever.

Once more proving that progressives are essentially spoiled, petulant children who refuse to grow up.

clear ether

eon

eon on June 29, 2013 at 7:15 PM

This lady is both a Democrat and a school principal.

Mason on June 29, 2013 at 7:26 PM

I resent being bullied by unattractive women.

Seth Halpern on June 29, 2013 at 6:58 PM

Bud Bundy saw a centerfold of one of them in…

“Library’uns”

Electrongod on June 29, 2013 at 7:29 PM

This is what civil rights gets you… It’s not that protecting groups isn’t noble… But once you start driving our some groups for preferential treatment then everything becomes a matter of class protection and then once you start expanding that class protection to speech (hate speech) then you start including more and more classes until nobody can say or do anything without approval.)

We are no longer a nation of limited government and nearly unlimited individual rights but a government that tells us what rights were allowed to have.

Skywise on June 29, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Pass that kind of law and the 1st Amendment is dead. Once the first goes, the rest will follow. Oh and notice that in 99.95% of all cases of new proposed laws against free speech it is the Liberals or Left or whatever you want to call them that are advancing these insane laws. The left dearly loves their “protected classes.”

Johnnyreb on June 29, 2013 at 7:30 PM

The lawyers will be the big winners as usual.

Of course. They are also the biggest winners of the gay marriage wars. Divorce lawyers win, big time.

rickyricardo on June 29, 2013 at 7:31 PM

Volokh notes that the bill, if passed, could punish harsh speech directed at journalists, academics, celebrities, politicians, and the like, if the speech results in “substantial emotional distress.”

And this is supposed to pass muster in the United States Supreme Court? Oh, wait, this is the new age Roberts Court, where anyone if “fair game”—-even state voters.

Rovin on June 29, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Imagine how Muslims would use this against ‘those that defame the Prophet Mohammed.’

‘Defame’ being defined as loosely (in the case of Muslims) and narrowly (in the case of everyone else) as necessary,

Resist We Much on June 29, 2013 at 6:44 PM

I’m not sure, but I think they pretty much already got this one covered, don’t they?

bofh on June 29, 2013 at 7:45 PM

I’m not sure, but I think they pretty much already got this one covered, don’t they?

bofh on June 29, 2013 at 7:45 PM

I meant legally in the US. ‘Hurt feelings’ are not yet a cause of action.

Resist We Much on June 29, 2013 at 7:51 PM

“substantial emotional distress”

Does this mean we finally have a weapon against Obowma and what he has done to this Country, our military, and our economy…?

Seven Percent Solution on June 29, 2013 at 7:54 PM

…Garcia needs to introduce a Burqa Bill!

KOOLAID2 on June 29, 2013 at 7:58 PM

Yeah, it’s ll be a crime to speak against anyone or anything except…. Christians and conservatives. And of course.. none of these laws will be applied to the government. They will target you, harass you, take your property, steal you bank account and seize your children… but don’t you dare call them thieves and tyrants or the last thing they take will be you!

If this passes it’s over. I’ll move from the freaking country but by then they’ll make that illegal too. Thousands will be able to sneak into the country by the hour.. but you won’t be allowed to leave.

This is something I’ve said recently….. the one issue somebody or some group out there needs to take hold of…. we need a major media campaign on free speech. Forget all the other issues for a moment (except immigration)…but if we lose speech, it is over. People need to be reminded.. regardless of where you stand on any issue.. your right to speech must always be protected.

America is just about finished anyway. I don’t think we are going to make it to the 2014 elections. It’s possible, though. I had my doubts about making it to the 2012 elections, but we did.

JellyToast on June 29, 2013 at 8:02 PM

The law and our wonderful government can provide for our every physical and emotional need. So what are all of you sissies complaining about?

/s ( just in case someone gets the wrong idea)

NOMOBO on June 29, 2013 at 8:08 PM

Next up will be the animal righters.You can’t call a pig a pig or a dog a dog.Alec Baldwin hardest hit.

docflash on June 29, 2013 at 8:08 PM

would make a crime out of verbal bullying … of a child, or a politician, or anyone experiencing “substantial emotional distress” from criticism.

Well, politicians are more puerile than children…still, if the 1st will be gone, so will freedom.

Send the politicians home. Such tyrants are not your ‘civil servants’. They are actually neither any more. Civil servant is now a double oxymoron.

Schadenfreude on June 29, 2013 at 8:16 PM

I meant legally in the US. ‘Hurt feelings’ are not yet a cause of action.

Resist We Much on June 29, 2013 at 7:51 PM

Really? Tell that to the grocery store owners who get EEOC action notices for firing muslims that won’t handle pork products. Shariah is alive and well, and civic speech codes are not far behind.

gryphon202 on June 29, 2013 at 9:02 PM

Sticks and stones may brake my bones, but names will get you 5 to 10.

Flange on June 29, 2013 at 9:13 PM

Really? Tell that to the grocery store owners who get EEOC action notices for firing muslims that won’t handle pork products. Shariah is alive and well, and civic speech codes are not far behind.

gryphon202 on June 29, 2013 at 9:02 PM

Speech codes are alive and well on campuses now. Zero tolerance is alive and well in schools. We have hate crimes. I still remember when they are voting to pass hate crimes in congress thinking.. there is no way. They would never do that… and then they did. Passed actual hate crimes. And we see how they are used… only to protect certain minority groups.

It’s like this thing with Paula Dean… she admitted to using the unspeakable “N” word during her past. She is made to disappear. Yet… rappers use that word everyday in songs produced by major corporations and it’s all OK.

JellyToast on June 29, 2013 at 9:18 PM

This crap is really getting way out of hand, first they fill up prisons with addicts, now they want to fill them with ppl who have a temper…………..ahhhhhh…….

angrymike on June 29, 2013 at 9:41 PM

Politicians should never be bullied – it’s impolite.

Now, Tarred, Feathered, and Ridden Out Of Town On A Rail….
that’s completely different.

Another Drew on June 29, 2013 at 10:08 PM

she so ugly she should wear a mask.
losarkos on June 29, 2013 at 6:45 PM

That is the mask….

Another Drew on June 29, 2013 at 10:12 PM

It’s all in the grand plan to create a nation of gutless pansies.

John the Libertarian on June 29, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Politicians can be bribed, bullied, and bought by everyone except their constituents.

INC on June 29, 2013 at 10:34 PM

At this late stage of the game, seems few, if any, recall the John Peter Zenger case…1735…where the Crown [in the form of New York governor William Cosby] charged Zenger, a newspaper publisher, with libel. Zenger was acquitted, and thus helped establish, in the colonies, that truth was a defense against charges of libel. But, more importantly, this was one of the bases for our own First Amendment. For any elected official to not know of Zenger,shows how vapid understanding of our own history and cherished values too much of America has become.

Offensive speech is the very speech we, as a People, need to protect. Not slavish flowery praising speech with which all seem to agree…but offensive speech.

Why? Why protect offensive speech at all?

Because that which is offensive to government, to rulers, to well-monied cliques who wield power from the shadows or those standing in open disdain for the rule of law, or the protection of the Rights of citizens, it is that speech which can serve to rally the oppressed, or point out in clear tones the folly of leaders and leadership, be they local mayors, governors, members of Congress, the courts, and even the President. For they would certainly be “offended” if their transgressions were made to see the light of day.

Any elected person, and appointed official, local, state or national, of any stripe, who seeks to quash “offensive” speech because it may offend, deserves nothing less than the open and sharp, loud and well-broadcast ridicule of the people.

To do otherwise allows, increment by increment, in short order, all forms of speech not approved by government or governance to be easily become outlawed.

Mary Helen Garcia, you are either an idiot unfit to hold any elected office representing any class of citizens, or you are fully part of a culture of tyranny. [Possibly, no, probably, both.]

You, and those who hold ideas similar to your own should be ridiculed, shamed, in every public fora, by every and any device existent.

And if you find that offensive…perhaps you should seek other employ. Employment holding the “trust” of the people is something for which you are clearly undeserving, not only in these United States, but in any free society.

coldwarrior on June 30, 2013 at 12:52 AM

Why? Why protect offensive speech at all?

Because that which is offensive to government, to rulers, to well-monied cliques who wield power from the shadows or those standing in open disdain for the rule of law, or the protection of the Rights of citizens, it is that speech which can serve to rally the oppressed, or point out in clear tones the folly of leaders and leadership, be they local mayors, governors, members of Congress, the courts, and even the President. For they would certainly be “offended” if their transgressions were made to see the light of day. ..
coldwarrior on June 30, 2013 at 12:52 AM

Bravo.

AesopFan on June 30, 2013 at 1:05 AM

The bill does correctly lassociate politicians with children, so it’s not all bad.

Fenris on June 30, 2013 at 1:40 AM

she so ugly she should wear a mask.

losarkos on June 29, 2013 at 6:45 PM

Quoted for posterity…. cuz yesterday was my birthday. And I like my Ugly dammit.

Ugly on June 30, 2013 at 2:18 AM

Can Politicians be bullied? That was the question, wasn’t it?

Wouldn’t that depend on whether the Clintons (and Obama) have your FBI Files?

Or, to use the Mark Stein analogy (in National Review) re; the NSA monitoring, Perhaps they are monitoring Senator Foghorn’s ON STAR account and know that when he lost his Car keys, he was in the parking lot of Madam Whiplash’s Bondage Dungeon!

There are many in Government who are likely being intimidated and possibly, even Blackmailed! They are People, aren’t they, and pretty ruthless people at that!

PhillupSpace on June 30, 2013 at 2:54 AM

Can politicians be bullied?
Can you say “general Petreus?”

Art on June 30, 2013 at 7:46 AM

Resist We Much on June 29, 2013 at 6:44 PM

So am I allowed to call Mohammed the pedophile that he was?

BierManVA on June 30, 2013 at 8:24 AM

How much jail time does Rep. Garcia think would be appropriate for the verbal insults? Are mocking T shirts included?

Kissmygrits on June 30, 2013 at 8:31 AM

Anyone mentioning Anthony Weiner’s name could be in for trouble.

TimBuk3 on June 30, 2013 at 10:19 AM

You weren’t referring to the pedophile prophet Mohammad, were you?
III

dirtengineer on June 30, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Oops, I forgot….
Anyone have a clue what it takes to get the mobs carrying torches, tar and feathers to begin the counterattacks on IDIOT MORON politicians?
This particular moron should have her home and offices razed and she should be repatriated to her home south of the border forthwith.
III

dirtengineer on June 30, 2013 at 10:50 AM

So am I allowed to call Mohammed the pedophile that he was?

BierManVA on June 30, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Now? Yes.

Resist We Much on June 30, 2013 at 1:03 PM