Taking it Global: Online Freedom of Speech versus the 6th Amendment

PBS.kids.org says, “Online bullying often called online harassment is a serious issue, and it’s getting more common.”

In fact, no one on the Internet—especially those that are transparent—is safe from an anonymous online bully, who uses the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution as a shield to abuse the character and/or reputation of individuals that are not anonymous online. For example, authors, who may also be publishers, often find their reputations as authors/publishers damaged by the comments of anonymous online bullies.

I have been doing extensive ongoing research on this issue due to my own run-in with a pack of these anonymous bullies recently (and a few years ago), and I have discovered that this is a problem that permeates Amazon (in addition to other sites such as Goodreads) affecting possibly hundreds and even thousands of people due to the fact that Amazon cannot, at this time, police itself efficiently or adequately to protect transparent people—mostly authors—that have become victims of alleged malicious and obviously premeditated attacks by anonymous people that demonstrate by their own words alleged sociopath-narcissist tendencies.

I have also come to the conclusion that we cannot blame Amazon.com for this toxic environment. Amazon is also a victim due to the “freedom of speech” dilemma. However, the 1st Amendment does not offer total protection from abusers.

1st Amendment Text: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Study these 1st Amendment words carefully. Nowhere does it say in the 1st Amendment that a private sector business and social network like Amazon.com cannot limit freedom of speech on its site. The key words are “Congress shall make no law …”, and Amazon.com does not make the laws.

In addition, The Freedom Forum clearly says that the First Amendment does not say anyone can say anything at any time, and the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an interpretation of speech without limits.

The Supreme Court has ruled regarding libel and slander: “Was the statement false, or put in a context that makes true statements misleading? You do not have a constitutional right to tell lies that damage or defame the reputation of a person or organization.” Source: Freedom Forum.org

The virtual world is a new legal arena and the courts are dealing with hundreds of libel law suits monthly and, true to form, legislation at the state and national level is moving slowly as this hot button issue over “freedom of speech” gives cause for caution. Our elected representatives do not want to be smeared with accusations that they are limiting freedom of speech so they must tread cautiously or lose votes.

However, there is another side to this issue that I haven’t seen expressed yet.  Freedom of Speech is only one of the rights/protections that the US Constitution offers its citizens. What everyone seems to have overlooked is the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The Confrontation Clause has its roots in both English common law, protecting the right of cross-examination, and Roman law, which guaranteed persons accused of a crime the right to look their accusers in the eye. In noting the right’s long history, the United States Supreme Court has cited Acts of the Apostles 25:16, which reports the Roman governor Porcius Festus, discussing the proper treatment of his prisoner Paul: “It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man up to die before the accused has met his accusers face-to-face, and has been given a chance to defend himself against the charges.” It has also cited Shakespeare’s Richard II, Blackstone’s treatise, and statutes.

By allowing people to hide behind an anonymous identity on the Internet and allowing them to write negative reviews/comments and even level ad-hominem attacks against easy to identify individuals who are transparent, the 6th Amendment rights of these transparent people have been violated because one cannot look his or her accuser/s face-to-face and eye-to-eye.

After all, how can any author, for example, who is transparent and working under his or her real name, defend against alleged anonymous bullies on Amazon.com (and similar sites such as Goodreads)—that leave negative reviews or even YES votes to support those anonymous, negative reviews/comments—and have a chance to defend his or her damaged reputation by facing his or her critic face-to-face and eye-to-eye?

In this example, knowing the history of your critic might be vital if it is discovered that an anonymous person leaving negative reviews/comments has a hidden history of this sort of behavior on the Internet spreading criticism, lies and ad-hominem insults in addition to using what is known as SockPuppets to gain an unfair advantage thus establishing premeditation—the law says that premeditation is the contemplation of a crime well enough in advance to show deliberate intent to commit the crime; forethought.

In conclusion, because going to court to resolve this hot button issue may be too costly and beyond the average citizen’s ability to pay for justice, this issue may be open to a lawyer or law firm to take pro bono or as a class action suit on a consignment and/or contingency basis. The defendant in this sort of class action case might be a consumer, social networking sites such as Amazon.com—an online community similar to a town, city, state or nation and therefore held responsible to uphold the protections offered by the U.S. Constitution to its Internet citizens.

In this case, a transparent victim online, such as an author or other individual, should have the right to demand knowing who his or her anonymous critic/accuser is that may be smearing his or her good name and/or product. After all, the online environment has created a court of public opinion that if unchecked may damage the reputation and well being of an innocent victim.

Of course, there may be a simple solution to avoid having this issue reach and be defined by the United States Supreme Court: When a transparent person claims his or her 6th Amendment rights when confronted by an alleged online anonymous bully, Amazon.com—for example—automatically provides an online form that the anonymous person may fill out revealing his or her real-life name, location and information leading to his or her online history that could then be verified before publication, or the anonymous person may decide to delete his or her review/comment and remain anonymous. If the anonymous person refuses to cooperate, Amazon may refuse to offer them a forum on its site and remove every review/comment made by that anonymous individual. Eventually, even the SockPuppets an anonymous person may have created might be revealed and vanish under such a policy.

To discover more about this issue visit:

Dealing with Internet Bullies

The Internet is not a Safe Haven for being Anonymous and Behaving Badly

Is this an example of Defamation?—not protected by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Who’s behaving badly? A culture of arrogance

Ginmar: Alleged Cyber Bully, Troll and Stalker?

Found Guilty because of Reckless and False Speech – based on true events

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Censored but not Silenced: Part 5/5

Disclaimer: Before I conclude this series, I want to make it clear that I support the existence of Israel and its right to defend itself with America’s help, but I do not believe in the neoconservative political agenda of nation building by exporting democracy using America’s troops, bullets and bombs.

But—at the same time—I do not think it is a good idea to allow Iran to develop the bomb. If Iran wasn’t using its nuclear program, as it claims—to build nuclear bombs—why not follow China’s example and build thorium reactors that do not need weapons grade plutonium to generate electricity, but that is another topic. If you are interested, I recommend reading China blazes trail for ‘clean’ nuclear power from thorium.

Does that mean I support America going to war against Iran? Yes, but not to build a democracy but to make sure Iran never has a nuclear weapon. There are too many of these bombs already. Instead of building more, we should be dismantling them, because a conventional war isn’t as total as nuclear war.

Keep in mind that today’s nuclear weapons are much more devastating than what was dropped on Japan at the end of World War II. If you have no concept of that horror, I refer you to this site where there is an info-graphic that will show you. Click on Ingeniously Charting The Horrifying Power of Today’s Nuclear Bombs.

In addition, there are 17,300 of these modern nuclear weapons stockpiled by nine countries: Russia has 8,500; the United States 7,700; France 300; China 240; United Kingdom 225; Pakistan 90 – 110; India 80 – 100; Israel 60 – 80, and North Korea has less than 10.  Source: Ploughshares.org: World Nuclear Stockpile Report

_______________

Censored but not Silenced continued:

Neoconservatism is a branch of American conservatism that advocates assertive promotion of democracy, and American national interest in international affairs including by military means.  Neoconservatives also believe it is okay to lie to the public to achieve their political agendas—and I think that lies and any form of censorship go hand in hand.

To follow this reasoning further, Rupert Murdock, a billionaire and a known neoconservative has “hired Jews as his closest advisers. His support for Israel has been absolute. Arguably, it is his support for Israel, and for neoconism in general (for many years, he owned and funded the losses of the Weekly Standard), that helped solidify rightwing support for Israel.” Source: The Guardian.co.uk

Is it possible that Murdock—and/or other wealthy neoconservatives—are supplying the money supporting the IMED where Julie Lenarz is a fellow?

Before answering that question, you may want to read a post by Andrés Perez-Alonso, Neoconservatism, the Israeli Lobby, and other Power Relations, on a Website/Blog that has 1,536 linked sites compared to the 38 linked to Julie’s Think Tank.

Andrés says, “The historical neoconservative commitment to Israel has been so pronounced that even traditional conservatives like Russell Kirk have charged them with mistaking ‘Tel Aviv for the capital of the United States’.”

This—of course—brings me to the fourth group with another alleged political agenda that might have done almost anything for an American war in Iraq and then later in Iran. This political agenda is based on an old proverb that is both ironically Arabic in addition to being Chinese. It is a foreign policy doctrine commonly used to interact with a significant enemy through an intermediary rather than through direct confrontation.

The proverb says: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

What better way to defend the survival of Israel than to have the only super power on the earth wage wars in the Middle East against your enemies while manipulating the flames of conflict between the Sunnis and Shiites in addition to working behind the scenes to encourage an Arab Spring that has led to clashes between Islamic factions and/or rebellions and civil wars in Muslim countries like those in Libya, Syria, and Egypt. I would not be surprised if a political faction in Israel was behind the Lebanese Civil War that raged for fifteen years. An Islamic Middle East at war with each other and/or at war with America is not focused on the destruction of Israel. Instead of “Blood for Oil”, this is”American Blood for Israel’s survival”.

Return to Censored but not Silenced: Part 4 or start with Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.

Censored but not Silenced: Part 4/5

I have learned that it is best to be suspicious of political nonprofit organizations with impressive sounding names that promise to achieve wonderful things and make the world a better place. They could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

For example, some of the libertarian and/or conservative think tanks launched with support from the infamous Koch Family Foundation are: Citizens for a Sound Economy; Citizens for the Environment (the Koch brothers do not believe carbon emissions are causing global warming and want little or no restrictions on what causes air pollution); American’s for Prosperity (the Koch brothers advocate a smaller federal government, lower taxes and less federal oversight of the private sector); Patients United Now (against Obamacare); the Cato Institute; the Institute for Justice; the Institute for Energy Research; the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, and the Heritage Foundation, etc.

If you want to learn more about the Koch brothers and their political beliefs, I recommend clicking this link.

I discovered that The Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy (IMED)—where Julie Lenarz is a fellow and where she publishes opinion pieces that she may use to support her other opinions posted on Julie’s Think Tank—was founded in 2009 by Sam Westrop.

And the IMED does not reveal its key funders. Instead it states that it receives no money from any government and relies on individual donations. Source: powerbase.info

Transparency is important so we all know where the money is coming from. Without transparency, it is possible to hide the real political agenda of an organization like the IMED.

However, there is another way to discover the alleged political agenda of the IMED by focusing on the people in charge.

Powerbase.info lists Jonathan Sacerdoti as one of the leading directors. If you click on the powerbase.info link, you will discover that Sacerdoti may be a strong supporter of Israel.

For example, powerbase.info said: “Sacerdoti appeared on BBC news programs four times in two days between 14-15 November 2012 and was described as being from the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy giving the impression that he was a neutral expert on the region. Each time he defended Israel’s attacks on Gaza and each time no alternative perspective was given by the BBC.”

Sam Westrop is another leading director, and powerbase.info says he is a climate change denialist (Do you see a possible link to the Koch brothers, who are also climate change denialists?).

In addition, Westrop has a history of being involved in pro-Israeli politics. Powerbase.info says, “Westrop has also reportedly stated, after visiting Jordan and Syria: I did not find the Arabs romantic. I found them interestingly hostile. A mentality of very irrational hatred was evident everywhere, venom regurgitated by government propaganda. Decades of despotic rule have kept a perpetual mob mentality. There is not the ability for the individual to think about what the reality of their relationship with Israel may be.”

Then along comes Julie Lenarz—with Julie’s Think Tank—who allegedly dismisses and/or censors comments that do not support her own opinion and the alleged political agenda of the IMED that may be one and the same.

Then after considering Julie Lenarz own beliefs and support for the Iraq War, I wondered if there was a link between the IMED and American neoconservatives. More on this in the last post of this series.

Continued on March 6, 2013 in Censored but not Silenced: Part 5 or return to Part 3

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.

Censored but not Silenced: Part 3/5

The “Blood for Oil” theory that some claim was the main reason for the Iraq War was not the only reason behind the war, and I pointed this out to Ms. Lenarz in the allegedly censored comment.

There are at least two other major factors—and maybe three—that have nothing to do with oil.

First, President G. W. Bush’s White House was dominated by neoconservatives who had (and still have) an agenda to export American style democracy by using the U.S. military—better known as building democracies using America’s troops, bullets and bombs to force countries/cultures to become democracies.

A post written by Jacob Heilbrunn and published by The National Interest says, “It seems, in other words, that neocons in the administration (of G. W. Bush) were arguing that what the CIA was warning about was a bunch of hooey. They had their own pet cause—nailing Saddam Hussein, creating a democracy in Iraq …”

Second, on Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower gave the nation a dire warning about what he described as a threat to democratic government. He called it the military-industrial complex, a formidable union of defense contractors and the armed forces. Source: NPR.org

And today, the military-industrial complex in the United States is a growth industry that depends on war to thrive and continue to make profits. In the allegedly censored comment, I pointed out to Ms. Lenarz that the United States Defense budget is the largest in the world. Without war, there is no excuse for this huge expense. Total global defense spending is $1.738 Trillion and America’s share of that is $711 Billion or almost 41% of the global total.

In addition, I wrote that the private sector weapons industry in the United States is the largest in the world.  This sector sells weapons to other countries and/or political organization—including brutal dictators—and controls 41% of the global market.  Second place goes to China with 8.2% of the weapons market, and Russia is in third place with 4.1% of sales. The United Kingdom, France and Germany combined have 10% of the global weapons market.

Therefore, I pointed out to Ms. Lenarz, there are three different private sector/political organizations that may have lobbied for a war in Iraq:

1. The oil industry

2. neoconservatives (with many working in the G.W. Bush White House) wanting to build democracies with America’s troops, bullets and bombs

3. the weapons industry

In the next post, I want to focus on the The Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy.

Continued on March 6, 2013 in Censored but not Silenced: Part 4 or return to Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.

Censored but not Silenced: Part 2/5

What is it that I allege was censored by Julie Lenarz?

The comment I’m talking about was a response that Ms. Lenarz made to a comment made by pabilos30 who said (February 21, 2013 at 7:35 am) : “Are you blind, the only (main) reason the US went into Iraq in the first place was to get leverage on the most valuable energy resource on this planet – Crude Oil. Sure Halliburton who CEO from 1995 – 2001 was none other than Dick Cheney. Halliburton oil services are now the main facilitator of Iraqi crude, of the 2.9 mbl/d total production over 70% of this is now exported to the US….. Now tell me the Bush didn’t go in for the oil!!!”

Julie replied to pabilos30 (February 21, 2013 at 12:56 pm): “Drop the ad hominem and people might start taking you seriously. Also, the “blood for oil” conspiracy is dead. http://instmed.org/2013/01/06/iraq-the-blood-for-oil-conspiracy-is-dead-2/

My allegedly censored comment pointed out that pabilos30 did not use an “ad hominem” when he or she said “Are you blind”. My thinking is that “Are you blind” is a question/interrogative and not a logical fallacy/ad hominem, a personal attack on Ms. Lenarz.

In fact, I do disagree with some of pabilos30’s claims. After all, I don’t think Ms. Lenarz is blind. I just think she is wrong. If I were to say, “You are so wrong”, before I offered my evidence, would she accuse me of an ad hominem attack?

I then suggested that Ms. Lenarz did not understand what a logical fallacy was and referred her to three books and a Website to learn.

  • The Structure of Argument by Rottenberg
  • Informal Logic by Walton
  • A Concise Introduction to Logic by Hurley
  • Professor Kevin deLaplante’s Critical Thinker Academy

Second, I focused on Ms. Lenarz’s “blood for oil” conspiracy is dead defense and pointed out that the support she offered for this claim was written by her and posted on the Website/Blog of the The Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy where she is a fellow.

Lenarz’s argument in that IMED post was that “invading Iraq was an extremely expensive undertaking for the US-led coalition with no guarantee or prospect of considerable profitability.”

I pointed out that the cost of the Iraq War was not paid for by any oil companies. I said that there is no tax in the United States to fund its wars. Wars are fought with mostly borrowed money that ends up growing the National Debt and that debt—if it is ever paid off—will be paid off by U.S. tax payers and not by oil companies.

And the American government is not in the business of making a profit, but oil companies are, and the oil reserves in Iraq are a known commodity. It isn’t a question of if they are there but that they are there proving that the Iraq War–that U.S. tax payers will eventually pay for–will benefit oil companies in the long run.

After all, oil reserves in Iraq may be the largest in the world according to recent geological surveys and seismic data. The Iraqi government has stated that new exploration showed Iraq has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, with more than 350 billion barrels. Officially confirmed reserves rank Iraq as third largest in the world at approximately 143 billion barrels. Henry Thompson at Aubrn.edu says “Selling this oil at an average profit of $75 per barrel for the next 100 years will generate $15,000 trillion income.”

And the Iraq War Cost the United States about one trillion dollars. There is a HUGE difference between one trillion and $15,000 trillion.

Continued on March 5, 2013 in Censored but not Silenced: Part 3 or return to Part 1

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.

Censored but not Silenced: Part 1/5

I think I have been a victim of censorship. Am I wrong?

As much as we may claim to value the freedom to express our opinions, censorship in Western democracies does exist in one form or another. For example, it exists in the private/corporate sector; it exists in the public schools, and it exists among citizens who host Websites and Blogs, etc.

Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 ranked Finland as number one for freedom of expression compared to 179 countries.

The United States, billed by many of its citizens as the land-of-the-free and a country that prides its freedom of expression while criticizing other countries such as China, is ranked 47th, and the U.S. has more people in prison than any country on the planet. In some parts of the United States, you can actually go to prison for life if you only steal a piece of candy or swipe a slice of pizza.

Reporters Without Borders says, “The United States (47th) also owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests.”

In fact, there is a long history of censorship in the United States. For one example of several, Civil Liberties says that in 1798, President John Adams made it illegal to criticize a government official without backing up one’s criticisms in court. Twenty-five people were arrested under that law.

Civil Liberties says, “The right to free speech is a longstanding U.S. tradition, but actually respecting the right to free speech is not.”

“A recent report from Google indicates that even western democracies have been trying to censor politically conflicting websites. Countries like Spain, Poland and even Canada have all submitted requests for the removal of content from the search engine.” Source: Business Insider

Back to the comment where I alleged that I was censored on another Blog that has a link to a nonprofit political organization with an alleged hidden political agenda.

I can only guess that I may have been allegedly censored because my position on the issue being discussed was stronger than the host’s opinion. Julie Lenarz, the host, specializes in Foreign and Security Policy and holds a BA in European Politics and an MA in Conflict Studies from the London School of Economics.

She is also an adviser on Foreign and Security Policy, a fellow at The Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy and current affairs blogger.

The Commentator.com says: “Julia Lenarz is author of the popular blog, Julie’s Think Tank.”

Of course, the claim that Julie’s Think Tank is a popular Blog is questionable, because its Alexa rank was almost 5.5 million with only 38 sites linked in (on February 22, 2013).  There was no data for traffic rank in the UK or US.

But what is popular to one individual may not be popular to another and everyone has a right to an opinion even if he or she may be wrong.

This we do know—there is big benefit to censor the opposition, because then you control the conversation and may advance your own political agenda.

In the post in question on Julie’s Think Tank, Lenarz’s position on the Iraq War was clear: She supported the war in the beginning and still feels it was moral and just to oust Saddam and his brutal regime. I left several comments for this post, and then wrote about this issue in a three-part series on one of my Blogs in a post titled The Noble Nightmare.

Before I share my reasons why I think Lenarz allegedly censored one of my comments, I want to focus on what it means to be a fellow in a political, nonprofit organization.

A fellow can be a participant in a professional development program run by a nonprofit. This type of fellowship is usually a short-term work opportunity (1–2 years) for professionals who already possess some level of academic or professional expertise that will serve the nonprofit’s mission. Fellows are often given a stipend as well as professional experience and leadership training.

A key phrase to remember from that description is: “that will serve the nonprofit’s mission”, and after some research, I now question what the real mission is for the Institute for Middle Eastern Democracy, but more on that later.

Continued on March 4, 2013 in Censored but not Silenced: Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy, a suspense thriller. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Follow”.