Want to comment? Know a lawyer?
Rick: Your cash is good at the bar.
Banker: What? Do you know who I am?
Rick: I do. You’re lucky the bar’s open to you.
I’ve commented before on “anonymous” commenters, and just how anonymous they are. Let me repeat my advice. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want everyone to know who wrote it.
I poke occasional fun at Owen Robinson’s blog Boots and Sabers but let me say I’m not sure I would have handled the request by the police to see a commenter’s IP address any differently.
Part of my thought is it isn’t my responsibility, or the responsibility of any blogger, to bear the financial burden of legal representation for something someone else wrote. You may think it’s a first amendment issue. I think it’s a pocketbook issue, and mine’s rather empty. (Maybe if y’all bought a few more coffee mugs I might feel differently about your “rights”.)
I admit I don’t have a set policy, and probably never will. If I like you, I might shoot you a quick e-mail to lawyer up (“cheezit, it’s the cops!”). But understand that even if I decided to send the police away empty-handed, they will probably get your information soon anyway. They could subpoena me directly or they could go to Haloscan, my comment and trackback service.
I will say that I doubt I would pull any comment down just because the police requested it. If I’ve seen it and decided to leave it, somebody is going to have to convince me with some really good reasons to pull a comment down. I admit I’m faster on the trigger than some bloggers to pull something down because of concerns about libel, but that’s all the more reason to defend the ones I leave up.
If I don’t like you, I’ll probably roll over for the cops faster than Jamie Lee Curtis on the witness stand in A Fish Called Wanda.
“I stick my neck out for nobody.”
That having been said, can we look at the comment that launched a thousand squad cars for a moment?
“Looking at those teacher salary numbers in West Bend made me sick. $60,000 for a part time job were you ‘work’ maybe 5 hours per day and sit in the teachers lounge and smoke the rest of the time. Thanks God we won on the referendum. But whining here doesn’t stop the problem. We’ve got to get in back of the kids who have had enough of lazy, no good teachers and are fighting back. Kids like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold members of the Young Republicans club at Columbine. They knew how to deal with the overpaid teacher union thugs. One shot at a time! Too bad the liberals rip them; they were heroes and should be remembered that way.”
I probably would’ve pulled the comment down and demanded the commenter provide evidence Harris and Klebold were Young Republicans. Or I would’ve pulled it down as an incitement to violence. or, or, or. Provided I wasn’t in a tree stand with Owen or (more likely) in a hot tub in the Wisconsin Dells.
His second comment hardly mitigates the first,
I am NOT advcting shootng teachrs. I agree with Mark belling when he said that theese kids were pushed into doing this by the stupid union teachrs at Colmbine. belling said that to bad only one teachr got it and lots of kids. shuld have been the other way. belling hates teachrs I like belling
I would’ve yanked it down, too, as it clearly libels WISN-AM’s Mark Belling. The teacher who left the comment at Owen Robinson’s blog could soon be getting a call from Belling’s attorney Matt Flynn.
But neither comment was specifically threatening to anyone. While I seriously wonder at the mental state of a teacher and a union president that would be so stupid, I cannot believe that the law is such that he could be prosecuted for leaving those comments. It’s going to be an interesting case to follow.