• Americans need to be aware: Internet speech rights threatened.
By John Friend —
A 28-year-old man is being charged and prosecuted for “hate crimes” in Flathead County, Montana, after he allegedly threatened children and Jews in a series of posts he made to his personal social media account on the Internet.
Over the years, David Joseph Lenio, formerly of Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been extremely critical of Israel and has openly questioned aspects of WWII, including the so-called “Holocaust,” on the Internet. Now these views are being used against him by a state prosecutor, who is seeking to criminalize speech on the Internet.
It all started when Jonathan Hutson, chief communications officer for the anti-gun Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence, intercepted and monitored what Lenio had been posting on the Internet after Lenio responded to comments Hutson originally made online about a shooting at a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark last February.
Hutson reported Lenio to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement authorities, who worked together to eventually locate and arrest Lenio on February 16 in Montana, according to local reports.
Lenio has been charged with intimidation for allegedly threatening schoolchildren.
But even more shocking is that he has also been charged with criminal defamation for remarks he made that were critical of Jews—a charge that has many in the legal profession concerned.
The libertarian-leaning news outlet “Reason” recently published an article questioning the legality of the Montana prosecutor’s decision to pursue criminal defamation charges against Lenio.
The prosecution has argued that “Lenio made defamatory statements about Jews by suggesting that they have degraded the economy and dislike free speech and by stating that the Holocaust was a lie,” according to a commentary written by journalist Elizabeth Nolan Brown and published on Reason’s website.
Lenio is essentially being prosecuted, at least in part, for his opinions about Jews.
As Ms. Brown suggests, the precedent being set in Montana, if successful, is “terrifying,” as anyone making critical remarks about a specific group of people—police officers, librarians, city officials, etc.—could potentially be charged with criminal defamation.
“It is morally repugnant and legally offensive for a governmental actor to proclaim what American citizens must think or say,” attorney Kyle Bristow, who is licensed to practice law in Michigan and Ohio, recently explained to AMERICAN FREE PRESS. “The prosecution of Lenio for his political viewpoints that do not call for criminal activity is unconstitutional.”
Bristow continued: “A state actor’s criminal prosecution of an American citizen due to that citizen’s political speech and beliefs is clearly violative of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Whereas the First Amendment places restrictions against the federal government, the Fourteenth imposes similar restrictions against state actors, and in the Montana case, the Montana prosecutor is certainly stepping over a line. Despite what the Montana prosecutor apparently thinks, there is no such thing as a lawful ‘aggravated thought crime’ prosecution in the United States of America.”
Bristow also elaborated on the importance of free speech.
“Free speech rights—as codified by the Constitution but having existed for well over 2,000 years per our Western legal tradition—exist specifically to protect people like Lenio, because such rights need not be invoked by non-controversial people like old women who decide to form a garden club,” Bristow noted. “As our country becomes less European with less of an appreciation for European ideals—such as individual liberty—constitutional freedoms, which we take for granted, will be jeopardized. This is what is going on now as evidenced by the Lenio prosecution and in other states in which Christian bakers are being told they must bake wedding cakes for homosexuals or face significant fines.”
Lenio’s case is unfolding as the organized Jewish community, both in America and around the world, is attempting to criminalize “anti-Semitism” on an international scale, which in reality constitutes any criticism of Jews or Israel.
In California, pro-Israel groups are lobbying the state’s public university system to deem anti-Israel protests, along with the entire movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, as “anti-Semitic” and thus morally reprehensible and eventually illegal.
At the United Nations General Assembly earlier this year, an informal plenary session was held on alleged “anti-Semitic” violence and attitudes worldwide. It marked the first time that “anti-Semitism” was officially addressed at that international body. As a result of pro-Israel demands to have “anti-Semitism” combated at the international level, the governments of both France and Germany openly called for legal measures to “address the diffusion of racist and anti- Semitic speeches and material,” which really amounts to criminalizing all speech and ideas the Jews do not like.
Dr. Kevin B. MacDonald, editor of The Occidental Quarterly as well as The Occidental Observer, told AFP: “Jewish organizations throughout the West have called for limitations on free speech. Whereas Jewish organizations were strong proponents of free speech in the 1950s and 1960s in order to protect Jews who were members of the Communist Party or other radical groups, they now advocate limitations on free speech because the left is now dominant in the media and culture generally. Interests, not principles like free speech, are important.”
Bristow added: “The Montana prosecutor is engaged in ‘hard despotism’ by using the sword of the state to punish a citizen in the form of possible jail time and fines. What is very common in our country is what non-governmental actors do concerning controversial political speech. ‘Soft despotism’ occurs when a person is ostracized and/or suffers job loss due to non-governmental actors attacking their reputation, which is the modus operandi of the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. Soft despotism exists in our country already. Now we get to see if Montana will be the beginning of a regime of hard despotism.”
Americans of all political persuasions who care about genuine freedom would be wise to follow the Lenio case closely, as well as the tyrannical agenda of the organized pro-Israel community.
The basic human rights of freedom of speech and thought, enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, are under frontal assault in America by petty tyrants who expect the masses to uncritically and blindly go along with their agenda. This reporter and this newspaper will certainly not be intimidated or silenced.
John Friend is a California-based writer who maintains a blog.