HEY VERNON COUNTY SUPERVISORS! I'M USING ELECTRONIC MEANS TO ANNOY, RIDICULE, AND DISPARAGE YOU!

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110 Responses

  1. Jim G says:

    That language reminds me of the San Diego Zoo's signs asking visitors not to "annoy, torment, pester, plague, molest, worry, badger, harry, harass, heckle, persecute, irk, bullyrag, vex, disquiet, grate, beset, bother, tease, nettle, tantalize, or ruffle the animals."

  2. Connie says:

    Ah Luddites. Passing laws about things they can't understand since the 19th century.

  3. Connie says:

    Actually, I take that back. The Luddites were fighting against corporate greed and their jobs being taken away and given to unskilled laborers – the 99% of the 1800s. We need a new term for people who don't quite understand how technology works.

  4. Diane says:

    The chairman's email is chair@vernoncounty.org Here are some others:
    clerkofcourt@vernoncounty.org
    countyclerk@vernoncounty.org (maybe she can forward the emails?)
    County Treasurer: vcto@vernoncounty.org

  5. John Ammon says:

    You tell 'em Steve-Dave!

  6. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    According to http://vernonsheriff.com/comServ.htm, you can reach Deputy Sheriff John Spears (who was quoted in the SPLC article you linked) at jspears@vernoncounty.org.

    Deputy Sheriff Spears likes the law because it empowers him to go after high school kids. Wonder if he has the balls to pick on someone his own size. Doubt it.

  7. Stephen says:

    Not everyone voted for it. Apparently there were 5 well meaning individuals – it seems to me the higher ranking ones actually. Here is an article about it:

    http://lacrossetribune.com/vernonbroadcaster/news/local/vernon-county-enacts-electronic-messaging-ordinance/article_a031950e-2e73-11e2-9db8-0019bb2963f4.html

    The final vote was 22-5 apparently.

    I think Kim Ward needs you to send this to her the most – she's an attorney!

  8. Stephen says:

    Ohhh, a "Kim Ward" actually commented on that article.

    This all was discussed with the county board and it's legal affairs committee in minute detail over several months and it basically comes down to the fact that hate speech is not protected speech, never has been and never will be. The suggestion of this ordinance was brought to the attention of the Vernon County Bully Project by a local school official and law enforcement, given the growing concern of cyberbullying, felt they needed a tool to help combat this problem. I understand that freedom of speech is important but so is the right to live free of fear. If you are interested in this ordinance and the problem of cyberbullying please attend the next meeting of the Vernon County Bully Project, 11/27/12 at noon at the Kickapoo Valley Reserve.
    Please keep in mind the following:
    "Just laws are no restraint upon the freedom of the good for the good man desires nothing which a just law will interfere with." J.A. Foude, This quote is painted on the Vernon County Courtroom wall . . .
    "

  9. Ken says:

    I've emailed the chair and the deputy sheriff, copied to the local paper.

  10. John Ammon says:

    Hey guys, which part of the constitution guarantees us "the right to live free of fear"? I think I missed that part…

    Morons.

  11. Rob says:

    You're too polite for your own good, Ken. If your goal is to annoy and or humiliate someone, you actually have to do something other than tell them that is your intent. Calling them a bunch of oath breakers does not count, as they do not see that as an insult, and may even consider it a compliment.

    Calling them a bunch of knuckle dragging, illiterate, malformed, microcephalic, sub-grade needle-dicked morons would be a good start.

  12. Connie says:

    That quote is frightening me. (And it's Froude, by the way). Such a nice chap, pushing for British colonialism in Africa and a white-dominated society calling for an overthrow of the current government with forced labor. Maybe they should do some more research before painting quotes on their wall.

  13. John Ammon says:

    Wow Connie, you're right, that is a terrifying quote.

    It's basically saying "hey, if you're a good person, you've got nothing to worry about". Which only works as long as you fit into what the law consideres a "good person" which is incredibly subjective, sadly enough.

    For instance, I wouldn't be considered a "good person" in a muslim country.

  14. Connie says:

    Also they might want to read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Anthony_Froude#Life_of_Carlyle_controversy_.281881.E2.80.931903.29 – because if it had been written online they might have to prosecute Froude under their new statue.

    In this pamphlet Froude attempted to justify his decisions as biographer, yet went further than his official biography had by speculating that Carlyle's marriage was unconsummated due to impotence.[56]

  15. Jo says:

    Here's how you can get all their email addresses, I'm willing to bet. First of all, we have the county directory (PDF) here. Then we have job listings here. Note that one is to contact brath@vernoncounty.org. Searching in the directory we find that Bonnie Rath is a personnel assistant. Thus I would bet good money that first initial + last name @ vernoncounty.org will generally work. It's possible that they truncate last names after 6, 7, or 8 letters. Since bounced emails hurt no one and they probably don't have enough clue not to bounce them when the address doesn't exist, one can experiment a little and almost surely figure them all out. The list of board members is here for those who wish to experiment.

  16. darius404 says:

    Kim Ward seems to have a thing for quotes. In that spirit, she should keep in mind the following:

    You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

    -Martin Luther King, Jr.

  17. Chris says:

    to quote myself from my email to chair@vernoncounty.org:

    Re; County Supervisors as sniveling cunts.

    "Yep, That's right. I'm using ELECTRONIC-Mail to call you a CUNT. You and all of the other supervisors are worthless pieces of shit. I hope you all die in a fire. You fucking government PARASITES.

    Come and get me bitch. Or was that not enough to disparage you?

    I plan on sending something similar tomorrow as well because that should annoy you.

    Maybe I'll put it on my blog so that everyone can see that I am ridiculing you."

  18. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    From the Wisconsin Bar attorney search website, I would assume this is the "Kim Ward" discussed above. Viroqua is the county seat of Vernon County (historical note–founded as "Bad Axe" County in the 1860s.)

    Atty. Kimberley J. Ward
    Ward Law Office
    210 N Main St
    PO Box 346
    Viroqua, WI 54665-0346

    [Ken: Edited to remove phone numbers, which I generally don't like to see here. The rest, suitable for writing a suitable statement of opposition, remains.]
    Email: wardlaw3@yahoo.com

    Member ID: 1021055

  19. Scott Jacobs says:

    I like, but I would have gone a different way with one of the lines… I would have gone for more of a "Perhaps, in soliciting and evaluating legal advice about whether your ordinances passes constitutional muster, you should check whether your legal advisor is, in fact, not a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll" sort of feel.

    Also, as a complete aside, Firefox's spellchecker tells me that "advisor" is a misspelling of something, so I am glad I'm not the only one who uses the word anyways.

  20. Laura K says:

    If there's a problem, come up with a good solution, not a lousy solution. So I am cheering the email campaign on. As someone who survived a great deal of harassment and pain as a child, and because I've worked with youth who face that and more–frequently via social networks online–is it all right to ask here "How DO we stop cyber–and other kinds of bullying?" I'm not asking this to be sly or difficult–I agree the law is crap; how do we get a resource that isn't?

  21. Chris says:

    Hey Laura, why don't you let individual parents figure that out for themselves? Why must we invite the MAN into our lives?

  22. John Ammon says:

    @Laura K – Well, better parents, raising their children better would be a start. No amount of laws or statues is any substitute for a good upbringing.

  23. Zack says:

    "magic 'go away first amendment' mantra" is now one of my favorite phrases of all time. XD.

    I was a victim of bullying myself in elementary/middle school, so I know firsthand what it can do. This aint' the way to fight it. The way you actually fight it is by convincing parents to hold their children accountable for what they say. Convince parents to get involved in their children's lives so that they CAN'T bully anyone anymore or they'll get their behind whipped.

  24. Matthew Smith says:

    I do in fact have one of those scrolling electronic signs. Who would volunteer to take it to Wisconsin?

  25. Art says:

    "As someone who survived a great deal of harassment and pain as a child, and because I've worked with youth who face that and more–frequently via social networks online–is it all right to ask here "How DO we stop cyber–and other kinds of bullying?" I'm not asking this to be sly or difficult–I agree the law is crap; how do we get a resource that isn't?"

    The problem with the "DANGER, DANGER WILL ROBINSON! LEGISLATE LEGISLATE LEGISLATE!" route should be obvious, but in case anyone misses the main issue with such a stance: the problem with bullying isn't social networking or new technology, the problem is that some people are inherently kind of dicks. Laws can't fix people and those that try to do so anyways are generally asinine and doomed to failure.

  26. David Aubke says:

    Laura didn't ask "What law can we enact to stop cyber-bullying?". She said "How do we do it?". Perhaps a tangent that's a little off-topic but certainly not worthy of such reproach.

  27. Connie says:

    @Zack – Wouldn't that be nice. Unfortunately there's not a lot of that going on (that meaning parenting). My mother's a school teacher and it seems each progressive generation is more and more unruly and undisciplined by their parents. There's no real way to hold a parent accountable for a child's actions short of legal restrictions. However, this law isn't a good way to go about doing that.

  28. David Aubke says:

    My mother was a school teacher too. Every generation sees the next generation as more unruly and undisciplined than when they were growing up. If they were all correct, society would have crumbled long long ago.

    Of course, I really did walk two miles in the snow, uphill BOTH ways to attend school.

  29. Art says:

    @David Aubke – Are you referring to me? Nothing in my comment was meant to come off as an attack (and indeed I would ask you to re-read it if you thought it did.)

  30. Dave says:

    @ John

    Many leftists seem to beleive FDR's 4 freedoms BS is on the same level as the Bill of Rights, hence all the tripe you see about 'freedom from fear' and 'freedom from want'.

  31. David Aubke says:

    @Art
    Mostly @Chris, but you both seemed to have interpreted her comment as a renewed call for legislation.

  32. Connie says:

    @Art – No, that was to me. And I do understand. We all color our perceptions based on what we hold as an ideal (typically our own experiences).

    I, too, was bullied as a teen. Some of it still haunts me to this day. However my solution was to call them on it and make sure people knew who was behind it. It needs to be exposed and brought out into the light so society can ask the bully 'WTF is wrong with you?' and encourage them to knock it off. As long as we continue to perpetuate the 'snitches get stitches' mentality people won't come forward. And in school, especially, that social struction will eat you alive if you're seen as a snitch or tattletale.

    In short, I have no idea what I'm saying, only that it sucks but the only way to change it is to be brave and fearless enough to pull it kicking and screaming into the light and then to deal with the fallout afterwards.

  33. Art says:

    No, no – I was agreeing with her. I just feel like some people are only getting half the story (cyber-bullying laws are very often unconstitutional) without recognizing the equally-important other half (cyber-bullying laws just plain do not work).

    As with everyone else I've got to say the real "solution" must come from a good upbringing.

  34. David Aubke says:

    @Art – you're right. I was feeling defensive for Laura after @Chris's comment. I was already put off by his voicing a wish for his opponents to die a fiery death.

  35. John Ammon says:

    The irony is that other laws get introduced so that parents can't "bully" (i.e. discipline) their children, which leads to unruly children that bully other children, and Teachers more and more are limited in what action they can take. To "protect" children, we indeed create our own monsters that prey on other children. It's a vicious cycle (I almost typed viscous) that will continue until someone finally takes their "kid gloves" off and decides to be a responsible adult.

  36. Jess says:

    Apparently Kim Ward, despite being a lawyer, cannot tell the difference between -

    with the intent to annoy, offend, demean, ridicule, degrade, belittle, disparage or humiliate any person and which serves no legitimate purpose

    And

    speech that is “intended to foster hatred against individuals or groups based on race, religion, gender, sexual preference, place of national origin, or other improper classification

    Hint – one is the legal definition of hate speech, the other isn’t.

  37. Jess says:

    @Chris – what is your blog?

  38. Scott Jacobs says:

    And even the one that is the legal definition of "hate speech" is fucking stupid.

    I'm not much a fan of "hate speech" laws, as you might imagine…

  39. Hal 10000 says:

    Does anyone have one of those electronic scrolling signs I can borrow?

    You mean like a road sign? You'd have to keep it succinct. But it would be hilarious to drive through Vernon and see a sign cycling through:

    CENSORIOUS OFFICIALS
    I ANNOY YOU
    SNORT MY TAINT
    XO, KEN

  40. Wesley says:

    @Jess: even accepting that more common definition of "hate speech," Ward's statement that "hate speech is not protected" by the First Amendment is patently false. There is no real "legal definition" of hate speech in the US, at least not that provides any exception to free speech rights. In order to not be protected in this context, the speech has to be intended to incite imminent lawless action, and be likely to result in such action. "Intent to foster hatred" of a group, without more, sounds like classic political speech that is virtually always protected.

  41. Laura K says:

    Guys–and Ladies who responded to my question…
    Thank you. And I'm horrified but renewed in some of the commitments of my life by the number who said they also have been bullied.
    I beg your patience with this one other addition to the tangent. Ok two. I lied.

    Six or seven years ago I voted against a hunting regulation that was designed to limit stupid, cruel douche-cannoe-laden baiting practices. My other tree-hugger friends were shocked. But I had asked a bunch of questions and found out that while the regulation would stop the cruel and inhumane hunting practices–it would stop the effective, necessary ones too and the animals meant to be protected would over populate, and suffer MORE.

    So no I do NOT want to see a bad regulation put forward in the name of a good idea. And that goes for this cyberbullying ordinance. The kids are getting hurt so the adults come up with some idea that gives THEM more power and does not resolve the real issue. It's Jabba the Hut Taint Worthy!

    1. I know that modern technology does not cause bullying–cyber bullying IS just people being dicks because they are resolved to be dicks. Here's the problem: now they can do so 24/7, online at speed.
    When I was in 7th grade, I knew if I ran far enough nobody would follow me because our house was too far away from the school. Kids today lack that option.
    2. Nope, I don't believe each generation gets more out of control–I believe that technology and social mores make lack of control more obvious.
    3. Upbringing is great. But if I went through what I did 20 years ago, in a "good" community, with a "good" school system with "good parents"–what about now? The parents of previous bully generations might think they are staying involved and doing the job right. Often they are not. So that lack of empathy passes on to THEIR kids. And THEIRS.

    Art–I appreciate your clarification to Dave because it was very kind. Dave, I appreciate your sticking up for me.
    I do not want this issue left up to "THE MAN."

    Jeremiah was a bull frog. Peace out.

  42. Jess says:

    @Scott @Wesley – I agree!! My point was that as a laywer Ward ought to know the definition of hate speech, such as it is, and that it does not match the language of the ordinance she is supporting.

    @Laura – you pointed out something I've said before. Kids who bully lack empathy and they learn that from their parents.

  43. Chris says:

    @David, the fiery death thing was more hyperbole than anything else. The point is I wanted to offend and disparage. You know?

    WRT to Laura I apologize, I recognize it was brash. I'm just very tired of the idea that every little problem requires a government solution (which NEVER work).
    The simple fact is I don't have any answer for her as to how "we" stop bullying but I am sure the government can't do it.

  44. Joe Pullen says:

    @Stephen – RE the article link and Ward's response. Wow just wow.

    I can tell Vernon county must be a great place to live after all .. . . .

    Vernon County Sheriff John Spears spoke in favor of the county adopting the ordinance.

    I’ll just bet he did – after all, it’s another way to fund the county police with fines and threats of jail time.

    ‘“Bullying has been around as long as all of us, but this is a whole different area, a whole different area of expertise that requires special investigations,” Spears said. “Are we going to use this a ton? I hope not. But for me, I’d like to see it as a tool that we can use as a local ordinance.”

    Rrriiiiggghhhtt – special investigations. Translation – more reasons for the local sheriff to poke their nose into your private business.

  45. John Ammon says:

    I feel like I should be able to empathize more than I already do with people who were bullied, I'm know that I was bullied many times growing up as a nerd, but I never really let it get to me, I don't think it ever really affected me emotionally as much as it did other people.

    I guess I just developed a really thick, Gorn-like skin. I also never bought into peer-pressure BS, which probably didn't help with the Bullying thing, or maybe it did, I'm not sure, haha.

  46. Laura K says:

    Hey Chris–I appreciate that a lot. I don't have one, (obviously) but I figured it was worth–and may be again, now and then–posing the question to very, VERY smart people and one finds a lot of them here at Popehat.

  47. John Ammon says:

    @Joe Pullen – They made a law that outlaws bullying, you know, unless you're the Sheriff

  48. Scott Jacobs says:

    I was bullied relentlessly as a kid. From gradeschool up until I finally, truly started to fight back in high school.

    I got no real support from anyone, and would you look at that…

    I'm right here, having shot up exactly ZERO schools or anything else, and obviously not having killed myself…

    I have no sympathy for people who sit and whine about how MEAN people are to them. If you don't like how you're being treated, you either leave where it happens, or you fight back. Sitting there and wringing your hands gets you nothing.

  49. Jennifer says:

    Laura K, while I appreciate your points and find them well-made I have one disagreement: You say that kids today lack the option of getting away from the bullies. That's simply not true. You don't have to have a Facebook account, log into chat rooms, or read blogs that call you names. Just like people who listen to the radio can switch the station or turn it off, so you can with the internet. Retreat is still possible. And the best part about the internet is that by nature it's something you can preserve and use as proof.

    Instead of all these "anti-bullying" laws and crap, they should be teaching kids about screenshots and IP addresses and internet sleuthing so that any douchenozzle who is mercilessly harassing someone on line can be caught red-handed and punished.

  50. Scott Jacobs says:

    @Joe Pullen, @John Ammon

    Of course the Sheriff supports it – no one likes competition…

  51. David Aubke says:

    @Chris -"the fiery death thing was more hyperbole than anything else."
    I recognize that. It just crosses a line for me. For others it may not.

  52. Joe Pullen says:

    @David Aubke

    It seems the approach of writing people emails calling them cunts, etc. is simply Chris’s modus operandi. Of course he’s free to do and say whatever he pleases but I question the effectiveness but more so, the maturity of his approach. Perhaps he might benefit from a bit of reflection before hitting the key. If I recall correctly . . . . . . .

    Chris • Jun 18, 2012 @4:22 pm

    @joe • Jun 18, 2012 @2:03 pm
    "Poking fun at Carreon on various blogs and outing his lies = OK.
    Posting his home address, contacting him personally, flooding his personal email with nasty grams, or suggesting hacking any of his accounts = not OK.
    Remember – we should be the good guys"

    Joe, first off there is no "WE". Second fuck you for trying to be my moral compass. I'll do what I damn well want to, and if writing him a letter doesn't help the cause I don't give a shit. I don't exist for the cause as you have determined the "good guys" to represent.
    You may be trying to help but you are being a censorious asshat yourself.

    And also in response to Ken.

    Chris • Jun 18, 2012 @4:57 pm
    Ken,
    As I said in the comments from the last post. I'm not fond of the criminal or illegal labels.
    I grasp the point all too well.
    <What I don't like is when ANYONE tries to tell me how to behave. And especially when they represent the "right side" or the "good guys".

    @Chris – You are of course free to do and say as you please – including calling someone a cunt or telling them to fuck off. However, comments like “I don’t like it when others try to tell me how to behave” — is the sort of whine I would expect from a 12 year old and is not worthy of my respect. Such comments only encourage ignorance about the fundamental nature of free speech and the marketplace of ideas. There is no generalized right to be free of offense but there’s also no right to be free of others suggesting that you behave yourself and not act like a total asshat.

  53. Chris says:

    Joe,
    That's fine, we have different tactics.
    I stand by my previous statements.

    Good to see I may not be worthy of your respect but I apparently stuck in your craw.

    I'll have to relish being despised by the despicable.

  54. Ken says:

    This might be an apt moment to point out that while I despise and oppose unprincipled official censorship, I heartily support people exercising freedom of association and property to decide what happens in their own living room. People should act accordingly.

  55. Chris says:

    @most recent David,
    I say hyperbole, and without delving too much into political philosophy here, recognize that this ordinance has the power to do just that against the people who break this law.

    I guarantee you if this law is to be enforced the sheriff will show up to arrest, if the perpetrator doesn't go peaceably they will be taken by force and if they resist hard enough they will be shot.

    So while I say "fiery death" to offend the supervisors, death by gunfire is a very real possibility for those who do offend their sensibilities.

  56. Joe Pullen says:

    @Chris “getting stuck in my craw”? Nah.

    And, I agree with your last post @12:32pm.

    Also, I’m not offended if you call me despicable.

  57. Laura K says:

    Scott–there's getting through it–as I also managed, without shooting up a single school (though I am convinced that a lot of adults were shooting up privately in the faculty room). Then there's spending more energy teaching bullies "don't bully" instead of teaching their targets "get over something you should never have had to take on in the first place, especially with no advocacy, no resources and no solution in sight." I respect I'm running a tangent on this comment thread and am sorry for continuing to do so….but wanted to say that, with no rudeness intended.

  58. John Ammon says:

    @Laura K – I think you're still on-topic, after all, it's about a form of "bullying"… though I think it's absolutely silly to affix "cyber-" in front of things just because they happen online. Bullying is bullying, why the need to qualify that it happened on the internet. Should we start referring to in-person bullying as analog-bullying? :P

  59. Laura K says:

    Chilly Legumes! And thank you for the point–I'm trying to be inclusive about bullying terminology because I agree with you.

  60. Al says:

    Maybe the Legal Affairs Committee skipped class the day they explained the Incorporation Doctrine? Either that or they're all Ron Paul fans?

  61. Lizard says:

    How do we stop bullying? I dunno, how do we stop being human?

    The idea you can stop humans from being pack-oriented animals with a natural tendency to sort themselves into "us" and "them", and to re-affirm their "us" status by publicly attacking "them", is hard-wired into our genes. Regardless of the occasional individual outlier, this is part of who we are; the need to define what collective we belong to, and the need to publicly demonstrate our conformity to that collective, is innate. Amusingly, this also extends to those who spend a lot of time publicly declaiming their refusal to be "labeled". That just another group, and those kinds of displays are signals to other members of the other group. The monkeysphere mandates that we can't grasp more than 200 or so entities, so we hack our neurons by reifying collectives and looking for simplified behavioral cues to know which boxes to fit random people into.

    Most human behavior we dislike can't be "stopped". You can't stop power hierarchies and all that comes with them, no matter what. You can limit the ability of some to do harm to others, but doing so requires that the biggest bully in the area, namely, the government, is involved, and, frankly, it's a good idea not to have him hanging around too much. (Anyone who thinks their People's Peace And Love Coalition For Socially Democratic Justice is "non hierarchical" or "egalitarian" is deluding themselves. Get a neutral outsider to watch and observe for a week, and he or she will tell you exactly who is in charge, and which factions and cliques there are, even if no one involved will admit it or agree.)

    It would be nice, really nice, if a government agency asked to "do something" about some random problem were to reply, "Nothing can be done, and trying to do so is a waste of time and resources." However, governments aren't elected to do nothing (well, to be HONEST about doing nothing). They're elected to be magical wizards who can solve all problems, and any government official who says, "No, this is not within the power of government, and if you had half a brain, you'd never want it to be", will be in the private sector quickly.

    On another topic…. "hate speech has never been protected speech"??? The person who wrote that was a LAWYER? Am I reading that correctly?

  62. John Ammon says:

    @Lizard – IS a Lawyer. ಠ_ಠ

  63. sorrykb says:

    Dear Vernon County Supervisors: Your ordinance with no legitimate purpose, which I read via electronic means, and is terribly annoying and offensive to me. I'll expect my $50 forthwith.

  64. dfbaskwill says:

    Is it at all possible to "badger" a badger? Or annoy a Noy?

  65. Josh C says:

    @John Ammon

    Right to live free of fear is included in the 10th amendment, so that right has been around for a while.

    Now, the US Government has no explicit power to help you exercise that right, and congress is forbidden from using its lawmaking power to abridge freedom of speech. And the 14th amendment says that the states are each individually bound by those restrictions as well. But the constitution is curiously silent on Boards of Supervisors passing county ordinances, so perhaps the Vernon County Charter does allow protection of unenumerated rights, and they are simply exdercising that legal authority.

  66. John Ammon says:

    @Josh C – How do you translate

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    To mean that we have the right to live free of fear? It has to do with the sovereignty of states.

  67. naught_for_naught says:

    re: Stephen's quote of attorney Ward's post

    I understand that freedom of speech is important but so is the right to live free of fear.

    So wrong for so many reasons. Here are two: (1) avoidance of the frightful thing does nothing to mitigate fear; (2) balancing our constitutional rights against the "right" to live without fear can only lead to an erosion of liberty to satisfy the capricious sensibilities of the fearful.

    If one person willfully terrorizes another by any means, including through the use of electronic communication, it seems to me to be a matter for the Civil Courts. Isn't there a cause of action for the intentional infliction of emotional distress? I say prove it up there. If it turns out that just being a baby, you get to pay the tab for your day in court.

  68. S. Weasel says:

    How could there possibly be a right to live free of fear? Fear is an unquantifiable, subjective emotional state.

  69. John Ammon says:

    @S. Weasel – Absolutely. My point exactly.

  70. Jess says:

    Ward has twisted the concept to mean something other than what it really means.

    1. Free from the fear of being unjustly imprisoned for voicing my opinions – yes
    2. Free from the fear of being arrested for video recording police – yes
    3. Free from the fear of being unlawfully searched with no probable cause –yes
    4. Free from the fear of having my feelings hurt – no.

    Ward would have us believe the last is as important as the first three. It’s not.

  71. doug says:

    on behalf of the State of Wisconsin, please come and visit and spend money in this state. Just not in Vernon County.

  72. Matt says:

    Hint – one is the legal definition of hate speech, the other isn’t.

    "Hate speech" is not an extant concept in US jurisprudence (and with any luck never will be); there is therefore no legal definition of hate speech.

  73. Cloudesley Shovell says:

    By the way, how about a shout out for Dennis Brault, one of the Vernon County Supervisors who voted against this silly, unconstitutional law.

    He also commented on the La Crosse Tribune article cited above, and called out Kimberley Ward for her utter misunderstanding of the law. How unfortunate for Vernon County that Dennis Brault is outnumbered by idiots like Kim Ward and Sheriff John Spears.

    [PS--Ken, sorry about the phone numbers. Won't do it again.]

  74. Jack B. says:

    If you really want to annoy the Vernon County supervisors, go to one of those Glitter Font sites and add sparkly phrases like "Snort My Taint" and "Free Speech, Bitches!" to your emails.

  75. Kerry says:

    "Instead of all these "anti-bullying" laws and crap, they should be teaching kids about screenshots and IP addresses and internet sleuthing so that any douchenozzle who is mercilessly harassing someone on line can be caught red-handed and punished."

    Can anyone point me in the right direction to learn more about the laws under which such a harasser could be "caught" and "punished", and how that would work? I received harassing (not directly threatening) emails from a former coworker and filed a police report (which required printouts–yes, printouts–of the emails), but was essentially told nothing could be done and that I can't get a restraining order of any sort because the person lives in another state. I'm in California, so it looks like I may be variously protected by parts of Cal. Civil Code § 1708.7, Cal Penal Code § 646.9, and Cal. Penal Code §§ 422, 653.2, 653m, but what happens if my harasser doesn't live here and is not subject to those laws? Any legal light to shed here? Honest question, even if this isn't the preferred forum for it.

    It's easy to mock laws and deride bullying and harassment as something that people should just buck up about, until you experience such harassment–at the hands of someone who is more or less psychotic (and references not taking his meds in those emails)–and seriously fear for your safety (and that of your loved ones) as a result. The harassment has stopped for now, but I don't know if it will start again, and I don't feel at all protected by the law in the event that it does. I doubt that a Vernon County style law would help me at all, but what would?

  76. John Ammon says:

    @Kerry – I'm sure I'll get blasted for this, but I live in Idaho, so it shouldn't be a surprise: Buy a gun.

    You have the right to bear arms and protect your family.

  77. David Nieporent says:

    Perhaps my favorite quote from the article, because of the sheer inanity, is,

    “When I grew up the bullying was different. If you got bullied it was usually physical or it was words to your face or to your friends. You knew about it right there; you knew who it was,” Spears said. “This isn’t today. You can mask this stuff on the computer or on your phone. They don’t know where it’s coming from.”

    Uh, if you don't know where it's coming from, then you can't arrest or prosecute the person doing it, so the law doesn't do any fucking good.

  78. Myk says:

    Am I the only one who is now reading Chris' posts in a Daffy Duck voice? Dethpicable!

  79. @Kerry: I don't disagree with John… As far as the law, I believe you should talk to the police in the state the e-mails originate from. The way it was explained to me, he is (or isn't, depending) breaking the law in his state, not yours. But yeah, a gun is good, as long as you're prepared to use it, should it ever become necessary.

  80. Lago says:

    This all reminds me of when I was in like middle school, I was jogging around the block, I think my mom was making me, and on my first run around I passed by another group of kids that teased me. Goaded, I flipped them after I'd passed them. I was supposed to run around the block twice (I really don't remember why), but instead of doing the second run around, I tried to go home so as not to pass them again, but my mom forced me out to finish my two laps. despite my protest that there were mean kids out on the street. Sure enough, just as I turning the corner around the block, I ran smack into the same group of kids, turned tail and ran my ass off as they chased me on skateboards. Luckily it was up a hill so I had the advantage and got away.

    But fuck down memory lane I just realized after all this time, my mom just wanted me to get my ass kicked.

    Sorry for the tangent, that had nothing to do with this post. Just needed to share that gem.

  81. Lago says:

    On the brink of being unintelligible. I wish I could edit my posts.

  82. Gordon says:

    This was well said, Ken. I think that if I had been writing it I would have been completely unable to refrain from including both sexual and scatological references. You did much better than I would have.

  83. Jess says:

    @Matt – IANAL so thank you for correcting me.

  84. flip says:

    Speaking as someone who has received death threats from an online source: the difficulty is that my local police stated, practically outright "I'm sorry, we'd love to help, but we don't have the resources to investigate". I had plenty of info for them to follow up on, but unless I knew the name and address of the person, there wasn't anything they were going to do about it.

    I don't like this law either, but I can and do understand the frustration that comes from lack of resources to prosecute actual harassment through online technology. If they want to do something about it, they should be spending money on training the police about online investigation, where needed; and using it for the serious threats only. There's a huge difference between being able to prosecute death threats sent via email, and going after every bitchy comment that gets posted to Facebook.

    And note: I'm not saying more power should be given to the police, just more training in how to find out relevant information.

    @Scott Jacobs

    I have no sympathy for people who sit and whine about how MEAN people are to them. If you don't like how you're being treated, you either leave where it happens, or you fight back. Sitting there and wringing your hands gets you nothing.

    Wow that's insensitive. As someone who has suffered from depression since I was a kid, I can tell you that some kids don't have the emotional capacity to just "grin and bear it". It's also a situation where you're not likely to ask for help, not believing anyone cares, and further increasing the chances that you'll not only get picked on but suffer more for it too.

    It's also victim blaming. The bullies are the ones with the problems, not the victims.

    @Jennifer

    Instead of all these "anti-bullying" laws and crap, they should be teaching kids about screenshots and IP addresses and internet sleuthing so that any douchenozzle who is mercilessly harassing someone on line can be caught red-handed and punished.

    I totally agree.

    @John Ammon

    Bullying is bullying, why the need to qualify that it happened on the internet. Should we start referring to in-person bullying as analog-bullying?

    See my comments above about police resources. They may know how to track down information about someone in the 'real world', but that doesn't mean they'd know an IP address from a postal one. Add in the fact that the internet is across state and national borders, and it gets even harder to trace and/or prosecute. In fairness, cyber-bullying is different under those terms.

  85. PiperTom says:

    I suppose I must be happy that Ken is too busy to write about a very similar new law in North Carolina. This statute purports to protect public school officials from the students. The boys at Reason, however, found the time to do a number on it.

    The NC law also grants immunity from "any civil or criminal liability" for school officials who claim to be stopping an altercation between students. License to kill?

  86. PiperTom says:

    In an earlier post, Ken wrote to distinguish between

    1. unprincipled official censorship, and
    2. [private] people exercising freedom of association and property

    Any similarity between those two things is very superficial. Any regular reader at popehat could not want for an explanation. Still, there may be Vernon County supervisor (or sheriffs) coming here for the first time. They seem to be confused on the point.

    The "seem" above is really giving them the benefit of doubt. They could be merely stupid. I really think a much more evil motive is in play: They know any prosecution will fail, but the statute gives the sheriff and other officials more power to harass (bully?) people with the expensive and time consuming prospect of defending themselves in court.

    By the way, the above Evil Motive is mentioned here with the "specific intent to annoy, offend, demean, ridicule, degrade, belittle, disparage, and humiliate" said official bullies.

  87. JG says:

    Obviously, this post has a legitimate purpose and is not a violation of the ordinance, despite Ken's best efforts. But it looks like some of the commenters got the job done…

  88. Ken says:

    Obviously, based on what?

    What is a "legitimate purpose?"

    What makes the purpose of some of the commenters closer to the line?

  89. flip says:

    @Kerry

    My sympathies. That's exactly what happened to me, albeit I'm in a different country. (And without guns, not that I'd use one)

  90. AlphaCentauri says:

    I was also one of the kids who was constantly bullied. I was probably pretty close to the bottom of the class pecking order, so I'm sympathetic to the kids suffering today.

    But I suspect that if you tracked down the worst bullies in my class, wherever they are now, and asked if they'd been bullied in school, they would say "yes," too. And I am ashamed to say that as much as I understood what it was like, there were times I stood with the crowd when someone else was being bullied and didn't speak out.

    Separating from the shelter of your parents and jockeying for position in society is what middle school is all about, and kids aren't very good at it at first. It isn't helpful to try to draw distinct lines to separate the "bullies" from the "bullied." It isn't helpful to step in on behalf of the bullied to confront the bullies, as it just embarrasses the victims and they'll probably end up get bullied worse as a result.

    It isn't helpful to tell the parents of bullies to get their kids in line, because they made their kids that way. Such parents probably feel aggressive behavior was responsible for their own competitive success in life. Other adults can try to encourage the bullies to become more emotionally mature than their own parents by trying to teach them empathy, and since it is a perfect time for an adult outside the family to become a kid's mentor, it can work. But it would have to be through something like an informal one-on-one discussion with a respected teacher. Having the sheriff show up would make things much, much worse for bullied kids.

    Kids have different bullying issues than adults. They have to go to the school where their parents send them, and usually it is a government-run school. The state does have some responsibility to make sure one kid isn't being continually tormented as part of his legally-mandated attendance at the school. But it's generally not going to rise to be a criminal matter.

    Adults bullying adults is different. Adults have more ability to choose who they associate with, so they have less right to protection from offense. There are already laws covering terroristic threats and defamation; they just need to be used to protect people who don't happen to be friends with a shirtless FBI agent.

    It sounds like this law was just passed to protect the adults from feeling sad because they're unable to understand or control their children's behavior.

  91. Boring Made Dull says:

    " I fart in your general direction…. your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberrries…. go away or I will taunt you a second time".

    Can't say it better than Monty Python (from MP & the Holy Grail).

  92. Grifter says:

    @flip:

    Not to be argumentative, but:

    "I can and do understand the frustration that comes from lack of resources to prosecute actual harassment through online technology."

    seems akin to saying "I understand the frustration that comes from not being able to enforce drug laws, so I understand why they'd pass a law making coffee illegal."

    I know you see the crazy in the law, and weren't advocating for it, but I have a hard time finding any benefit of the doubt to give the lawmakers in this situation… "We already have adequate harassment laws, but they're hard to enforce; therefore we'll make the laws more sweeping to make more stuff illegal" does not compute.

    @Kerry:

    Normal harassment by your average douchecanoe can be handled via name-and-shame.

    If you fear for your safety, though, that's another matter entirely, and you expressed that you feared for your safety; I think the best question would be how indirectly were these messages threatening? I'm sure the real lawyer-folk know for sure, but as another commenter noted, there's a decent chance he's violating laws in his jurisdiction (or possibly federal, since he's doing it interstate…18 U.S.C. § 2261A, maybe, lawyers?), so a phone call to them could solve things…if he's being so-indirectly-threatening it doesn't rise to the level of illegal, then perhaps the solution might be for a simple email change, no different than if you've been signed up for particularly annoying amounts of spam. If you think he'll actually come after you in some physical way despite being out of state, then Ammon's recommendation might be the best. There are still answers and options, but they're all situation-specific (and I don't think Ammon's advice is ever "bad").

  93. Joe Pullen says:

    @Alpha Centauri- workplace bullying is extremely prevelant in many companies. Adults who don't necessarily have other work alternatives are not always in a position to fight back or deal with the situation. It can and does cost companies a lot of money to ignore.

    Personally I don't tolerate it and have fired people who work for me if they can't or won't deal with subordinates and peers in a respectful manner.

    I agree with some of your comments but disagree with "it isn't helpful to step in on behalf of the bullied to confront the bullies". I've see schools who have implemented education around the issue encouraging other children to stand together and support the victim as a very successful way to halt bullying. No bully will stand up to such significant peer pressure.

    The same tactic works in a professional work environment as well.

  94. Scott Jacobs says:

    I'm a pretty horrible person, and God knows I don't have a problem with swearing at folks…

    But even *I* know that you don't talk to an employee like that…

  95. Joe Pullen says:

    @Myk • Dec 14, 2012 @12:50 am

    Am I the only one who is now reading Chris' posts in a Daffy Duck voice? Dethpicable!

    Not anymore

  96. flip says:

    @Grifter

    Yeah, that's not at all what I was saying.

    "We already have adequate harassment laws, but they're hard to enforce; therefore we'll make the laws more sweeping to make more stuff illegal" does not compute.

    I agree with you. The hint was in the bottom of the comment: I'm for giving *training* to police officers to better investigate harassment that uses electronic means. I'm not for giving police powers to do whatever they want in interpreting vague laws based on perceived harassment.

    Ie. a police officer wants gets shown an email with death threats in it. Said police officer says "sorry, can't help you, I don't know how to track the info provided".

    Not the same as

    Police officer gets an email with a comment in it about how the person is a fraud and a liar. Said police officer decides to investigate and prosecute based on law discussed above.

    There was no 'benefit of the doubt' in my comment, only a sense of empathy at being unable to investigate and prosecute actual harassment.

    (By the way, a side issue: teaching kids to speak out about bullying only works if the person you speak to about it can help. In my case, I spoke up about the death threats and got a "can't help you" response. This is why I understand the frustration, it's because when you do need the police they can't do anything for you)

    If you think he'll actually come after you in some physical way despite being out of state, then Ammon's recommendation might be the best.

    In fact, this was my problem. I was receiving death threats by someone who knew where I was going to be on a certain date, and made a point of not only telling me they knew, but stating they would be there and cause physical harm. (And not to mention a few things happened in the real world too, which I can not trace myself without police assistance) I do not have the option of "defending myself with weaponry", and approaching the police about it was futile. This is why in particular, I stress that "resources" = training. The police didn't reply "we're just not allowed" or "this isn't against the law" or "this was too vague" or "were you offended by it?". They outright told me they wouldn't have a clue how to follow up on IP addresses, emails, and so on; and that unless I had a name and address to go with the *anonymous* harassment, they could do nothing for me.

    As such, I perfectly understand why people would want to find a solution whereby actual harassment (not perceived harassment) would be dealt with. My sending you an email to say you're an incompetent bastard is not harassment worthy of following up. I agree.

  97. Grifter says:

    @flip:

    Perhaps in lieu of "benefit of the doubt" I should have said "empathy"? I said I saw that you see how dumb this law is, so I knew you weren't defending it.

    But I stand by the idea that I cannot have empathy or sympathy, and cannot give the benefit of the doubt, or whatever nice way of saying "I understand why they might do this" to lawmakers who see a problem that is already addressed, and claim to address it by legislating against rights.

    Now, had they made a law that might actually help, at least in theory, but was still awful (say, a law requiring ISPs to retain all data a customer sends and give it to police upon any request, since the problem here is the difficulty of enforcement), I would still disagree with the law, but I'd understand where it came from. The law in question, though, does not address the problem, which makes me think that it's not in any way an honest attempt to address a problem, but rather a nearly naked power grab cloaked in the tarp of a bad excuse. Thus, I can't say "well, I understand where they're coming from, even if I think the law is bad" about this law, and why I quibbled with ya.

  98. Grifter says:

    @flip:

    Just to clarify something:

    "There was no 'benefit of the doubt' in my comment, only a sense of empathy at being unable to investigate and prosecute actual harassment."

    For whom are you expressing empathy? The VC supervisors? That is how I read it, and was the basis of my quibble. If you're saying you aren't empathizing with them at all, then the context seems strange to me.

  99. flip says:

    I'm surprised this needs explaining given my expressions in previous comments.

    Grifter, I was expressing sympathy with the *victims* of harassment and the fact that in some cases, cyber-harassment can not or will not be followed up on due to lack of resources and/or training.

    Now, had they made a law that might actually help, at least in theory, but was still awful (say, a law requiring ISPs to retain all data a customer sends and give it to police upon any request, since the problem here is the difficulty of enforcement), I would still disagree with the law, but I'd understand where it came from. The law in question, though, does not address the problem, which makes me think that it's not in any way an honest attempt to address a problem, but rather a nearly naked power grab cloaked in the tarp of a bad excuse. Thus, I can't say "well, I understand where they're coming from, even if I think the law is bad" about this law, and why I quibbled with ya.

    I agree with you. That doesn't mean I can't have sympathy for people who, genuinely harassed and not just "mildly offended", do not receive support from the very people who are supposed to provide it. I'm trying to state that one can be annoyed at both an over-reaching law and that there is not enough being done to fully address a problem which this law was attempting (wrongly) to address.

    Does that make sense now?

  100. MasterThief says:

    I am totally stealing the phrase "trend-humping." There seems to be a lot of it going on these days.

  101. TPRJones says:

    Ultimately the solution to bullying is very simple. More speech. And it's a self-correcting problem.

    You see, it's not just the bullies that have access to modern communications. It's everyone. Those who are bullied are also finding more friends and more sympathetic peers online than ever they could before the internet. It will take time, but the "it gets better" movement and similar memes are invading our culture quite nicely. It won't be much longer before the typical response to a non-violent attack from a bully will be "fuck off, I don't give a shit what you think of me".

    Violent bullies are another matter, but also outside the purview of this comment thread.

  102. Giaconda says:

    What about those bullies in high places in high positions that are all governmental but in another state such issues with officials in the State of Florida where they are practicing violations of all kinds with their code of silence..as cops covering up for each other, attorneys selling info to DEA agents and DEA using young generation to switch and snitch without contracts being signed and approved by State attorney and prosecuter putting our young generation in real danger all this while violating Rachel law!!! Judges in accordance with cops and prosecutors all this while being paid under the table with favors and money! Its ridiculous! And so much more.
    We have no freedom of expression to express?!? and they intend to shut me up. Well to ridicule these meaningless wasters of taxpayers money in a more creative way is my future job. I'm educated in the fine arts fields and I will practice my professional skills. I truly think they'll be ashamed of having no shame! LIKE THE NEWSPAPERS WOULD RIDICULE the GOVERNMENT laws and official roles WITH THEIR IRONIC SARCASTIC DRAWINGS and plastered all over the US…now is the web..marvelous invention! Being part in a more innovative way by using these means of the world wide web makes me realize how lucky we still are to be able to express some of these things that would other wise put us all in a jeopardizing and isolated position from society and government.

  1. December 15, 2012

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    [...] earlier this week various blogs (you can read the Volokh take here; Ken's, at Popehat, here) took aim at a new Vernon County, Wisconsin ordinance that established a penalty of  $50 to $500  [...]

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