CYBERBULLYING HEARING GOES BADLY FOR LIBERALS
By Rev. Ted Pike
1 Oct 09
The House Subcommittee hearing today on two "anti-cyberbullying" bills
went very poorly for the Anti-Defamation League, architect of these
bills, and their two primary sponsors, Rep. Linda Sanchez and Rep.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Sanchez sponsored the Megan
Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, HR 1966, and Wasserman Schultz the AWARE Act (Adolescent
Web Awareness Requires Education), HR 3630. AWARE is meant to facilitate
the cyberbullying act's pro-homosexual educational program in America's
public school system.
The hearing began with a strong statement by Rep. Louis Gohmert (the
only Republican Judiciary member present) that he endured much bullying
as an undersized boy and has only empathy for any young person bullied
on the schoolyard or in cyberspace. Yet, he said, cyberbullying is
a symptom of a larger problem of lack of values among America's youth.
Such moral deficiency, he said, should be addressed on the local levels
-- not by federalizing an already "overcriminalized" justice
system. Gohmert said the cyberbullying bill encroaches on protected
speech. "Do we need $125 million of Chinese money" (the five-year
cost of AWARE) for the federal government to attempt to solve what
should be dealt with through education on the grassroots level?
Sanchez and Wassermann Schultz argued that cyberbullying of teens
is a national crisis that can only be solved through federal criminalization
and educational funding through the Department of Justice. They were
followed by Professor Robert O'Neill, veteran of 47 years of teaching
Constitutional law. He thought it "worth a try," considering
the seriousness of the cyberbullying problem, to broaden unprotected
speech under HR 1966 to include "intentional infliction of emotional
distress" through internet communication. But he felt a very high
bar of truth (higher than the bill provides) should be required, to
establish that real, demonstrable trauma had occurred. O'Neill was
followed by Judi Westberg Warren, director of Web Wise Kids, an internet
advocacy group. She supports federal funding through AWARE, plus massive
Trial lawyer and free speech authority Harvey Silverglate spoke next.
In powerful and compelling language, he said the cyberbullying bill
is extremely vague, impinging on free speech. In his book The
Shadow University he documents how thousands of college students are already
harassed and intimidated by college "speech crime" codes.
He said such hate law terms as "intimidation," "emotional
distress," and "harassment" are so vague they will criminalize
annoying speech and deter speech which should be protected. He said
true harassment is already amply protected under state and common law.
The cyberbullying bill, he asserted, would criminalize existing torte
law and federalize state law and so confuse citizens that they would
be reluctant to say anything risky on the internet or anywhere else.
Silverglate's excellent objections were followed by commonsense reasoning
from Nancy Willard, director of The Center for Safe and Responsible
Internet Use, another internet advocacy organization. She said every
author of a book about cyberbullying opposes HR 1966. She described
the cyberbullying bill as epitomizing the "techno panic" of
liberal politicians who want to pass more speech-threatening legislation
before the actual problem is fully elucidated. Like Gohmert and Silverglate,
she encouraged local private educational solutions. The majority of
teens, she stressed, use the internet responsibly.
The last witness was John Palfrey of Harvard Law School, chair of
the Internet Safety Task Force and co-author of Born
Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. He also said the solution
is not in federal criminalization of cyberbullying but lies with local
educational programs, teachers and parents.
A very lively question-and-answer period ensued between Chairman Bobby
Scott and these authorities. The effect of their erudite objections
and agreement was to virtually exclude from the discussion Reps. Sanchez
and Wassermann Schultz, sponsors of the bills. Even federal hate bill
supporter Scott expressed repeated concern that the cyberbullying bill,
in its present configuration, falls short of passing Constitutional
In fact, Professor O'Neill—who initially favored the bill—by
the end clearly agreed that the Megan Meier cyberbullying bill, HR
1966, lacks legislative viability.
We Changed History!
Today's hearing was clearly a victory for free speech, made possible
by divine intervention and YOUR phone calls this week, which lit a
fire under Judiciary Republicans. Especially important were your last-minute
warnings against AWARE and its danger as the educational "enforcer" of
the cyberbullying bill throughout America's public education over the
next five years. Calls were heavy against all four new hate bills on
Monday. Such calling has continued, especially against AWARE; it has
saturated offices such as that of Rep. Judiciary minority head Lamar
Without your intense activism in response to my weekend emergency
alert, this hearing might have ended as dismally as the ENDA hearing
last week in the Committee on Education and Labor, with only one Republican
speaking out against it. But several days of vigorous encouragement
undoubtedly stimulated Gohmert and the Republicans to marshal opposition
and summon favored expert witnesses. For a change, advocates of free
speech were on the offensive!
This very encouraging development dovetails with possible abandonment
of the previously scheduled Safe Schools Improvement
Act, HR 2262,
which would criminalize "persistent or persuasive" criticism
of homosexuality in the public schools as "violence." It
may be that ADL concocted AWARE, introduced last Wednesday to deliver
pro-homosexual indoctrination in a less threatening way. But after
today, AWARE also may be in trouble.
Will HR 1966 and HR 3630 continue forward to markup? Probably. But
the precedent established by today's rout of the Democrats may give
Republicans opportunity to demand significant compromises that could
water down or even largely neutralize HR 1966's threat to free speech.
Let the Anti-Defamation League teach you how they have saddled 45 states
with hate laws capable of persecuting Christians, and spearhead attempts to pass
the federal hate crimes bill: http://www.adl.org/99hatecrime/intro.asp.
TALK SHOW HOSTS: Interview Rev. Ted Pike on this subject.
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