Fox News' Roger Ailes said this recently during an address at his alma mater, Ohio University: "I have one wish for OU, that it continues to be a place for open debate where people from different points of view with various opinions can meet and discuss these things openly. Because there will be no progress, and America will not survive, if we don't allow that open debate," Ailes said.
Ailes is right about the crucial importance of freedom of speech and thought in American life. The First Amendment is under intense attack from many points on the ideological compass, but mostly from the far Left.
The enemies of free speech and thought have lately turned to more subtle tools of suppression than merely shouting down speakers. Among these are extortionary threats to launch false charges of racism against companies that support politically incorrect groups, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council.
But far more sinister is the tactic adopted by Brett Kimberlin, an activist and the founder of the group Velvet Revolution who was convicted in 1981 of exploding eight bombs in 1978 in Speedway, Ind. One of his bombs blew off the leg of a man who subsequently committed suicide.
Nowadays, Kimberlin targets conservative bloggers like Aaron Worthing and Robert Stacy McCain in Maryland, and Patrick Frey of Patterico's Pontifications in California. Why? For publishing facts about Kimberlin's criminal record.
Kimberlin harasses his targets by, among many other ways, filing false charges in courts that require expensive, time-consuming litigation, disrupting his targets' workplaces, and dropping dark hints about spouses and kids.
Here's how Patterico describes Kimberlin's tactics against Worthing in seeking a "peace order": "It is beyond the scope of this post to detail every way in which Kimberlin's peace order is misleading and deceptive. Kimberlin complains that Aaron spoke of purchasing a gun, implying that Aaron's statement was aggressive -- when Aaron actually said he had bought a gun to defend himself.
"Kimberlin claims that Aaron is responsible for 'alerts' coming to his email inbox, suggesting Aaron is emailing him, when in fact the 'alerts' Kimberlin is talking about are Google alerts. If you write about this guy on the Internet, he may run to a judge and say you are causing abusive alerts to come to his email.
"You might say: What's the harm in getting a peace order? I have watched this play out in other venues and I know just what Kimberlin is up to. As soon as he gets a 'peace order,' he will run back to court the very next time Aaron mentions his name in public.
"That means that Kimberlin asserts the right to abuse the court process to harass Aaron -- and if Aaron tells the world how Kimberlin is abusing the court process, Kimberlin will claim that as a violation of the peace order and try to have Aaron held in contempt of court."
Unless these tactics are vigorously repudiated by the First Amendment's friends across the ideological spectrum, our Constitution will become little more than a parchment barrier to oppression.
The groups that Kimberlin has founded and associated with since his release from prison have received more than $1.5 million in grant support, much of it from liberal foundations -- the Tides Foundation, Streisand Foundation and Heinz Foundation -- according to Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center. Vadum wonders if they know (or care) how their donors' money is being spent.
So count me today with Michelle Malkin, Instapundit's Glenn Harlan Reynolds, blogger Lee Stranahan, PJMedia's Tatler and many others with one message for the Brett Kimberlins among us: Get your hands off our First Amendment.
This isn't about Left and Right, it's about liberty versus tyranny.
Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner.
UPDATE: Here's Patterico's horrifying story
What do you do when the police come knocking on your door, order you to come out with your hands up, frisk and handcuff you, then ask you if your wife and kids are still alive?
That's exactly what happened to Patrick Frey. And he's a Los Angeles prosecutor!
It happened because somebody called police impersonating Frey and claiming to have shot and killed his wife and children. On the left, they call this "SWATTING" because it results in the SWAT team being dispatched to the home of a critic.
Go here for a look at what the enemies of freedom of speech and thought are doing to those with whom they disagree. And then tell Frey that you stand with him and his family against the thugs.
UPDATE II: Where it all started
Ed Barnes has a comprehensive roundup at Fox News of Brett Kimberlin's life story, including all the facts about his prison sentences, drug sales, bombing, and much more.
UPDATE III: God bless Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin sparked today's blogburst of truth about Brett Kimberlin's tactics and the threat they represent to freedom of speech and thought. She has the authoritative collection of facts and links on this issue here.
Michelle has endured years of often vicious harrassment from those who disagree with her and seek to silence her. But she never backs down from seeking facts and speaking truth. She is a remarkable woman and one of the First Amendment's strongest advocates.
Michelle also sends word that Ali Akbar has established an online relief fund to provide aid to Kimberlin's victims. Go here.
UPDATE IV: McCain explains how it all started
McCain is getting around the blogosphere despite having to adjourn himself and family to an undisclosed location, securely out of Kimberlin's reach. PJ Media's Tatler talks to him at length. And The Blaze has everything - and much more - that you would ever want or need to know about Kimberlin.
UPDATE V: This is a BLOGBURST!
Lots of bloggers are commenting on Kimberlin and tracking what other bloggers are writing. Daley Gator has a great post chock full of links. And J. Christian Adams points out on Election Law Center that harrassment, intimidation and other threatening forms of activity against an individual in an attempt to deprive that person of their First Amendment rights can be a federal crime.