Anti-Bullying Bill Could Jail People Who Criticize Politicians (Nanny of the Month, June ‘13)

School’s out for summer and Nanny of the Month is taking the opportunity to salute the zealots within the otherwise laudable anti-bullying movement. They take a real problem--few things are more loathsome than picking on the vulnerable--and bungle the response, as has been done with most every “get tough!” effort from D.A.R.E., the failed anti-drug program, to all the idiotic iterations of the “zero tolerance” fad.

Do we really need to ban trash talking at high school sporting events? Do we really need attorney general investigations of foul-mouthed jocks? And for the love of whatever remnants of common sense remain in our schoolhouses and statehouses, do we really need to fight bullying with jail cells?

Not only did this month’s top nanny introduce a bill that would criminalize speech deemed to be bullying--up to a year in the clink!--she introduced a bill that, according to UCLA First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh, is not limited to speech about children (despite it being touted with the typical “for the children!” justifications). Volokh notes that the bill, if passed, could punish harsh speech directed at journalists, academics, celebrities, politicians, and the like, if the speech results in “substantial emotional distress.”

Presenting the Nanny of the Month for June 2013: New Mexico State Rep. Mary Helen Garcia!

About a minute-and-a-half long.

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  • creech||

    Sports trash talk being raised to the level of tying up the attorney general's time? Getting the cops involved seems to be the answer to
    everything these days as the idea of personal responsibility fades farther and farther into the background. The athlete himself, his coach, his parents, the school principal, the university president, the league athletic director all are incapable of stopping poor sportsmanship? No one has the power to keep the fans from chanting "bullshit" at the refs? Nope, call in the cops. What ever happened to the "Dutch Uncle" talk from the coach - "behave or you are off the team?"

  • Sevo||

    creech| 6.28.13 @ 10:50AM |#
    "Sports trash talk being raised to the level of tying up the attorney general's time?"

    There is no matter so trivial that the government won't stick its nose in, unless we stop it.
    Oh, and A1.

  • DenverJay||

    That, and its for the children! As long as its for the children, its ok by me!
    And yeah, the Constitution was written by a bunch of dead white men, not dead white children, so there!

  • Sigil||

    No, they have the power, but they don't care to stop it.
    Did they stop the molesting of children at Penn State?

  • fried wylie||

    Not that it matters, but isn't criticizing the gov't and the agents thereof a constitutionally protected right?

    Freedom of Screech, or something?

  • WTF||

    Yeah, but fire in a crowded theater and hate speech or something.

  • Doctor Whom||

    That, and the right not to be offended is in the Constitution, um, somewhere. Somebody told me that there's such a right.

  • Irish||

    Not that it matters, but isn't criticizing the gov't and the agents thereof a constitutionally protected right?

    Not that it matters, but isn't criticizing literally anyone for any reason a constitutionally protected right?

    All of these laws violate free speech.

  • ||

    But old. Like 100 years. And too hard to read.

  • Loki||

    Freedom??? That is worhip word, Yang worship! You will not speak it!

  • timbo||

    Did you just try to invoke the constitution. That document is old hat. We don't need rules anymore. What we need is massive government and a blank checkbook. They are doing great things with that philosophy. It is over.

  • Inigo M.||

    Right. It was written by a bunch of dead, white, mostly slave-owning white guys to protect their own plantation-owning rights. So let's throw it out and just trust the government to protect us from everything, including overly-large soft drinks and being offended by what anyone says or even thinks about us. We know we can trust them fully, because, after all, the government is just US. Can you trust yourself? Good, then you can also trust your elected officials, as long as they are part of Team Blue, of course. I have that on very good authority from a recent commencement speech.

  • timbo||

    What we need are government installed zippers over our mouths. That way we can limit speech, eating, smoking, sex;throat cancer, smiling.
    I would actually consider that if it help to silence that rotten cow Nancy Grace.
    Is it me or is she a cross between a heifer and al gore?

  • fried wylie||

    Who needs zippers when you can scarf down a gov't official's cock?

  • fried wylie||

    *when you are mandated to scarf...

  • ||

    This won't end well.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    otherwise laudable anti-bullying movement.

    Yeah, I'm gonna have to disagree on this one. As a former "victim" of bullying, people need to learn to harden the fuck up. Seriously, I'm short, pale, and extremely nerdy. I doubt most of these kids get bullied nearly as much as I did. You know what I did? I learned to be wittier and snarkier than they could be. Watching their impotent rage was more cathartic than any punishment doled out by an adult could have ever been.

    Aww, dey huwted your wittle feewings?

    Don't let them get to you, simple as that.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Also, THIS!

  • ||

    Bingo. People need to man the fuck up, or woman up as the case may be. Having mean words directed your way is not the end of the world. Butch the fuck up, get over it, and don't rely on legislation to make the meanies go away. The first amendment is there, and should be there, to protect them, as Volokh points out so well

  • Inigo M.||

    I've always taken bullying to be more than "mean words." Usually, the mean words were a prelude to shoving and punching. I was taught by my parents to fight back. It worked: every time I hit a bully back, the bullying stopped instantly and permanently. They can't tolerate push-back from their would-be victims. Too bad push-back doesn't work when it comes to government bullies.

  • fold_left||

    Also a former bullied child, I agree with you as well. The ironic thing about the anti-bullying "movement" is that the worst bullying isn't done by lone shark sociopaths, it's done by groups, especially in-groups punishing an outcast. So when I see groups of people in identical t-shirts proclaiming their opposition to bullies in conformist unison, I laugh.

  • Sigil||

    Really? My sister was bullied. There was another boy at my high school that was bullied too. I witness both instances. I tried to help my sister. I was powerless. You have no idea what you are talking about. Please, don't speak for all "victims".

    FYI A female victim experiences a very different type of bullying. In most cases, it involves both genders.

  • ||

    If the bullying involves real crime, then it should be dealt with as such. If it's name calling and other such ilk, it's not a police/criminal justice issue, it's a purely school admin matter. Schools can and should be able to administratively deal with/punish kids for bullying, but we don't use the heavy hand of LEO's and the power of the gun to criminalize calling people names and other such first amendment protected activity. We let the school handle it, as they can punish such behavior ASSUMING it happens on school grounds or is otherwise connected to the school (please don't get me started on bong hits for jesus, though).

    but if there is no school connection, then yes - kids can get bullied and there aint fuck-all the school can or should be able to do about it. That's life. Govt. can't protect kids from the mean words of others.

  • Sevo||

    Sigil| 6.28.13 @ 7:33PM |#
    "Really? My sister was bullied. There was another boy at my high school that was bullied too. I witness both instances. I tried to help my sister. I was powerless. You have no idea what you are talking about. Please, don't speak for all "victims"."

    Uh, please don't presume to speak for those who have both the experience and an obvious solution.
    IOWs, take your gov't coercion and stuff it where the sun don't shine.

  • gaoxiaen||

    When I was a kid, we'd catch the bully off school property and kick the shit out of him. Always solved the problem. In the military, a pain-in-the-ass NCO was harrassing me in a bar off base. Luckily for him, other guys pulled me off of him while I was sitting on his chest hammering his face. Problem solved. Except for the surgery he needed for "walking into a door".

  • BLEEDINELL||

    Just go suck your thumb.

  • mtrueman||

    "As a former "victim" of bullying,"

    I'm surprised that nobody has yet chimed in with a 'I was a former perpetrator of bullying.' Until now, that is, for I was. I never made it a habit, but I did, when I was a child. pick on smaller kids.

    Why am I the only one to admit to participating in bullying? Because it's such a shameful act. All I see here is attempts, on the part of the victims, to minimize bullying. "Simple as that," you say. Minimize it or accept it.

    I'm leery of legislation, but I don't want to go on record with the minimizers and acceptors. Bullying is something shameful and needs to be shunned.

  • OneOut||

    A 10th year class reunion is an excellent time and place to get revenge for high school bullying.

    Motivations for success can come from the strangest places.

  • timbo||

    But we need anti-bullying. There was no bullying before 2008.

  • Sigil||

    LOL Obviously, there was bullying. However, social media has changed how and when we learn about it. Moreover, it's another weapon for bullies.

  • ||

    Most "bullying" via social media should be protected by the 1st amendment, as prof. volokh and those with common sense, point out.

    These are results of the war on DV, cyberstalking and bullying laws that criminalize callying somebody a poopyhead... must be illegal BECAUSE THEY HAPPENED ON THE INTERT00BS.

    first, we developed the "drugs exception" to the 4th amendment, and now the statist nimrods are creating a "internet exception" to the 1st amendment. It needs to be nipped in the bud, so to speak.

  • Inigo M.||

    Of course there was bullying before 2008. Didn't you hear? It was Bush's fault!!

  • ||

    Good article. Anti-bullying bills, much like cyberstalking laws, tend to be unconstitutionally overbroad junk legislation. They are way too often kneejerk laws passed to SOLVE A PROBLEM that is already addressed perfectly fine with pre-existing laws. Assault, threats, etc. already have laws - you know the elements of bullying that are already criminal. Name calling etc. has pesky first amendment issues but we (dumbass legislators) think they can just legislate meanness away.

    Also, any reason article that references volokh.com (where adults can discuss legal/cop issues like... adults and cop opinions are respected :) if not my authoritah :) is a-ok with me. love that place

    "Volokh notes that the bill, if passed, could punish harsh speech directed at journalists, academics, celebrities, politicians, and the like, if the speech results in “substantial emotional distress"

    Exactly. The first amendment was DESIGNED to protect "harsh speech". As LEO's, we are expected to deal with, and do deal with , harsh speech directed our way with service and a smile. Others should be expected to do the same, or at least respond to mean speech with a witty retort, or ignoring it - not legislation or violence. That's how adults handle such things.

  • ||

    And if you suffer significant emotional distress because somebody said something mean to you - grow the fuck up.

    Despite the fact that journalists get amongst the lowest levels of respect of any profession from the general public (as polling data I have cited shows), I have respect for them to the extent that I know THEY CAN TAKE a little criticism.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Tell us, Dumpy: if you're ordered to arrest a kid pursuant to a statute that you know is unconstitutional, would you comply?

    -jcr

  • ||

    I would hope to have the courage to not comply. I'd want to be damn sure that the behavior arrested was in fact constittuionally protected. Iow, these statutes encompass both actual illegal behavior AND constitutionally protected behavior. The latter is of course the stuff that is problematic. Iow, I would not arrest if ordered to because Kid I called Kid II a poopyhead, even if that violated the bullying statute. Otoh, if he committed "assault - bullying" I would since it would be constitutional.

  • Sigil||

    That's the thing isn't. The law isn't enforced, because we think it's absurd to charge children with "assault". The laws that have passed have language that people are more comfortable with.

    In the end, it's to parents responsibility. We send are kids to school to learn. They aren't there to listen to some other kids garbage. School isn't a babysitting service.

  • ||

    At least around these parts wher I work, and assuming it isn't a mutual combat fight, we have no problem charging those over 12 yoa with assault .

    Mutual combat otoh where two kids choose to fight it out is NOT a crime, even if one loses the fight, and the schools HATE that, but fuck them - we are NOT a babysitting service and they may have a zero tolerance violence policy but the law doesn't. Here in WA, fighting isn't illegal - assault is. There's a difference.

    Ive charged plenty of kids with assault when the case is real, or even robbery (assault in the process of taking property of another).

    Bullying is a bunch of PC rubbish, we agree. If the case for assault is there, make it, but spare me the "bullying" rubbish

  • ||

    "Not that it matters, but isn't criticizing literally anyone for any reason a constitutionally protected right?

    All of these laws violate free speech."

    Yes., but according to case law and as it should be, criticism of govt. agents enjoys extra special extra strong protection. This isn't france where "insulting a police" is a crime. Iirc, a certain gabor got arrested and charged with that one once. We are, and should be expected to have extra thick skins and simply put, even the fighting words exception (one of the rare examples where mean words directed at an individual ARE and SHOULD BE (to a small extent) criminally actionable) doesn't apply when directed at cops, firefighters, and god forbid - politicians.

    Kind of how political speech enjoys higher protection than commercial speech, as an analogy.

    The war on free speech comes mostly from the left nowadays and especially germinated in domestic violence law (the law on domestic violence) where cyberstalking, unconstitutional protection order "protections" etc. live and breathe and were created.

    Thank God for FIRE.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    It's a good thing we can't be arrested for insulting a police officer. Half the commentariat from here would be in jail.

  • ||

    Bigotry needs to be exposed to the sunlight, not criminalized.

  • Number 2||

    NEWS ITEM: New Mexico legislator proposes legislation to criminalize "harassment" based on, among other grounds, "socioeconomic status."

    Does this mean that Occupy New Mexico would be imprisoned for railing against "1%'rs?" That anyone calling for taxes on the rich would be risking arrest? Hmmm...bet she didn't think about that.

  • Inigo M.||

    No, I bet she did. No doubt only members of a marginalized socioeconomic class can count as victims. It's just like only groups that have been traditionally discriminated against can be victims of racism or bigotry. If you get targeted by anyone because you're a middle-class or wealthier, white man, then you have no leg to stand on. In fact, you deserve the ill treatment because of your historical guilt.

  • GLK||

    News reports that Alec Baldwin publicly tweeted a threat of violence to a UK journalist that wrote a story indicating Alec's pregnant wife was texting while at James Gandolfini's funeral. Who wouldn't want to see them take Baldwin away in cuffs?

  • Sevo||

    GLK| 6.28.13 @ 8:51PM |#
    "News reports that Alec Baldwin publicly tweeted a threat of violence to a UK journalist that wrote a story indicating Alec's pregnant wife was texting while at James Gandolfini's funeral. Who wouldn't want to see them take Baldwin away in cuffs?"

    Now, THERE is a series of statements/facts that really makes me want to, well, ignore the source of such crap.
    Let's parse this:
    Ditz trophy wife ignores funeral of guy who made a living pretending ro be someone else, sleazy concern blogger concerns, whacko husband who also makes a living pretending to be someone else goes ballistic, a final gossip queeen reports the entire thing as if I should give a fuck.
    Do I have it?

  • Sevo||

    Doctor Whom| 6.28.13 @ 11:22AM |#
    "That, and the right not to be offended is in the Constitution, um, somewhere. Somebody told me that there's such a right."

    Sorry if I miss the identification, but wasn't it Barbara Lee who made the claim that she had a "constitutional right' to not be insulted?
    Thereby guaranteeing insults by anyone who can read the English language.

  • ||

    I find Ms Garcia's bill to be causing me substantial emotional distress...could I have her jailed for a year?

  • Greg F||

    When guns bullies are outlawed, only outlaws government will have guns bullies.

  • rockhead||

    And, of course, when bullies are outlawed, we know that they will all stop their bullying behavior. After, isn't passing more laws going to stop all miscreant behavior?

  • rockhead||

    We get the government we deserve. Looking to the government to solve our problems will inevitably lead to situations like this. There is no way that our "public servants" can stop themselves from injecting politics into anything they touch. This is what happens when people move from reasoned arguments to demonizing their opponents. If you can't answer the charge, the solution is simple: silence the opposition. If they cannot be silenced, demonize them. Never actually answer for your actions.

  • ||

    What the hell ever happened to "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"?

  • Solidus||

    Losing the Constitution one Amendment at a time, we are. Enough, already! Dodging political correctness currently makes it difficult enough to have open and honest dialog. This is borderline bizarre. http://coldwarwarrior.com/

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