Civil Liberties

Joe Klein: The Howling Beast on the Borderline Separating Speech From Sedition, Since at Least 2009


Weary Time magazine truth-bear Joe Klein is catching hell for saying this weekend that Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin "rub right up close to being seditious." Video:

On Time's Swampland blog, Klein keeps digging:

On the Chris Mathews Show Sunday, I said that some of the right-wing infotainment gasbags–people like Glenn Beck etc.–were nudging up close to the edge of sedition. This has caused a bit of a self-righteous ruckus on the right. Let me be clear: dissent isn't sedition. Questioning an Administration's policies isn't sedition. But questioning an Administration's legitimacy in a manner intended to undermine or overthrow it certainly is. A rally like this yesterday in South Carolina is a good example of seditious speech. It's not illegal–unless actions are taken to overthrow the government in question–but it is disgraceful and the precise opposite of patriotism in a democracy.

Since sedition is a legal term, I don't know how Klein concludes that "seditious speech" is "not illegal," but the important thing here is that there's a lot of the stuff out there. Here's Smokey Joe last December:

This is borderline sedition. [Rep. Tom] Coburn–who had a friendly relationship with Senator Barack Obama–is saying that giving up on the U.S. government is justified. This helps stoke the hatred of those extremists who see Barack Obama's presidency as illegitimate. It also comes dangerously close to incitement to violence. It certainly deletes Coburn from the list of those who can be considered loyal to the most important American ideals. He should clarify what he means by these statements–and apologize for his hate speech, immediately.

And again with the sedition-border two months prior:

Let me be precise here: Fox News peddles a fair amount of hateful crap. Some of it borders on sedition.

Yeah, nothing says "precise" more than "fair amount" and "borders on"….

The "borderline" formulation is a transparent dodge; I am confident Klein's intellect is sufficiently razor-sharp to determine whether someone has crossed the legal threshold of sedition or not. And I would think that if you're a journalist playing the S-card–that is, if you're a free speech practitioner invoking one of the most notorious anti-free speech categories of law–you should at least have the basic stones to state definitively which of the people you disagree with should be locked up.

Reason on Klein here; on sedition here.