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Posted by on Mar 18, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Politics | 7 comments

Senator Lindsey Graham Stonewalls Free Speech

 

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“Sure, I believe in freedom of speech — as long as everyone agrees with me.”

 

Apparently, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham opposes free speech.  Consider what he did recently.

The two-term South Carolina Republican who’s up for re-election this year erased several written comments, which were recently posted on his Facebook page.  Some of the comments questioned the senior Senator’s expressed opposition to online poker’s legalization at the federal level.

Sen. Graham is certainly justified in removing comments which might be considered by most as either offensive or objectionable.  This includes defamatory remarks, profanity, and off-topic content.  However, virtually all the comments which appeared at his page were not defamatory, nor profane, nor off-topic.  To the contrary, they were cordial, thought-provoking, and very much on-topic.  Yet, Sen. Graham clearly doesn’t want any dissent when it comes to confronting opinions which differ from his own.

I find this beyond troubling.  In fact, I find it reprehensible.  These actions are unacceptable for an elected public official in a free society.

“Lindsey Graham not only pulled down a lot of our comments, but blocked me personally, and several other long-time advocates,” pro-online poker activist Mike Qualley told me yesterday.  “None of us left negative comments on his page — just facts.  These guys hate the truth so much that they are willing to stomp our First Amendment rights to hide it.”

Before they were removed, I had the chance to review many of the comments.  All were respectful.  They were also signed by people with real names and faces.  Moreoever, some of the comments included links to facts from reputable news sources and special-interest groups, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) among them.  Since it was Sen. Graham who initially raised online poker/gambling as a political issue, one might expect he would welcome direct feedback from American citizens.

Well, apparently not.

What’s most troubling here are the extraordinary lengths to which Sen. Graham has gone to subvert the democratic process.  All citizens must be granted rights to express themselves to their elected officials.  Otherwise, representative democracy becomes a sham.  America isn’t a true republic unless communication is a two-way street.  And in this day and age, most people get their news via the web.  Online is where people go to exchange ideas and talk about current events.  The Internet has become the new “town hall.”  Only Sen. Graham has locked the doors and won’t let anyone inside unless they’re in agreement.

I noted several names posted at Sen. Graham’s page among the “comments” section, including people who actually reside and vote in South Carolina.  Let’s make this unmistakenly clear — these are Sen. Graham’s own constituents.  And what has he done?  He stripped away their comments.  He silenced their voices.  Does anyone else see this as a serious problem?

Wait, it gets worse.

Not only did Sen. Graham remove comments opposed to his position; he’s now blocking those same people from posting in the future — even people from South Carolina.  Let’s declare this openly what it is — blatant censorship.  Such practices might be acceptable for private companies or individuals.  But for an elected public official to block his own constituents from trying to express their opinions about a public issue important to them is an outrage.

Presuming his Facebook page is serviced by people who work within his government office, that also makes his page a taxpayer-supported entity.  It’s not his website.  It belongs to the office of the senator, and indirectly the good citizens of his state who fund it.

This all makes Sen. Graham’s actions in direct violation of the principles of representatiave democracy and governance.

I hereby declare that the United States Senate should immediately introduce a motion to censure Sen. Lindsey Graham for his actions, which are unbecoming for an elected official in a free society.

Sen. Graham must also publicly apologize and in the future cease all attempts to deny citizens their right to voice opinions on a taxpayer-supported platform.

 

Note 1:  Read more on the act of censure here.  See:  CENSURE   See:  LIST OF SENATORS WHO HAVE BEEN EXPELLED OR CENSURED

Note 2:  Sen. Graham has two Facebook pages — one affiliated with his U.S. Senate office, the other affiliated with his re-election campaign.

 

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“I really want to hear what my constituents believe — except when they disagree with my views.”

7 Comments

  1. On the list of things that annoy me a lot more than they probably should, one that rates very highly is people who invoke the First Amendment when it absolutely does not apply. The First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech…”. Removing some words from one’s Facebook page does not qualify. Congress as a body, not to be confused with one Senator acting within the same boundaries we all live by, hasn’t done a damn thing to restrict anyone’s speech in this case.

    So, when Nolan says, “Lindsay Graham Stonewalls Freedom of Speech”, that’s crap. And when Mike Qualley says, “These guys hate the truth so much that they are willing to stomp our First Amendment rights to hide it,” that’s just ignorant. Lindsay Graham removed some words from his Facebook page. Call it censorship if you want, but he did what any of us with a Facebook page has a right to do. If you don’t like it, bitch to Facebook or Lindsay Graham, but you don’t have a civil rights case.

    I don’t agree with Lindsay Graham on much, and certainly not on his stance on online gaming. Removing some polite but dissenting opinions from one’s own Facebook page is childish, overly sensitive, and perhaps even dickish, but it is in no way a First Amendment issue, and the folks who insist that it is do a disservice to their cause by insisting that it is.

    • NOLAN REPLIES:

      I can’t speak to the “First Ammendment” quote, as that’s from Mr. Qualley.

      However, I can address Sen. Graham’s Facebook page. Based on my observation of it, that is an OFFICIAL page, an extention of his office which is taxpayer funded. I don’t know this as fact, but I presume a government employee (from his Senate office) maintains and monitors the content. This site is not HIM. It belongs to the office which he holds. If the site was LINDSEY GRAHAM (private citizen), we would be in agreement. But that site is technically “government property.”

      Accordingly, that’s a public space. It could be argued that the “right to assembly” should be guaranteed there. As I say in the op-ed, the Internet is now the town hall for many people.

      Here, let’s get more technical:

      Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests. The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, political right and civil liberty.

      The United States Constitution explicitly provides for ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances'” in the First Amendment.

      So, perhaps the First Ammendment does apply. It’s certainly arguable.

      Moreover, there’s a clear obligation for public oficials to be accessible to voters/citizens. No one would argue that.

      Based on these facts, I’ll stick with my points and claim this is a misuse of authority and very much a free speech case (however, I do concede “right to assembly” might be just as applicable).

      — Nolan

      • ‘But that site is technically “government property.” Accordingly, that’s a public space.’

        What?! It’s not government property. It belongs to Facebook. Read their terms and conditions. Second, a Facebook page for an elected official is not the same thing as a public park. Third, the First Amendment does not *require* government to give you a platform for your grievances, it only guarantees that if you build one yourself and use that, they can’t pass a law that makes you take it down or stop distributing your message. You don’t have the right to hang your banner across the portico of the Capitol Building.

        Bottom line: If you *really* believe that Lindsay Graham has violated your civil rights by taking down messages posted on his Facebook wall, then get yourself a lawyer and take him to court. If you win you’ll be fucking famous and have a Supreme Court decision named after you. If you really have a case, it shouldn’t be hard to get the ACLU or the SPLC interested enough to do the work pro bono. Huge upside, should be well worth your while. You’ll leave a huge mark on the planet. School children will learn who you were and what you stand for for generations.

        But we all know what will happen if you go down this road. The ACLU will tell you they’re not interested and you have no case. The claim that this is a First Amendment issue, despite your tortured logic above, is bogus, we both know it, and, IMHO, it hurts your case.

        So, complain about Graham being a censor, someone who doesn’t tolerate reasoned, polite dissension, demonstrate that he’s wrong on the issues, but he didn’t violate anyone’s civil rights here, and claims that he has are histrionic.

        • NOLAN REPLIES:

          I never wrote, nor implied, that anyone’s “civil rights” were violated. That’s your strawman.

          Here is precisely what I *did” write:

          (1) This all makes Sen. Graham’s actions in direct violation of the principles of representatiave democracy and governance.

          (2) I hereby declare that the United States Senate should immediately introduce a motion to censure Sen. Lindsey Graham for his actions, which are unbecoming for an elected official in a free society.

          (3) Sen. Graham must also publicly apologize and in the future cease all attempts to deny citizens their right to voice opinions on a taxpayer-supported platform.

          Seems pretty simple, as I’ve clearly raised my objections based on his actions as an affront to representive democracy (in theory), general protocol of the Senate, and mis-use of taxpayer funds/government employees. Why would you even bring up this as a legal case? I sure didn’t. I’m not exactly Rosa Parks here.

          If Facebook is indeed “Facebook property” as you say, that’s fine. But Sen. Graham’s (presumed) use of government employees, their time, and office resources to maintain it does make it an “official” forum or at least an extention as such which is subject to many if not all of the same general expectations citizens receive in a town hall, or a public park. Accordingly, one would think the free exchange of ideas would apply here as they do in physical places (precedent on this is probably only in its infancy, I admit).

          Furthermore, the SOLE OBJECTIVE of those who sign on to Facebook is essentially one thing — to communicate. When one sets up a page, as Sen. Graham has done, that person understands this is a free forum of lots of ideas. Otherwise, make your own private website. People are going to express themselves, that’s what Facebook is, after all.

          The Senator would be justified in asking Mike Qualley to leave if he visited the Capital Building, and then overstayed his welcome They could even ban him from returning (I suppose — I’ve never researched this). That’s because the same government office which is public property actually serves the purpose of being a conduit of business. But the Facebook page or any other taxpayer-funded site or entity is built for one purpuse, which is to communicate with constituents/citizens/voters. Accordingly, selecting those he wants to participate versus those he wants to exclude amounts to an action which many in a democracy would view as objectionable.

          — Nolan

  2. “I never wrote, nor implied, that anyone’s “civil rights” were violated. That’s your strawman.”

    No it isn’t a strawman at all. You titled this thing “Senator Lindsey Graham Stonewalls Free Speech”. Actually denying someone Free Speech is denying them their First Amendment rights. Denying someone a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights is a civil rights violation. QED. IT’S NO STRAWMAN. I’M REFERRING DIRECTLY TO WHAT YOU SAID. GET IT? YOU ACTUALLY WROTE THAT.

    “Here is precisely what I *did” [sic] write:”

    You wrote the title. I quoted it. See how that works?

    I stand by that you’re being histrionic. I’m no fan of Graham and disagree with him on this issue, but a censure? Seriously? To my recollection, there have been a total of nine Senate censures in the body’s history. You think this rises to that standard? I’m not sure it makes the top ten censurable acts by a Senator *this* *week*.

    It’s true that the purpose of posting on Facebook is to communicate. IT IS NOT ALWAYS TO COMMUNICATE BIDIRECTIONALLY. Senator Graham is clearly using it to selectively communicate bidirectionally. You can call that a number of bad names. You claim that “the Facebook page or any other taxpayer-funded site or entity is built for one purpuse [sic], which is to communicate with constituents/citizens/voters.” I call bullshit. I claim that many Facebook pages are created to communicate *to* constituents/citizens/voters. Again, just because you paid for it doesn’t mean you have the right to write on it. I just don’t understand where you get this. There is no such right. My pet peeve, outlined above, is that folks seem to think there is. It’s silly. You can’t call it denying someone Free Speech, as you did, nor can you seriously thing it’s worthy of a Senatorial censure.

    You (and I) don’t get to comment on everything done on government time. You just don’t. You aren’t allowed to write a message on a NASA spacecraft, for example. The First Amendment does not require the government to give you access to all possible platforms. I can’t imagine someone seriously suggesting that the First Amendment means Senators can’t excise comments from their Facebook walls. Seriously?

  3. I think you are a little over-the-top on this one Nolan. Understandably you are an ardent supporter of on-line gambling and Graham has ruffled your feathers by selectively editing a facebook page. That by no means calls for censure. I think your emotional attachment to this issue may have clouded your otherwise relatively sound judgment. However, it’s always entertaining to read your blog and I appreciate immersing myself in your verbal skills.

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