Randazza, Because Somebody Has To

It was 1978 when a group of neo-Nazis wanted to march through the Chicago suburb of Skokie, a neighborhood with its share of Holocaust survivors. As bad as that was, they had the right to think stupid and ugly thoughts, and the First Amendment protected their right to express them. The ACLU famously came to their defense, not because there was anything likable about neo-Nazis, but because the vitality of the First Amendment was invariably tested by the nastiest speech.

It was a proud moment for the ACLU. And in 2017, the ACLU still fondly recalls this proud moment, as it hasn’t done much for free speech since.

This once-favored right has fallen into disrepute with the rise of social justice, and the ACLU has taken guidance from the same fortune-cookie philosophies that apologize for authoritarianism. It’s not that they’re against free speech (except when they are), but that sanitizing the world of disagreeable speech is more important.

So when the current flavor of neo-Nazis (did you think they went away while there’s still tin foil to be had?) was put to the test, who was there to call?  Marco. Not because Marco likes Nazis. Not because Marco thinks their conduct swell. But because somebody had to fight for free speech, even for these guys, for the same reason the ACLU did so in 1978.

Marco, upon learning where my left hand is.

Marc Randazza took the case.

Marc Randazza told The Associated Press on Friday that his law firm is defending The Daily Stormer’s founder, Andrew Anglin, against a federal lawsuit that real estate agent Tanya Gersh filed against him in April.

“Everybody deserves to have their constitutional rights defended,” Randazza said. “Nobody needs the First Amendment to protect Mr. Rogers. That’s not what it’s there for.”

Gersh is represented by attorneys from the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

To say the SPLC tracks hate groups is a bit disingenuous. They “create” the hate groups they track, designating any person or group that fails to use the speech they deem appropriate as a hate group. This isn’t to say they’re wrong in this instance, but that no one made them the thought or word police, and yet they are held up by such august sources as the New York Times as the arbiter of speech and thought purity.

The suit against Anglin stems from his response to real estate agent Tanya Gersh’s call to arms against Richard Spencer. Spencer, you may recall, was the neo-Nazi it was cool to sucker punch.

Gersh’s suit claims anonymous internet trolls bombarded her family with hateful and threatening messages after Anglin unleashed a “campaign of terror” by publishing their personal information, including her 12-year-old son’s Twitter handle and photo.

In a string of posts, Anglin accused Gersh and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, Montana, of engaging in an “extortion racket” against the mother of white nationalist Richard Spencer.

The suit accuses Anglin of invading Gersh’s privacy, intentionally inflicting “emotional distress” and violating a Montana anti-intimidation law.

There are more than a few ironies involved here, given that Gersh went after Spencer’s mother, presumably for raising such an awful son, though there is some dispute about what happened.

Gersh’s lawsuit said she agreed to help Richard Spencer’s mother sell commercial property she owns in Whitefish amid talk of a protest outside the building. Sherry Spencer, however, later accused Gersh of threatening and harassing her into agreeing to sell the property.

But when she became the target of a “troll storm” after Anglin went after her, she found it intolerable.

Anglin’s initial Dec. 16 post about Gersh urged readers to “take action” against her and other Jewish residents of Whitefish, posting their telephone numbers, email addresses and Twitter handles.

“And hey — if you’re in the area, maybe you should stop by and tell her in person what you think of her actions,” he added.

These are the sort of words that some will call a “dog whistle,” saying one thing but meaning something far more nefarious. Did Anglin send a message to the troopers to attack and harass Gersh? The words say nothing more than to express disapproval with her actions, which on its face, would be fully protected speech. Should someone interpret the words to mean something different, that’s on them.

Randazza, who said Anglin never directly sent any messages to Gersh, argued the suit’s allegations “leave room for disagreement” over whether Anglin did anything wrong.

The defense isn’t grounded in support of either Anglin, his Daily Stormer neo-Nazi rag or the actions taken by others against Gersh. It’s only about whether the words written by Anglin should be protected under the First Amendment. If the law easily morphs benign words into calls to do harm, engage in violence or harassment, the impact to free speech could be severe.

There was once a time when a civil-liberties group might leap into the fray, take on the most hated, most unpopular voice possible because that was invariably how speech was defended. As Randazza says, nobody tries to silence Mr. Rogers.

“If it’s unpopular and people want to shut it up, then we have represented them,” Randazza said.

That Marco will take on a guy like Anglin, a group like the neo-Nazis, presents a huge risk. To the terminally insipid, it paints a target on his head. After all, whom better to hate than neo=Nazi, and the inability to distinguish the function of lawyer from the conduct and beliefs of clients has become ingrained. Only a bad lawyer would defend bad people, or so it says on the long, thin scrap of paper inside the fortune cookie.

It’s not just good, but critical, that someone stand up for our constitutional rights when it’s threatened because of the most unpopular, if not hated, people around. Thankfully, Marco has the cojones to do it. Too bad that the ACLU is constrained to rely on its laurels from 1978.

27 thoughts on “Randazza, Because Somebody Has To

  1. delurking

    “‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. ”
    These are the sort of words that some will call a “dog whistle,” saying one thing but meaning something far more nefarious.
    “I took it as a direction.”

    The problem with applying textualist rules to everyday communications is that bad actors will adjust the words they use to pass the textualist test. Mr. Randazza is right that everyone deserves to have their [sic] constitutional rights defended, but it isn’t obvious that his client didn’t cross a line.
    If I pay 1000 people to call you at home and harass you, I have crossed a line.
    If 1000 people are loyal to me, and I ask them to call you at home and harass you, knowing that a large majority of them will, I have crossed a line.
    If 1000 like me, and I ask them to call you at home and harass you, I probably haven’t crossed a line.
    If I have no twitter followers, and I twit “people should call SHG at home and harass him because of his support for free speech”, I haven’t crossed a line.

    It is annoying when questions aren’t easy to answer, but that’s what trials are for, eh?

    1. SHG Post author

      First, thank you for explaining your very obvious point at length, since most people are blithering idiots and couldn’t possibly understand it without charts, circles and arrows. Second, some see things through their own prism of bias, and rationalize why the burden shifts based on who they like and who they hate. Randazza doesn’t argue that Anglin didn’t cross a line. He argues that Anglin deserves a defense and that Anglin’s facially benign words should be assumed, as you do, to be evil because you hate what he stands for.

      You Gertrude, but resort to the facile argument that supports your feelz. It’s not that Anglin didn’t do wrong, but that your argument is just a rationalization to get to your goal. Don’t lie to yourself.

      1. delurking

        I don’t know enough about Anglin and his followers to say if he crossed a line or not, and there is nothing in my words that even implies that I do. That is what trials are for, eh?

        I am criticizing the analogy to the case of the Nazis permit to march through Skokie. The distinction is that the Nazis were denied their permit because of the content of their message, a clear violation of their 1st Amendment rights. Whether or not Anglin’s rights have been violated depends on both the degree to which the Gershes were actually harassed and the nature of Anglin’s relationship to the people who received his messages and acted on them.

        1. SHG Post author

          The thing I like most about comments is when people persist in arguing something completely idiotic no matter what, as if they are the center of the universe and whatever shit resides inside their head where a brain should be MUST BE SAID!!!

          Let’s make this all about your deep thoughts, because you are the most important person ever. How about a few more comments, because you are truly the most special person ever.

          And the irony is, you will respond to this, because you have no restraint and suffer from pathological narcissism.

        2. Miles

          There was no analogy made between the substantive issues of Skokie or here, except that both involved the First Amendment and yet the ACLU takes little interest in civil liberties anymore because they are conflicted by their social justice bias. The reason you don’t grasp this is that you’re blinded by your social justice bias. This is obvious, except, obviously, to you.

  2. Marco?... MARC--O????

    You literally linked to a page containing Marc ‘Marco’ Randazza’s phone number, addresses and twitter handles. Glad you stopped short of directly suggesting that we stop by and tell him in person what we think of his actions.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yes Yes I literally did. If you’re in the neighborhood, you should stop by and tell him what you think.

      1. Scott Jacobs

        Why do you say things like that without also making sure there is someone around to videotape Marc’s reaction?

    2. Scott Jacobs

      Why wouldn’t you contact Marc and tell him you appreciate him standing up for the principle of Free Speech?

      Oh. Wait. You meant you think folks should go say mean things because he’s standing up for the rights of someone you don’t like. Yeah. That’s a great idea. Promise me that you’ll record it so I can enjoy how he treats you.

      1. SHG Post author

        I don’t assume which, if any, direction is suggested. Perhaps it’s just the irony of doxxing Marco. Regardless, as you well know, Marc will not be shy about telling any caller what he thinks of their opinion.

        1. Scott Jacobs

          Fuck “caller,” I want someone to go try and be mean to him in person. Darwinism in action.

          1. Keith

            There’s a great podcast where Marco describes in detail what he did to some bastard that tried telling him he had a “first amendment right” to be a creepy bastard.

            It ended with one of my favorite Randazza quotes:
            “The first amendment doesn’t protect you from a private ass-kicking”

            So yea… I second the video thing.

  3. MonitorsMost

    Poor (?) white supremacist has the bad fortune of being subject to this lawsuit in the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit is famously the home of Planned Parenthood v. American Coaltion of Life Activists, 290 F. 3d 1058 (2002). The case which overturns NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware in the Ninth Circuit, at least as to present-day undesirables. And yes, the ACLU somehow submitted an amicus brief on the restricting free speech side because abortion > speech.

    I wish Marc the best of luck and I’m okay if his client wins but somehow contracts tetanus in the process. I fear however that he will need this to get to SCOTUS to get a good decision.

    1. SHG Post author

      All Marc can do is provide a zealous defense. ACLU seems to find itself on the anti-free speech side a lot these days, because feelings.

  4. rsf

    I will never understand the politics of “feelz.” Those who support it seem to believe that they are immune from the changing tide of public opinion. What was proper thought/speech today will be evil and racist tomorrow. Shame on the ACLU for their role in furthering this philosophy.

    It is truly a tragedy that the ACLU has become one of the numerous groups/organizations that seek to suppress civil liberties in the name of some “greater good.” Fortunately, there are still those out there like Mr. Randazza who are doing the work necessary to protect liberty for everyone.

  5. John Cuoco

    The problem with the plaintiff’s case is that she has failed to allege an actual injury proximately caused by Anglin’s actions and or omissions. Neither Gersh nor any of her family members were harmed, in any manner, by a reader of Daily Stormer. And the SPLC’s attempts to cast this as an intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) claim are desperate and overreaching, at best. IIED claims are the most disfavored tort in civil litigation. A plaintiff prevails if it shows that the defendant acted in a manner that went “beyond all bounds of decency in a civilized society.” This is an extremely high hurdle to clear and trolling someone via a blog and it’s readers simply doesn’t qualify.

    1. SHG Post author

      Did you take this post as soliciting random opinions as to the merits of the claim? Are you a lawyer? Have you read the complaint? Discovery? Depositions? While you’re right that IIED is not an easily proved or favored claim, that doesn’t mean it can’t succeed. Whether she suffered compensable harm is just one of the issues. There are others, such as liability. When the case is over, we’ll know. Until then, we won’t. That’s why they build courtrooms.

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