Poor Norman Cox. As a 6News reporter, he must have been awfully proud that his son was an Indiana Deputy Attorney General. As the Statehouse reporter, and Emmy winner for revealing official misconduct when a state auditor running for office failed to file papers on time, he understood better than most what it meant to hold such an critical position.
And then came twitter. Oh boy. Via Mother Jones :
Yes, the twit turned out to be Norman’s baby boy, Jeff Cox. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox. Now former Deputy Attorney General Jeff Cox. From 6News :
On Saturday night, when Mother Jones staffers tweeted a report that riot police might soon sweep demonstrators out of the Wisconsin capitol building—something that didn’t end up happening—one Twitter user sent out a chilling public response : “Use live ammunition.”
From my own Twitter account, I confronted the user, JCCentCom. He tweeted back that the demonstrators were “political enemies” and “thugs” who were “physically threatening legally elected officials.” In response to such behavior, he said, “You’re damned right I advocate deadly force.” He later called me a “typical leftist,” adding, “liberals hate police.”
Only later did we realize that JCCentCom was a deputy attorney general for the state of Indiana…
The Indiana Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday morning that Cox’s comments were under review. A later statement said Cox was “no longer employed by this agency.”
“Civility and courtesy toward all members of the public are very important to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office,” the statement read. “We respect individuals’ First Amendment right to express their personal views on private online forums, but as public servants, we are held by the public to a higher standard, and we should strive for civility.”
It’s not entirely clear that Cox was less than civil in expressing his belief that protesters should be shot down in the streets. It’s not like he used an epithet in adding “use live ammunition” to his twit. And according to Cox, he was just funnin’ with his tweeples.
Cox told 6News’ Joanna Massee on Wednesday that his Twitter comments were intended to be satirical.
“I think this whole situation is a bit ridiculous. Public employees don’t lose their own First Amendment rights, especially on their own time and own resources by virtue of their public employment,” he said. “I think we’re getting down a slippery slope here in terms of silencing people who disagree.”
Cox may have a point, particularly since his expressions were offered on twitter under his really cool twitter name, @JCCentCom. I’m not sure what the name is supposed to mean, but I’m sure it’s insightful. It’s possible that he was being satirical, as so many have come to learn that the medium often serves to confuse the tone of the message. It’s possible that he was being hyperbolic, as so many tend to be when expressing thoughts online where they don’t think it will be traced back to their day jobs.
Then again, the younger Cox may misconstrue the nature of the problem when he raises the slippery slope argument. As a Deputy Attorney General, he is sworn to uphold the law and the Constitution. He is invested with great discretion in legal decision-making. He is entrusted with power and authority. And he thinks the state police should murder people in the streets for disagreeing with his views.
That’s not a civility issue. This is a far deeper problem, whether about anger management or borderline personality disorder. But whatever is seething below the surface came out in his twits. Maybe there is something more to twitter than a new way to waste time?
More to the point is the exercise of judgment that one would demand of a person holding a government position requiring the exercise of sound discretion. There’s nothing wrong with thinking that lefties are political pariahs, wrong in every way possible. Sure, it’s silly to hold such a sweeping position, but people are allowed to be silly.
Advocating the use of deadly force against them, however, is a very different matter. If such things were twitted by other folks, they might be considered a “terrorist threat.” Indeed, they might expect a knock on the door and a nice chat with men with shields. But I bet Cox had a shield of his own, something shiny to pull out if he gets stopped speeding on his way home to twit about his political views.
The problem here isn’t that Jeff Cox holds some very conservative political views, but that he openly advocated the murder of demonstrators by riot police because of his views. And he happens to be a Deputy Attorney General.
And his First Amendment epiphany would come off as more sincere if it didn’t follow so closely upon his advocating the murder of demonstrators for exercising their right to free expression.
H/T Ed. at Blawg Review and Radley Balko