A Wisconsin teacher was arrested for allegedly posting a comment on the conservative blog, www.bootsandsabers.com, praising the Columbine attack.

Although the comment was reprehensible, the teacher should certainly not have been arrested.  While individuals can be arrested for speech if it places others in imminent danger, such as saying “bomb” in an airport or yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater, a comment on a blog certainly doesn’t constitute an “imminent threat” (unless you’re defining “imminent threat” as George W. Bush does, then we may have grounds to go ahead and execute the guy…)

The offender, James Buss, is a chemistry teacher and former president of the local teacher’s union, which indicates to me that the comment was intended to be sarcastic and/or give the impression that the commenter was a “right wing nut job,” thereby discrediting conservatives in general. Whatever the reason, the guy has every right to make the comment.

The Washington County Police Capt. Toby Netko compared Buss’ comment to saying “bomb” in an airport, but free speech experts agree that’s a stretch. There is no indication that Buss actually intended to encourage further attacks and, while we may find his speech unsavory, there is no law that forbids him from making idiotic statements.

Because Buss left the comment anonymously,  the local police department contacted the authors of bootsandsabers and asked for information on who left the comment. The authors revealed Buss’ IP address. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

My first thought is that if you want to leave a comment anonymously, so long as you are not doing intentional harm in doing so, then my lips should remain sealed as to who you are. Then again, the internet opens up a new can of worms in that people can say things anonymously and will say things they normally wouldn’t say if their identity was being revealed. I can’t imagine that Buss would have made such a comment at his school’s PTA meeting, for example, or would have agreed to an interview with the local newspaper in which he would praise the Columbine shooters. Under the cover of anonymity, however, he felt perfectly safe in doing so. This poses a bit of a problem.

Nevertheless, my hope is that Buss will not be charged. All forms of deplorable speech are covered under the first amendment and, as a blogger, my hope is that we are granted more, not less, protection for our speech.

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