Saturday Night “Live”

Jeffrey Cox (Image via Salon.com, originally from his MySpace account)

Today it was announced that Jeffrey Cox was fired from his job as Indiana Deputy Attorney General. His offense? On Saturday, he tweeted that officials should “use live ammunition” to clear protesters from the Wisconsin Capitol.

This brings up a host of sticky questions.

First, to what degree are we to be held professionally accountable for our public actions online when wearing our personal hats? We hear with increasing frequency stories of people who are fired for posting pictures of themselves at parties. Or people who aren’t hired in the first place because of things they’ve said online. Is this appropriate? Are we no longer able to compartmentalize our lives? And, if so, where, when, and how are we expected to let off steam?

Second, does the First Amendment protect a government employee’s right to political speech? Case law clearly allows for restrictions on government speech, but should that apply to a government employee speaking as a citizen, particularly when that employee hasn’t indicated that he is speaking on behalf of the government?

The Tweet that Started It All

Finally, do Mr. Cox’s tweets count as protected speech? When someone suggests the use of live ammunition against peaceful protesters, are those fighting words? Was it satire? He followed up with, “against thugs physically threatening legally-elected state legislators & governor? You’re damn right I advocate deadly force.” Is it still satire?

So what do you all think?


About Michael Weiss

Michael is now located at http://www.logarchism.com, along with Monotreme, filistro, and dcpetterson. Please make note of the new location.
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17 Responses to Saturday Night “Live”

  1. dcpetterson says:

    It must have been satire. No conservative would ever advocate violence. Or so we have been repeatedly reassured. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  2. GROG says:

    The guy should be fired. A public representative of any business or government should be expected to maintain a semblance of professionalism on or off the job.

  3. rgbact says:

    But the Mass Dem congressman who said “get out in the streets and get bloody” will be given an award for civil discourse.

    People with diaherea of the mouth combined with a Twitter account deserve what they get. No Twitter for me!

  4. Mainer says:

    Agreed Grog. I don’t care if there is a D, an I or an R in front of their name. Some of us on here go over the top at times and I include myself in it. But we are putzing around on a low intensit blog as private citizens. And even we try to keep a lid on it. This guy was a numbnuts and got whacked for it. As my dear old dad used to tell me. “If you don’t want to be treated like an ignorant asshole then don’t act like one.” Dad was not big on subtle…….the admonision was usually follow by a sound whack up side the head for emphasis…….as he wore a size 17 ring I generally got the point. Now do you suppose this clown gets it?

    In some ways he was probably lucky. I suspect his govenor is tough but fair. There are other states and govenors that might have been less understanding. Getting fired for being stupid is not the end of the world. What in hell could he have possibly have been thinking?

  5. GROG says:

    Mainer,

    The guys an idiot. But some, like DC, will take this as evidence that conservatives in general act in this manner. That’s the downside of the blogosphere.

  6. dcpetterson says:

    GROG, not conservatives in general. Only the insane ones. And yes, I’ve known several insane lefties. I grew up in the sixties. Some of them remain unrepentant.

    My snotty comment was merely a reference to those who have denied that conservatives have said anything worth looking at askance.

    I’m with GROG and Mainer on this. The rhetoric was too much for a public official. I think we have to be careful, though, because free speech is always a touchy thing. I don’ have a general rule that would be applicable — and some of the best minds in our history, including several rulings at SCOTUS, have failed to come up with really clear guidelines for justifiable infringements on the First Amendment.

    In this case, though, the question, as much as anything is whether the Indiana Attorney General and other high Indiana Executive officials want to be associated with or defend that kind of speech. I don’t think they do, so I think this was a wise decision as a matter of policy, politics, and perception, not to mention simple humanity.

    However, it does open another question. Discussions about the events in Tucson led some to claim that speech of this kind has no ill effects anyway. That it doesn’t influence anyone’s actions. That we need not think such speech actually hurts anything. If this is so, should we not allow it? How can we condemn free speech, however ill-considered, that has no ill effects?

  7. GROG says:

    The First Amendment prevents the government from throwing people in jail because of something they say. But that doesn’t mean companies (or government agencies) can’t have a code of conduct and fire employees for saying things that come off as a bad representation of their company. That fired employee is free to go find another job where saying stupid things in tolerated.

  8. Brian says:

    As a young person, this makes me think about things are going to be 10, 15 years from now. A good number of people have twitter, and even more have facebook (guilty on both counts). We put stupid stuff on there when we’re 18, 19 years old, even at 24, and anyone interested in running for office when they’re 40 is going to have to think about that stuff. We’re not going to be able to dismiss everyone who put something stupid up, because we’ll have no candidates.

    Not sure what my point is, other than it’ll be interesting to see.

  9. mclever says:

    Brian,

    As another (relatively) young person, I agree. It will be interesting to see how “youthful stupidity” is handled going forward. Especially when, once it’s on the Internet, it’s there in someone’s cache forever. Back in our parents’ day, most expressions of stupidity were limited to whoever happened to be around when it happened. If it was something particularly egregious, the police report could be edited and the indiscretions covered except for a few nasty rumors, and it all degenerated into he-said/she-said after a decade or so. Now, we’ve got evidence of idiocy in the person’s own words preserved for all posterity. (I know a large number of politicians are still coming to grips with the fact that microphones and cameras record things, so people can know if they change their story.) With Facebook and such, a frenemy can post something and *claim* it was me, and I’ve got no recourse to make them take it down. Even if I get them to take it down, it’ll still show up in google and yahoo searches, and I’d have to keep explaining and explaining, even if I never did anything wrong.

    Maybe this could be seen as one of the greatest services Bill Clinton did for our country, by getting elected despite allegations of infidelity, and basically making a large number of us who grew up post-Monica say, “Who cares? What a waste of energy going after a freakin’ blow job when there thousands of people who need a real job.”

  10. Mr. Universe says:

    Uh-oh. Aljazeera reports Libya’s Justice Minister resigned and has stated the Gadhafi has chemical and biological weapons and will not hesitate to use them.

  11. Mr. Universe says:

    @mclever and Brian

    It’s why I write under a pseudonym and it’s also why I’m glad that all the stupid stuff I ever said was pre-Internet and pre-higher education.

  12. Monotreme says:

    I deplore this firing. He was speaking as a private citizen, and doing so is his First Amendment right.

    I don’t agree with what he said (although I do find it funny). While I disagree, I strenuously defend his right to say what he did.

  13. rgbact says:

    Mr. Uni-

    WMD? C’mon, are you going to be fooled again!? I smell Dick Cheney’s handiwork in that “Al-Jezeera story”.

  14. Bartbuster says:

    I strenuously defend his right to say what he did.

    That’s pretty funny. I love the irony.

  15. Monotreme says:

    The irony of irony is that so few people understand what it means.

  16. Justsayin' says:

    and with that….she said “good night”

  17. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    So true, Mono, so true.

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