Thursday, February 24, 2011

Going Live

Hey, remember how after the shootings in Tucson everyone said we should all be nice to each other and not talk about guns and killings at political rallies? Those were the days.

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.

As one of 144 attorneys in that office, Jeff Cox has represented the people of his state for 10 years. And for much of that time, it turns out, he’s vented similar feelings on Twitter and on his blog, Pro Cynic. In his nonpolitical tweets and blog posts, Cox displays a keen litigator’s mind, writing sharply and often wittily on military history and professional basketball. But he evinces contempt for political opponents—from labeling President Obama an “incompetent and treasonous” enemy of the nation to comparing “enviro-Nazis” to Osama bin Laden, likening ex-Labor Secretary Robert Reich and Service Employees International Union members to Nazi “brownshirts” on multiple occasions, and referring to an Indianapolis teen as “a black teenage thug who was (deservedly) beaten up” by local police. A “sensible policy for handling Afghanistan,” he offered, could be summed up as: “KILL! KILL! ANNIHILATE!”

I’m happy to report that Mr. Cox can now devote his full energies to his Twitter and blog accounts because, according to the Indiana Attorney General’s office, he’s out of a job.

Mr. Cox later told an Indianapolis TV station that his comments were meant to be “satirical” and that “[p]ublic employees don’t lose their own First Amendment rights, especially on their own time and own resources by virtue of their public employment. I think we’re getting down a slippery slope here in terms of silencing people who disagree.” Well, now he can use his free time studying up on what satire is and perhaps take a refresher course on constitutional law and the First Amendment: losing your job for saying something really stupid is not a violation of your rights.