The U.S. Secret Service is investigating a poll that was on Facebook for a short time over the weekend. It asked users to vote on whether or not President Obama should be assassinated, but was quickly taken down when its content was reported to the site administrator. Secret Service Spokesman, Edwin Donovan said the agency will take appropriate investigative steps to determine who put the poll up and prosecution will be likely once that person is found.
Bob Beckel, a Democratic strategist and contributor to Fox News said whoever created the poll should be prosecuted, blaming the incident on right wing political extremists. Beckel said that the threat was unacceptable and un-American, and on that point, I couldn't agree more. While I champion anyone's right to freedom of expression, the Constitution only guarantees that right if the speech in question doesn't call for violence against a person or group
The following is an excerpt from the Cornell University legal website about the First Amendment and what it does and does not protect.
''The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. A less stringent test is applied for content-neutral legislation. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence. The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicate a message." (courtesy of topics.law.cornell.edu)
There it is in black and white. There is no protection for anyone who would ask the readers of a social network to vote on whether or not someone should die. In fact, the person who would do such a thing is not only breaking the law, they're breaking the moral code that separates humanity from the animals. There are enough forums in this country that allow everyone to share their point of view and participate in open political discussion without resorting to the kind of nonsense that this poll stooped to. I hope the Secret Service finds those responsible, and I'm confident they will.
Perhaps the next Facebook poll should be created and put up by those of us who enjoy a healthy political debate. It could ask the question: " What should happen to those who call for violence against someone because they disagree with their politics?" My answer? Jail time should be mandatory.