Ethics Alarms Lubricant 2: Ken at Popehat on Integrity and Free Speech

Today has been designated “Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day,” and unlike the last declared day of mass web defiance, “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”, which was really “Everybody Go Out of Their Way To Insult All Muslims Because Some of Them Are Violent Fanatics And Comedy Central Didn’t Have The Guts To Stand Up To Them Day”, I support this one fully. Kimberlin is a violent far Left activist, the founder of the group Velvet Revolution, and a convicted terrorist who, in 1978, set off eight bombs in Speedway, Indiana, earning him the title of “The Speedway Bomber.”

When bloggers like Aaron Worthing and Robert Stacy McCain in Maryland wrote about  Kimberlin’s past, and his current involvement with active progressive groups, he mounted a campaign to silence and harass them, filing law suits and engaging in other tactics far more menacing, if not as expensive. You can read Worthing’s harrowing tale of Kimberlin’s campaign against him here.

The web’s most tireless crusader against free speech suppression by litigation, threats and harassment is, of course, the Ethics Alarms 2012 Blogger of the Year, Ken at Popehat. He has already blogged about Kimberlin, who fits nicely with the other Internet Furies and speech bullies that he has exposed, like Crystal Cox. But his theme this week was broader, and it is one that constantly troubles me. Taking off from blogger Michelle Malkin’s post declaring that there should be solidarity for targeted conservative bloggers, Ken protests that since free expression is the objective, the ideology of the bloggers being bullied shouldn’t matter. He writes:

“Protecting freedom of expression, and condemning its enemies, benefits everyone — conservatives, liberals, and so forth. We’ve talked about legal (and other) threats against all sorts of expression here, and occasionally been able to lend a hand. We’ve talked about lawsuits against former parishioners criticizing churches, threats against artists criticizing how Etsy is run, Democratic senators lashing out at parody, various legislatures of different political stripes posturing about “cyber-bullying,” junk scientists suing critics, the TSA “cautioning” journalists, colleges threatening alumni critical of their new administrations, twerps threatening me for making fun of them for threatening critics of junk scientists, and libel suits springing from book reviews. And that’s just 2012.

“What this diversity of topics shows is that legal threats — and threats of other forms of retaliation for speech — represent a pervasive problem in our culture, and are a deterrent of all sorts of speech, not just the speech you like. Say that someone sues, or threatens, or abuses someone whose ideas you despise, someone whose good faith you doubt, someone working for political or social ends you are struggling against. If that censor is successful in any measure, are you harmed? Yes. You are harmed because the next censor, the one gunning for you or someone you agree with — is emboldened. You are harmed because people, in general, are deterred from discussing controversial ideas. You are harmed because when censors are successful, censorship increasingly becomes the norm, and the populace’s already tenuous support of principles of free expression ebb a little more.

“That’s why decent people ought to be unified behind protecting people like Aaron Worthing, and opposing people like Brett Kimberlin — not because we agree with one of them or the other. When the rallying cry is “protect conservatives from censorship by leftists” — or the reverse — the rallying cry is less effective, easier to ignore, easier to dismiss as mere partisanship. We shouldn’t defend Aaron because of his political stance. We should defend him because in this country you should have the right to express yourself without a convicted domestic terrorist and his cronies harassing you with frivolous litigation and threats.”

It is  fair to note that very few progressive blogs and websites appear to be participating in “Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day,” which is, like Malkin’s orientation, a symptom of the mindset Ken is trying to change. The attitude that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” perniciously infects Right and Left alike, and it shows me that the veneer of ethics both sides pretend to adhere to is cellophane-thin, and this combination of  warfare mentality and hypocrisy extends far beyond the use of litigation to silence web critics and inhibit opinion. It is, I think, the single phenomenon in the national discourse that depresses me more than any other. Why aren’t progressives protesting the stonewalling of the Justice Department around Fast and Furious, and the Attorney General’s lack of candor, honesty and transparency?  Why  weren’t conservative calling for the removal of Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez who, like Eric Holder, lied under oath to Congress? Why aren’t conservatives condemning the anti-gay pressure by conservative zealots that forced a gay Romney aide to quit? Why did Democrats allow Richard Blumenthal, who repeatedly lied about his military service,run (and win) for the post of U.S. Senator in Connecticut?  Why did Republicans allow Mark  Kirk, who repeatedly lied about his career, run (and win) for the post of U.S. Senator in Illinois? Why aren’t all Americans, of all ideologies, disgusted with the lack of fairness and objectivity in the news media, and criticizing every example of it, not just the ones that wound their favorite officials?

Integrity means adhering to the same principles and ethical standards whether it helps friend or foe, and whether allies or adversaries will suffer the earned consequences of their misconduct as a rersult. Ken’s appeal to partisans across the ideological spectrum to oppose enemies of the First Amendment and vigorous public discourse is really a call for integrity.

An epidemic of integrity would begin to solve many of our nation’s serious problems, and defending free speech is an excellent place to start one.


Spark, Pointer and Source: Popehat 1

Facts: Aaron Worthing

Source: Popehat 2

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at

Graphic: Science Photo

3 thoughts on “Ethics Alarms Lubricant 2: Ken at Popehat on Integrity and Free Speech

  1. Excellent. Then again, I find rather ironic that the same individuals who are so busy blogging about Kimberlin and his “alleged” stalking of various bloggers to be rather insensitive to those not among their ranks who are being stalked.


  2. Hey Mr. Marshall, Aaron “Worthing” Walker, here.

    You might remember we had a… let’s call it “lively” discussion in the comments about the ethics of everyone draw mohammed day. Well, first, thanks for your support about this. And the funny thing is that on the ethical issues we agree on this. Go to the website linked with my name and i notice the same ethical difference you do.

    And while some have set this up as a left v. right thing, it is worth noting in the story things are not so clean. i intervened to help out Seth Allen, who is a liberal former Kos diarist. When i needed help, liberal blogger Ken @ popehat found a lawyer for me. and in a tremendous irony, this breitbart-connected conservative was represented by a woman in a firm that once represented ACORN.

    Anyway, thank you very much for the support and the exposure on this issue. I am hoping to generate pressure on the State’s Attorney in Montgomery County, Maryland to prosecute Mr. Kimberlin for his attempt to frame me for a crime. So this helps.

    (I know the claim that he attempted to frame me for a crime sounds fantastic. But if you follow the links, you will see video and documentary proof of my claims. In other words, you do not have to believe my word, only your eyes.)

    • 1. Thanks Aaron. I never doubted your story, not once.
      2. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this.
      3. Differing ideologies and philosophies shouldn’t preclude fair and generous conduct to all, and you’re a great example of this. So is Ken, who has helped me as well.
      4. I hope authorities wake up and give you some justice.
      5. Sorry your comment took so long to post…it was flagged as spam, and I missed it.
      6. please call me Jack.

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