It's time for a Brett Kimberlin lawfare update. I've added a Brett Kimberlin tag for easy browsing of past related posts. Some of the most significant ones here at Popehat are these: my Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day post about what I found in federal court decisions about Kimberlin, my post about Aaron Walker's arrest and the "peace order" against him forbidding him from blogging about Kimberlin, and my post about what was revealed in the transcript of that hearing.
Today's edition: the biting off of more than is chewable.
In addition to things that Kimberlin himself is doing — like his "peace orders" and false criminal complaint against Aaron Walker — certain people are doing aggressive and censorious things on his behalf. It's not clear whether all those things are being done with his knowledge, but their timing and nature permit that inference. I'll refer to this group as "Team Kimberlin." A victim of one such campaign has now been connected with appropriate legal help — thanks for responses to the Popehat Signal. Another newer victim is Ali A. Akbar of the National Blogger's Club.
The National Blogger's Club created a donation web site for Aaron Walker after Walker and his wife were fired as a result of Team Kimberlin machinations. (More specifically, Team Kimberlin wrote to the employer of Aaron and his wife, and to local police, and suggested they created a danger to others because of Aaron's "Everybody Draw Mohammed" web site. Nixonian ratfucking, in other words.) This effort to help Aaron drew the ire of Team Kimberlin against the National Blogger's Club and its principal, Ali A. Akbar. First Kimberlin supporters wrote stories about Akbar's criminal record, to which he responded in what seems to me to be a forthright manner. Next critics learned that the National Blogger's Club had filed documents listing its address at Akbar's mother's house; Team Kimberlin posted the address and a picture of the house, where Akbar's mother still lives. Akbar and his family, not unreasonably, interpreted this as a threat, coming as it did from forces apparently allied with a convicted bomber.
Moreover, as I mentioned before, a lawyer named Kevin Zeese sent Akbar, the National Blogger's Club, and some alleged backers a letter on behalf of Kimberlin's organization Velvet Revolution threatening a lawsuit and demanding that they preserve documents for use in that lawsuit.
There are three things you should know about that letter. First, it is indifferently written; it could be worse, it could be much better. Second, it continues the Team Kimberlin narrative that writing about him makes the writer liable for alleged death threats by third parties — threats that we have the word of a convicted perjurer have occurred. Third, it may be hot air. Lawyers send "you'd better preserve documents" letters all the time. It doesn't commit you to a lawsuit. It has no immediate legal effect. It's only significant if the writer does sue, and evidence later shows that the recipient destroyed documents after receiving it, which may be probative of the recipient's intent to hide something or obstruct justice. Such letters are often used, usually more effectively than this, to intimidate.
If this letter was calculated to intimidate — if it was designed, like many of Team Kimberlin's actions seem to be, to deter critics from writing — it had the exact opposite effect. Today I learned from my esteemed classmate David French (who was cited, in our law school class, as proof of the existence of the hypothetical Reasonable Man), that The American Center for Law and Justice has agreed to defend Akbar and the National Blogger's Club in any litigation. I don't agree with all of the ACLJ's agenda (though I like most of their free speech and free exercise efforts), but they are consummately experienced and absolutely formidable in court, and their entry into the fray is a crushing blow against the Team Kimberlin campaign of censorship through lawfare and other means. Litigation is never certain, no matter where the right of a case resides, but I suspect they will make short work of the likes of Zeese.
I expect the ACLJ will be too smart to fall for some of the traps that Team Kimberlin is setting here. But others need to be careful. Team Kimberlin wants you and our courts to believe that writing about Kimberlin, vigorously criticizing him, and publicizing his activities amounts to unlawful harassment and actionable threats. That's not true. So: to push their narrative that there's something wrong about discussing Kimberlin's record as a convicted domestic terrorist, perjurer, drug dealer, and impersonator, they've publicized Ali Akbar's criminal record. There's no doubt that their aim in doing so is to retaliate against and chill Akbar's speech and the speech of others. But they are hoping that you will be tricked into asserting broadly that there's something inherently criminal, actionable, or harassing about publicizing someone's criminal record. If you take that bait, it suits their narrative of Kimberlin-as-victim.
The same goes for the publication of Akbar's mother's home address and a picture of her house. Some have argued that publication was civilly actionable or criminal. Though I have not the shadow of a doubt that it was published to terrorize Akbar and his family and put them in reasonable fear of their lives (whether from Kimberlin, a convicted bomber, or from the sort of people who are eager to support convicted bombers in their censorship campaigns), and while I think it was contemptible, I have some doubts that it necessarily amounts to a civil or criminal violation. I condemn it — as I would condemn anyone publicizing the home address of Kimberlin or his sycophants, however evil they are. But what I suspect Team Kimberlin wants you to do is condemn publication of personal details in overly broad terms as criminally and civilly actionable harassment, so they can then turn around and use that to promote the Kimberlin-as-victim narrative that folks have been wronging Kimberlin by documenting his activities.
[I think, by the way, that it would have been fair comment simply to note that the National Blogger's Club is somehow registered at the home of Akbar's mother. It might be a cheap shot, but it would be a fairly typical way of diminishing an organization. Going the extra steps of publicizing the address and posting a picture is what, in this context, makes it seem intended to put Akbar and his mother in fear, and to have that reasonable effect.]
I don't know whether or not Kimberlin is coordinating Team Kimberlin activities, or whether those activities are coordinated at all, as opposed to a bunch of nuts milling about. But if the aim of the nuts, collectively or individually, is to stop public comment on Kimberlin and his activities, then the nuts have failed in a catastrophic, apocalyptic, unhappy-cat-meme-worthy fashion. A senator has started to talk about it, which will lead to more mainstream press attention. Bloggers and lawyers are streaming to the cause. The ACLJ's arrival could be cited in Urban Dictionary under "deus ex machina." In short, the more Team Kimberlin attacks and escalates, the worse it gets for them, the louder their critics get, the more voices are raised, and the more public attention is drawn to the cause. Team Kimberlin's strategy seems to be "I'm going to keep digging until this damn hole gets shallower."
Finally, I know that I'm beating a dead horse, but I wish that critics of Team Kimberlin, and supporters of the censored, would focus on the free speech elements of this case and try a bit more to resist the partisan urge. Part of Team Kimberlin's strategy is to marginalize critics as "wingnuts" and "far-right extremists" who are simply attacking liberals. People who are framing this as "evil leftists oppress conservatives" and "see how the liberals act" and "this is all connected to [liberal group]" are promoting Kimberlin's narrative and making it easier for the mainstream media and for moderates and liberals to ignore it. So, please think about framing and tone and heed the better angels of your nature — said the pot to the kettle.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Gawker, Money, Speech, And Justice - August 18th, 2016
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- A Rare Federal Indictment For Online Threats Against Game Industry - July 28th, 2016
- John Hinckley, Jr. and the Rule of Law - July 27th, 2016