Thursday, April 10, 2008

The "I Am Kathleen" Freedom of Speech Campaign

This text has been making the rounds. It's about free speech, how it is being attacked, and what people can do to help.

I am Kathleen.

No, that's not my literal name. That's the rallying cry for all bloggers and vloggers who care about the freedom to blog or vlog.  That's my way of seizing our freedom back--yours, mine, everyone's.

The most precious tool that a blogger has is not something you can see, hear, or feel. It's not a computer or blogging software or a nifty pay-pal arrangement. It's called "Freedom of Speech." Without it, we all might as well demolish our blog sites. Well, that freedom of speech is under attack for all of us everywhere--regardless of gender and gender-identity, race, sexual orientation, disability (or lack thereof), country, cultural background, religion, or what have you.

In case you hadn't already read about it, one particular blogger, Kathleen Seidel, recently committed the shocking offense of having an opinion. Specifically, she made some comments on a particular multi-million dollar law suit. No, she has no special, inside knowledge of the legal case. She's simply a one-person journalistic blogging operation who did her homework. Meaning, she looked up the public facts of the case in the same way that any other public citizen could have done. The difference being, she had the audacity to actually share what she found with the public via her blog and included her opinion criticizing the basis of the case. This was in late March 2008.

Somebody must not have liked what she said because within four hours, she was served a subpoena requiring her to show up in court and turn over absurdly excessive and burdensome amounts of information in just about every sphere of her life, whether or not it has a plausible connection with the case. As just one small example, they want records of every single email correspondence or verbal conversation she has had with every single blogger in her blog roll for the past umpteen years. These bloggers number more than 100, and most of them have written nothing about the legal case at hand. And that's just the start.

Now, a supoena by itself is not inherently evil. It's simply a tool for gathering information that could shed important light on a court case but that might otherwise not be made available. It can be put to a great many positive uses, including setting innocent people free or seeing justice done.

But in this case, Kathleen Seidel knows nothing special about this case that the lawyers couldn't have gathered on their own far more easily. Both lawyers and lay people who have read through the subpoena agree that its primary purpose--perhaps its sole purpose--is to intimidate and silence Kathleen. In other words, it was served not to turn up valuable information but because Kathleen Seidel expressed an opinion that was inconvenient to one of the parties in the legal case. 

I won't even tell you who because, frankly, I think that's irrelevant.  In any case, you can look that up on your own via the links I provide further below.  What matters more is that this is an attempt to make one blogger afraid to exercise her freedom of speech.

Well, Kathleen is not giving in to these pressure tactics. And neither should any of us who care about one of the most basic freedoms any human being can have. Because if Kathleen could be attacked, then so could you; so could I; so could any person with an opinion and the courage to make it public.

Don't believe me? Well, try this: Kathleen is not even alone. One blogger has collected examples of several cases from around the world in which attempts have been made to suppress the views of bloggers.

An attack on Kathleen or any other blogger is an attack on all of us. That means we all need to stand together on this--including those of us who might ordinarily disagree with vehemence at other times. Only with freedom of speech can we be truly free to disagree.

We can respond by sending a message loud and clear to anyone who might try to gag our mouths or bind our hands; who might try to take away our keyboards and lock up our computers; who might try to make us so afraid that we lock our own chains ourselves. That message must be, "An attack on the fundamental freedoms of any one of us is an attack on all of us. And we will not stand by. We are all Kathleen."

Throw away the chains. Free yourselves.

How can we do this? Blog about what happened to Kathleen Seidel. Or, pick some other blogger who has been under attack and blog about them instead. And encourage others to do the same.

First, Research the Case:
Don't just take my word for it. Do your homework, like Kathleen Seidel did.

If you're blogging about Kathleen Seidel, then read the subpoena itself at:

Not a lawyer? Read the analysis of someone who is:

Read what other bloggers have been saying about the case--here's a running list at:

Read about other bloggers around the world who have been under legal attacks, then google them for more details.

These are not the only cases of bloggers under attack.  There are probably more out there who simply haven't received the same amount of public attention.  See if you can dig up more names of bloggers who have been similarly pressured to stop speaking out.  Then research them.  Help bring their cases to light, whether or not you necessarily like them or agree with their opinions. (One possible starting point: google the key words "censorship" and "blogger" or "free speech" and "blogger" or other variants. Use blogsearch, which searches specifically blogs, to find the cases that haven't yet reached the mainstream media.) Some of the cases affecting bloggers who live under repressive governments are truly shocking and make what is happening to Kathleen Seidel look like a tea party.

Don't restrict yourself to bloggers in your own country.  Bloggers must stand together across national boundaries.  An attack in any one country is an attack on all people in all countries who value free speech--whether or not they have been allowed to enjoy that right.

Blog about it:
As it says. See if you can include the phrase "I am Kathleen" or some variant thereof.  Let's make that the catch phrase of the bloggers' freedom-of-speech movement.

Consider making a commitment to yourself to blog about this or a similar case once a year, or whatever time table feels most comfortable for you.

Tell Liz Ditz:
If you blog about Kathleen Seidel, then make it easy for other people who care about this case to find your blog post. Go to Liz Ditz's running list of blog posts on the Kathleen Seidel situation and leave a comment there with your URL. Then she can link to you.

Encourage other bloggers to do the same:
Do you have some favorite blogs where you regularly leave comments and are known to the blogger? Please make sure they're aware of these attacks on our freedoms. (Please don't annoy them unncessarily.  First, double-check that they haven't already blogged about it!) Encourage them to research it and blog about it.

No time to blog?
Cheat. Normally I don't AT ALL condone plagiarism, especially when it's done to me. But in this case I'll make an exception: if you have no time to research and write a blog post of your own about this case, go ahead and copy/paste this one into your blog. And tell the world, "I am Kathleen."

Just don't copy/paste any of the OTHER posts at this blog that were written by me.  Or any other blog post at any other blog site you find.  If you like something you see, the usual etiquette is to provide your readers with a SHORT quote and a link back to the original.  Please don't steal.  Thank you.

Don't have a blog at all?
You can still bring attention to the case. Copy/paste this post into your email for circulation. Or, if you prefer, you can link to one of the many other pages about the Kathleen Seidel case, or you can link to the page about attacks on bloggers in general.  Consider incorporating the link you choose into your email signature for the next few weeks. And tell people you know, "I am Kathleen."

Check the date!

I don't want to be guilty of creating one of those many unfortunate email or blog memes that keeps going around for decades after all the parties referenced have gone on to other things.  Please check all the web addresses (links) listed in this post.  Make sure they still work and that the information in this text is not too hopelessly out of date.  If it is, then please update it before passing it on.  For example, if the particular case or cases referenced here seem to be long since over (which it might be, if you're already reading this too far beyond 2008!), see if you can find a similar, more current case that you can reference instead. 

For the record, this text was last revised on April 10, 2008.  (Revise this date as appropriate, but only if you have carefully verified and up-dated the information in this post.)  It's making the rounds.  If it still seems current, then please circulate further.

And tell the world, "I am Kathleen."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting!
Here is a blog post that talks about the free speech and blogging issue I'm dealing with now, (albeit far less trying than the other cases you have shown).