Folks around these parts know I like to pick on the California legislature. They’re an easy target, with almost daily attempts to write and pass laws and regulations that generally defy logic or any purpose other than to prove to the electorate that they are doing something in Sacramento.
In the interest of fairness, I would like to point out that Republican legislatures in other states are just as guilty of the insanity that has come to define modern American politics. You know, the party that’s always screaming about freedom from the oppressive and overreaching government.
A few days ago, Arizona House Bill 2549 was passed and sent to Governor Jan Brewer, where it awaits her signature. This brilliant piece of legislative art updates the state telephone harassment law to include the internet. Like most art, it can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The law states that it shall be a crime to “annoy”, “offend”, “harass”, or “terrify” by any electronic means if a person is annoyed, offended, harassed, or terrified. So if I’m terrified of spiders and some joker emails me a picture of a spider I can have him arrested for aggravated arachnophobia. The law is not limited to one-on-one communication, but includes the entire content of the World Wide Web. So if the joker posts the picture of a spider on his blog in Nebraska, he can still be prosecuted in Arizona. I’ll bet the trial lawyers are salivating over this gem.
Now Arizona and most other states have laws concerning the kinds of behavior described above if the crime involves a telephone or letter. I can see the point if there is a persistant problem with an individual, but this law is written so broadly that it could include Rush Limbaugh, South Park, and every blog on the planet, even this peace-loving, life-affirming site.
It’s not like harassing or terrifying an individual doesn’t exist. Just look at George Zimmerman, who has been tried and sentenced by the media lynch mob. Even having the same name can get you tarred and feathered, as we saw with Spike Lee’s re-tweeted address of the wrong Zimmermans, who have gone into hiding in fear for their lives.
Zimmerman might be guilty, but it’s not Al Sharpton’s call. If he is exonerated, look for him to move to Tucson and hire a platoon of lawyers.