The neo-Nazi Chris Cantwell has been arrested again for making threats over state lines, which is rather interesting from a free speech point of view. They’re just words, right? First amendment! Free speech! Mere words can’t hurt people.
Then we see the words.
Cantwell allegedly pressured someone to give up what’s described in the indictment as “personal identifying information” about a man known by the “on-line pseudonym ‘VM.’”
“So if you don’t want me to come and f*ck your wife in front of your kids, then you should make yourself scarce,” Cantwell allegedly wrote in a June 16 message. “Give me Vic, it’s your only out.”
Last July, Cantwell allegedly used Telegram to threaten a lawyer suing him over his actions in Charlottesville, calling the woman anti-Semitic slurs and claiming that he and his followers “would have a lot of fucking fun with her.”
Well. That’s certainly repulsive, and marks Cantwell as a terrible and unpleasant person. We don’t arrest people for their personality.
However, it’s also an attempt to compel someone to do something against their will, or Cantwell will commit vile criminal acts. If I got a threat like that, I’d be asking the police to provide protection; I’d also have to spend money and time upgrading my home security.
It seems that words have power after all, and that “free speech” isn’t carte blanche to say whatever you want after all. Now if only the absolutists could figure that out.