Recently, California passed a law ramping up the penalties for prosecutors who intentionally withhold or falsify evidence. While I think the burden of proof for falsifying evidence should be high, I support heavy punishments for those who do. I’m somewhat inclined to the biblical point of view: if you falsify evidence, you should be punished as the person you tried to frame would have been.
While prosecutorial misconduct (and “papering” judges who call it out) is a problem, there is another problem with prosecutors that need to be addressed and that is the ongoing use of the office to carry out political agendas or to punish people the prosecutor doesn’t like. I’ve spoken before about the state Attorneys General who are attempting to prosecute organizations and companies that “deny” global warming. But the most recent example involves Backpage:
For the past five years, pompous politicians have repeatedly attempted to bully and threaten Backpage into removing its designated escort ad section in the same way they terrorized Craigslist into doing it, and like all bullies they’ve grown increasingly crimson-faced and apoplectic as the Backpage has not only ignored their toothless threats, but beaten them at every turn in court. The reason this has happened is that career politicians are narcissistic sociopaths who can’t grasp when they’re in the wrong and are no more capable of rethinking their tactics than a tribe of rather slow-witted gibbons might be; because Craigslist backed down after a bit of posturing and saber-rattling, naturally the politicians assumed the same schoolyard tactics would work on Backpage.
The AGs alledge that Backpage is being used to traffic sex slaves, a claim for which there is no evidence. In fact, Backpage works with authorities, providing them information on ads they think involved underage or exploited girls. This cooperation reached the predictable result when the AGs of Texas and California issued arrest warrants for Backpages CEO on “pimping” charges. As Elizabeth Nolan Brown details, the evidence backing up these charges is … wanting.
Their “evidence”? It’s… insane. I don’t know how else to describe it other than that. Throughout the complaint, Fichtner uses instances of Backpage cooperating with law-enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in identifying and finding potential victims as evidence that Backpage profits off of exploitation. Backpage is literally rejecting—and turning over to the government—ads that may promote sex trafficking, and the government says, see! proof that sex traffickers love Backpage! Shut it down! It’s like a building owner reporting predatory activity out front and the cops arresting him and tearing up the street corner instead of tracking down the predator.
It also gives lie to the idea that this crusade against Backpage is about stopping the sexual exploitation of children and not eradicating online ads for sexual-services entirely. First, officials went after the “adult services” section on Craigslist. Then they took down sex-ad forum MyRedbook.com, the gay prostitution site Rentboy.com, and escort review forum The Review Board. Next up: Backpage. It’s simply the latest target in the U.S. government’s quixotic and cruel aim to make sex-work as hidden (and dangerous) as possible.
But there’s more to this than just the government’s effort to stop consenting adults from exchanging sex for money. No, this is fascism. And Kamala Harris is a fascist and belongs nowhere near the Senate seat she is likely to win and that she pulled this stunt to get closer to.
Hyperbolic? What Harris (and Texas AG Paxton) are doing is trying to hold a website responsible for the contents of user posts. This is in violation of Section 230 of the CDA, which immunizes websites from being prosecuted for things readers post.
It’s hard to overstate just how insidious an attack on Section 230 is. Section 230 is one of the most important laws defending our free speech. It’s the reason that Jim could not be sued for anything that Alex or I post here (which I’m sure is a tremendous relief to Jim). It’s the reason Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. exist. Without Section 230, any post, any comment, any picture, any article could result in a flurry of lawsuits, mostly designed to silence critics of the wealthy and powerful. Only organization with deep pockets — like the lapdog media — would be able to use the internet.
So yes, I think the fascist iron-tipped boot fits in this case. Kamala Harris and Ken Paxton are using garbage evidence and a moral panic to attack one of the pillars of free speech. Don’t be fooled by their panic-mongering talk of sex slaves. If they gave a damn about that, they’d legalize sex work for consenting adults and find themselves with a hundred times the resources they already have to go after real sexual slavery and abuse. This is about seizing money, this about controlling the behavior of adults, this is about smashing free speech, this is about vaulting one of them into the Senate and one, presumably, into a future governorship or senate seat.
(And while we’re on the subject of fascist prosecutors who should be fired, let’s go after the one who tried to imprison Amy Goodman for reporting on a pipeline protest. The protest is dumb; arresting a journalist for covering it is vile.)