The California State Attorney General has now brought charges against the two activists who secretly recorded Planned Parenthood and edited the videos in a deceptive fashion. 14 counts of recording someone without consent and 1 of conspiracy. Now they did break the law — California is a two-party state.
But here’s my question: when are charges going to be brought against animal rights activists who secretly record damning footage (and, in the case of PETA at least, sometimes deceptively edited it)? Were charges ever brought against the people who secretly recorded Mitch McConnell discussing campaign strategy? Kentucky’s not a two-party state but it’s not a no-party state. Nor is Florida, where someone secretly recorded Mitt Romney’s “47%” comment (and if your memory is long enough, someone spied on Newt Gingrich’s phone calls). When are we going to see police raids of their homes and multiple felony charges brought against them? The answer, of course, is never.
Jacob Sullum, hardly a Right Wing Culture Warrior, ask the same question. He notes that public conversations (which these were) and investigations (which the activists claim this was) are generally exempted from California’s wire-tapping laws.
Would California’s attorney general have pursued felony charges against pro-choice activists who used hidden cameras to record meetings with the operators of “crisis pregnancy centers” that steer women away from abortion? If not, Becerra’s concern about “the right to privacy” is nothing more than a pious-sounding cover for a political vendetta.
The problem here is that the Left does not see pro-Life activism as legitimate activism. It’s why they propose and support things like buffer zones and bans on signs showing fetal remains — restrictions on speech that would decry as fascism if they were applied to, say, striking factory workers. I’m pro-choice. But I will defend to the last full measure the right of pro-lifers to express their views.
I continue to have zero sympathy for these two. They edited their videos deceptively and basically lied about everything they did. Nevertheless, I don’t like the idea of prosecuting them. This was a legitimate investigation, and no level of government should be in the business of chilling it. The First Amendment doesn’t say anything one way or the other about how honest one’s speech has to be.
This also strikes me as political grandstanding. I imagine that if this were a couple of liberal activists secretly recording meetings with anti-immigration groups, Attorney General Xavier Becerra wouldn’t so eager to go after them.
This was started by former AG, now Senator, Kamala Harris, who had a history of bringing high profile bullshit prosecutions while ignoring things like cops passing around an underage prostitute like she’s a job perk. In the wake of the Planned Parenthood videos, she proposed extra laws to protect … Planned Parenthood. She was a very political AG and her successor seems equally political.
I hate defending these guys. I agree with Drum that the videos were deceptive. But the more I think about it and the more I read about it, the more this prosecution crosses me as garbage. This is not about deceptively-edited videos or violations of privacy. This is about political grandstanding by two Attorneys General. This is about protecting a liberal interest from any kind of scrutiny. It’s about, as Clark at Popehat once brilliantly said, walking around the field of the Culture War battle and shooting the survivors of the losing side.