The End of Free Speech? Nonviolent Journalist Covering Jan. 6 Sentenced to 60 Days in Prison

News & Politics

That first bit is a rhetorical question, obviously. There hasn’t been true freedom of speech in the United States for decades now, to the extent that there ever was.

First, there was the debacle of Edward Snowden, who exposed, among many other troubling revelations, that the United States government was illegally spying on its own citizens outside of Constitutional bounds. Instead of the guilty parties in the rogue intelligence agencies going to prison, a worldwide manhunt for Snowden ensued — even though he was and remains a bona fide whistleblower who should be celebrated for risking his own life to expose to the public what the state does in the dark.

Now Infowars journalist Owen Shroyer is off to serve a 60-day sentence, pending appeal, for covering January 6.

Via Politico (emphasis added):

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A judge on Tuesday sentenced InfoWars broadcaster Owen Shroyer — who shadowed his boss and ally Alex Jones onto Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, 2021 — to 60 days in prison for breaching the restricted area.

U.S. District Judge Tim Kelly handed down the sentence after contending that Shroyer, who never entered the Capitol building, played a role in “amping up” the mob at a sensitive moment during the riot. Shroyer’s foray onto Capitol grounds came even though Shroyer had been ordered to stay away from the area under a court-sanctioned agreement for disrupting a House impeachment hearing in 2019…

Prosecutors say Shroyer shadowed Jones from the Ellipse, where former President Donald Trump addressed supporters before urging them to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, to the Capitol. When they arrived, they witnessed the chaos that had begun unfolding at the building. Jones, who was trailed by a large throng of supporters, a security detail and other leaders of “Stop the Steal” groups, circled the Capitol and asked police for permission to exhort the crowd to deescalate the violence.

Jones has not been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, but prosecutors said Shroyer, using a megaphone, delivered chants that further fueled the riot after breaching the protected perimeter of Capitol grounds. They also noted in court filings that Jones and his large cohort continued to traverse the perimeter of the Capitol despite police signaling they wanted people to leave the area…

Shroyer pointed out that prosecutors, in seeking his 120-day jail term, focused heavily on his comments in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and his chants of “1776” on the day of the riot.

There is widely available video of Jones explicitly admonishing protesters not to enter the Capitol, and not to be violent.

Here are two facts that are not in dispute:

  • There is no evidence that Owen Shroyer ever entered the capitol building on Jan. 6.
  • There is no evidence that Owen Shroyer participated in violence on Jan. 6.

The offending chant referenced by government prosecutors was apparently “1776,” which, according to the state, is tantamount to an incitement to riot.

I have listened to many dozens, perhaps hundreds, of hours of Owen Shroyer’s broadcasts over the years. He has never explicitly incited violence of any kind and, in fact, has often gone out of his way to explicitly discourage it — if not for moral reasons, then, to make clear that his speech is unimpeachable under the law because incitement to violence along with defamation and a few other caveats is one of the only exceptions to otherwise ironclad freedom of speech according to the First Amendment.

As I have covered in more detail elsewhere, freedom of speech (and the others) in the First Amendment comes first for a reason: all other rights flow downstream of it and necessarily depend on it. There can be no habeas corpus, for instance, if there is no possibility of disclosing to the public that violations of habeas corpus have occurred. The same goes for every other right enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The Founders did not place it first by accident or on a whim. Every word in the Constitution — which is what makes it the most flawless governing document in history that nations worldwide have modeled their own constitutions on — is premeditated and intentional.

Equal application under the law is also now a relic of the past.

As Shroyer pointed out in his post-sentencing press conference, no one in their right mind who is willing to be honest believes that any violent BLM rioter during the 2020 Summer of Love would have spent a single day in jail on a misdemeanor “entering a restricted area” charge.

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