“Biss, please!” — The overview

“Biss, please!” — The overview

‘Threats, lies, manipulation & the abuse of power’ and those that want to put their cloven hoof down

The Backdrop

In a world increasingly ruled by neocons and sometimes even facist authoritarian leaders like Donald Trump all our civil and human rights have been eroded faster than, lets say, they busted all the unions.

In the middle of this we see a remarkable increase in governmental overreach and, more connected to what this document aims to describe, affluent citizens using their money, power and total lack of morals to strike down dissent and quell free speech. One of these tools is lawfare, a technique whereby a person, entity or arm of the government abuses the judicial system to quash opponents, dissenters or the opposition.

The Players

The former Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, key figure in the Donald Trump transition team, Devin Gerald Nunes, is using the very questionable defamation lawyer Steven S. Biss to abuse the lax anti-SLAPP laws in Virginia to go after perceived enemies. His targets are detractors, anonymous critics like Devin Cow, journalists and media companies. To achieve his goals he uses among other things victims of sexual violence, like Jesselyn Radack, and a row of despicable trolls to provoke, on Twitter, the ones they sue, to strengthen their numerous defamation law suits — basically tilting lady justice.

Later in the game, after Biss chose to subpoena several Twitter accounts, a group of activists started a research project meant to lay bare, or showcase, the emperor’s new clothes. This document is authored by them in an attempt to make sure we are moving in the right direction. The only publicly known person connected to the project is Norwegian activist Raymond Johansen who has increasingly become a direct target of The Players. Not because he wants to be famous, but because he has the distance and the understanding that he can front the rest of us and still get the job done.

The Stakes

Apart from the personal and economic cost of those directly or indirectly targeted, which must be horrific for them, there are several incredibly important facets to all of this. There is much more at stake than immediately meets the eye. Namely principles and precedents that many of us, even those not directly involved, should, in our humble opinion, should care deeply about. Let’s call them the ramifications of the Players actions, should we choose to not fight them. The following are the chief among these.

The chilling effect

In a legal context, a chilling effect is the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction. The right that is most often described as being suppressed by a chilling effect is the US constitutional right to free speech.

The Players in all of this are having a profound effect on people that would normally and naturally express valid criticism of their actions. We see it all around us. Activists from the U.S. are staying away from this project simply because they cannot afford to be sued.

The reason why several of us got subpoenaed is probably mostly to make sure we shut up and dont get in the way of their windfalls, while among other things managing to sue a victim of sexual violence. No such thing will happen. We will never fall silent nor shy away from aggression. attacks on our person or reputation. They came at us, we reserve the right to “come back”, full stop!

Free speech and expression

Like other rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, free expression has two branches — freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Freedom of expression, as Justice Felix Frankfurter said, “is the well-spring of our civilization.” As such these actors are poisoning our well — grabbing more power by the day — the less action we take. We cannot stress how important it is that we stand up to bullies like this or it will, like gangrene, at some point soon have become too late.

A population threatened to silence will not be allowed to stop evil powers from becoming our slave owners of a new time. The Players in this have seen how Thiel and friends managed to crush a media outlet and are trying to do the same to NPR and the Fresno Bee, a small local news outlet.

We cannot let this happen on our watch, simply put.

The right to anonymous speech

The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. … The US Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized rights to speak anonymously derived from the First Amendment. The right to anonymous speech is also protected well beyond the printed page.

In the proud tradition of newspaper columns you have seen people effectively use alternate identities to be able to freely express themselves without the stringent rules that have guided an adversarial press for decades. Lately the press have become less adversarial as their stocks have been bought by powerful people and succumb to protecting the establishment.

We cannot stress the importance and value of anonymous speech, historically and especially in today’s current global political milieu. The Players chose to finance and abuse the discovery process of a defamation lawsuit against Jesselyn Radack to uncloak the identity of the hugely powerful Twitter account of @DevinCow when they failed to do so in another suit. They spent the pitiful sum of 5k USD, letting Trevor Fitzgibbon go at a whistleblower attorney/advocate, just to quell the speech of The Cow. While doing so they threw the anonymity of several activists and reporters into peril, without batting an eye. What enrages us is the silence from the media. Apart from reporters from The Daily Beast and Techdirt showing true courage, the silence is deafening.

The Cow represents the art of anonymity with their hard hitting new version of effective satire. Art has always had a protected space of their own within freedom of expression. Everyone can relate to street art¨and maybe most of all to Banksy. It is revered everywhere and their anonymity is respected.

During times of great peril to democracy a clampdown on art and literature always happens. If we mention book burning, most people will understand what this is really about. Art and prose has been the target of burnings hundreds of years in the past. The printing press invented by Johann Gutenberg in the 15th century threatened the then powerful church, just as The Cow found a tool in anonymous Twitter alongside thousands of us. The Cow is all of us and if we let them they will burn down or buy Twitter out from under the whole herd. Just.to.shut.us.up…..because they have the money to do it.

“One of the most famous anonymous whistleblowers of all time was “Deep Throat” in the Pentagon Papers case. He remained anonymous for decades, revealing himself only upon his imminent death.”

Legal precedents

For long the U.S. has been a haven for those that want to sue others instead of working for their money. We believe that the “united states” educates more lawyers than engineers which does not bode well. The nation’s court system has been used to protect the interests of corporations for a long time. Copyright law has stifled more creativity than any pandemic ever could. Copyright has been used across borders, globally, for some time.

But now, and in this case, we see that using civil courts has become even more prevalent. A judge of a small court in Virginia can attempt to curb free speech globally simply because a lot of the software we use is based in the U.S. So whatever ails the US when it comes to free speech is now spreading like a virus across oceans. That precedent is something that we feel must be stopped. Just as in the case of Mr. Julian Assange this constitutes extra territorial overreach.

The subpoena directed at several Twitter users, including @DevinCow, must be quashed and we hope for legal experts to step up and be counted.

The Remedy

These, the next paragraphs, will attempt to describe where the project should go from here on out. It will not be shared publicly until they have been implemented and yielded its results.

We can say this: What Nunes, Biss, Butowski et al has done in one or two lawsuits they most certainly have done in several more.

For those that need just a little hint before they can sleep: https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.txed.183024/gov.uscourts.txed.183024.124.0.pdf

On behalf of #OpBiss

Civil Society, April 1st 2020

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