Sunday, June 10, 2007

Editorial: The Thrice Screwed Adam Kokesh


The Government's argument in this case seems to imply that somehow what these amateur actors did in Houston should not be treated as a "theatrical production" within the meaning of 772 (f). We are unable to follow such a suggestion. Certainly theatrical productions need not always be performed in buildings or even on a defined area such as a conventional stage. Nor need they be performed by professional actors or be heavily financed or elaborately produced. Since time immemorial, outdoor theatrical performances, often performed by amateurs, have played an important part in the entertainment and the education of the people of the world. Here, the record shows without dispute the preparation and repeated presentation by amateur actors of a short play designed to create in the audience an understanding of and opposition to our participation in the Vietnam war. Supra, at 60 and this page. It may be that the performances were crude and [398 U.S. 58, 62] amateurish and perhaps unappealing, but the same thing can be said about many theatrical performances. We cannot believe that when Congress wrote out a special exception for theatrical productions it intended to protect only a narrow and limited category of professionally produced plays. 3 Of course, we need not decide here all the questions concerning what is and what is not within the scope of 772 (f). We need only find, as we emphatically do, that the street skit in which Schacht participated was a "theatrical production" within the meaning of that section.
This brings us to petitioner's complaint that giving force and effect to the last clause of 772 (f) would impose an unconstitutional restraint on his right of free speech. We agree. This clause on its face simply restricts 772 (f)'s authorization to those dramatic portrayals that do not "tend to discredit" the military, but, when this restriction is read together with 18 U.S.C. 702, it becomes clear that Congress has in effect made it a crime for an actor wearing a military uniform to say things during his performance critical of the conduct or [398 U.S. 58,63] policies of the Armed Forces. An actor, like everyone else in our country, enjoys a constitutional right to freedom of speech, including the right openly to criticize the Government during a dramatic performance. The last clause of 772 (f) denies this constitutional right to an actor who is wearing a military uniform by making it a crime for him to say things that tend to bring the military into discredit and disrepute. In the present case Schacht was free to participate in any skit at the demonstration that praised the Army, but under the final clause of 772 (f) he could be convicted of a federal offense if his portrayal attacked the Army instead of praising it. In light of our earlier finding that the skit in which Schacht participated was a "theatrical production" within the meaning of 772 (f), it follows that his conviction can be sustained only if he can be punished for speaking out against the role of our Army and our country in Vietnam. Clearly punishment for this reason would be an unconstitutional abridgment of freedom of speech. The final clause of 772 (f), which leaves Americans free to praise the war in Vietnam but can send persons like Schacht to prison for opposing it, cannot survive in a country which has the First Amendment. To preserve the constitutionality of 772 (f) that final clause must be stricken from the section.

We're having a real hard time grasping what is so difficult to understand about the above. It's the Supreme Court's decision in Schacht v. United States (1970) and, for some reason, reporters just can't grasp it.

Four of us saw it in Boston on Thursday when Liam Madden held a press conference to discuss the US military's attempts to silence him and someone (a reporter, naturally) wanted to liken his case to Adam Kokesh. Here is Madden's response in full, "Adam's case is different than mine. He was charged with wearing a uniform during a political street theater and also with making disrespectful comments to a superior commissioned officer. So his charges are different and the board will be different. And that is just one grounds that Adam has to appeal his case."

Adam Kokesh was 'tried' last Monday for taking part in street theater and damned if the reporters just couldn't grasp it. Heather Hollingsworth has earned a special place in hell for her lazy reporting and we're sure she'll bump into many others that she knows once she gets down there.

Hollingsworth failed to tell readers (repeatedly) that during the so-called hearing, Kokesh was asked a number of questions including whether or not he voted in the 2004 election and whether or not he was "a card carrying member of Iraq Veterans Against the War? Meaning what exactly? Does he attend meetings with Garrett Reppenhagen but get in on a guest pass?

After you get over how ridiculous the question is, you may zoom in on how offensive this throw back to the HUAC days is. We weren't aware that Iraq Veterans Against the War was on an official government blacklist. We aren't surprised to know that it is considering the current administration but that says a great deal about how the government truly feels about the troops.

Another thing that Hollingsworth (Associated Press and her scribbles were picked up everywhere) somehow missed was that the three 'judges' at the alleged hearing admitted that Kokesh was not governed by UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). They admitted that no one in the IRR is.

That being the case, the only thing that should apply to Kokesh is the Supreme Court ruling which found that the US military has no say over who wears what in a theatrical production.

But that's just too much for the small brained press to grasp. They also appear to have serious problems telling the difference between a "letter" and an "e-mail." It's all so confusing for them you start to wonder if they pay someone to come in and program their Tivo?

While the mainstream was missing every detail that mattered (with few exceptions, Reuters and The Washington Post being two), where the hell was independent media?

When the mainstream media screws up the facts, don't we all expect independent media to step in? But where were they? It's as though they all sprouted pubes last week and took to the bathroom with a cellphone to examine and share the findings with friends.

In the process, Adam Kokesh got screwed over three times. First by the alleged hearing which downgraded him from honorable discharge to a general discharge. Second by the mainstream media who screwed up the details and basic facts to badly that it seemed as if they had enlisted in the service of something other than a free press. Third by independent media which, believe it or not, in its broadcast form, made time for Paris Hilton but had no time for Liam Madden's press conference.

Let's just repeat that: Paris Hilton could get covered on broadcast independent media news last Friday; however, Liam Madden's Thursday press conference? There just wasn't room to squeeze it on for Friday's news breaks. And that may say it all.
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