Sunday Comics

Logic is Futile – Liz Silverman


Mary Death – Matthew Tarpley

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Eggmen – Richard Barker

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Architexts – Maverick & Joker


Schemantics – Michael Yu


Khartoon! – Khalid Albaih


Bad Pudding – Ollie Hayes


Life in Aggro – Casey Vasquez & Fei Hsiao

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Poorly Drawn Lines – Reza Farazmand


Clockworks – Shawn Gaston

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The Realist – Asaf Hanuka

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Abstruse Goose

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Mr. Lovenstein – J.L. Westover

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Cat and Girl – Dorothy Gambrell


Ampersand – Barry Deutsch

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Art – John Ohannesian


Sandra & Woo – Powree & Oliver Knörzer

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Agonizing Trifles – Erik Jagger

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In Search of Basho – Mark Fittock & Ross Findlay


Black Tea Comics – Rembrand Le Compte

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Iverly – Jeffrey Rowland


Irregular – David Morgan-Mar


Sephko – Gojko Franulic

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Socks and Puppets – David Birch


Diesel Sweeties – Richard Stevens

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IM Bry – Bry Onglatco


Cartoons by Shelli – Shelli Pruett


Bro, Don’t Like That, La, Bro – Ernest Ng


Trader Lydia – Ted Bishop


Channel Draw – Gianluca Constantini


Interesting Times – Nathan Fehr


Crimes Against Hugh’s Manatees – Hugh Crawford


xkcd – Randall Munroe


Pepper and Carrot – David Revoy


Climax! – The Phony

A Nonviolent Strategy to Liberate Syria

In early 2011, as the Arab Spring was moving across North Africa and the Middle East, small groups of nonviolent activists in Syria,  under martial law since 1963, started protesting against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad and demanding democratic reforms. In addition they demanded the release of political prisoners, an increase in freedoms, abolition of the emergency law and an end to corruption.

By mid-March these protests, particularly in cities such as Damascus, Aleppo and Daraa, had escalated. The “Day of Rage” protest on March 15, 2011 is considered by many to mark the start of the nationwide uprising against the Assad dictatorship. The dictatorship’s reaction to the protests became violent on 16 March. On 18 March, after Friday prayers, activists gathered at the al-Omari Mosque in Daraa were attacked by security forces with water cannons and tear gas, followed by live fire; four nonviolent activists were killed.

Within months, as the nonviolent protests expanded and spread, the regime killed hundreds of activists. Thousands have been arbitrarily arrested, subjecting many of them to brutal torture in detention. This pattern has continued unchecked.

For the earliest in  a series of reports that document this regime violence against nonviolent activists, see

In recent commentaries on the war in Syria, long-time solidarity activist Terry Burke and long-term Middle East scholar Professor Stephen Zunes have encouraged the anti-war movement to listen to Syrian voices in framing their response.

  1. See ‘U.S. Peace Activists Should Start Listening to Progressive Syrian Voices’ http://inthesetimes.com/article/19388/u.s.-peace-activists-arent-listening-to-progressive-syrian-voices

This perspective is crucial, particularly given the tendency within some sections of it to support “the extraordinarily brutal Assad regime – a family dictatorship rooted in the anti-leftist military wing of the Baath Party.”

A  major opposition Syrian voice is that of scholar and nonviolent activist Professor Mohja Kahf. See her account of the Syrian uprising against the Assad dictatorship.

The Syrian uprising sprang from the country’s grassroots, especially from youth in their teens, and adults in their twenties and thirties. They, not seasoned oppositionists, began the uprising, and are its core population. They share, rather than a particular ideology, a generational experience of disenfranchisement and brutalization by a corrupt, repressive, and massively armed ruling elite in Syria.

The uprising began nonviolently and the vast majority of its populace maintained nonviolence as its path to pursue regime change and a democratic Syria, until an armed flank emerged in August 2011.

The Syrian Revolution has morphed. From midsummer to autumn 2011, armed resistance developed, political bodies formed to represent the revolution outside Syria, and political Islamists of various sorts entered the uprising scene. Since then, armed resistance has overshadowed nonviolent resistance in Syria.

…political bodies and support groups for the revolution’s militarized wing, have become venues for internal power struggles among opposition factions and individuals, and entry-points for foreign powers attempting to push their own agendas into a revolution sprung from Syrian grievances, grown from the spilling of Syrian blood on Syrian soil.

Many in the global peace community can no longer discern the Syrian uprising’s grassroots population through the smoke of armed conflict and the troubling new actors on the scene. Further, some in the global left or anti-imperialist camp understand the Syrian revolution only through the endgame of geopolitics. In such a narrative, the uprising population is nothing but the proxy of U.S. imperialism.

Such critics may acknowledge that the Assad regime is brutal, but maintain from their armchairs that Syrians must bear this cost, because this regime has its finger in the dike of U.S. imperialism, Zionism, and Islamism. Or, perhaps they agree that a revolution against a brutal dictator is not a bad idea, but wish for a nicer revolution, with better players. Eyes riveted to their pencils and rulers and idées fixés, such critics abandon a grassroots population of disenfranchised human beings demanding basic human freedoms in Syria. This is a stunning and cruel failure of vision.

The voices of the original grassroots revolution of Syria are nonviolent, nonsectarian, noninterventionist, for the fall of the Assad regime, and for the rise of a democratic, human rights upholding Syria that is bound by the rule of law. They are still present in this revolution. Who will hear them now, after so much dear blood has been spilled, so much tender flesh crushed under blasted blocks of cement, so much rightful anger unleashed?

See: Then and Now: The Syrian Revolution to Date. A young nonviolent resistance and the ensuing armed struggle – http://www.fnvw.org/vertical/Sites/%7B8182BD6D-7C3B-4C35-B7F8-F4FD486C7CBD%7D/uploads/Syria_Special_Report-web.pdf 

Other Syrian voices offer a similar account. See, for example, the recent book by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila al-Shami titled ‘Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War. https://plutopress.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/burning-country-syrians-in-revolution-and-war. There is also an insightful review of the book, ‘Book Review: Burning Country’. http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/reviews/review-burning-country-287752950

If Syrians and their solidarity allies are to develop and implement a successful nonviolent grassroots strategy to end the war in/on Syria and remove the Assad dictatorship, then we need a sound strategic framework. We need comprehensive planning of our strategy.

A sound strategic framework simply enables us to think and plan, so that once articulated, it can be widely shared and clearly understood by everyone involved. It also means that nonviolent actions can then be implemented because they are known to have strategic utility and that precise utility is understood in advance. There is little point taking action at random, especially if our opponent is powerful and committed (even if that “commitment’ is insane, which is frequently the case).

There is a simple diagram presenting a 12-point strategic framework illustrated here in the form of the ‘Nonviolent Strategy Wheel.” https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/

A a clearly defined political purpose is needed; that is, a simple summary statement of “what you want.” However, given the complexity of the multifaceted conflict in the case of Syria, it is simpler to identify two political purposes.

These might be stated thus: 1. To end the war in/on Syria, and 2. To establish a democratic form of government in Syria (which, obviously, requires removal of the dictatorship).

These two strategic aims (which are always the same whatever the political purpose) are as follows: 1. To increase support for your campaign by developing a network of groups who can assist you. 2. To alter the will and undermine the power of those groups who support the war/dictatorship.

To keep this article reasonably straightforward, I have only identified a set of strategic goals that would be appropriate in the context of ending the war in/on Syria below. For a basic set of strategic goals appropriate for ending the dictatorship, see “Strategic Aims.”

I wish to emphasize that I have only briefly discussed two aspects of a comprehensive strategy to end theorder for it to be effective, all twelve components of the strategic framework should be planned (and then implemented). See Nonviolent Liberation Strategy https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/.

This will require, for example, that tactics able to achieve the goals. It must be carefully chosen and implemented, bearing in mind the vital distinction between the political objective and strategic goal of any such tactic. See “The Political Objective and Strategic Goal of Nonviolent Actions.” https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/articles/political-objective-strategic-goal/

Strategic goals to end the war in/on Syria

I have outlined a basic list of strategic goals below although, it should be noted, the list would be considerably longer as individual organizations should be specified separately.

Many of these strategic goals would usually be tackled by action groups working in solidarity with Syria campaigning within their own country. Ideally they would be undertaken by activist groups with existing expertise in the relevant area (for example, experience in campaigning against a weapons corporation) but this is not essential.

Of course, individual activist groups would usually accept responsibility for focusing their work on achieving just one or a few of the strategic goals (which is why any single campaign within the overall strategy is readily manageable).

It is the responsibility of the struggle’s strategic leadership to ensure that each of the strategic goals, which should be identified and prioritized according to their precise understanding of the circumstances in Syria, (so, not necessarily precisely as identified below) is being addressed (or to prioritize if resource limitations require this).

So here is a set of strategic goals to end the war in/on Syria:

(1) To cause the women in [women’s organizations WO1, WO2, WO…] in Syria to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].

For example, simple nonviolent actions would be to wear a national symbol (such as a badge of the national flag and/or ribbons in the national colors) and/or to boycott all media outlets supporting the war. For this item and many items hereafter, see the list of possible actions that can be taken here: “198 Tactics of Nonviolent Action.” https://nonviolentliberationstrategy.wordpress.com/strategywheel/tactics-and-peacekeeping/198-tactics-of-nonviolent-action/

(2) To cause the workers in [trade unions T1, T2, T…] in Syria to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities]. For example, this might include withdrawing their labor from occupations that support the Syrian military forces.

(3) To cause young people in Syria to resist conscription into the Syrian military forces.

(4) To cause young people in Syria to refuse recruitment into the Free Syrian Army, al-Qaeda and its affiliates/allies, the Islamic State (Daesh) and its allies.

(5) To cause the members of [religious denominations R1, R2, R…] in Syria to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].

(6) To cause the members of [ethnic communities EC1, EC2, EC…] in Syria to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].

(7) To cause the activists, artists, musicians, intellectuals and other key social groups in [organizations O1, O2, O…] in Syria to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].

(8) To cause the students in [student organizations S1, S2, S…] in Syria to join the liberation strategy by participating in [your nominated nonviolent action(s)/campaign(s) and/or constructive program activities].

(9) To cause the soldiers in [military units M1, M2, M…] to refuse to obey orders from the dictatorship to arrest, assault, torture and shoot nonviolent activists and the other citizens of Syria.

(10) To cause the police in [police units P1, P2, P…] to refuse to obey orders from the dictatorship to arrest, assault, torture and shoot nonviolent activists and the other citizens of Syria.

(11) To cause young people in [the US, NATO countries, Russia and other countries fighting in Syria] to refuse recruitment into their respective military forces.

(12) To cause conscripts into the military forces of [NATO countries, Russia and other countries fighting in Syria] that still use conscription to conscientiously refuse to perform military duties.

(13) To cause military personnel in the military forces of [the US, NATO countries, Russia and other countries fighting in Syria] to refuse deployment to the war in/on Syria.

(14) To cause young people in [your country] to refuse recruitment into the Free Syrian Army, al-Qaeda and its affiliates/allies, the Islamic State (Daesh) and its allies.

(15) To cause former soldiers in [your country] to refuse recruitment as mercenaries by corporations that supply ‘military contractors’ to fight in Syria.

(16) To cause the activists in [peace groups P1, P2, P…] in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by encouraging their members to boycott [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…]. For example, this might include boycotting all commercial flights that use Boeing and Airbus passenger aircraft given the heavy involvement of these corporations in the production of military aircraft.

(17) To cause the activists in [environment groups E1, E2, E…] in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by encouraging their members to boycott [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…]. For example, this might including boycotting all commercial products of General Electric given the heavy involvement of this corporation in the production of military engines, systems and services.

(18) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T1, T2, T….] in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by encouraging their members to boycott [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…].

(19) To cause the women in [women’s organizations WO1, WO2, WO…] in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by encouraging their members to boycott [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…].

(20) To cause the members of [religious denominations R1, R2, R…] in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by encouraging their members to boycott [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…].

(21) To cause the members of [ethnic communities EC4, EC5, EC…] in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by encouraging their members to boycott [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…].

(22) To cause the artists, musicians, intellectuals and other key social groups in [organizations O4, O5, O…] in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by encouraging their members to boycott [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…].

(23) To cause the students in [student organizations S1, S2, S…] in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by encouraging their members to boycott [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…].

(24) To cause the consumers in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by boycotting [all/specified nonmilitary products] of [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…].

(25) To cause more individuals in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by conscientiously resisting paying [part/all] of their taxes for war.

(26) To cause more organizations in [your town/city/country] to resist the war on Syria by conscientiously resisting paying [part/all] of their taxes for war.

(27) To cause [weapons corporations W4, W5, W…] to convert from the manufacture of military weapons to [the specified/negotiated socially/environmentally beneficial products].

(28) To cause [banks B1, B2, B…] to cease financing the weapons industry.

(29) To cause bank customers to shift their deposits to ethical banks and credit unions that do not finance (or are otherwise involved in) the weapons industry.

(30) To cause [religious organizations R4, R5, R…] to divest from the weapons industry.

(31) To cause [superannuation funds S1, S2, S…] to divest from the weapons industry.

(32) To cause superannuation fund customers to shift their money to ethical funds that do not finance (or are otherwise involved in) the weapons industry.

(33) To cause [insurance companies I1, I2, I…] to divest from the weapons industry.

(34) To cause insurance customers to shift their policies to ethical insurance companies that do not finance (or are otherwise involved in) the weapons industry.

(35) To cause [corporations C1, C2, C…] that provide [services/components] for [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…] to cease doing so.

(36) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T4, T5, T…] to withdraw their labor from [weapons corporations W1, W2, W…] [partially/wholly], [temporarily/permanently].

(37) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T7, T8, T…] to withdraw their labor from [corporations C1, C2, C…] [partially/wholly], [temporarily/permanently].

(38) To cause [corporations C4, C5, C…] that provides [services/supplies] to [military bases MB1, MB2, MB…] to cease doing so.

(39) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T10, T11, T…] who work in/supply [military bases MB1, MB2, MB…] to withdraw their labor [partially/wholly], [temporarily/permanently].

(40) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T13, T14, T…] to withdraw their labor from [corporations C4, C5, C…] [partially/wholly], [temporarily/permanently].

(41) To cause [corporations C7, C8, C…] that manufacture and supply spy satellites for military purposes to cease doing so.

(42) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T16, T17, T…] to withdraw their labor from [corporations C7, C8, C…] [partially/wholly], [temporarily/permanently].

(43) To cause [corporations C10, C11, C…] that provide [services/components] for the militarization of space to cease doing so.

(44) To cause the workers in [trade unions or labor organizations T19, T20, T…] to withdraw their labor from [corporations C10, C11, C…] [partially/wholly], [temporarily/permanently].

(45) To cause [corporations C13, C14, C…] that provide private military contractors (mercenaries) to fight in wars to cease doing so.

(46) To cause the private military contractors (mercenaries) who fight in wars to withdraw their labor from [corporations C13, C14, C…].

(47) To cause the soldiers in [military units M1, M2, M…] in [your town/city/country] to refuse to obey orders to [arrest, assault, torture and shoot, depending on your local circumstances] nonviolent activists campaigning against the war.

(48) To cause the police in [police units P1, P2, P…] in [your town/city/country] to refuse to obey orders to [arrest, assault, torture and shoot, depending on your local circumstances] nonviolent activists campaigning against the war.

(49) To cause individual members of the military forces at [Military Base MB1/Drone Base DB1/Navy Ship NS1/Air Force Base AFB1/Army unit AU1/Marines unit MU1] in [your town/city/country] to resign.

(50) To cause individual members of those corporations that employ/supply private military contractors (mercenaries) to resign.

As you can see, the two strategic aims are achieved via a series of intermediate strategic goals.

Not all of the strategic goals will need to be achieved for the strategy to be successful but each goal is focused in such a way that its achievement functionally undermines the power of those conducting the war.

The difference between success and failure in any struggle is the soundness of the strategy.

Biodata: Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of Why Violence? His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com

Can the Laws of Robotics be Adapted for Paleontology?

Robot image by Sirrob01. CC0/Public Domain.

The Laws of Robotics, created by writer Isaac Asimov, are one of the widely-known ethical concepts to spring forth from science fiction. These three guidelines (or four, depending on if you accept the Zeroth Law) set forth the ways in which robots can interact with human beings. Inspired by the title of a recent blog post, I thought, “What if we turned the Laws of Robotics into Laws of Paleontology”?

Here’s my first draft…

  1. A paleontologist may not injure a fossil or, through inaction, allow a fossil to come to harm.
  2. A paleontologist must obey orders given them by collections managers except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A paleontologist must protect their own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

When I first posted these on Twitter, one colleague noted that Rule 1 effectively prevents any histology or isotopic work from being conducted. On further consideration, I also realized that at least some accepted practices (e.g., not collecting every single fossil fragment on a landscape) also violated the “law”. Researcher Ezequiel Vera suggested that it be rephrased as, “A paleontologist may not injure a fossil or, through inaction, allow a fossil to come to harm, unless needed to do scientific research.” Come to think of it, Law #3 probably only applies to robots, and isn’t often a good practice for working paleontologists who hope to survive the field season!

Going a bit more down the rabbit hole, I was reminded of another famous list in sci-fi, the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. Ferengi are frequent characters in the Star Trek universe, perhaps best known from Quark in Deep Space 9. They are mostly merchants, with a culture centered around the acquisition of material wealth. Thanks to some enterprising Trek fans, all of the Rules of Acquisition mentioned in the various television series have been recorded, allowing me an opportunity to modify them for paleontological purposes.

  1. Once you have their fossils, never give them back.
  2. Never spend more for an expedition than you have to.
  3. Never allow colleagues to stand in the way of opportunity.
  4. Opportunity plus instinct equals publication.
  5. A loan agreement is a loan agreement is a loan agreement…but only between paleontologists.
  6. A paleontologist without fossils is no paleontologist at all.
  7. Never place friendship above publications.
  8. Nothing is more important than your health…except for your fossils.
  9. Never make fun of a paleontologist’s Ph.D. advisor.
  10. It never hurts to suck up to the collections manager.
  11. You can’t write a publication if you’re dead.
  12. Colleagues are the rungs on the ladder of success. Don’t hesitate to step on them.
  13. ….and the list goes on….

As any Trek fan knows, the Rules of Acquisition shouldn’t be followed by any decent human being. Similarly, any paleontologist would be wise to do the opposite of my newly coined Rules of Paleontology (except perhaps for #9, 10, and 11).

On the more serious side, I think this exercise emphasizes the difficulty in formulating and consistently applying ethical codes within our field. A creative mind can think up any number of “what if” situations that throw a monkey wrench into the works. Just look at any discussion on fossil digitization, or open access, or preprints, or collections management, or the commercial fossil trade, or international fieldwork collaborations, to name a few. Even though researchers might broadly agree on most things, there will always be edge cases that require a deft and humane touch to resolve. That, I suppose, is what separates paleontologists from fictional robots!

Source: PLOS

Free Thing of the Week: Pepper and Carrot Motion Comic


Our Free Thing of the Week started out with books. We’ve since expanded to other things: photography, games, 3-D printing, music, and so on. But we rarely have brought you things on YouTube.

Today we correct that oversight by turning to the Morevna Project‘s “motion comic” of Pepper and Carrot. Longtime Star readers know how much we love David Revoy’s open source comic strip about the young and often bumbling witch Pepper and her cat. We feature it regularly in our own Sunday Comics section. (Trivia: if you look closely at the credits on each comic you can see the name of our esteemed publisher, who supports the strip fanatically.) The comic is, as you may know, not only released under a permissive free license, but also created using only free software tools.

Not content with that, however, the open source world decided to raise the stakes even more. Nikolai Mamashev decided to animate the strip’s sixth episode, The Potion Contest, also using only open source tools. To do this, he ran a successful fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.

Now he’s finished, and the results are beautiful.

But don’t take our word for it. Look for yourself.

You can also download the episode from Morevna Project’s homepage here, in either English or Russian.

100 Years of the Espionage Act

One hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Espionage Act into law, and since then it has been used to criminalize the disclosure of national defense and classified information.

Dissent-Stifling Roots

At the turn of the 20th century, anti-immigrant, xenophobic sentiments dominated national rhetoric and was consequently reflected in the legislation crafted. On September 25, 1919, the 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson gave his final address in support of the League of Nations in Pueblo, CO and in his speech, he spoke of American immigrants with hyphenated nationalities: “Any man who carries a hyphen around with him carries a dagger that he is ready to plunge into the vitals of this Republic whenever he gets ready.” Wilson specifically targeted Irish-Americans and German-Americans, whom he perceived to be disloyal immigrants and potential spies. In fact, many state governments banned the teaching of German in schools, since it was “a language that disseminates the ideas of autocracy, brutality, and hatred.” The nativism movement continued to grow from the “Know-Nothing” party to the Palmer raids as concerns about espionage and disloyalty swirled.

Thus, the Espionage Act was born against the backdrop of World War I and amidst fears of subversion of American democracy. Its primary purpose was to deal with avoidance of the draft, sabotage of state activities, and espionage. But its subsequent interpretations led to the punishment of socialists, pacifists, and other anti-war activists. Most infamously during this period, former Presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a 1918 speech, denouncing the Espionage Act of 1917. The Supreme Court upheld his sentence, which was eventually commuted post-World War I.

The Espionage Act was further modified by the Sedition Act of 1918 but those amendments were ultimately overturned on March 3, 1921, when World War I ended. The Sedition Act sought to criminalize statements during the war that were “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive…about the form of government of the United States.” Those found in violation of the rules set forth in the act were subject to a fine of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Tested in Court

The constitutionality of the Espionage Act as a basis for punishing speech was tested in the landmark case, Schenck v. United States (1919), which concluded that First Amendment did not bar Schenck’s prosecution. The appellant Charles Schenck had mailed anti-draft letters to draftees, which read “Do not submit to intimidation.” The Supreme Court held that Schenck’s words were not protected by the First Amendment and was guilty of violating the Espionage Act of 1917.

A week after Schenck, the Court unanimously reaffirmed and reasserted its decision in another case, Frohwerk v. United States (1919). Jacob Frohwerk wrote twelve editorials for the Missouri Staats Zeitung in 1915, which denounced the United States’ involvement in World War I. The Supreme Court upheld the Espionage Act of 1917’s constitutionality. Justice Holmes again argued that the First Amendment does not “give immunity for every possible use of language.” Along with Debs v. United States (1919), the rulings emphasized the superseding nature of the Espionage Act of 1917 over any First Amendment claim during this time. (These First Amendment holdings were ultimately displaced by the far-more-speech-protective modern incitement doctrine finalized in Brandenburg v. Ohio in 1969.)

Anti-Communist, Anti-Whistleblower

The Espionage Act resurged as a tool used to root out communist influences in American society during the 1940s and 1950s. The Red Scare, led in particular by Senator Joe McCarthy and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, employed the Espionage Act to suppress the opinions of left-wing political figures. Indeed, it was the basis of the convictions that led to the executions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

In addition to conventional spying, however, the Espionage Act has also been used to prosecute those who delivered confidential governmental information not to foreign governments, but to the press. Whistleblowers charged with violating the Espionage Act include Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, WikiLeaks contributor Chelsea Manning, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Now there are threats that it may be used against the groups that publish that information.

Sign Electronic Frontier Foundation’s petition and tell U.S. policymakers that it’s long past time to reform this speech-chilling law.

Take Action

Read more about the murky legal history of the Espionage Act and how the law poses a threat to organizations that publish government information.

Thanks to EFF.

Free Thing of the Week: Twitter and Tear Gas

Zeynep Tufekci, Personal Democracy Forum, CC-BY-SA

Back to books in today’s Free Thing, we consider the hoary yet still unanswered question: Does technology make our social lives better?

In Zeynep Tüfekçi’s new book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest the main subject is the effect of social media on protest and organization, but it’s about much more than that. One of the technocratic world’s unchallenged axioms is that technology always makes life easier. Even if this is true (and there is much reasonable doubt on the issue), easier has never meant better. In the quest to make human communication “easier,” technology may well have made it worse.

Particularly important is the communication necessary to political organizing. This is Professor Tüfekçi’s specialty. She’s been in the pits with many of the vital protests of the past thirty years, from Zapatista Mexico in the 90s to the WTO in Seattle to Egypt and Tunisia in 2011 to Turkey’s Gezi Park uprisings in 2013 — and not as an academic. Professor Tüfekçi speaks from direct experience, combining on-the-ground interviews with insightful analysis.

The appeal of this book, as opposed to so many others, is its emphasis on practice instead of theory. Roughly organized into three sections: “Making a Movement,” “The Protester’s Tools,” and “After the Protests, the book aims to show not just how digital protests begin, but also how those in power strike back.

Well worth your time.

Download Twitter and Tear Gas EPUB here.
Download Twitter and Tear Gas PDF from Zeynep Tüfekçi’s own site.

We also encourage you to buy the physical book if you like it, because buying Creative Commons books shows skeptical people and publishers that the Commons works.