MARTI BUSCAGLIA DIGS DEEPER THE MORE SHE EXPLAINS HERSELF
Pro-tip for Marti Buscaglia: She may want to just stop talking to the press. She’s not making it better and now that there’s an official investigation into her conduct, it’s time for her to just clam up for a bit. In fact, taking a quick vacation to Hawaii would be advisable.
Buscaglia, the executive director of the Alaska Human Rights Commission told a reporter on Friday that she simply wasn’t sure:
Was the “Black Rifles Matter” truck decal free speech or hate speech?
Since she wasn’t sure, she took action to regulate it as hate speech in a parking lot on A Street that is leased by the State.
Buscaglia left her calling card — her official business card showing the authority vested in her by the State of Alaska — on the truck belonging to Brenton Linegar, who owns a small plumbing firm that had a contract to do repairs on the building. It was a heavy-handed message to a private citizen to get off the parking lot of the State of Alaska.
Buscaglia, whose agency has an official Facebook page, then took a photo of the back of the truck and decal and posted it on Facebook with a provocative comment meant to shame the truck owner: “In what world is this OK?” she wrote.
Under the Seal of the State of Alaska, Buscaglia was doxxing the owner of the truck — publicly shaming him on Facebook. That wasn’t enough for her. She decided to hurt his business by sending an email to the owner of the building asking him to ban the plumbing company from doing work.
Buscaglia — or her staff — felt the immediate backlash from Alaskans on Facebook, and the sting of their comments led her to remove the post from the official State page.
She offered an explanation that “it offended many gun owners who felt we were against the second amendment and the right of citizens to own guns. Please know that is not the case. Our concern was with the connotation of the statement to the Black Lives Matter movement. We know some of you were offended by the post so we removed it.”
Buscaglia was showing her confusion: Gun owners on Facebook weren’t offended by the agency’s action due to the Second Amendment. It was the First Amendment they were concerned about.
After all, this is a state agency with a mission of enforcing fines and penalties on people for their behavior. The agency had, on Thursday, suddenly expanded its mission from regulating behavior in hiring and housing to regulating speech on public property — a massive scope expansion.
As the Human Rights Commission public relations nightmare started blazing, Buscaglia’s phone started to ring. By Friday, the news media had taken notice.
She told the Associated Press: “I think the line between being protected by the First Amendment and hate speech is very fine. And frankly, I wasn’t sure which one this was.”
HATE SPEECH A NEW REGULATORY AREA FOR THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION?
The U.S. Supreme Court has, on multiple occasions, shown that whatever hate speech is — and that is an elastic term — it’s protected by the U.S. Constitution.
The Court has said, at least six times in recent years, that even offensive speech is protected. Those protections do not necessarily include lewd, obscene, libelous or “fighting” words — “those which by their very utterances inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
However, even that speech has strong protections. Rappers and hip hop artists have been threatened with with obscenity or outright censorship efforts, and rap lyrics made a name for themselves in the 2015 Supreme Court case Elonis v. United States, when the Court was asked to decide whether a song was a real threat because it contained lyrics that appeared to threaten the rap artist’s ex-wife. His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court.
But at the Alaska Commission on Human Rights, there is such a thing as hate speech, and Buscaglia is on the lookout for it, and has shown a willingness to use the authority of her office to punish people who she thinks is violating some kind of law. A law that doesn’t exist is being enforced.
Buscaglia later told KTUU that her business card contained direct phone access to her and she had hoped to receive a call from the truck owner to learn more about the bumper sticker.
“I wrote it on my business card expressly for the purpose that I expected the person to call me when they got it,” she said. “It has my direct line on there. The connotation that if you pull into the human commission parking lot and you see a truck with that sticker, you would wonder what’s going on.”
That’s not what her note said. It said “Please do NOT park this truck with that offensive sticker in this parking lot.”
Along with her business card was one from Kendall Rhyne, chief probation officer for the State of Alaska.
Buscaglia claimed she was just trying to start a conversation with the truck owner. But was she? Or were those cards meant to add authority and intimidation to the handwritten note?
In any case, she may not have started the conversation she wanted to have. Linegar, the truck owner, took the matter to his friends on Facebook, asking them if there’s something he didn’t understand about the Black Rifles Matter sticker.
FIRST AMENDMENT PROTECTS POLITICAL SPEECH
The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the public from people like Marti Buscaglia, those who appoint themselves philosopher kings to sit on high and decree which political speech is protected and which must be removed from the public square — and from government-owned parking lots.
As a person who had a career in newspapers, Buscaglia evidently never grasped the rule of law provided by the Constitution. She is now the agency chief in charge of enforcing — or abusing — its protections.
And it’s taken a plumber to point out the problem with the situation.