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BLOG | Can e-mail threats be considered freedom of speech?

In Tuesday, Nov. 23’s San Francisco Chronicle, a brief yet crucial article was buried underneath the cover story on the first snow. Found right there in the second page of the Bay Area section — directly underneath a picture of a puppy dog — is jaw-dropping news of a 60 year old man named John Gimbel released of all charges of sending racially charged e-mails to President Barack Obama in Sept. 2009, threatening to “dismember … Obama after his kids and wife are slain in front of him.”

Article's placement on Tuesday, Nov. 23's print issue. (SF Chronicle)

The Chronicle reported that Gimbel has a history of using e-mail as his own personal venting machine, referring to his similar threatening messages to former President George W. Bush.

However, the question remains, how far does free speech stretch? Can we threaten other human beings? How about ‘outing’ them, does a stroke of a key not cause as much harm as the fist? If I type that I want to hurt someone, is that covered under the Freedom of Speech act? What if I take off my shoe and throw it at a president, am I overstepping my freedom then?

The fact that a man threw a shoe at the former President and was faced with a two year imprisonment and another can threaten the life and family of the current President and get off free, shows a distinct imbalance in the system.

This new age of technology allows us to communicate with those once far out of our reach and with hundreds at a time. We see posting blogs and harmful private videos being the source of suicide attempts all around the world. We see hateful emails and “Facebooking” taking over high schools and college campuses. It’s time to make a clear discernment on what hate, whether written or spoken, is capable of.

That our words are just as powerful as a bullet out of a gun.

Readers, what do you think about the dropped charges after seeing the article?

Please share your thoughts as a comment below. Thank you.