McClaughry: Militant left keen to revive a Sedition Act to imprison for misinformation

By John McClaughry

The awful events of Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol revived talk of the crime of sedition. That crime is defined in the law books as “overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward incitement of discontent or rebellion against the established order.”

In 1798 the Federalist Party, which saw itself as the only valid established order, passed the first Sedition Act, and its first target was Vermont Congressman Matthew Lyon of Fair Haven. He was convicted of publishing “false, scandalous and malicious writing” that brought the federal government, the Congress, or the president into disrepute.” Lyon went to jail in Vergennes, from which he was defiantly reelected to Congress by those early Vermonters.

The Sedition Act expired after three years, but another one was enacted at the behest of the Democratic Wilson administration in 1918 to muzzle critics of Wilson’s war effort. Two years later a Republican Congress repealed it and a year later President Harding pardoned the socialist leader Eugene Debs, who had been jailed under it.

Today the militant left is keen to revive a Sedition Act to imprison anyone who gets too far out in front spreading “misinformation” criticizing the Biden Administration, or employing extralegal tactics to suppress free speech as the Sedition Acts did. We’ve done that twice, and both were dark chapters in this land of liberty. Let’s hope we never hear of that again, from either the left or the right.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Public domain

4 thoughts on “McClaughry: Militant left keen to revive a Sedition Act to imprison for misinformation

  1. Although so far as I can see there’s no overt new sedition act on the horizon, in point of fact views that oppose the dominant narrative are being censored. This has been going on for quite some time.

    The most blatant example now is the censorship of views that oppose the mainstream narrative that Covid-19 is deadly to everyone, that it was imperative that we shut down society to contain the virus, and that all the facts support the measures that people like Dr. Fauci and the WHO have urged upon us and that have been made into law in states all over the country, including Vermont, through the emergency powers of governors.

    But in retrospect we can see that the images that were first presented to us coming out of China were staged, just as the first images that we saw from Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY, were likely staged. China: people were seen lying in the streets or even falling over spontaneously from Covid-19 (although interestingly, one person who was standing and spontaneously and slowly keeled over had the presence of mind to quickly extend his arms to brace himself at the last minute– hardly the mark of someone completely overcome by the virus.) Yet nowhere else in the world has this happened. Nowhere. That isn’t how Covid-19 manifests in the real world. Elmhurst Hospital: we were shown images of lines of masked people in the dark waiting for Covid tests– an emergency! Hospitals were full of Covid patients! Yet a few days later there was nothing at all, even in broad daylight: no lines, no one in tents, no one in waiting rooms, nothing. Ambulances idle. How do you stage this? Tell the largely hispanic community there’ll be free Covid testing at 5 am, and give them all masks and have the TV crews there? Were people dying in Elmhurst Hospital? Yes. But we know from a nurse who worked there that Elmhurst put everyone on ventilators as soon as possible, and ventilators were a death sentence: extremely few survived. Were there people dying in tents in NYC during this time, in early 2020? Maybe someone did; maybe it was a heart attack. But in retrospect we know now that it was highly unlikely that people were “dying in tents” from Covid-19, as we were told. Saying so made it parallel the false China story: people just dropped dead from Covid-19.

    Since I point this things out I’m naturally an enemy of the state and promoting baseless conspiracy theories, and if I were anyone who mattered I’d be attacked viciously too, just like Dr. Scott Atlas was. So no, not actually a new sedition act, but the effect is the same.

    The truth is coming out, and the backlash will be severe. There are too many good people in this country who won’t allow this to continue. They’re mad as hell and they’re saying, “never again.”

  2. Sedition: “overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that tends toward incitement of discontent or rebellion against the established order.”

    The above describes the whole ‘systematic racism’ and ‘white supremacy’ meme. Using this definition, most of Vermont’s Legislature and Burlington’s City Council, should be jailed.

  3. John,

    Thanks for the warning about the dangers of the crime of sedition something Vermont Congressman Mathew Lyon who in the early 1800’s was jailed for sedition and who won re-election from inside his jail cell.

    What was not clear from your article was if this was anything more than talk on from some on the far left or if any bills have been actually been introduced or what their status. Keep us in the loop.

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