Brandon Raub: Not A Martyr, But Still A Victim

I’m going to have to disagree with my colleague Kevin on the Brandon Raub case. Sure, I get that he is no martyr. (First of all, he isn’t dead. Yet.) But neither is there any cause for the man to picked up by the FBI and involuntarily put in custody for “psychiatric evaluation.”

We all know the comments on his Facebook wall. Kevin listed some of them. Yes, they looked like Mr. Raub was deeply frustrated with this country, and they were, I admit, a bit threatening. (“I’m coming for some heads,” “There will be justice,” etc.). But is that grounds for arresting him? I find that very doubtful.

If my mother had posted what she had said to me on a daily basis as a kid to a Facebook wall, she would no doubt be arrested. That’s because, half the time I did something very stupid and aggravating, she would shout “I’m going to kill you!” Now that’s a statement many would take as one of intent to kill. But did my mother ever intend to murder me? Of course not. (She might say otherwise, but really, she never wanted to hurt me.) Yet some overzealous law enforcement officer or child protective services agent might have seen that and had my mother locked up, for really no good reason.

Proactive policing is not as great an idea as it sounds. It may seem wise to put people in jail or send them for treatment before they could possibly harm others, but think about what this would mean. It would essentially require the government to monitor all our communications, then arbitrarily imprison us against our will whenever we said something it thought was bad, based on its own arbitrary and ever changing standards. It would make a mockery of the First Amendment, effectively prohibiting free speech (“Don’t say X or they will lock you up.”) This is actually not too far from what we have today, with the PATRIOT Act and NDAA indefinite detention provisions. I don’t see libertarians praising any of that.

There’s really no good way to do proactive policing without trampling on civil liberties. That’s because you can’t know what someone is actually going to do, and the law does not punish thoughts, only actions. That’s why so many are against hate crime legislation. If you think about it, the whole thing is Minority Report in real life, and we know how that turned out.

So no, Raub is not a martyr, but by the same token, police should not have arrested him based on his Facebook wall posts. I know the Constitution is usually ignored in this day and age, but gorramit, we have a First Amendment protecting our right to free speech, and we must honor it. Throwing people in custody and then giving them faux psychological “evaluations” is neither right nor American. It’s downright Soviet.

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