According to one Christopher Lamb, Kansas University professor David Guth is simply guilty of choosing "the wrong shooting to criticize the NRA." What's more, insists Lamb, Guth -- who, you may recall, wished damnation and death on NRA members and their children, respectively -- was a victim of the breezy nature of Twitter, which is prone to "misinterpretations" because of its "140-character" limit.
Lamb, a journalism professor at Indiana University-Indianapolis, made those arguments at the liberal Huffington Post site Sunday afternoon (h/t Dan Gainor; emphases mine):
Story Continues Below Ad ↓
Guth chose the wrong shooting to criticize the NRA. It is unlikely that even strict gun laws would have prevented the Navy Yard killings. The gunman, Aaron Alexis, who reportedly suffered from mental illness, used a shotgun that he bought legally after passing a federal background check. While federal law prohibits the mentally ill from buying guns, Alexis was never declared mentally ill by a judge.
The NRA characterized Guth's tweet as "hate speech." The organization said that he was calling for violence against the NRA, its members, and their children. Guth did not say that. He was inferring that the NRA and its members would think differently about gun laws if their children were among the victims of a mass shooting.
Such misinterpretations are common in the 140-character world of Twitter, often provoking hostile responses, which then provoke even more hostile responses. On Saturday, CNN published an article called, "Twitter: The Angriest Site on the Internet?" that said "anger, like a potent virus, spreads the fastest and most widely of all" emotions.
This explains, in part, the level of outrage directed against Guth, who has received a barrage of physical threats on his Twitter and email accounts.
The response to Guth's statement demonstrates once again that Second Amendment zealots believe that the amendment supersedes everything else in the Constitution. Guth's attack on the NRA may have been unnecessarily provocative, but it was protected by the First Amendment. Guth's First Amendment rights are no less sacrosanct than a gun owner's Second Amendment rights.
Of course Guth has a First Amendment right to say what he did, but by the same token the rest of the country has the same right to publicly call him out on his speech. And Lamb (pictured at right, photo via his IUPUI profile page) conveniently left this out, but, confronted by Campus Reform reporter Katherine Timpf with an opportunity to walk back his hateful tweets, Guth actually doubled down, telling Timpf, "Hell no, hell no, I do not regret that Tweet.... I don't take it back one bit.”
What's more, while Guth is a state employee paid by the taxpayer, it's not entirely unclear that his being fired or at the very least disciplined for offensive speech would constitute a violation of his First Amendment rights.
Imagine, for example, if a county courthouse clerk who registered voters and maintained voter rolls spewed forth the sort of things Guth said. It would be inexcusable to allow that individual to continue his job without any discipline, given the public trust he's given to treat all citizens equally, regardless of political views or partisan affiliation.
Prof. Guth is not facing jail time or fines or any measure of government coercion to silence him. He is facing the ire of politically-engaged citizens who are calling him out on his hatred. Yes, threats of violence against Guth are equally inexcusable and should be condemned. I condemn them as do all sensible conservatives and gun-rights advocates.
The fact remains, however, that when a liberal journalism professor pops off a few proverbial rounds on Twitter, it's telling that other journalism profs rush to his rescue.
Let's hope Lamb's defense of Guth is an anomaly, and not indicative of the minds molding future journalists in the nation's J-schools.