Patti (a professor) and her husband (a former professor) both thought I had libeled their daughter (a student) by expressing that opinion in a private email. They were wrong about that. They also thought their daughter?s email (the one that prompted my response) blaming the attacks of 9/11 on the United States was fully protected by the U.S. Constitution. They were right about that.
The second phone call would be to the university attorney. After resisting for weeks, I decided to capitulate to Patti?s demand that I allow the university to examine all of the emails I sent that week in order to search for additional evidence of ?libel? against her daughter. This would involve going into my email account as well as examining the university?s back-up tapes. It would also require reading some of my private email correspondence.
All of this came about because a leftist family thought that anti-American rhetoric was free speech while criticism of anti-American rhetoric was ?libel.? And they were threatening to sue.
But before I got to the phone the next day, it rang and I answered. It was a friend of mine who was active in the local Republican Party. I told him about throwing in the towel despite my previous attempts to stop the forced examination of my email account. Even though the State Attorney General was involved and was resisting the efforts to forcibly read my emails (there were serious concerns over the precedent it would set), I was still worried about the impact a lawsuit might have upon my career. That was why I was ready to capitulate.
But my friend told me I was making a big mistake. He predicted that the case would soon break out in the nation media. He also predicted that the case would blow up in the faces of Patti and her family. And he predicted a black eye for the university if they actually went into the account without my consent.
But that would require standing firm. So I changed my mind again and decided to stand firm.
Eventually, my vocal objections to reading my personal emails were, indeed, vetoed by the university. They decided to go into the account. Then they turned over detailed records of who I had been communicating with ? including the personal email addresses of everyone I talked to via email for an entire week. Those records were given to Patti and her family. And, naturally, no evidence of ?libel? emerged.
Shortly thereafter, a firestorm of controversy broke out. It was all made worse by the fact that administrators at my school lied about what had really happened. They lied (to columnist John Leo, no less) saying that my emails were never examined and then they lied (to scores of people who emailed the school on my behalf) saying that they never turned over any records to my accusers. Then, they paid a dear price for it.
After the story got mention in U.S. News & World Report, the Washington Times (and on NPR, Rush, and Neal Boortz), I felt a sense of vindication. It was also fun to appear live on Hannity & Colmes to discuss the case. It was even more fun when Alan Colmes took my side and tried to get the ACLU involved.
Isn?t it funny how that all worked out? The little communist family tried to sue me, to destroy my reputation, and to end my career. But I ended up getting a book deal, a column, and speaking contracts instead. Rather than losing my house and my guns, I now have a bigger house and more guns than ever before.
I usually don?t like to gloat, unless I?m dealing with communists. Then, I really don?t mind gloating at all.
And, today, what has happened to the poor young America-hater who was ?libeled?? Where are her totalitarian parents? Does anyone ever call them to get their perspectives on free speech issues? Is her daddy still an unemployed communist trying to rebuild the Berlin Wall in his infinite spare time?
I don?t know the answer to all these questions but I suspect that the family is still hiding under a rock somewhere, not unlike Osama Bin Laden. But the more important question is this: What would have happened to me, had I made those two cowardly phone calls?
If you do not do that which you know is right, you will never know what kind of happiness and peace of mind you might have attained in this life. So, please, take the time to re-read ?Life and how to live it, Part I.? I?ll be writing Part III by the time you finish reading this sentence.