Hal Turner Charged With Advocating Violence—But Who Was He Really Working For?

"Hard Cases make Bad Law". So goes the old legal adage (which dates back much farther than Oliver Wendell Holmes, who is often given credit for it). Any attempt to reconcile banning political speech with the First Amendment is bad law. So the best way to push Hate Crimes/Hate Speech totalitarianism is with a "hard case".

Accordingly, without one readily available, the Federal Government created their own "hard case" in the shape of Hal Turner—the White Supremacist blogger/web radio show host /FBI Informant.

Turner was arrested on state charges on June 3 for making threats against two Connecticut lawmakers who were investigating whether the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport needed to register as a lobbyist because of its efforts to block proposed legislation that would have given lay members more control over church finances.

Perhaps more notably, Turner was rearrested on federal charges June 24 for advocating violence against Federal judges Richard Posner, William Bauer, and Frank Easterbrook. After these three judges upheld a handgun ban, Turner wrote:

"Let me be the first to say this plainly: These judges deserve to be killed. Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions,"

Turner then helpfully provided information on where to find the judges.

Turner is virtually unique among those on the "far right" for his promotion of violence. While La Raza, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Anti Defamation League, and the rest of the usual suspects claim that patriotic immigration reform leads to violence against immigrants, they never can find any actual examples, outside of maybe a lone message board post.

But there was always Hal Turner. Thus the ADL was able to quote him saying: "Slowly but surely we are headed toward the solution that I have been advocating for years: KILL ILLEGAL ALIENS AS THEY CROSS INTO THE U.S. When the stench of rotting corpses gets bad enough, the rest will stay away."

No one that Turner threatened was actually harmed. The husband and father of Judge Joan Lefkow, who ruled against the "World Church of the Creator" in a trademark infringement case, were murdered by a disgruntled former plaintiff whose malpractice suit Lefkow dismissed—completely unrelated to Turner or the World Church of the Creator. Nonetheless, Turner took credit for inciting the murder, and plenty of the professional anti-racist watchdog groups made note of it as well.

But because of his extreme and violent rhetoric, Turner is the perfect target for those wanting to criminalize right wing speech in the United States. Thus the Washington Post ran a featured article on Turner: Blogger's Case Could Test the Limits of Political Speech. [by Peter Slevin, August 16, 2009]

After mentioning the details of the case, the Post's Slevin put it in the broader context of the supposed rash of politically incorrect speech:

"Turner's case is likely to test the limits of political speech at a time when incendiary talk is proliferating on broadcast outlets and the Internet, from the microphones of well-known commentators to the keyboards of anonymous netizens. President Obama has been depicted as a Nazi and slain Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller as 'Tiller the killer.' On guns and abortion, war and torture, taxes and now health care, the commentary feeds off pools of anger that ebb and flow with the zeitgeist."

Slevin then dutifully quoted Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center—$PLC to VDARE.COM—piously describing it as a group that "tracks extremists and hate speech". And he noted that the "line between free speech and criminality is a fine one".

Twenty paragraphs into the story, Slevin mentioned—almost as an irrelevant sidenote—that

"Turner…worked at times as an FBI informant. Although [Federal Prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald's office says he provided occasional information on right-wing extremists, [defense attorney Michael] Orozco said he was recruited as an 'agent provocateur to get leftists to act in public against him and reveal themselves to the FBI.'"

There has been curiously little interest in the news that Turner was an FBI informant. Thus when the Los Angeles Times editorialized in defense of Turner's right to free speech (August 22), his career as an FBI informant was completely omitted.

And this was not the first revelation that Turner was an FBI informant. In 2008, anonymous hackers broke into his computer and published e-mails between Turner and his federal handlers. On July 1, 2007, Turner told his handlers: "I wrote an opinion piece on my site today in which I opine about 46 US Senators [who just voted for amnesty] who I believe should be removed from office [violently] on July 4 for betraying their constituents and this nation." After somebody responded by saying he would kill Russ Feingold in response to the piece, he gloated to his handlers: "Once again, my fierce rhetoric has served to flush out a possible crazy."

After the e-mails were posted, Turner immediately shut down his "Hal Turner Show" website. The FBI refused to comment, so there's a very good likelihood that this is true—as even the $PLC acknowledged. We will no doubt find out as the trials move forward.

If Turner is an agent provocateur, he did a very bad job of it. No one has actually taken up his many calls to arms.

Call me paranoid, but I don't think that was his actual function.

I had the misfortune of meeting Turner briefly in 2006, at an American Renaissance conference. I had not heard of him before, and when he started talking about a race war, I quickly left. I doubt he provoked anyone to violence, but the SPLC and Searchlight Magazine gleefully reported that he had attended the conference (which was open to the public), thus smearing American Renaissance editor Jared Taylor.

This can be called "guilt by audience association".

Turner also seems to have been particularly fond of advocating violence against federal judges—the same ones responsible for interpreting the First Amendment. But when the judges' own lives and the lives of their families are potentially at stake, these "hard cases" become even harder.

Turner's outlandish statements were perfect for the campaign to create "bad laws" that criminalize opposition to immigration and other patriotic causes. Now it appears that many were made at the behest of the Federal Government. And who else?

Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist.