By Charles Randy Sheppard, Esq.
As an attorney for over 40 years, an avid student of history, and a proud American, I have looked with increasing alarm at the state of free expression in our nation. I know well that people, especially free people, will argue and dispute on many important questions, often passionately. This aspect of our common humanity should be embraced, not condemned. But I know also that there must be civil rules of engagement for such disputes if we are not to devolve into anarchy.
I am writing you because I believe those civil rules of engagement—those traditions, legal and cultural, developed over centuries and often at the cost of the blood of martyrs, for resolving inevitable disputes—are being relentlessly destroyed today. I propose to fight to reclaim and protect those traditions and liberties, and I need your help.
You may not be greatly familiar with “doxxing,” i.e., the use of targeted persons’ private and confidential information to disrupt or cause loss of employment, disrupt or destroy personal relationships, harass, or generally incite trepidation in the lives of the targets and those around them. Or with “deplatforming,” i.e., the denial of access to social media (such as Facebook or Twitter), credit card merchant services, and even email services with a view to preventing the expression of certain viewpoints. I, too, was not familiar with these pernicious practices until recently. But these practices are now increasingly widespread and indisputably effective in preventing the robust dialogue on which, in the words of Judge Learned Hand, “we have staked our all.” They, together with the massive surveillance that accompanies them, are similar to the thought-control apparatus of communist and other totalitarian regimes. They are a disgrace to our American traditions—and, I will say, are counterproductive in creating the social harmony they supposedly seek, as they breed fear, anger, distrust, and division. They are the dangerous culmination of decades of tactics for suppressing free expression.
I have joined with other like-minded persons to combat this grave threat to our civil liberties. Together we have created a new nonprofit: the Free Expression Foundation, Inc. (“FEF”). Last August, FEF obtained confirmation of its 501c3 status from the IRS. FEF’s mission is to provide legal, financial, and moral support for persons and entities that have suffered or are at risk of suffering legal, financial, and social harm as a result of the exercise, attempted exercise, or intention to exercise their rights of free expression, including their rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution and analogous rights under international, state, and local charters and laws. Donations to it will be tax deductible.
Our dream is that FEF will be there for victims of vicious, out-of-control doxxing, deplatforming, and other attacks on the exercise of their rights to free expression. With your help, the FEF will:
- Conduct Legal Analysis. We will closely examine the facts and the law and determine if the victim has grounds for legal redress.
- Provide or Obtain Legal Counsel. If our legal analysis determines that the victim has a legal claim, we will get to work to obtain legal counsel for him or her.
- Help with Urgent Expenses. Suddenly losing your job from a smear campaign by the Stalinist Grand Inquisitors can create immense financial stress. We would like FEF to be in a position to provide at least some financial aid to these victims.
- Provide Moral Support. People who find themselves defamed, ostracized, and publicly shamed invariably feel isolated and highly vulnerable. We want the FEF to be able to provide moral support for all such victims.
My friends, the FEF needs your most generous support. You can help us by informing us of victims of un-American, Stalinist thought control. All too often they suffer in isolation and silence, and that must not happen. You can help us with a monetary gift. It takes money to operate an effective organization with the ambitious goals we are setting for the FEF. The Southern Poverty Law Center, with its present net worth of $450 million—growing every year—has been enormously successful in fundraising; many critics see it as essentially a fundraising operation masquerading as a civil rights organization. If the FEF could raise a small fraction of the SPLC’s war chest, it could punch above its weight and have a real impact in preserving those “inestimable privileges,” as Patrick Henry called them, of free expression and honest debate. Indeed, we have a moral duty to preserve these for future generations, as our ancestors preserved them for us.