Friday, March 04, 2005

On Treasonous Blogging

What other people see as the glimmerings of spring, law professors see as the height of law review submission season. That does not mean "the time when law professors suffer the oppression of law reviews." It means "the time when law professors send their papers to law reviews in hopes of having them accepted for publication." The oppression comes later, when the law review tries to pry away your copyright and the law review's editors start butchering your prose.

This time around, I shipped off Treason, Technology, and Freedom of Expression [PDF format]. Here's the abstract:
The power to punish treason against the U.S. conflicts with the First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press. Far from a question of mere theory, that conflict threatens to chill public dissent to the War on Terrorism. The government has already demonstrated its willingness to punish treasonous expression. After World War II, the United States won several prosecutions against citizens who had engaged in propaganda on behalf of the Axis powers. Today, critics of the War on Terrorism likewise face accusations of treason. Under the law of treasonous expression developed following World War II, those accusations could credibly support prosecutions. Any such prosecutions could win convictions, moreover, unless courts narrow the law of treasonous expression to satisfy the First Amendment. That potential clash between the power to punish treason and our freedoms of expression has, thanks to advances in communications technologies, become a matter of everyday concern.

In terms of abstract doctrine, the law of treason condemns anyone who owes allegiance to the U.S., who adheres to U.S. enemies, and who gives them aid and comfort by an overt act to which two witnesses testify. As courts have applied that doctrine, however, it threatens any citizen or resident of the U.S. who publicly expresses disloyal sentiments. The Internet has made it cheap, easy, and dangerous to publish such sentiments. It hosts many an expression that an eager prosecutor could cite both as proof of adherence to U.S. enemies—a subjective state of mind—and as proof of an overt act giving them aid and comfort—an objective fact to which any two of the expression’s readers could testify. Even if no prosecutions for treason arise, the alarmingly broad yet ill-defined reach of the law of treason threatens to unconstitutionally chill innocent dissent. This paper details the scope of the law of treasonous expression, explains why technology threatens to bring that law into conflict with the First Amendment, and suggests a way to safely separate the power to punish treason from our freedoms of expression.
Blogging largely inspired the paper. Not my blogging, mind you, but rather blogging that other people had done and that I had read. I didn't start blogging until well after the paper was in a late draft.

Per the usual process, I sent Treason, Technology, and Freedom of Expression out to several dozen of the top law reviews. If none of them nibbles, I'll work my way down the chain. When and if I finally get a publication offer, I'll try to shop the paper back up, calling higher-ranked law reviews to request expedited review. So it goes in the wacky, madcap world of legal academia. Wish me luck!

5 comments:

Andrew Bailey said...

This seems odd to me--in legal academia, is it common practice to submit a paper to more than one journal at once?

In my field (philosophy), this is a big no-no. This has the effect, as you might guess, of making it that much more difficult to get published (submit to Journal A, six months later, get a rejection, submit to B, wait six months...)

Tom W. Bell said...

Wrathius: You see now why I said "madcap"! Sure enough, legal academics (or, indeed, anyone writing for student-edites law reviews) can make concurrent submissions. And, yes, we law profs know that our colleagues in other fields do things differently (often to their chagrin, as you hint). But there is a salient difference: We are writing for student-edited journals, rather than peer-edited ones. I won't spell out all the ramifications of that distinctions, here, as I think you can probably work them out, yourself.

Anonymous said...

Good luck Tom. I actually read through about half of your paper. Alas, I'm not a number one fan. He/she would have read the whole thing. I tried doing that with Glen's "Rational Choice Hermaneutics" and " A Search Theory of Suicide" and boy, was i proud that I got through at least half or 1/3, especially "Rational Choice Hermaneutics." I found it difficult to fully comprehend since I was not really familiar with the concept, although I knew what "hermaneutics" was.

Your paper wasn't too long since your footnote section was practically half of every page. How long does a paper like this take to write? I assume that it can potentially take forever depending on research, research data, and whatever else.

sk

Tom W. Bell said...

SK: How *could* you be my number one fan? Impossible! I've got a *Mom* for that. Still, if you even read *part* of the paper, I can thank you for joining a *very* exclusive club. Moreso, even, as you didn't call it, "Rubbish."

It's not so tough to write a law review article once you get the routine down. I'd say that one took, oh, 100 hours or so.

Anonymous said...

100 hours! I just fainted!!