Anonymous political speech is one of our most cherished rights

Espressopundit’s Greg Patterson has weighed in on our blog post about Chuck Coughlin, suggesting that anonymous blogging should be prohibited. While we greatly respect Greg, we kindly beg to differ, “adult supervision” would curtail one of our most important rights. One of the principles this country was founded upon was free speech – it’s why it was protected in the First Amendment. The Founding Fathers published some of their greatest writings, the Federalist Papers, under anonymous pseudonyms. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay all wrote articles under the pseudonym “Publius,” named after Publius Valerius who founded the Roman Empire (One of Sonoran Alliance’s anonymous contributors posts under the pseudonym “Publius”) The Federalist Papers were written to support ratification of the Constitution, and its writers needed the anonymity to protect themselves from political retaliation. An “Anti-Federalist Papers” was written in response by “Brutus.” Later on, the U.S. Supreme Court looked to the Federalist Papers to help decide controversial cases.

The Supreme Court affirmed that anonymous speech is protected in Talley v. California, a 1960 case where a Los Angeles ordinance prohibiting anonymous pamphlets from being distributed was struck down.

It’s not often that the right and left agree on anything, but when it comes to free speech, the ACLU and the newspapers agree with us on protecting this important right. On Sunday, the Arizona Republic’s Political Insider mentioned the Sonoran Alliance post about Coughlin, and called out Coughlin for hypocritical talk about playing nice by repeating a sentence he’d written to columnist Laurie Roberts telling her she was such a poor writer she shouldn’t be writing.

We think that Shane does a great job of monitoring errors and giving the opposing side room to dispute posts by contributors – in fact he’s been pretty open about letting anyone become a contributor.  And Chuck Coughlin’s supporters have certainly had plenty of room in the comments to get their defenses (and personal attacks) across.

A Republican governor advocating for a tax increase is significant and must be debated in the public sphere. To try and shut down debate over this reeks of the government trying to control the press and our right to free speech. Furthermore, Coughlin has failed to prove that any of the accusations in the original post were false. Coughlin is arguably the most powerful lobbyist in the state, and because of it no one dares to criticize him without being afraid of losing their job or other negative ramifications.

Patterson himself runs stories from anonymous sources. The New Times, which has also attacked Sonoran Alliance for its anonymous bloggers, frequently relies on anonymous sources for entire articles. And as Patterson fairly points out, many of the commenters on his blog are anonymous.

Sonoran Alliance stands as a defender of free speech, and will not cave in to internet censorship. Nor to Coughlin’s friends and employees attacking us in the comments or on other blogs. The Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their graves.


  1. I think the big difference between Alexander Hamilton and Chewie Shofir is that as the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton understood the meaning of the word “revenue”.

  2. What is truly idiotic with this post is the Greg nowhere suggests that anonymous blogging should be prohibited.

  3. Todd,

    If it doesn’t have one major, obvious factual error that undercuts the entire point of the post – well then, it wouldn’t be a post by Chewie Shofir.

  4. Thank you Klute and Todd for pointing out that glaring fact. Typical Chewie. Keep it up there big guy.

  5. Jeff Weninger says

    I greatly respect Espresso Pundit and Sonoran Alliance. I believe that it is your right to post anonymously if you choose, but let’s not make it out to be noble or heroic.
    Come on, it’s one thing to weigh in and throw out written bombs from an anonymous bunker. It’s quite another thing to compare yourself to the FOUNDING FATHERS while you do it.

    Jeff Weninger

  6. This article says that conservative sites are having to shut down their comments section due to the left trashing them so much and creating the impression there is more infighting than there really is. At least some of the sonoran alliance commenters like Klute admit they’re on the left. It’s unfortunate that there are so many anonymous commenters on here who pretend this is about Republican infighting, when in reality it is about ONE lobbyist who has deserted Republican principles. The left would like everyone to think this tax increase issue has divided the Republican Party, but I suspect most of the commenters defending Coughlin are coming from his friends on the left.

  7. Todd,

    If espresso pundit isn’t calling for a halt to anonymous blogging, then what does he mean by “adult supervision?”


  8. Jeff C,

    I think what Greg is referring to is that anonymous posting be monitored for factual accuracy.

    When Chewie says something like the city of Phoenix spent 35 million to work the All-Star Game, and uses an article to back up this statement that says the opposite – it is time for someone to exercise editorial control.

    It borders on libel that Chewie accused Chuck Coughlin of having Gov. Brewer push a sales tax to reward Chuck’s clients, especially when attributed to “inside information” (one wonders if this is the same “inside information” about Ed Hermes that was barfed up here back in October). If Chuck cared enough, it wouldn’t take long for a posse of lawyers to ride roughshod through here and 1. find out who Chewie is and 2. rain hell down upon the organizers of SA.

    Like you said, my biases are well known. If there is internal warfare in the GOP, all the better for my side. But there comes a point where someone has to own up for their mistakes and be called to account. In journalistic parlance, if your source burns you, you burn your source. And saying “Oh there’s more one than one person posting under Chewie Shofir” does not cut it as an acceptable reason for the fact-challenged postings here.

  9. Klute,

    You can attack the posts all you want but without providing any real evidence that they’re inaccurate, you’re doing nothing but smearing yourself. I remember that post about the city of phoenix spending $35 million on the allstar game, and I remember sonoran alliance asked the city of phoenix to provide the actual numbers if that number wasn’t accurate. Did they? Nope. Why not? Probably had something to hide, would not surprise me in the least that they’d gotten caught with their hand in the cooky jar and really spent something close to that amount.

    I strongly suspect some of the writers for this site ARE lawyers, due to the legal jargon used in some of their posts. I don’t think you give them enough credit, you attack them personally for being bad writers but don’t provide any actual factual basis to back up your attacks.


  10. Jeff,

    Because the City of Phoenix didn’t have them at the time Chewie wrote that asinine post. I *did* contact the Phoenix PIO, spoke with David Rameriez there, and the amount was closer to $1 million spent (so for $1 million spent the city took in $35 mil – pretty damn good return on the investment, which was also anti-thetical to Chewie’s argument). Of course, I wasn’t impatient, waited to get my facts straight and so on.

    A better question is why hasn’t Sonoran Alliance followed up? Why hasn’t Chewie doggedly pursued this injustice? Why, after making a hack-n-slash post, riddled with error and innuendo, did Sonoran Alliance post the actual numbers?

    Because it would punch a massive hole in one of their arguments. It would offer evidence that the Phoenix city government isn’t completely inept. And that can’t be allowed now can it.

    And as for the Chuck Coughlin thing, I suspect he knows who made the post and that person probably isn’t worth going after.

  11. And for the record, when I spoke with David at the PIO, I got the impression as though no one had contacted them from SA at all – that the post in question was driven from an AZ Republic article and the misunderstanding of the word “revenue”.

    Of course, that’s just my impression. If anyone wants to chime in here with their version of what happened, be my guest.

  12. John Galt says

    Chewie, you just got intellectually b**ch slapped by Patterson over at EP. I’d stay down if I were you.

  13. The First Amendment applies to government actions-not bloggers. You don’t need to be a lawyer to figure that one out. What Patterson is saying is that its much harder to mak

  14. Chewie is Chewy says

    Is Chewie, in fact, Chuck Coughlin?

    Let’s call it Political Munchausen Syndrome.

  15. Klute, you are absolutely correct. It was blatant misreporting and lack of reading comprehension.
    Don’t forget Chewie’s air-tight inside info about prayer lunches being stopped at a state cafeteria. Never mind that the location in question was managed by a private company and he completely had his facts wrong.

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