Homeland security comes home

Homeland security comes home
: Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin on the aftermath of the law-school bombing:

…a group of agents from the FBI and ATF came to my house Thursday evening. This was my second interview of the day. They were utterly professional and polite. They did their jobs incredibly well. But the first words out of their mouths threw me for a loop.

“Professor, we’d like to ask you about some of your writings…..”

For a second, just for a second, I thought: “Oh my God, John Ashcroft has finally sent them to round me up for all those anti-Bush op-eds I’ve written.”

And sure enough, one of the agents put a folder on the table in front of me containing a copy of all my recent op-eds, downloaded from the Internet and neatly printed out.

It quickly became clear what was going on. They wanted to know if anything I had written might have enraged someone enough that the person might consider taking his or her frustrations out on the Law School. They asked me which of my recent op-eds had gotten the most virulent responses. They didn’t seem to know about my blog, or indeed, about blogs in general (although perhaps they were just playing possum). I explained what a blog is and how it changes the audience for political writing, how the Internet changes the group of people who can react to what you are saying. They asked for an example, and I mentioned how one of my op-eds criticizing Bush had been picked up by the conservative site NewsMax and distributed to their readers by e-mail and on the Web as part of a special “Insider’s Report.” The idea, apparently, was to stoke up some resentment at what NewsMax called the “most demonic form” of the liberal academy, an “Elitist Yale Law Professor.”