The Corner

Law & the Courts

Threats v. Buffoonery — The Case of Madonna

At the Washington Examiner, Byron York compiles photo evidence of the freak show that Saturday’s “Women’s March” devolved into — “Women’s March” being the euphemism for the hard-left anti-Trump protest whose organizers excluded pro-life and conservative women. The lowlight of the affair was a rant by the moronic Madonna. Between F-bombs, the aging “Material Girl” proclaimed, “Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that won’t change anything.”

It is perfectly appropriate for critics to highlight this bile and mark it indelibly on Saturday’s protest march. It’s even fine to link it with the rioting at the inauguration the day before as indicative of the modern community-organizer left’s notions of dissent and civility. What would really be poor judgment, though, is to equate the fading pop star’s idiocy with felony violations of law.

There are some reports that the Secret Service will open an investigation. That agency, of course, enforces such laws as section 871 of the federal penal code, which makes it a crime, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, to “knowingly and willfully” threaten murder, kidnapping, or the infliction of bodily harm against the president of the United States.

Even taken at face value, Madonna’s bombast was not such a threat. If you take her seriously (I don’t), the most she said was that she had fantasized about doing President Trump harm but realizes this would be pointless. Would that Madonna had kept all her fantasies to herself lo these many decades. In any event, her remarks were not in the nature of “I’m going to blow up the White House,” or “We should go blow up the White House.”

There is often some subtlety involved in discerning threatening statements or distinguishing them from harmless commentary. If you are called to testify at a trial and a friend says, “You better tell the truth on the witness stand tomorrow,” that is good advice. On the other hand, if Luca Brasi shows up on your doorstep with a baseball bat the night before your testimony and utters the exact same words, that is a threat. The circumstances make all the difference. But c’mon: there has never been anything subtle about Madonna.

The incident would not be worth commenting on except that we are in a time when the Left is cracking down on political speech everywhere – on campus, in the media (including social media), in regulations and resolutions. That is the threat to fret over. I realize that, on a gut level, many will find it appealing to imagine Madonna blubbering her way through a visit from a couple of stern Secret Service agents who warn her to be careful when she speaks about the president. But that is exactly the thing we shouldn’t want.

It’s important that we appreciate, and demonstrate that we appreciate, the difference between real threats or incitements and Madonna’s bloviating. The Secret Service and other law-enforcement agencies should find better uses of their time – like prosecuting to the full extent of the law the thugs whose “protest” during the inauguration ceremonies included threats, assaults, vandalism, torching, and other forms of rioting.