Floyd Abrams on flash mobs and First Amendment rights Flash mobs--large groups that assemble by means of text message--sometimes act dangerously or lawlessly. "In doing so, they have raised difficult policy and legal issues, including questions relating to the role of the First Amendment," writes lawyer and author Floyd Abrams in The Wall Street Journal. Recently, mobs have beaten passersby and robbed stores. Official responses to the trend vary. In Cleveland, the city council passed a law banning "improper use of social media to violate ordinances on disorderly conduct, public intoxication and unlawful congregation by promoting illegal flash mob activity." During the British riots, David Cameron considered censoring social network sites. "But by focusing on the newer technological means of communication and not on the illegal conduct and its causes, they miss the point that it is not criminal to meet, let alone to plan to do so--but to engage in criminal conduct." The Cleveland mayor realized this and vetoed the proposed law. But the legality can become ambiguous. In San Francisco, the BART public transit system heard of a planned disruption to their service by groups organizing themselves by cell phone, so they disabled the underground fiber optic network. The plan worked, but the ACLU and others criticized the group for violating the liberties of all BART passengers. "As the proposed Cleveland statute illustrates, barring all people from engaging in constitutionally protected speech, even for a limited time in a limited space, raises troubling First Amendment issues," writes Abrams. "There will be more."
Lynne Steuerle Schofield on a new kind of 9/11 memorial "Ten years ago Sunday, I lost my mother, Norma Lang Steuerle, when American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon," writes Lynne Steuerle Schofield in The Washington Post. Every year leading up to the anniversary, Schofield says, she is invited to "events aimed at reflection and remembrance of that horrible day." She is grateful to those who organize them and sees them as a way for victims and those still suffering from injuries to heal. "Here's the other side, though, for me anyway: Sometimes I feel I am asked to attend my mother's funeral again and again, year after year." Schofield wonders if this is what her mother, a clinical psychologist, would recommend she do. Instead of the endless remembrances, "would she recommend that, next year on Sept. 11, we try to erect a different kind of memorial to those we lost, by participating in an event aimed at making the world more compassionate, safer and more equitable?" Schofield suggests we spend next year's anniversary emulating what we admired about those lost or raising money for a charity. Schofield says her mother believed it takes hard work to effect change. "If we want the world to be more compassionate, safer and more equitable, we have to work to make that happen." So next year, she says, rather than look back, we should move to the final stage of grief, "acceptance and renewal" and begin to "reflect on what you want the world to be in 10 years and then look forward and act on those reflections."