Annoying Message Week

President Bush has signed into law a bill that would make posting an “annoying” Web message or sending an “annoying” email message without disclosing your identity a federal crime, subject to stiff fines and imprisonment of up to two years.

You know, I find advertising especially annoying. But you don’t see me calling for special forces to axe in the doors to Madison Avenue offices and haul all the copywriters and executives into a gulag.

Beyond the fact that this is in clear violation of the First Amendment, I’m terribly concerned about the implications this will have on free speech. Let’s say that you’re a worker in a sweatshop and you want to expose to other Americans just how grisly the conditions are. Of course, if you use your name, then not only do you potentially get la migra on your ass, but you also get potential retribution from your boss. Because of course, your boss finds the idea of unearthing this reality “annoying.”

This is not the United States I know. And I ask my readers to join me in loudly rejecting this absurd law. Would such magnificent web writers as Miss Snark, OGIC and TMFTML have come to fruition if such a law had been in place, let alone enforced?

For starters, I pronounce this week Annoying Message Week.

I am inviting all Return of the Reluctant readers to send me emails that might be considered “annoying.” If you have an annoying message that you’d like to send to the world, pass it along to ed AT with the subject line “Annoying Message Week.” I will preserve your anonymity and post the messages here as they come in.

Part of what makes the Internet the special place that it is are the crazed freaks who post anonymous screeds that most sensible people find “annoying.” So let’s learn to love the points of view that we despise. Let’s learn to accept the fact that all of us here will be annoyed in one way or another, but that nobody has to go to jail for it.

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