Scammer and disgraced initiative purveyor Tim Eyman has justifiably been taking a lot of flak during the past thirty-six hours for making irresponsible jokes about the coronavirus pandemic and urging his followers to join him in disregarding Governor Jay Inslee’s recent prohibition on large public gatherings.
“Let’s stick our finger in the eye of Jay Inslee: 251 is the # of patriots I hope will join me @ Oak Harbor today. I’m bringing a six-pack of Corona!” Eyman blustered in an email sent Saturday morning to his network of Republican PCO backers.
After I denounced Eyman’s missive here on the Cascadia Advocate, it caught the attention of The Seattle Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and The Stranger. The Stranger’s Christopher Frizzelle kindly both linked to and excerpted the post.
It appears that Eyman also took some flak from people within his own party, because last night he sent out another email that attempted to explain and justify his irresponsible behavior and terrible comments.
That email — very different in tone from the email that Eyman sent on Saturday morning — contained the following commentary. Here it is in full:
We’re facing 2 crises: 1. the Coronavirus & 2. the government’s reaction to it.
Saturday’s update and meet-and-greet in Oak Harbor were intended to provoke a needed debate.
I am very concerned.
All of us — including myself — are scrambling to keep track of the federal, state, and local governments’ list of can’s and cannot’s.
They keep changing on an almost hourly basis.
Anytime so many governments are mandating so many constantly evolving restrictions, citizens need to be especially vigilant so the government doesn’t make a bad situation worse.
“The price of freedom is eternal vigilence.” That sure fits this.
Coronavirus is something we’re all very concerned about — there are people who have died from it and will die from it and all of us mourn for them and their families. And we’re grateful to those heroic people in the health care field who are doing their absolute best. Coronavirus is rightfully getting a lot of attention.
But what’s not getting the attention it deserves is the government’s reaction to it. It’s something all of us need to recognize: there are legions of examples in our nation’s history where the government — federal, state, and local — made a bad situation worse and basic constitutional rights are trampled.
During World War II, Japanese Americans were put in internment camps. During the late 60’s, there was the House Committee on Un-American Activities and Hollywood’s “black list”.
After 9–11, the federal government imposed restrictions that were not consistent with our US Constitution.
There are innumerable examples.
At the meet-and-greet in Oak Harbor yesterday, I talked about this and it was very well received.
I highlighted my own personal history that influences my convictions: when we were doing our local initiatives to let the voters decide on red-light ticketing cameras in 2010 and 2011 — the voters sided with us every time. The government always said it was about safety, but voters recognized it was also a loss of their liberty.
During those campaigns, I often cited the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
The First Amendment guarantees the citizenry the right to peaceably assemble. I am very concerned that during fear-intensive situations like this that the government infringes on basic constitutional rights without sufficient questioning.
And when that happens, I’ve seen the media is often silent or even complicit. It’s important that when the government infringes on basic constitutional rights and the press falls down on the job, there needs to be people with the courage to question it, challenge it, debate it. Jay Inslee did not “suggest” the suspension of the First Amendment, he ordered it. That is deeply disturbing to me.
Nothing wrong with the government saying — we strongly urge citizens to do the following — that’s fine.
But using the full weight and authority and power of the government to order the end of political discourse, the suspension of worship, these are basic rights that do not need to be and should not be sacrificed without greater discussion and debate.
I firmly believe we can have a society that values both safety and liberty but only if you elect people who are committed to both.
My update on Saturday and the meet-and-greet in Oak Harbor were intended — and they’ve succeeded — in provoking a needed debate.
“No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.” Douglas MacArthur.
People need to be concerned, not just about COVID-19, but also the government’s continued escalation of restrictions.
It’s a serious question: what’s next?
These are very trying times that we are facing right now. I ask you to join me in prayer. I ask you to join me in asking questions that aren’t being asked. I am very concerned, but I am also very certain that together, we can overcome these challenges without sacrificing what makes America so special.
My best to you and your families.
I do understand the concern expressed in this commentary, but it was wrong and extremely irresponsible of Eyman to attempt to instigate a debate by putting lives at risk. Eyman should have canceled his meet and greet and offered to engage with his followers online, which is actually something he already does.
(Once upon a time, Eyman used to avoid social media; saying it just wasn’t for him; but now he can barely stay off of Facebook.)
If Eyman had canceled his Whidbey Island meet and greet and instead posted a Facebook video outlining his concerns about Governor Inslee’s executive orders, he would have been modeling responsible behavior for his followers.
Eyman chose instead to convey the impression that he considers the coronavirus pandemic a hoax and encouraged people to engage in unsafe, risky behavior. That’s inexcusable. A person seeking high office should know better.
Sadly, Eyman does not care about the well-being of others as he claimed in the message above. What he does care about is getting publicity and making a profit, and his long track record of lying and lawbreaking proves it.
It is rare — exceedingly rare — that Tim Eyman ever offers a thoughtful commentary on anything. Most of what comes out of his mouth and email account are lies and fabrications. So it’s good to see that he is at least capable of contributing a more contemplative take on an issue of public concern.
If Eyman had led with this, he would have gotten a very different response. Contrary to what he seems to think, it is not necessary to behave badly and engage in juvenile name calling and taunts to attract attention.
With regards to Governor Inslee’s executive orders, I emphatically disagree with Eyman that the Governor is suspending the First Amendment.
Inslee is using his lawful authority (see RCW 43.06.220) to protect people — and specifically, his constituents — during a public health crisis.
It was necessary for Inslee to issue the orders because merely “suggesting” best practices would not have been sufficient to save lives. Time was, and remains, of the essence. Acting on the advice of scientists, Inslee moved to ensure that social distancing best practices would not be implemented in a patchwork manner, but instead uniformly, because that is the only approach that yields results.
None of Inslee’s orders suspends the First Amendment, as Eyman argues. Public gatherings haven’t been outlawed, but rather curtailed. It is still lawful for people to peaceably assemble to address their government for a redress of grievances.
And in fact, there are technological ways of assembling in large groups that do not involve being in close physical proximity to lots of other people. Such activities are not restricted in any way by Governor Inslee’s orders. The Governor’s aim is to ensure that as few people as possible will get sick and die from coronavirus.
If you contract the virus and lose your life, you will not be able to enjoy any of the liberties that the First Amendment affords you, because you won’t be alive.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those are the most important of the inalienable rights guaranteed to all by the Creator, according to our nation’s Founders, who explicitly mentioned them in the Declaration of Independence. (The Declaration preceded the Constitution by over a decade.)
Life comes first!
It is certainly true, as Eyman stated in his commentary, that there have been times in our history when people’s civil liberties were infringed upon in the name of safety. This isn’t one of those times… at least not yet.
Thus far, the orders that have been issued by Inslee and other governors around the country are sensible and designed to protect people’s liberties by ensuring they don’t get sick and die waiting for medical care in overloaded hospitals.
Importantly, Governor Inslee has repeatedly stated that he expects voluntary compliance with his orders, and that there will not be a punitive enforcement effort intended to round up and penalize people who disregard the orders.
Sheriffs and police departments, for their part, have explicitly advised people not to call 911 or even the nonemergency line to report individuals like Eyman who attempt to organize public gatherings exceeding two hundred and fifty people.
Our state government’s focus is protection and education, just as it should be. Past generations anticipated that there might be times of emergency when regular order would need to be interrupted to ensure the well-being of the people.
This is such a time of emergency and the Governor is wielding his emergency powers appropriately. If he hadn’t issued the orders he did, he’d be getting criticized for failing to act during a rapidly unfolding pandemic.
I also understand that as a libertarian, Eyman is distrustful of authority and not enamored with the idea of governments making decisions on the basis of values like protection and mutual responsibility, since those are not his values.
But they are the values Washington State was founded upon.
As I noted above, there have definitely been other times when emergencies have been used to justify actions that were not in Americans’ best interest.
For example, I happen to agree with Eyman that after September 11th, Congress and President Bush enacted laws that were supposedly aimed at protecting the United States, but in reality undermined our civil liberties. My team and I at NPI oppose the Patriot Act, for example, and we do not think it should be reauthorized, unlike the majority in the House that voted to extend it this week.
I was surprised that Eyman brought up the internment of Japanese-Americans (instigated by an executive order), as that is not a travesty that we usually hear many in right wing circles express any sorrow or concern over.
What we typically hear instead from the right wing is that America is an exceptional, great country that is always right and free of blemish.
Which is a fiction. That is not the story of our country.
Many of the shameful civil liberties abuses in our country’s history were perpetrated following attacks on America, such as in the examples above.
If our state and country had just been attacked, I would share Eyman’s stated concern (which, unfortunately, I can’t be sure is truly sincere, as Eyman lies so effortlessly) about the potential for infringement of our rights and freedoms, because we’ve commonly seen that during our history.
But the emergency we’re in now is a public health crisis and the enemy is not a nation state or a shadowy terrorist group, but rather a virus.
To beat the virus — SARS-CoV‑2 — we have to come together by agreeing to stay apart. Governor Inslee is using his authority to galvanize the behavioral changes needed to ensure that the pandemic does not get exponentially worse.
Tim Eyman is free to disagree and tell us how he thinks he could do the job better. The First Amendment gives him the freedom to be an armchair quarterback. But as I said above, it’s unacceptable that he is urging people to put their and others’ lives at risk by openly flouting Governor Inslee’s directives, which are based on sound science and mirror directives being issued by other governors.
I think it’s telling that Eyman did not explain how he’d go about responding to this coronavirus pandemic in his lengthy message from last night.
Instead, he talked about prayer, and he asked his followers to pray with him.
Prayer is wonderful, but it’s not a substitute for public policy.