JAIMEE MARSHALL: Leftist brainrot can put you in prison, now

On April 10, Indian-American Pro-Palestinian activist Riddhi Patel let emotions and verbal diarrhea get the best of her when she threatened to kill city council members in Bakersfield, California if they didn't pass a resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza. Patel called the council members horrible people and referenced beliefs in violent revolution before making more explicit threats. Patel menaced, "I hope one day somebody brings the guillotine and kills all of you mother f***ers," and "We'll see you at your house; we'll murder you." At the end of her speech, she was escorted off of the property by security for making violent threats, arrested, and held on $1 million bail.

Patel's hardened image of a revolutionary holding oppressors accountable quickly crumbled like a house of cards when she realized there would be consequences to her Malcolm X LARP. She broke down crying in court upon being charged with eight felony counts of threatening a public official and ten counts of making terroristic threats. She is pleading Not Guilty and is due back in court on April 24. Videos of the stunt went viral on X this past week, with public opinion divided over whether she should be punished to the fullest extent of the law or extended compassion and let go for getting carried away in the heat of the moment. Formerly an economic development coordinator for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CRPE), the organization has since fired her and unequivocally condemned her actions.

During Patel's speech, she lamented the council's implementation of citywide security measures following continuous Pro-Palestinian protests that have gone on for weeks and the council's proposition to increase these further. These include TSA-style checkpoints equipped with metal detectors, physical screenings, baggage checks, and prohibition of certain items. The city council insists these security protocols are unrelated to the recent wave of protests, but Patel took the time to condemn them, whining, "You guys want to criminalize us with metal detectors? We'll see you at your house. We'll murder you." This is, perhaps, the greatest self-own ever recorded. In one fell swoop, Patel managed to damage the Palestinian cause, demonstrate exactly why city buildings need extra security protocols, and unwittingly caused the unanimous passing of the resolution with her temper tantrum..

The ongoing Pro-Palestinian protests in Bakersfield have resulted in disruptions to meetings, shattered glass doors, and arrests for vandalism, possession of a defacement device, trespassing, battery on a peace officer, and resisting arrest. These protestors, along with Patel, are urging the city council to pass a resolution for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The city council has maintained that they have more pressing matters on the local level to attend to and that foreign policy is outside the scope of a city council's duty.

Though the United Liberation Front has condemned Patel's calls for violence, they have previously "vehemently condemned the tactics used by the City Council and the BPD for employing TSA-style checkpoints, using batons and brute force to eject us, and causing a wholly unsafe environment resulting in the unjust arrest of five attendees." After Patel's horrible optics, they had to condemn her statements, but it reveals a glaring error in their philosophy if you're actively campaigning to remove safety procedures while people in your movement exemplify exactly why they were put there in the first place. Radical activists weaponize claims of oppression and excessive police force to disguise true malintent to disrupt the peace.

The First Amendment protects almost all speech except for one particularly dangerous expression — incitement to violence. Many believe that failing to hold Patel accountable for inciting violence against public officials, especially in the face of a heated political climate that sees increasingly radical fringes multiplying online, would be a double standard. The same consideration certainly wasn't given to the January 6 protestors, countless of whom are facing years in prison. Some were charged for making violent threats, others for damaging property, but some were charged just for being there during the storming of the capitol. By what metric can we justify punishing these "insurrectionists" to the fullest extent of the law, with many facing years in prison, but letting Patel off scot-free?

The bar set by the Supreme Court for incitement to violence is, understandably, incredibly high. Two landmark cases have set a precedent for vaguely violent political speech as protected speech: Brandenburg v. Ohio and NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware. There must be an immediate and serious risk to a specific, identifiable person to establish incitement of violence. Clarence Brandenberg, who was a leader of the KKK, held a Klan rally where he was filmed saying, "If our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it's possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken." In 1969, the Supreme Court determined he hadn't committed incitement because the calls to violence were generalized and vague, not targeted to a specific person, and didn't involve a particular plan of action.

Years later, NAACP leader Charles Evers, while speaking at an NAACP rally, encouraged African Americans to boycott racist whites-only businesses. During the rally, he said, "If we catch any of you going in any of them racist stores, we're going to break your damn neck." Again, the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that Evers' speech passed the "Brandenburg test," which protects violent political speech so long as it does not create a specific, immediate roadmap for violence against others. Essentially, the First Amendment protects violent political speech when used in context for hyperbole or frustration but does not pose a palpable premeditated threat.

The question is, does Patel pass this Brandenburg test? If speech is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action AND the speech is likely to incite or produce such action," the speech can be prohibited. Patel specifically isolates the target: the city council members. Then, she provides direct threats: "We'll see you at your house; we'll murder you." That's an identifiable target, suggested location, motivation for action, and instructions on committing harm. What if another impassioned activist who believes they must stand up for Palestinians at all costs were to be moved by Patel's speech and carry out those threats? Would Patel lose any sleep? The courts will have to decide if Patel's speech meets this high standard, but whether they penalize her or not, her charade was morally indefensible and, most importantly, ineffective activism.

Patel perfectly encapsulates the current state of political and foreign affairs discourse, mainly propagated by faux online radicals who talk a big game and then break down when they remember the real world isn't an internet forum. Waltzing into a city council meeting threatening to kill people in some Californian city if they don't singlehandedly bring an end to a conflict in the Middle East that has been raging on for decades is peak out-of-touch leftist advocacy. We currently have a culture of online teenage activists whose brains aren't fully developed, ostracizing and harassing people both on and offline for benign acts like going to McDonald's or Starbucks or just not saying anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at all.

It incentivizes armchair activists to become even more unhinged, radical, and proactive to earn their 'good little activist' stripes. Patel is just following this philosophy to its logical end. The conversation is currently dominated by an army of NPCs parroting the same talking points verbatim in such fervor without having the first clue what they're talking about. Starbucks, for example, does not financially support Israel and doesn't operate any stores in the country at all.

The origins of the Starbucks boycott are a result of the company suing the Starbucks Labor Union for taking it upon themselves to post "Solidarity with Palestine!" on X two days after Israel retaliated against Hamas' attack on Israel. The lawsuit was for trademark infringement; Starbucks claimed that using their company name and similar logo damaged their brand's reputation and angered their customers. Once you repeat a lie often enough, however, it becomes the truth, so we see a mass psychosis of boycotts and protests about something that was never true to begin with.

They become so high on their own moral righteousness that their bloviated egos inspire moments of sheer grandiosity that put clinical narcissists to shame. Not only are they going to liberate the people of Gaza with a worthless suggested ceasefire resolution in a single American city, but any means they use to produce that end is justified. Silence is violence, but threatening to murder people is just good activism.

If January 6 was such a terror on the fabric of American society, we should hold leftist activists to the same standards, especially as they feel increasingly emboldened to say and do whatever they want in the name of justice for a foreign conflict, which most of them know little about. Patel may be a victim of online radicalization capitalizing off of heightened passions and desperation for identity, but that’s no more unique than your run-of-the-mill terrorist. Her rhetoric very well could have resulted in the murder of public officials who aren’t even capable of bringing justice to the Palestinian people. Enough is enough; now’s the time to establish that there are consequences to holding polite society hostage to your every political and emotional whim.
 

Image: Title: riddhi patel
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