Debate Magazine

When is Free Speech TOO MUCH Free Speech?

Posted on the 29 March 2014 by Doggone

When is Free Speech TOO MUCH Free Speech?

Suicide predator William Melchert Dinkel

Elaine Drybrough, the mother of internet suicide victim Mark Dryborough

suicide victim's mother,
Elaine Drybrough

Preying on vulnerable people is not acceptable, especially while misrepresenting who you are, and it should be criminal.
From the Mercury (my emphasis added):
In 2011, Melchert-Dinkel told police he did it for the "thrill of the chase."
According to court documents, he acknowledged participating in online chats about suicide with up to 20 people and entering into fake suicide pacts with about 10, five of whom he believed killed themselves.
An appeals court panel ruled in July 2012 that the state's assisted suicide law was constitutional, and that Melchert-Dinkel's speech was not protected by the First Amendment.
We penalize scam artists who prey on the elderly, and properly regard them as criminals. We do the same with predatory pedophiles as well, who prey on children. People suffering from depression or other mental illness that makes them vulnerable in a way that differentiates them from people who are not similarly vulnerable temporarily at some stage in their lives.
From the Daily Telegraph (also source of two photos above)
Mrs Drybrough, 65, from Hillfields, discovered Melchert Dinkel’s identity and campaigned for his prosecution in the US after the Sunday Mercury revealed how the evil nurse had targeted another vulnerable Midlander.
The predator bragged to mum-of-two Kat Lowe, from West Bromwich, that he had helped a man from ‘near Birmingham’ to take his life and claimed that he had assisted five people to commit suicide while they chatted online.
Melchert Dinkel, who called himself Falcongirl, Cami D and Li Dao on internet chatrooms, revealed his true identity to Kat as he claimed he was going to join her in a suicide pact. He sent her a picture of himself, which was published in the Sunday Mercury’s investigation.
Elaine recognised the name Li Dao and began her campaign for Melchert Dinkel to be prosecuted in the US.
When police called at his home, Melchert Dinkel admitted he had emailed Mark details of how to hang himself and said that he had seen the Sunday Mercury probe into his twisted activities on the internet.
His prison sentence was put on hold while his appeal was processed.
In the latest court hearing on the case the Supreme Court ruled that a Minnesota state law prohibitiing “advising” and “encouraging” suicide broke the constitution because it restricted freedom of speech.
But it upheld the part of the statute that outlaws “assisting” suicide.

We do not allow people to misrepresent themselves to defraud people for financial gain, and we especially view with contempt those who prey on vulnerable people like the elderly.  We do not allow people to use the defence of free speech to pedophiles when they engage in predatory behavior for sexual gratification either, recognizing that these people, although not for financial gain, are attempting to prey on and exploit young people, vulnerable people, for a different type of ugly pleasure.
We do not allow people to ENCOURAGE actions which harm others, in our laws against inciting to riot: 18 U.S. Code § 2101 ((a) Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce or uses any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including, but not limited to, the mail, telegraph, telephone, radio, or television, with intent - (1) to incite a riot; or (2) to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot; or (3) to commit any act of violence in furtherance of a riot; or (4) to aid or abet any person in inciting or participating in or carrying on a riot or committing any act of violence in furtherance of a riot; and who either during the course of any such travel or use or thereafter performs or attempts to perform any other overt act for any purpose specified in subparagraph).  So it is not as if we do not already limit free speech when it comes up against the boundary of harming others, well within the confines and guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.
We should not give legal cover to this kind of behavior, including specifically 'encouragement' which does real damage, real harm, or contributes directly to the actual loss of life, or if unsuccessful, real injury.  I would argue that attempting to harm someone else should be sufficient to be illegal.
Isn't this the reason, at least in part, that we have anti-bullying laws?
Isn't the reason we have laws against making threats to people that we recognize that there is a real harm done by words in certain contexts?
There should be a real discussion on the legitimate place for assisted suicide, for those who are in severe pain that cannot be entirely managed medically, and who are facing what is clearly a hopeless situation where no recovery is possible.  That is about respecting and valuing life, about respecting the dignity of autonomy and control over one's life and body.  It is about giving ease from suffering when there are no better alternatives to an impending death.
This man did not do that, did not advocate for that.  This man helped push a young girl, just turned 18 a short time before, into killing herself, and did the same to a man in the UK.
What I found perhaps the most distressing aspect of this crime - and it is a crime, at least in moral and ethical terms, and should be a crime by legal definition - is that the second death to which he contributed was potentially avoidable.
Again from the Mercury:
"He was doing it continuously from the time he was speaking to my son and Nadia. He'd been doing it for years before their deaths, probably because he enjoyed it."
Mrs Drybrough learnt of the correspondence between her son and an alias of Melchert-Dinkel soon after her son's death and made repeated efforts to alert authorities in the UK and the US, before the death of Ms Kajouji.

The courts have it wrong; this should not be free speech under the protections of the Constitution, any more than inciting to riot, yelling fire in a crowded theater, or making threats, or libel should be protected.  And this ghoul should be behind bars for longer than a year.
I hope his wife and children leave him and refuse to have anything further to do with him; THAT would be karma, since the family of those he successfully got to commit suicide will not see their loved one, father, spouse or child, again.
I can only wonder how his church deals with predator Melchert Dinkel.
In contrast, I can only applaud the contributions made by this man, who lived to a ripe old age, but who at periods of depression in his life considered suicide, and then had the courage to make very public statements encouraging people to get help, and not to give in to their despair and pain.

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