Extortion isn't the American way, but that doesn't stop some.
Sussex County Watchdog has been around since the spring of 2012. Over the years, our efforts have stopped or brought to light many instances of public corruption. These have included attempts to sell the county dump, the premature forcing of some county employees into retirement in order to use the money for new patronage employees, the corruption at the Sussex County Community College, the use of toxic chemicals near county employees, county spending and borrowing practices, county vendors and lobbyists, the county Solar scam, and the county's poor history with OPRA.
Along the way, we've uncovered inside deals in the awarding of tax breaks and vendors' contracts, and the purchase of land. On several occasions, Sussex County Watchdog led the way by contacting state and federal law enforcement, as it did during the solar scam -- when this website provided the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Attorney General's Office with background and material information.
From time to time, our activities have made some insiders less than happy. There is an all-too-cozy corruption at work at the county level. Most counties in New Jersey are actually much more corrupt than Sussex is -- but, as in the Solar scam -- our county is being colonized by other counties interested in expanding their corruption here.
Watchdog is important because we will act when corporate media is afraid to act because some important advertiser is at the core or connected with a matter. We are anonymous because, in a county as cozy as Sussex is, it prevents direct retribution for exercising our First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. Anonymous speech is as American as our Founders and has been protected through the centuries by the United States Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, our efforts have been the target of extortion attempts -- of threats designed to coerce us to stop writing in a way that offends the extorter or to write in a way more favorable to the extorter. We have always rejected such attempts, because extortion is not only a criminal act but an existential act. As an act of coercion, it is designed to kill free will, and so is an enemy of freedom itself.
Extortion is the crime of obtaining money, property, or services from an individual or institution, through coercion.
Most states define extortion as the gaining of property or money by almost any kind of force, or threat of 1) violence, 2) property damage, 3) harm to reputation, or 4) unfavorable government action. While usually viewed as a form of theft/larceny, extortion differs from robbery in that the threat in question does not pose an imminent physical danger to the victim.
Extortion is a felony in all states. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing and damaging information to family, friends, or the public. Inherent in this form of extortion is the threat to expose the details of someone's private life.
Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats or force. It involves a set of various types of actions that violate the free will of an individual to induce a desired response. These actions may include, but are not limited to: extortion, blackmail, torture, threats to induce favors, or even sexual assault. In law, coercion is codified as a duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in a way contrary to their own interests.
These crimes can take place over the telephone, via mail, text, email or other computer or wireless communication. If any method of interstate commerce is used in the extortion, it can be a federal crime.
As believers in the First Amendment and of the Bill of Rights, Sussex County Watchdog has always offered the liberty of our pages to any opposing point of view. Write what you wish, and we will publish it. We are an open forum, accessible to all. And we offer anonymity to all who wish to publish. We always have, and a few have made use of the liberty of our pages. Some have stayed on as regular contributors.
Unfortunately, there are many who don't want to be part of a free and open discussion. They want to be able to exercise power, gain material benefit from the taxpayers, or seek power -- without scrutiny. They don't want a discussion, they want power or a contract or taxpayers' money or status and they don't want to hear about it or have anyone asking questions. These are the kinds of people who opt for extortion over the liberty of our pages.
As one can readily appreciate, extortion is the realm of thug life, of wannabe Il Duces and Mafioso -- not of old political organizations and political families. At least, it shouldn't be. We have been surprised at some of the names connected with the latest attempt.
Please allow us to provide counsel to our wannabe extorters, to those making the threats. To those enemies of freedom, we say this: The best way to address writing that you do not like is with more writing.
Speech should be met with speech. Not with threats, intimidation, coercion, and extortion. Once you take that road there is only one way forward... as someone who fears words, as the enemy of freedom, the book-burner, the hater of words and of journalism and of writing. And where does it end?
It is a bloody path that you are choosing...