Friday, April 16, 2010

Oregon Tea Party Crasher in Right's Crosshairs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 7:28 PM

Conservatives in Oregon, and all over America, have found something new to be angry about – not that that’s ever any challenge for them.

The latest target of their wrath is Jason Levin, a middle school teacher in Beaverton who set up a website on which he vowed to “crash and destroy” the Tea Party movement. Levin planned to do it by infiltrating Tea Party rallies and trying to discredit the movement by carrying racist and/or homophobic signs, dressing up as Hitler and generally behaving like a douche.

Levin never got to actually infiltrate the Tea Party, however, because somebody discovered his site and spread the word, Fox News picked up the story, and legions of Tea Partiers and sympathizers started flooding the school district with angry calls and e-mails.

The district has put Levin on paid leave while it investigates whether he did his anti-Tea Party thing on district time or used district resources, such as computers. But that’s not good enough for right-wingers, who are demanding Levin’s head.

“This is a man who thinks it’s legitimate to further your political goals by lying, by stealing and damaging somebody else’s reputation,” radio yakker Lars Larson fumed on his Wednesday show. “I don’t want a kid [sic] like that teaching kids.”

Larson isn’t buying the argument that what a teacher does on his own time is his own business: “If you ran a Klan Web site on your own time, do you think you would be excused?”

Of course the Ku Klux Klan is an overtly racist organization that has engaged in acts of terrorism such as lynching, arson and blowing up churches, which would appear to put it in a whole different category from Levin.

In a message to a TPM blogger Levin maintained he didn’t use school district time or equipment to put up his site and defended his right to engage in political free speech.

“Any allegation that I used school district equipment or district time to create or maintain the website is completely and totally false,” Levin wrote. “The fact that teachers are held to a higher standard when exercising their right to free speech [in their private lives] is patently unfair.”

Meanwhile Levin has put his domain name up for sale, and the site now only sells “Tea-Shirts” to raise money for Levin.

It seems to me that the school district has handled this issue properly so far. If Levin used district time and/or equipment to engage in politicking, or if he tried to promote his personal political views in the classroom, he should be canned.

Otherwise he’s just an American exercising his right to free speech, and becoming a teacher doesn’t mean you forfeit that right – as I’m sure Larson & Co. would be the first to point out if Levin was pro-Tea Party instead of anti.


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