Annoy, Annoy, Annoy

Like the rest of us, I've been accused from time to time of being annoying. But unlike you, I have resolved to become even more so. In fact, I hereby vow to become as annoying as possible as soon as possible. Moreover, I plan on doing it anonymously.

Why? The genesis of my newfound desire to annoy, as with many of my more destructive and antisocial impulses, lay in an action taken by President Bush and the rest of those, well, annoying boneheads who supposedly represent us in Washington.

As reported by Declan McCullagh on CNET News.com, the president last week signed into law "a prohibition on posting annoying web messages or sending annoying email messages without disclosing your true identity."

The absurd ban was hidden in a bill called the "Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act," which provides for fines and imprisonment of those guilty of anonymous annoying.

Section 113 of the new law, "Preventing Cyberstalking," rewrites existing telephone harassment law so as to prohibit anyone from using the internet "without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy."

Apparently Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., slipped the cyberstalking provision into a completely unrelated bill to fund the Department of Justice, thus making it difficult for more rational colleagues to oppose. As a result, the Senate unanimously approved the legislation Dec. 16 after the House of Representatives first approved it by voice vote.

As McCullagh accurately noted, an earlier version approved in September by the House had radically different wording, which only criminalized using an "interactive computer service" to cause someone "substantial emotional harm," which might even make sense. But our solons in their wisdom have now decided that merely annoying someone should be illegal.

Although it's still legal to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog if you use your real name, given the state of stupidity in Congress and the White House these days, it's uncertain how long that will last. So, I've decided to ratchet up the annoyance factor in an attempt to smoke 'em out …

Bring it on, butt-heads! Guess what? Rory O'Connor is a pseudonym, and I intend -- in the time-honored, nonviolent, civil disobedient style of the likes of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela -- to be as anonymously annoying as possible and do everything in my power to violate this stupid law. Warning: A quick check with friends and acquaintances will confirm that I can be annoying indeed.

Further, I exhort everyone reading this to join me on the ramparts of annoyance. After all, there are manifold reasons why one might want "to write something incendiary without telling everyone exactly who you are," as CNET put it. "Think about it: A woman fired by a manager who demanded sexual favors wants to blog about it without divulging her full name. An aspiring pundit hopes to set up the next Suck.com. A frustrated citizen wants to send email describing corruption in local government without worrying about reprisals."

And so on. Maybe like me, you're just pissed off and bitter about being lied to constantly -- or fed up with an illegal, unconstitutional war that's killing tens of thousands of people and costing hundreds of billions of dollars -- and decide to write about it. I guarantee from past experience that someone, somewhere (probably Washington, D.C.) is going to be annoyed. Does that make you a criminal?

Now it does. But remember, we're at war. Wasn't the right to annoy -- along with the rest of the First Amendment, the rest of the Bill of Rights and hell, let's face it, the entire Constitution itself -- suspended in September 2001, when our undeclared national state of emergency began?

I, for one, find that unconstitutional -- not to mention extremely ... annoying!

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