Alexandria, VA

Edited 1 p.m. — Alexandria Del. Mark Levine (D) said the City of Alexandria can and should fire any police officers or officials that subscribe to QAnon theories — a fringe movement rooted in theories about pedophilia rings and the Deep State.

In a back and forth exchange on Facebook, Levine said anyone who has information about anyone in law enforcement espousing beliefs related to QAnon — mainly centered around unsubstantiated claims about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, pedophilia, and satanism worshipped at the highest echelons of power — should report it to their department head.

In a series of texts, Levine later elaborated on this position.

It’s quite simple. Libel is not protected speech. If your personal belief is that Hillary Clinton tortured children in the nonexistent basement of a DC pizza parlor and you share that belief publicly, you can and should be found civily liable and have to pay damages.

QAnon is designed to maliciously spread libel and slander. Not only is it legal to take down their bullshit, it is illegal not to!

…Now if QAnon taught something else, that there was a flying invisible spaghetti monster that ate unicorns and washed away your sins every time you eat two meatballs, that would be protected speech. Because it does not slander any real people.

Spreading libel is also civilly liable. Which is why you should never spread someone else’s poston Facebook unless you’ve independently checked to see if it’s true.

Now, I concede it’s not often prosecuted, but it is both illegal and morally wrong and that is why I always chastise anyone who sends me objectively false information.

Levine recognized that New York Times v. Sullivan which requires “plaintiff show that the defendant knew that a statement was false or was reckless in deciding to publish the information without investigating whether it was accurate,” but Levine argued that it is his sincere belief that QAnon is not accidentally lying about the conspiracy theories.

Other comments on the post were concerned that Levine’s proposal would violate the First Amendment and was akin to McCarthyism — a period in the 1950s when Sen. Joseph McCarthy led a campaign of investigations against alleged communists.

Levine had another run-in earlier this year with right-wing groups when he called the police on an armed protestor outside his home.

Craig Fifer, spokesperson for the City of Alexandria, said officials have a right to their beliefs provided it does not interfere with their work.

“Employees have the right to subscribe to the beliefs of their choosing, provided they do not act on their beliefs in such a way as to impede the performance of their duties or the City’s ability to serve the public effectively,” Fifer said. “Police Department policy prohibits employees from engaging in conduct that represents neglect of duty or is likely to bring discredit on the department. Any complaint alleging misconduct by an employee will be investigated, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken if warranted.”

File photo of Del. Mark Levine, Facebook image via Justin Wilson/Facebook

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