Letitia James’s Richelieu Routine

“If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men,” the French statesman Cardinal Richelieu said, “I will find something in them which will hang him.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James could have borrowed that line from his Red Eminence for a campaign slogan. It would have been all too fitting, considering that her platform consisted of little more than crusading against the enemies of the left. Indeed, most people know James as the woman who has pursued lawfare against Donald Trump. 

But James has been harrying another target: VDARE, an immigration restrictionist news site founded by former Forbes and National Review editor Peter Brimelow. Though the case has received relatively little media coverage, it is a shocking abuse of the system that raises sobering questions about the future of free speech in this country.

In 2022, James’s special counsel for hate crimes subpoenaed Facebook’s records related to VDARE. Brimelow’s wife, Lydia, told Tucker Carlson in an interview that VDARE had long been banned from the platform, so the move struck them as strange. It also wasn’t clear what James’s office was accusing VDARE of having done. 

Then came subpoenas for donors, employees, and more. James’s office now wanted every document related to VDARE‘s purchase and management of Berkeley Springs Castle. The group acquired the historic building in West Virginia after they had trouble finding venues willing to host them for events. 

What started with a subpoena from the hate crimes division morphed into accusations that VDARE improperly managed Berkeley Springs Castle through its foundation of the same name. But why don’t they get up and leave New York? Because they are trapped. The Charities Bureau in New York, where the VDARE Foundation is based, is overseen by James’s office. She is not just going to let them go. And if James gets her way, the foundation could lose its nonprofit status, which would cripple VDARE as it relies on donations for its operations. 

Lydia Brimelow told Carlson that complying with James’s subpoenas would require more manpower than the tiny organization has at its disposal. It would mean revealing the identities of VDARE‘s writers, vendors, and donors. It is also unclear what crime VDARE is alleged to have committed that attracted James’s Sauronic eye and the ensuing fishing expedition. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center provided an unsubtle clue in its write-up of James’s campaign against VDARE. The SPLC focuses on the allegations about Berkeley Springs Castle, but the game is given away early in the article.

“In 2020, James said her office would take tougher legal action on organizations that engage in real-life discriminatory actions and online hate speech against protected classes,” the SPLC reported

VDARE has never advocated violence. It publishes mainstream criticisms of mass immigration along with other content some may find offensive. Of course, even that material is no more offensive than the bile aimed at Middle Americans that so often appears in the pages of The New York Times or Jacobin. But whether VDARE sometimes publishes “mean speech” should  ultimately be irrelevant in a free-speech country.

Not liking what a publication has to say should not be the basis of bringing down the ruinous weight of the state on the head of its publisher. And with remarkable candor, the SPLC acknowledged that this is at the heart of the case brought against VDARE by James who, like Richelieu, has been hunting for that thing which will hang them. 

Those who might look the other way as the attorney general mauls VDARE should know that people like James will not stop with this one publication, any more than those who pulled down Confederate statues stopped at Robert E. Lee. If they can do it to VDARE under the fiction of hate speech, they can do it to anyone.

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