Category Archives: freedom of expression

Another weak argument against the Harper’s letter

Eve Fairbanks is a journalist from South Africa, and her national origins play a substantial part in this rather weak essay on free speech in the Washington Post (click on the screenshot). Increasingly, I find long-form op-eds in both the New York Times and the Washington Post—the two sources I’m subscribed to besides Andrew Sullivan’s […]

The University of Chicago professes free expression as a “core value”, and a call by one of our faculty to “end the rot”

“The point of education is not to make you comfortable; it’s to make you think.” —Hanna Gray (former President, University of Chicago, speaking in video below) I greatly fear that one of my roles over the next few years, should this website continue, will be to chronicle the downfall of the University of Chicago as […]

At long last, the University of Chicago contravenes its own principles of political and ideological neutrality

One by one, elite American colleges and universities (as well as the less prestigious ones) are giving in to Wokeness, rushing to embrace Critical Race Theory, trying to suppress “hate speech,” and indoctrinating students with a preferred ideology when they arrive on campus.  The University of Chicago hasn’t been immune to this, but I’ve taken […]

A hard case to make a good law: the ideological impurity of David Starkey

The original saying I paraphrase above, from Oliver Wendell Holmes, is “hard cases make bad law”, meaning you shouldn’t erect general principles based on extreme cases. But in this instance, regarding the defenestration of scholars who say things unpalatable to their peers, or odious things in general, these are the hard cases that should be […]

Slate obliquely criticizes the Harper’s letter, blames Twitter for everything

I used to think of Slate and Salon as brother sites, with Salon being the slightly unhinged and woker younger brother and Slate being the more serious elder.  Well, Salon has gone down the drain of wokeness, and Slate is no longer nearly as interesting as it used to be, full as it is now […]

Two approbations for The Letter, and a summary of the critics’ views

I thought I wouldn’t write any more about “The Letter”, which of course refers to the Letter in Harper’s and four other international venues decrying “cancel culture” and promoting open debate and free speech. That piece,”A letter on justice and open debate“, with 153 signers, now sports its own Wikipedia page! Over the past few days […]

Should we narrow the First Amendment to forbid speech urging violence?

The limitations on “free speech”, as construed by the courts’ parsing of the First Amendment, are well known. No personal threats, no harassment in the workplace, no child pornography, defamation, or false advertising. And, of course, no calling for violence that will predictably lead to imminent violence.   The Encyclopedia Brittanica describes the law.  . . . […]

Pushback from Sean Carroll and others against the Harper’s letter promoting open discourse

UPDATE: In a New York Times article, Thomas Chatterton Williams, a Haper’s writer who helped organize the letter, got specific with some of the incidents that inspired its creation: He said there wasn’t one particular incident that provoked the letter. But he did cite several recent ones, including the resignation of more than half the board of […]

A major critique of the illiberalism of the Left

This letter, or statement, was just published today in Harper’s, Le Monde, Die Zeit, La Repubblica, and El País.  It’s a really good piece of work, calling out the Right for censoriousness, but, importantly, the Left (most of the signatories seem to be on that side), for restricting debate. I’d like to quote the whole thing, […]

The fracas about Tom Cotton’s op-ed in The New York Times: should it have been published?

You probably read about Republican Senator Tom Cotton’s June 3 op-ed in the New York Times, urging the President to send the military into cities with protests and riots inspired by police brutality against blacks. It caused a huge fracas at the paper, with the editor first defending it and then, after social-media pressure and […]