More histrionic and harmful political statements from university departments

August 10, 2021 • 9:15 am

I recently wrote about an matter involving Anna Krylov, a professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California (USC).  Fed up with the politicization of science, Krylov published a letter in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, which you can read by clicking the screenshot below.

Krylov’s point was to show the similarity between the scientific censorship and “erasure” in the Soviet Russia of her youth with academic censorship of scientists in the West today. I’ll give one quote from her article showing the kind of “erasure” of scientists that Krylov deplores (I’ve omitted the references save for a self-aggrandizing one):

As an example of political censorship and cancel culture, consider a recent viewpoint discussing the centuries-old tradition of attaching names to scientific concepts and discoveries (Archimede’s [sic] Principle, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Schrödinger equation, Curie Law, etc.). The authors call for vigilance in naming discoveries and assert that “basing the name with inclusive priorities may provide a path to a richer, deeper, and more robust understanding of the science and its advancement.” Really? On what empirical grounds is this based? History teaches us the opposite: the outcomes of the merit-based science of liberal, pluralistic societies are vastly superior to those of the ideologically controlled science of the USSR and other totalitarian regimes. The authors call for removing the names of people who “crossed the line” of moral or ethical standards. Examples include Fritz Haber, Peter Debye, and William Shockley, but the list could have been easily extended to include Stark (defended expulsion of Jews from German institutions), Heisenberg (led Germany’s nuclear weapons program), and Schrödinger (had romantic relationships with under-age girls). Indeed, learned societies are now devoting considerable effort to such renaming campaigns—among the most-recent cancellations is the renaming of the Fisher Prize by the Evolution Society, despite well-argued opposition by 10 past presidents and vice-presidents of the society.(20)

For writing her piece in the journal, Krylov of course received considerable pushback, for there are people whose raison d’être is to sniff out any bad things that famous scientists did, and then use that as an excuse to vilify them and remove any honorifics attached to them. (The shabby treatment of Ronald Fisher by the Society for the Study of Evolution is but one example; another is the impending removal of Thomas Henry Huxley’s name from an Institute at Western Washington University).

A while back, Krylov and a large number of her USC colleagues wrote to the USC administration. concerned about the treatment of USC undergraduate Rose Ritch, forced to resign her position as Vice-President of the USC student government because Ritch, a Jew and Zionist, was subject to unrelenting harassment by student anti-Semites who oppose Zionism. The University President deplored the harassment and promised reform. But, as Krylov and colleagues say in a new letter, it never came:

In the wake of the Rose Ritch affair, we have been promised that a series of activities will be implemented to improve our campus climate. We were hoping to see educational activities that aim to combat zionophobia and antisemitism, as well as other forms of hate and discrimination, to reaffirm our commitment to tolerance and inclusion, and to enable discussion of controversial issues in a respectful environment. We are still waiting for concrete actions from the administration.

Now the attacks on Israel are back again, prompting another letter from Krylov and her colleagues.  This new letter was a reaction to a political letter signed by many university departments, programs, and centers concerned with women’s and gender studies, including the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies of the University of Southern California. Click below to read the latter letter.

The letter above comprises the usual overblown rhetoric and misleading statements about Israel, including the characterization of Israel as an apartheid state, a call for the “right of return” that would destroy Israel, and a call for solidarity of these feminist departments with Palestine, stating that “Palestine is a Feminist Issue.”

Well indeed it is, but not in the way the authors think. The culture of Palestine, unlike that of Israel—except for Orthodox Jews)—is deeply misogynistic, with women oppressed and treated as second-class citizens. It’s ironic, and highlights the blindness of this faction of the Left, that these women believe that supporting Palestine against Israel is a “feminist stand.” How nuts can you get? But so it goes.

Enough palaver; I won’t summarize the letter above because it’s short and you can read it for yourself.

The salient point for Krylov and her colleagues was not that academics were taking a pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli stand, which is their right, but that entire academic departments and units were speaking as a whole, presumably on behalf of their members. Yet surely not everyone in these many departments throughout the US share the histrionics about Israel. But, if they dissent, what can they do? Their dissenting views are lumped together with the opposite views of their colleagues.  What this does is chill the speech of the dissenters. What grad student, undergraduate student, or untenured professor in these departments would dare take a stand against their department as a whole?

It is this chilling of speech—this promulgating of official ideological, political, and moral views by departments of universities, indeed of universities as a whole—which led the University to issue the Kalven Report in 1967 and deem it one of our “Foundational Principles“. The Kalven Report, named after the committee’s chairman, expressly forbids the University from taking any official stands on political and ideological issues, though of course individual faculty are encouraged to do so. (There were also a few exceptions when the University may take a stand on an issue affecting the educational mission of the University itself.) The reason for the Kalven Report: because taking such stands chills the speech of dissenters and quashes free expression. Here’s a paragraph from the Report:

In October of last year, in response to inquiries from several of us, President Robert Zimmer affirmed that the Kalven Report extended to departments and units of the University. While faculty can take stands and sign their names to them, entire departments are forbidden from doing so for the reasons described above.  Despite that, several departments still have such statements on their websites, and they haven’t yet taken them down (nor does the University seem keen to force them to).

So Krylov and her colleagues, in their letter to the USC administration responding to the feminist calls for solidarity with Israel, promote principles identical to those limned by our Kalven Report: units of universities should not engage in wholesale political grandstanding lest it act to repress free speech: the lifeblood of any good university. The letter by Krylov and colleagues can be seen by clicking the screenshot below.

And here’s the crucial statement, which aligns very well with my University’s own stand. Note as well the misguided criticisms of Israel contained in these “official” statements:

We do not know whether such departmental declarations of political support are legal, but they are certainly unethical. They have nothing to do with freedom of speech of individuals; rather, they fall under compelled speech because they appear to speak on behalf of all members of the department (e.g. faculty, staff, and students), many of whom are untenured or supervised by more senior members and thus not in a position to openly disagree. Most concerning, this signing implies endorsement by USC itself. Thus, we call on USC leadership to publicly rebuke the practice of USC departments (or units) making statements for specific political agendas that have nothing to do with the University’s educational and research missions. The Statement above contains extreme, indeed fabricated, claims that criminalize the very creation of the State of Israel and, by implication, indict all its citizens and supporters, including us. Not doing so, would make USC complicit in comments within the Statement that describe the State of Israel as “settler colonialism”, “ethnonationalist violence”, “ongoing ethnic cleansing”, and “apartheid”. If USC’s implicit support stands, many Jewish students and others who believe in Israel’s right to exist will be reluctant to attend our university.

Do you think that USC will rebuke the posting of official departmental statements about issues having nothing to do with the departments’ educational mission? Will they make the departments take the statements down? I wouldn’t count on it. Even the University of Chicago, in response to repeated pleas by people like me, lets departmental political statements stand at the same time arguing that such statements violate university policy. I suppose it’s one thing to declare a policy, but another to tell a department that they’ve violated it and take “restorative” action.

Nevertheless these statements are examples of compelled speech applying to everybody in the units and departments, even if no individual signatures appear.

In these fraught times, such statements, which often seem to be a form of virtue signaling, aren’t uncommon. Here’s one issued not long ago by nine departments and programs (and some individual faculty) at the University of California at Davis. Like the USC statement, it’s a misguided and politically heated heap of denunciation of Israel and valorization of Palestine (click on the screenshot):

The statement was “updated” by adding a disclaimer at the top: “The statements below are part of our educational mission and reflect the views of the faculty in the department and not official University policy.”

But that’s deeply unclear. Why is demonizing Israel and lauding Palestine (the usual accusations against Israel, like “apartheid state” are pervasive) part of UCD’s “educational mission”? There are, of course, many political statements that could have been made: against Iran, China, North Korea, and so on, but the usual suspect is, of course, Israel. Further, the disclaimer says that the statements “reflect the views of the faculty in the department”.  Well, which faculty? ALL the faculty? Or only some? If the latter, then only the faculty who agreed should have signed, not entire departments and programs.

UCD, like USC, is violating its education mission by chilling speech, by allowing official units to take political and ideological stands (a pretty misguided one in this case) that will brook no dissent. No wonder that more than half of college students, at least in a recent survey, said they felt intimidated from speaking:

A majority—53%—also reported that they often “felt intimidated” in sharing their ideas, opinions or beliefs in class because they were different from those of the professors. A slightly larger majority feared expressing themselves because of differences with classmates.

Even accounting for shy people, that figure is way too high.

As for UC Davis, the administration basically took the coward’s way out, pretending that their refusal to prohibit compelled speech was actually a way of ensuring free speech. How’s this for doublespeak?

A spokesperson for the university told J. [the Jewish News of Northern California] in an email Wednesday that Davis “is committed to ensuring that all persons may exercise their constitutionally protected rights of free expression, speech, assembly and worship, even in instances in which the positions expressed may be viewed by some as controversial and unpopular.”

The spokesperson, Melissa Lutz Blouin, wrote that UC Davis had “consulted with University lawyers and learned that, provided that these statements do not engage in electioneering, including advocating for or against political candidates or ballot measures, these statements do not violate the law.” [JAC: they may not violate the law, but they still act to impede freedom of speech.]

She added that campus leadership is “consulting with campus stakeholders about whether there needs to be more regulation” in the area of “who may speak for a department” and “what may be posted on academic websites.”

The answer, UCD, is YES, there needs to be less promulgation of compelled speech.

I wonder if this politicization of universities is only a temporary phenomenon, and will one day be looked at as a sad overreaction to the George Floyd Era. Or is it here to stay?  Because if it’s here to stay, you can kiss academic freedom of speech—and academic freedom itself—goodbye.

And THAT is harm, however you define it.

“We must add new guardrails”: Biden transition team official wrote op-ed asking for hate speech laws

November 16, 2020 • 11:45 am

Two tweets disturbed me this morning, both calling attention to Richard Stengel‘s anti-free speech column in the Washington Post last October. Stengel is a writer and government official who was editor of Time magazine and also worked as Undersecretary of State during the Obama administration. Now he’s on the Biden transition team for the U.S. Agency for Global Media, though I’m not sure exactly what that job involves.

(The “ACLU retreats from free expression” piece mentioned in the tweet below was written by Wendy Kaminer in the Wall Street Journal in June, 2018, and access isn’t free.  I’ve been saying that same thing for a while though, and I’ll try to get my hands on it. It is true that the ACLU is taking some alarmingly regressive steps.)

At any rate, a bit over a year ago Stengel—and remember, he’s on the media part of Biden’s transition team—wrote this op-ed. Click on the screenshot to read it.

Stengel’s contention is that the First Amendment is outmoded, especially in an age of social media, for there is no guarantee that “truth will drive out lies” now. But when was there ever a guarantee? Here’s what he says:

It is important to remember that our First Amendment doesn’t just protect the good guys; our foremost liberty also protects any bad actors who hide behind it to weaken our society. In the weeks leading up to the 2016 election, Russia’s Internet Research Agency planted false stories hoping they would go viral. They did. Russian agents assumed fake identities, promulgated false narratives and spread lies on Twitter and Facebook, all protected by the First Amendment.

the intellectual underpinning of the First Amendment was engineered for a simpler era. The amendment rests on the notion that the truth will win out in what Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas called “the marketplace of ideas.”

This “marketplace” model has a long history going back to 17th-century English intellectual John Milton, but in all that time, no one ever quite explained how good ideas drive out bad ones, how truth triumphs over falsehood.

Milton, an early opponent of censorship, said truth would prevail in a “free and open encounter.” A century later, the framers believed that this marketplace was necessary for people to make informed choices in a democracy. Somehow, magically, truth would emerge. The presumption has always been that the marketplace would offer a level playing field. But in the age of social media, that landscape is neither level nor fair.

Of course there’s no guarantee that the truth will drive out lies: Trump’s falsehoods have been widely believed, but of course the media has exposed them as lies. It’s the free press that allows this exposure, but it can’t guarantee that everyone is going for the “truth” side. If that were the case, there would be no religions! And there’s nothing all that different about social media: there has always been media in which people have told untruths. It’s just now that media is available to everyone, who can put up their merest thoughts in an instant.

Still, the clash of opinion on things like abortion, the Israel/Palestine question, affirmative action, gun control and the like are the only ways to give both sides an airing and to propound their best arguments. The rest is up to the people. If you don’t have this clash of ideas because one side claims that it KNOWS THE TRUTH and will censor the other side, then we’re truly doomed. Allowing someone to determine the truth is the surest way to guarantee that the truth becomes one person’s opinion. And this is the whole problem with Stengel’s attack on the First Amendment and push for “hate speech”—which he sees as speech that people find insulting to their race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation:

Since World War II, many nations have passed laws to curb the incitement of racial and religious hatred. These laws started out as protections against the kinds of anti-Semitic bigotry that gave rise to the Holocaust. We call them hate speech laws, but there’s no agreed-upon definition of what hate speech actually is. In general, hate speech is speech that attacks and insults people on the basis of race, religion, ethnic origin and sexual orientation.

I think it’s time to consider these statutes. The modern standard of dangerous speech comes from Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) and holds that speech that directly incites “imminent lawless action” or is likely to do so can be restricted. Domestic terrorists such as Dylann Roof and Omar Mateen and the El Paso shooter were consumers of hate speech. Speech doesn’t pull the trigger, but does anyone seriously doubt that such hateful speech creates a climate where such acts are more likely?

It could, but it also outs those who are bigots and allows us to see their arguments. If arguments for bigotry win, then we have no chance as a democracy, anyway. And there are already laws, as Stengel says, against speech that incites violence—if the violence is imminent and predictable. If the violence could result much later from someone’s speech, then people like Richard Dawkins could be (and have been) accused of pulling the trigger, for Dawkins is an anti-theist who attacks religion in general, including Islam. If some crazed Muslim-hater reads Dawkins or Hitchens and goes on a killing spree, does that make them responsible, and should their works have been censored because they offend believers? No, because we can’t predict or fend off everything that could result from speech. We might as well ban Evangelical Christianity because the Bible, and their preachings, have led to the killing of abortion doctors and the demonization of homosexuals.

Stengel:

Let the debate begin. Hate speech has a less violent, but nearly as damaging, impact in another way: It diminishes tolerance. It enables discrimination. Isn’t that, by definition, speech that undermines the values that the First Amendment was designed to protect: fairness, due process, equality before the law? Why shouldn’t the states experiment with their own version of hate speech statutes to penalize speech that deliberately insults people based on religion, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation?

All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting “thought that we hate,” but not speech that incites hate. It undermines the very values of a fair marketplace of ideas that the First Amendment is designed to protect.

Yes, Stengel is a Pecksniff who wants hate speech laws, but is curiously silent about who will make them? Who will be The Decider? We all know the problems with that, and they are pretty much insuperable. For every Biden official who disallows criticism of Black Lives Matter and Islam, there will be a later Trumpy official who criminalizes speech that liberals favor. The best solution is to allow everyone to say their piece, with a reasonable few exceptions that the courts have carved out as outweighing free speech (false advertising, defamation, harassment of individuals, and so on).

You know what my worries are: that Stengel will influence and also reflect a general censorious wokeness on the part of the new Biden administration. Granted, this editorial was written over a year ago, but I think it’s fair to ask Stengel if he still stands by it. If he does, then we should keep a weather eye on his behavior—and that of the Biden administration’s actions about speech.

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

June 7, 2020 • 10:45 am
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 a “virtual walkout” by Times staffers, saying that it shouldn’t have been published, among other things, because it put “Black@nytimes staffers in danger”.

You can read Cotton’s piece by clicking on the screenshot below (for some reason, the paper has made it impossible to put up a screenshot by simply inserting the URL of this op-ed).

The op-ed is preceded by a longish disclaimer by the paper, which I hear has decided not to run Cotton’s op-ed in the paper edition. Here’s the disclaimer:

Editors’ Note, June 5, 2020:

After publication, this essay met strong criticism from many readers (and many Times colleagues), prompting editors to review the piece and the editing process. Based on that review, we have concluded that the essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published.

The basic arguments advanced by Senator Cotton — however objectionable people may find them — represent a newsworthy part of the current debate. But given the life-and-death importance of the topic, the senator’s influential position and the gravity of the steps he advocates, the essay should have undergone the highest level of scrutiny. Instead, the editing process was rushed and flawed, and senior editors were not sufficiently involved. While Senator Cotton and his staff cooperated fully in our editing process, the Op-Ed should have been subject to further substantial revisions — as is frequently the case with such essays — or rejected.

For example, the published piece presents as facts assertions about the role of “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa”; in fact, those allegations have not been substantiated and have been widely questioned. Editors should have sought further corroboration of those assertions, or removed them from the piece. The assertion that police officers “bore the brunt” of the violence is an overstatement that should have been challenged. The essay also includes a reference to a “constitutional duty” that was intended as a paraphrase; it should not have been rendered as a quotation.

Beyond those factual questions, the tone of the essay in places is needlessly harsh and falls short of the thoughtful approach that advances useful debate. Editors should have offered suggestions to address those problems. The headline — which was written by The Times, not Senator Cotton — was incendiary and should not have been used.

Finally, we failed to offer appropriate additional context — either in the text or the presentation — that could have helped readers place Senator Cotton’s views within a larger framework of debate.

Well, I could note a few Left-wing op-eds that could have used factual vetting as well, but they didn’t get it, and you know why. At any rate, the main objection by Times staffers were not these quibbles about wording, but about their claim that this editorial calls for the incursion of the military to put down riots, which supposedly demonizes all black Americans and puts them (and the Times staffers) in danger.

But if you read Cotton’s piece, which I disagree with in toto, what you find is no mention of black people, but of the need to get the military into cities to put down violence. In fact, it even draws a distinction between peaceful and violent protest:

Some elites have excused this orgy of violence in the spirit of radical chic, calling it an understandable response to the wrongful death of George Floyd. Those excuses are built on a revolting moral equivalence of rioters and looters to peaceful, law-abiding protesters. A majority who seek to protest peacefully shouldn’t be confused with bands of miscreants.

Agreed. But sending in the military is a no-go. The National Guard, to which Cotton alludes repeatedly, was sent to states that had earlier protests, like Mississippi during the Civil Rights movement of the Sixties. But the National Guard is not the regular military, for the NG also has a civilian function—keeping the peace in society—which the regular military does not. The regular military has objected to being used in this way, and it shouldn’t, especially in this case where it is not only unneeded, but would throw oil on the fires.

Cotton’s views reflect the Republican law-and-order stance, and although it doesn’t mention blacks, one (or at least I) can sense that there’s a frisson of fascism here: wanting to sic the big guns on black people to keep them in their place.

There’s no doubt that Cotton is bawling up a drainpipe here, for there’s zero chance that the military will be called into U.S. cities to quell riots. In that sense, the fear of black Times staffers is completely unwarranted: they are not rendered unsafe by a few unwise words from a Senator writing in the paper. What they really object to, I think, is that Cotton expressed an opinion they don’t agree with. And if you can say that such opinions put you in danger, you gain some moral high ground. (Not to mention that if this was literally true, Cotton’s editorial would violate the First Amendment.) Given that the Times caved not only to its staffers but to some big pushback from social media, we can expect to see fewer conservative op-eds in the paper in the future. Here’s a statement about the virtual walk-out:

Columnist Bari Weiss has also been demonized in this fracas, as she put out a series of tweets noting an ideological and journalistic divide between the older and younger staffers. (As I predicted, the wokeness on college campuses will invade journalism as college students move into media jobs.) Here are a few of her tweets, which got the regular news staff riled up—even though she thought Cotton’s piece might not be worth publishing—to the extent that some called for her firing. (Op-ed writers are allowed to write about NYT dynamics on Twitter, while regular news staff aren’t.):

Finally, VICE published a partial transcript of a virtual “town hall” meeting between Time Publisher A. G. Sulzberger, Executive editor Dan Baquet, and Chief Operating officer Meredith Levien, in which they fielded questions from the paper’s staff. Click on screenshot to read it if you want to read a transcript and some background:

Here’s a question from a Times staffer laying out the main objections to Cotton’s editorial:

“We would presumably not submit to publishing op-eds advancing theories of Holocaust denial or advocating a resumption of slavery, on the grounds that these are not reasonable positions for the debate, but rather hateful notions that we can safely condemn without worrying about being accused of partisanship or closed mindedness. But in publishing the Tom Cotton piece, haven’t we effectively validated depictions of Black Americans as terrorists in exercising their First Amendment rights to protest police brutality? Haven’t we applied the imprimatur of the Times to rule that unleashing the military on this movement is a reasonable position for the debate? Doesn’t that undermine that our mission is to be a force for good in American democracy? And do we really believe that we are airing out genuinely important views, as opposed to seeking to expand our business by catering to alternate political persuasions?”

Well, whatever Cotton thinks of blacks, I don’t think the editorial explicitly characterizes them as terrorists. After all, he does draw a distinction between peaceful and violent protest. And no, the Times did not apply its “imprimatur” to the op-ed; it just published it. In the end, I think it was valuable to hear from at least one Republican to see how they can justify using the military to put down riots. It did not show that the paper approved of the editorial (in fact, it bent over backwards, lashing its back with barbed wire, to show that it didn’t), nor did the editorial in any conceivable way endanger the black staffers on the New York Times.

Should the paper have agreed to publish the editorial in the first place? I think so, as it gives us insight into a Republican mind and also “outs” a senator for what he thinks. But that’s a judgement call. Still, once the piece was accepted, I don’t think the Times should have furiously back-pedaled about it, or appended a foreword saying it shouldn’t have been published and didn’t meet the paper’s standards. They did that, of course, because they’re woke and want us to know it. They wouldn’t do it with a Left-wing op-ed of equal weakness, and I call that hypocritical.

Op-ed sections are supposed to be full of pieces that rile you up, making you mad—and perhaps making you think. If the Times is giving more scrutiny to op-eds from the Right, and is more willing to annotate them or leave them out of the paper paper, then the Times is not fulfilling its responsibility. Maybe we’ll be left with one token conservative columnist: Ross Douthat.

First the Times does this, and earlier the New Yorker was cowardly in canceling Steve Bannon’s scheduled appearance at the New Yorker Festival. And now, perhaps, New York Magazine may be censoring Andrew Sullivan’s columns. Do I have to unsubscribe to every form of media that has “New York” in the title?

h/t: Eli

Nesrine Malik of the Guardian calls for speech restrictions

September 6, 2019 • 11:50 am

This “long read” at the Guardian, written by Nesrine Malik (click on screenshot), could easily have been a short read, as much of it is a personalized rant about the online abuse Malike suffered, and a series of misguided claims that a). there is no ‘free speech crisis’, b.) that those advocating free speech and pretending there’s a crisis are really looking for a cover so they can spout racism and Islamophobia, and c.) that we need to “reclaim” free speech by, among other things, banning or disinviting more speakers. In the course of her argument, though, Malik completely mischaracterizes what most reasonable people mean by free speech.

We’ve met Malik twice before, in both cases when she argued that free speech was really a cover to vent Islamophobia (see here and here, with the last piece discussing her ideas about banning “hate speech”).  Since she was born in Sudan and spent some of her youth in Saudi Arabia, I suspect she’s a Muslim, which makes her sensitive to anti-Muslim bigotry. But not all criticism of Islam, including some that she mentions, is “Islamophobia” in the bigoted sense.

I’m not going to analyze this in detail, as it makes few points that haven’t been made in “free-speech-is-overrated” pieces before. The new bit is Bret Stephen’s tantrum when a professor called him a “bedbug” in a tweet, and Stephens wrote back to the tweeter as well as to his provost and the director of his division. That was indeed hypocritical, since Stephens has repeatedly called for free speech, but it’s just a bad act by an oversensitive man, and says little about the free-speech movement in general.

Here are some quotes from Malik’s piece. The bold headers are mine, while excerpts from Malik’s piece are indented.

Free speech is a myth confected to allow trolling and, in particular, the demonization of minorities and the promulgation of “Islamophobia”. 

. . . it is somehow conventional wisdom that free speech is under assault, that university campuses have succumbed to an epidemic of no-platforming, that social media mobs are ready to raise their pitchforks at the most innocent slip of the tongue or joke, and that Enlightenment values that protected the right to free expression and individual liberty are under threat. The cause of this, it is claimed, is a liberal totalitarianism that is attributable (somehow) simultaneously to intolerance and thin skin. The impulse is allegedly at once both fascist in its brutal inclinations to silence the individual, and protective of the weak, easily wounded and coddled.

This is the myth of the free speech crisis. It is an extension of the political-correctness myth, but is a recent mutation more specifically linked to efforts or impulses to normalise hate speech or shut down legitimate responses to it. The purpose of the myth is not to secure freedom of speech – that is, the right to express one’s opinions without censorship, restraint or legal penalty. The purpose is to secure the licence to speak with impunity; not freedom of expression, but rather freedom from the consequences of that expression.

. . . If anything, speech has never been more free and unregulated. The purpose of the free-speech-crisis myth is to guilt people into giving up their right of response to attacks, and to destigmatise racism and prejudice. It aims to blackmail good people into ceding space to bad ideas, even though they have a legitimate right to refuse. And it is a myth that demands, in turn, its own silencing and undermining of individual freedom. To accept the free-speech-crisis myth is to give up your own right to turn off the comments.

. . . Not only do free speech warriors demand all opinions be heard on all platforms they choose, from college campuses to Twitter, but they also demand that there be no objection or reaction. It became farcical and extremely psychologically taxing for anyone who could see the dangers of hate speech, and how a sharpening tone on immigration could be used to make the lives of immigrants and minorities harder.

. . . Our alleged free speech crisis was never really about free speech. The backdrop to the myth is rising anti-immigration sentiment and Islamophobia. Free-speech-crisis advocates always seem to have an agenda. They overwhelmingly wanted to exercise their freedom of speech in order to agitate against minorities, women, immigrants and Muslims.

No, there is a “crisis” in that speakers are increasingly being deplatformed on campuses and elsewhere (see the FIRE disinvitation database), and that deplatforming is increasingly coming from the Left. Moreover, these deplatformings involve censoring pro-Israel speech far more often than censoring pro-Muslim or pro-Palestinian speech. The reason the Right is more vocal about free speech than is the Left may come in part from the base motives mentioned by Malik, but in general comes from the fact that conservative viewpoints are censored or demonized more often, at least on campuses, than are liberal viewpoints. It is the conservative students, and not the liberals, who feel intimidated on campus to say what they think.

The free-speech movement calls for not only completely unlimited speech everywhere, but the inviting of all speakers as well as the attempt to suppress the opponents of hate speech. 

The myth has two components: the first is that all speech should be free; the second is that freedom of speech means freedom from objection.

. . . Free speech had seemingly come to mean that no one had any right to object to what anyone ever said – which not only meant that no one should object to Johnson’s comments but, in turn, that no one should object to their objection. Free speech logic, rather than the pursuit of a lofty Enlightenment value, had become a race to the bottom, where the alternative to being “professionally offended” is never to be offended at all. This logic today demands silence from those who are defending themselves from abuse or hate speech. It is, according to the director of the Institute of Race Relations, “the privileging of freedom of speech over freedom to life”.

This is complete hogwash. Not even in the U.S. is all speech free: the courts have laid out several exceptions: defamatory or harassing speech, false advertisement, speech that constitutes direct and immediate incitement to violence, and so on. However, Malik wants “hate speech” and “fighting words” banned as well, though she doesn’t really define these terms—and that is the omnipresent problem. Who shall decide what speech is “hate speech” that Malik wants banned? One could, for example, say that criticisms of affirmative action, or of Zionism, constitute “hate speech” or even “fighting words.” And they have indeed led to fights. Should these discussions be banned because they cause rancor and bad feeling? I don’t think so.

Further, nobody argues that everyone has a right to say what they want online. While controls should be as lax as possible, even I monitor this site to keep discussions civil, and Malik’s own venue of The Guardian doesn’t even allow comments on threads that, she says, are likely to have discussions that “derail.” The concept of “free speech” in the U.S. is meant to prevent government censorship of public speech, not to force private venues and universities to allow everybody to speak on their dime. (I do think that Universities should give free speech the widest possible latitude, as the Chicago Principles demand.)

As for free-speech advocated demanding that people attacked by speech be silenced and not allowed to defend themselves, that’s just a lie. What we always favor is more speech, and for people to respond when they’re attacked.

The new free-speech movement was started by atheists who wanted to promulgate Islamophobia.

At the same time that new platforms were proliferating on the internet, a rightwing counter-push was also taking place online. It claimed that all speech must be allowed without consequence or moderation, and that liberals were assaulting the premise of free speech. I began to notice it around the late 2000s, alongside the fashionable atheism that sprang up after the publication of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. These new atheists were the first users I spotted using argumentative technicalities (eg “Islam is not a race”) to hide rank prejudice and Islamophobia. If the Guardian published a column of mine but did not open the comment thread, readers would find me on social media and cry censorship, then unleash their invective there instead.

Here again we see the false claim that the free-speech movement says that “all speech must be allowed without consequence or moderation”. That’s a twofold lie: nobody says that all speech should be allowed everywhere: it depends on the time and place. And all of us think that we should bear reasonable consequences for what we say, so long as those consequences are not physical violence or overreaction, like firing someone. Malik beefs at length about how she got criticized on social media, but that will always be the consequence of free speech, and all of us have been attacked in this way. As for Dawkins (by implication) being the source of the new free-speech movement, a movement supposedly meant to legitimize “rank prejudice and Islamophobia,” I deny it. Dawkins criticizes Islam, its tenets, and its oppression of gays, women, and apostates, but who among us would say that such speech should be censored? This is not the same thing as bigotry, but nevertheless is considered “hate speech” by many, and I suspect by Malik.

We need to control free speech because it conflicts with other values: the right of minorities to not be treated differently or oppressed. 

But real marketplaces actually require a lot of regulation. There are anti-monopoly rules, there are interest rate fixes and, in many markets, artificial currency pegs. In the press, publishing and the business of ideas dispersal in general, there are players that are deeply entrenched and networked, and so the supply of ideas reflects their power.

Freedom of speech is not a neutral, fixed concept, uncoloured by societal prejudice. The belief that it is some absolute, untainted hallmark of civilisation is linked to self-serving exceptionalism – a delusion that there is a basic template around which there is a consensus uninformed by biases. The recent history of fighting for freedom of speech has gone from something noble – striving for the right to publish works that offend people’s sexual or religious prudery, and speaking up against the values leveraged by the powerful to maintain control – to attacking the weak and persecuted. The effort has evolved from challenging upwards to punching downwards.

Apparently it’s okay to punch upwards, which usually means bigotry against heterosexual white males or those groups lower on the oppression scale. But bigotry is bigotry, and “hate speech” is ill defined. We’ve seen claims that preferring gender balance as an outcome is more important than providing equal opportunities for genders, and that those who promote the latter view are sexists and bigots who should be censored. But these discussions are essential, regardless of whether they’re seen as “punching downwards.”

Finally, and I draw to a close, Malik is demanding more control over speech, including increased deplatforming:

We challenge this instrumentalisation by reclaiming the true meaning of the freedom of speech (which is freedom to speak rather than a right to speak without consequence), challenging hate speech more forcefully, being unafraid to contemplate banning or no-platforming those we think are harmful to the public good, and being tolerant of objection to them when they do speak. Like the political-correctness myth, the free-speech-crisis myth is a call for orthodoxy, for passiveness in the face of assault.

A moral right to express unpopular opinions is not a moral right to express those opinions in a way that silences the voices of others, or puts them in danger of violence. There are those who abuse free speech, who wish others harm, and who roll back efforts to ensure that all citizens are treated with respect. These are facts – and free-speech-crisis mythology is preventing us from confronting them.

Part of this is already part of the free-speech platform: the need to face consequences for what you say, the right to challenge hate speech, and the need to tolerate the give-and-take of speech. What is really the objectionable part here is Malik’s claim that we should “contemplate banning or no-platforming those we think are harmful to the public good.” But who determines what speech is harmful? Apparently it’s Malik, but it’s sure not Trump.

In reality, nobody should be the Decider here—at least not for public speech, and preferably not on campus.

Finally, as we’ve seen, the claim that ‘hate speech’ leads to “silencing the voices of others” is bogus. What hate speech has done on campus has made minorities and those objecting to public speech more vocal. If students have been silenced—beyond right-wing students, of course, who have been silenced via demonization of their speech—I haven’t noticed it.

Let us not pretend that free speech and “diversity and inclusion” will never conflict and that they can always live in harmony. In many cases they can, but if you criticize Palestine or Israel, or affirmative action, or equal gender representation in proportion to the population—those things are often construed as “hate speech” that is palpably inimical to diversity and inclusion. And in cases where the two values conflict, you must choose which gets priority. When you do that, then someone must decide what speech is inimical to diversity and inclusion. Many of those decisions will quash discussions that are important and essential. I would always vote for free speech—at least free speech as defined by the American courts.

The Guardian, of course, is Britain’s equivalent of HuffPost: a soppy and unthoughtful purveyor of all things Woke. This piece is one of those soppy offerings. I wouldn’t say it shouldn’t have been published, but it should have been cut by about 75%.

Conversation with attorney Andrew Seidel on June 11 about the secular origins of the United States

May 10, 2019 • 11:30 am

If you’re in Chicago, mark your calendars for June 11. For on that evening I’ll be having a conversation in town with Andrew Seidel (sponsored by the Freedom from Religion Foundation [FFRF] and the End of the Line Humanists) about Andrew’s new book, The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American. To be released in four days, the book deals with the secular origins of America—neither the founders nor the founding “principles” were religious—and shows how those who promulgate that myth (mostly the Christian Nationalists) are dead wrong and ignorant of history. It’s a must-have book for secularists.

Andrew, with whom I’ve worked on a few cases as an evolution expert or “censorious person,” is a constitutional lawyer and the Director of Strategic Response at the FFRF. And the book is good: I’m nearly done with my first read.

The official announcement is below. The discussion is free, it’s at 7:30, and it’s held at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with the address given in the flyer (click on screenshot to enlarge). Andrew’s book will be available at the venue and he’ll be signing it. If you’re in Chicago, we’ll be delighted to see you there. There will be lots to discuss and lots of myths to dispel.

Seattle police acting as enablers of Antifa

December 15, 2018 • 1:00 pm

I guess I’m supposed to issue a disclaimer when I use material from  right-wing sites, but not from left-wing ones. However, we should judge material on its credibility, not its source. So here’s a report from the right-wing site RedState that happens to comport with stuff I’ve heard from other sites and other people (click on screenshot). To wit, a Seattle cop told a reporter to vamoose because, when filming Antifa protestors, he was deemed likely to “incite trouble.” Give me a break!

The reason this is credible to those who question reports from conservative sites is that the reporter is Andy Ngo, an independent photographer and journalist who writes and publishes videos on Quillette and other sites about the suppression of free speech in Portland.  I’ve never had reason to question his credibility, and he’s non-confrontational. He shows up to film stuff.  And in Portland and Seattle, the epicenters of Antifa, Ngo has documented lots of demonstrations and censorious actions by outraged Leftists. Here’s one in which Antifa shows up to “shut down” a demonstration by the Three Percenters, a group of militant, anti-government Righties (no, I don’t support them!). The RedState report, larded with tweets from Ngo, was put up December 2:

Yesterday, a group called the Three Percenters had a permit for a rally in Seattle. They were met by the antifa who didn’t bother to obtain a permit, though the police don’t really seem to care.

Ngo was recognized (Antifa hates him since he films their shenanigans). And then this happened:

More quotes referring to what’s below; be sure to watch all the videos.

There are two interesting things that happen in this segment. First, Ngo is headed off by two antifa carrying what appear to be some civilian knockoff of the M-4 and they tell him they will not let him pass. Then a cop intervenes and tells them to let Ngo through. The cop is less than six feet from the armed antifa, he seemingly heard them tell Ngo he couldn’t pass but somehow the blocking of passage on a sidewalk and the possession of a pair of semi-automatic rifles are never linked into one act.

Then the situation starts to deteriorate for Ngo:

These protestors are insane. It’s not helped by the law allowing them to carry intimidating guns, a “right” they take full advantage of.

The second tweet below is the one that disturbs me. As Ngo reports, a Seattle Police officer tries to get Ngo, who is acting purely as a reporter, to leave the scene as he was causing conflict. In other words, the police are protecting antifa from being reported on. The Police says that Ngo has a right to protest, but not to report, for reporting incites conflict. Of course it does: Antifa has a long history of trying to prevent themselves being filmed or identified (that’s why they wear masks—a sure sign that their protests are not “civil disobedience” but are likely to turn violent).

Now some of the cops were fine, and I’m impressed by their calmness in the face of these riled-up demonstrators. But one of them abnegates his duty to expel a reporter. That guy should be given a talking-to:

The article shows another tweet in which a Leftist protestor asks Ngo if he’s willing to “die for YouTube”, which of course is a veiled threat.

It’s reprehensible for a police officer to protect the masked thugs and order a journalist off the street. That’s a violation of Ngo’s First Amendment rights. As RedState notes, and I agree:

Sort of amazing, really. The Seattle PD had zero problem with armed people showing up for an un-permitted protest. They had zero problem with a sidewalk being obstructed or a journalist being rather unambiguously threatened. And rather than enforce the law, they told a guy engaging in Constitutionally protected behavior–covering this illegal demonstration as a journalist–that he was the problem.

Counterprotests are fine; threatening journalists and carrying guns at demonstrations, well, I’m not down with that. And aren’t the antifascists really fascists themselves?

h/t: cesar

NY Times publisher criticizes Trump’s freedom of speech while extolling free speech

July 30, 2018 • 2:00 pm

I’m quite puzzled, but not all that surprised, by this unusual published statement by New York Times publisher A. G. Sulzberger. The publisher was invited to the White House for an “off the record” meeting with President Trump. Because Trump tweeted about it, though, Sulzberger rightly considered it now “on the record”, and issued the statement below (click on screenshot to see the piece, though I’ve put his statement below in its entirety):

Here’s the statement:

Statement of A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times:

My main purpose for accepting the meeting was to raise concerns about the president’s deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.

I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.

I told him that although the phrase “fake news” is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists “the enemy of the people.” I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.

I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.

Throughout the conversation I emphasized that if President Trump, like previous presidents, was upset with coverage of his administration he was of course free to tell the world. I made clear repeatedly that I was not asking for him to soften his attacks on The Times if he felt our coverage was unfair. Instead, I implored him to reconsider his broader attacks on journalism, which I believe are dangerous and harmful to our country.

Now it’s unseemly for Trump to impugn the press as a whole, but Sulzberger goes further, saying that the President’s words are equivalent to violence, putting journalists at risk and in face undermining the nation’s commitment to free speech and a free press.

It is no such thing. Trump’s unhinged tweets are not the “immediate incitements to violence” that have been deemed illegal by the courts. Nor are they any incitement to violence. They are an opinion: a misguided one, to be sure, but not a violation of the First Amendment. And, in fact, the Times’s response to the statement above is an affirmation of free speech and a free press. After all, the Times can legally say what it wants about Trump so long as they don’t engage in illegal libel and defamation.

This just buttresses my view that the NYT, much to my dismay, is moving more and more toward the Control Left. Now they’re engaging in the CL posture that words are equivalent to violence, and so should be suppressed. What a thing for a newspaper to say! The fact that Trump is both an idiot and the President doesn’t deprive him of his First Amendment rights.

h/t: Gary

Canada poised to repeal its blasphemy law

June 12, 2017 • 10:00 am

Since 1892, Canada has had an anti-blasphemy law on the books, to wit (from the Criminal C0de):

296. (1) Every one who publishes a blasphemous libel is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years

  • (2) It is a question of fact whether or not any matter that is published is a blasphemous libel.
  • (3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section for expressing in good faith and in decent language, or attempting to establish by argument used in good faith and conveyed in decent language, an opinion on a religious subject.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 260.

Now the bit about being exculpated if you give a critical opinion on religion “in good faith and decent language” might seem to be the loophole. But as Peter Bowal and Kelsey Horvat note in a quote given by Canada’s Centre for Inquiry (a group that has long crusaded against that law), the law “remain[s] the most serious form of crimes (indictable), and contain broad, archaic wording which makes their criminal application and enforcement difficult as well as controversial today.”  Bowal and Horvat also indicate that “there is no guidance in the criminal code or in any judicial interpretations as to what “publishes”, “decent language” or  “a religious subject” mean, or generally what constitutes a blasphemous libel”.

The law hasn’t been used much, though in 1980 it was used to charge a theater with showing Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” though the charges were dropped.

Now, according to Global News and verified by the Government of Canada’s website, an bill to amend Canada’s criminal code has been introduced in the House of Commons by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, who represents Vancouver/Granville (she’s a Liberal, of course).  That law not only clarifies provisions of the sexual assault laws, but repeals section 296, with the repeal buried in a list of archaic and unenforceable laws (my emphasis in the bullet points):

Obsolete and/or redundant provisions

The proposed legislation would repeal several Criminal Code offences that were enacted many years ago, but that are no longer relevant or required today, including:

  • Challenging someone to a duel (section 71);

  • Advertising a reward for the return of stolen property “no questions asked” (section 143);

  • Possessing, printing, distributing or publishing crime comics (paragraph 163(1)(b));

  • Publishing blasphemous libel (section 296);

  • Fraudulently pretending to practise witchcraft (section 365); and,

  • Issuing trading stamps (section 427).

It’s about time to strike from the books a law prohibiting religious blasphemy, which doesn’t belong in a progressive country. This hasn’t passed yet, but I’m betting it will.

That doesn’t solve all of Canada’s “first amendment” issues, though, as there are numerous “hate speech laws” that are still on the books, and have been used. See the Wikipedia article on “Hate speech laws in Canada“. Here are two examples of “hate speech” that shouldn’t have been prosecuted, though in both cases I find the opinions prosecuted to be detestable:

In 2005, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal fined Bill Whatcott, leader of a small group called the Christian Truth Activists, $17,500 because he distributed flyers that had controversial comments about homosexuals.[38] The matter ultimately went to the Supreme Court of Canada where the decision was upheld in part.

In Citron v. Zündel TD 1/02 (2002/01/18) the Tribunal found that the respondent had theories of secret conspiracies by Jews. The respondent posted his theories to the Internet. The Tribunal found that the tone and extreme denigration and vilification of Jews by the respondent was a violation of s. 13(1). The Tribunal ordered the respondent to cease and desist his discriminatory practices.

Neither of these cases would have been prosecuted in the U.S. Let Ernst Zündel promulgate his anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial without being jailed. After hearing him, we can educate ourselves about the evidence for the Holocaust, and he can always be met with counter-speech. For further arguments about why we should let “hateful” speech be aired, read Mill’s On Liberty. 

h/t: Gregory

New Yorker goes Regressive Left, criticizes freedom of speech (Milo’s, of course)

February 16, 2017 • 10:30 am

It’s no surprise that the New Yorker, a reliably liberal magazine that doesn’t want to offend its fanbase, has been leaning towards Regressive Leftism. While their criticism of Trump is generally good, their osculation of faith is irritating, but of course for the magazine to state outright that there’s no evidence for God would be, well, too strident, and they either shy away from faith or osculate it. (To be fair, they’ve published one online piece by Lawrence Krauss about militant atheism).

But when they tackled the issue of Milo Yiannopoulos and free speech in yesterday’s piece by Jelani Cobb: “The mistake the Berkeley protestors made about Milo Yaiannopoulos“, they wound up implying that Milo is inciting violence, with the implication being that he should just shut up, or at least shouldn’t be invited anywhere. (Cobb, by the way, is identified by the magazine as “a professor of journalism at Columbia University. He won the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, for his columns on race, the police, and injustice.”)

What was the mistake that the protestors made? It was, said Cobb, to turn Yiannopoulos into a victim, therefore deserving of sympathy. And that was supposedly why Trump is so popular as well:

The further fact of Yiannopoulos’s fervent support for President Trump is not, then, surprising. Few figures in American history have better weaponized the imaginary grievances of entitled people who consider themselves oppressed than Trump has. This is precisely the reason the black-clad rioters among the protesters at Berkeley who prevented Yiannopoulos from speaking—the school cancelled the event, citing danger to the public—served his ultimate interests. It was a tactical error that ignored everything 2016 should have taught us. As with Trump, who treats every reasonable criticism of his Presidency as another nail in a crucifixion, and his electorate, which eagerly co-signs that sentiment, Yiannopoulos has emerged from Berkeley as both the putative victim and victor. In the wake of the debacle, his book rocketed to No. 1 on the pre-order list in Amazon’s political-humor section. Scott Adams, the creator of the comic strip “Dilbert,” stated that he was ending his support for Berkeley, where he received a master’s degree, because he would not feel “safe” on the campus.

Well, one could make a good argument that Trump’s election had little to do with him seeming to be a victim, and his noises about being “crucified” by the press haven’t won him many supporters since he became President. Likewise, the mistake the Berkeley protestors made was not just to cast Milo as Jesus. True, it did enable some to paint him someone whose free speech was abrogated by irate Leftists—which happens to be true. But I don’t think that was nearly as important as the second reason:as Ryan Holiday argued, the fracas over Yiannopoulos brought him more attention, and hence more supporters. The first mistake isn’t as serious because it didn’t gain Milo many more supporters than he already had: it just gave conservatives another reason to defend him. The second, however, by casting a wider net of attention around Milo, invariably drew in some people who hadn’t heard of him, swelling his ranks. (As for Scott Adams’s claim, well, that’s ridiculous, because Berkeley did all it could to ensure a peaceful talk, and in fact supported Milo’s right to speak while denigrating what he usually says. I’m sure it’s very safe in Sproul Plaza right now.)

Cobb also seems to have bought into the view that everything Milo says is toxic: the political equivalent of alchemy.  Well, that’s not true, for some of Milo’s comments, whether on immigration, feminism, or issues like Black Lives Matter, do bear discussion, despite the fact that he often goes off the rails. While it’s important to Cobb to claim that everything that comes out of Milo’s mouth can be rejected forthwith, without discussion, I don’t agree. Even if I disagree with most of Milo’s views, that kind of speech is protected precisely because it stimulates the kind of discussion that, in the end, will promote rationality. Do we really want to claim that Black Lives Matter is a movement without flaws, or that anyone who questions statistics on wage differentials between sexes must be a misogynist? For that is what Cobb is saying:

No chemistry department would extend an invitation to an alchemist; no reputable department of psychology would entertain a lecture espousing phrenology. But amid the student conservatives at Berkeley—and along the lecture circuit where he is a sought-after speaker—Yiannopoulos’s toxic brew of bigotries apparently meets their standard for credibility. And this recognition is as big a problem as anything he has said in his talks or in his erstwhile existence as a Twitter troll.

I’ve listened to a few of Milo’s talks, and I don’t agree that they consist solely of a “toxic brew of bigotries.”  But since Cobb sees it this way, it’s easy for him to slide into the trope of “hate speech,” and even into implicitly blaming Milo himself on the violence that ensued before his talk—violence that prevented him from mounting the stage.

Read this excerpt from the last two paragraphs of Cobb’s piece and tell me if you don’t see an implicit exculpation of the protests on the grounds that Milo intended to incite the kind of violence that happened at Berkeley:

Whatever Scott Adams’s hypothetical fears for his safety on Berkeley’s campus, they pale in comparison to the realistic fears that many Muslims have about their places of worship being targeted for arson, as was a mosque in Texas, the day after Trump signed his executive order on immigration, last month, one near Seattle, two weeks earlier, and one in Florida, last September. The Southern Poverty Law Center documented eight hundred and sixty-seven incidents of harassment, many of which involved people specifically invoking Trump’s name, in the ten days following the Presidential election. The largest group of these incidents involved anti-immigrant sentiments, followed by instances of anti-black and anti-Semitic bigotry.

We know or ought to know that, in a hierarchical society, even civil liberties can be used in ways that reinforce those hierarchies. We are witnessing the rebirth of alchemy as a serious endeavor, an undertaking in which we transform abuse into victimhood, billionaires into besieged outsiders, and the vulnerable into vectors of mass danger. It is no more empirically sound than the old mutations of lead into gold—but it is far more marketable. And it is far more dangerous than the inept rogues who showed up on Berkeley’s campus that evening.

I’m sorry, but I haven’t heard Yiannopoulos call for the burning of mosques or illegal harassment. The conclusion that Milo’s talks lead to “mass danger” is ludicrous. It is that claim that’s not “empirically sound”, not Cobb’s view that allowing Milo to speak poses a clear and present danger to society.  Banning Yiannopoulos from an invited talk, as the protestors succeeded in doing, is more dangerous than allowing him to talk, because that erodes the First Amendment, and that erosion endangers America as a whole. As for the violence, Cobb needs to be reminded that Milo is not responsible for it.  Cobb’s aim, to call out prejudice, is admirable, but along the way he throws out the First Amendment along with the baby of bigotry.

 

h/t: Robin

Jordanian writer indicted and then assassinated for sharing cartoon depicting Allah

September 25, 2016 • 9:30 am

Several sources, including The Independent and Al Jazeera, report the death of Jordanian writer Nahed Hattar, shot to death outside a courtroom in Amman. Hattar had put the following cartoon on his Facebook page; he didn’t draw it or create it, but merely shared it. (Cartoon and translation from Elder of Ziyon; neither the Independent nor Al Jazeera had the guts to reprint it). Allah peeks into a tent where a bearded jihadist is carousing with two women, food, and wine:

cartoon-shows-allah-640-580

 The translation:
In Green: In paradise…
Allah: “May your evening be joyous, Abu Saleh, do you need anything?”
Jihadist: “Yes Lord, bring me the glass of wine from other there and tell Jibril [the Angel Gabriel] to bring me some cashews. After that send me an eternal servant to clean the floor and take the empty plates with you.”
Jihadist continues: “Don’t forget to put a door on the tent so that you knock before you enter next time, your gloriousness.”
The cartoon was deemed offensive to Islam, though it showed not Muhammad but Allah, and Hattar, though he’d removed the cartoon, was charged with “inciting sectarian strife and insulting Islam.” (Hattar was a Christian.) Released on bail, he was returning to the courthouse when he was cut down with three shots. The assailant was arrested.  Al Jazeera gives a bit more background:

The backlash against Hattar was immediate with Jordanian social media users lambasting the writer for purposely causing offence to Muslims.

Social media users also called on the government to question and arrest Hattar, and some attacked him for being Christian and a secularist.

Attempting to explain his motive for sharing the cartoon, Hattar said that he did not intend to cause offence to Muslims and wanted the cartoon to “expose” the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group and the Muslim Brotherhood.

In another explanation, Hattar said that “as a non-believer” he respected “the believers who did not understand the satire behind the cartoon”.

Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement in response to Hattar’s comments that called on the government to take strong measures against those who publish seditious material that undermined national unity.

Hattar was no angel, as he was a strong supporter of Syria’s murderous Assad regime, but nobody deserves to be killed for sharing a cartoon, especially one that mocks jihadists. The Jordanians who attacked him for that, and for being a Christian, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood who wants to stifle all criticism of their faith—are reprehensible.  And so, by the way, are the news outlets who, à la the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, refused to show exactly what incited the ire of Muslims.

hattar
Nahed Hattar

h/t: Malgorzata