“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

 

FIRE, censorship, and the disturbing Constitutional ignorance of college students

August 2, 2016 • 9:30 am

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) was founded in 1999, with its founders expecting that it would last only ten years. But you probably know that the organization is still going strong. In fact, it’s going stronger than ever due to the rise of the Authoritarian Left and student Offense Culture, as well as Obama’s “urging” campuses to expand how Title IX, the sexual harassment regulation, is construed—an expansion that has come into conflict with First Amendment rights and thrown many campuses into a turmoil (see an example here).

In fact, only a few years ago I remember FIRE being widely regarded as a right-wing fringe organization, largely because it took on the thankless task of defending free speech and expression on campuses—something that often required them to counter liberal attempts to censor “hate speech.” And FIRE is still supported generously by right-wing groups like the Koch Foundation. That’s exactly why progressives like us should fund them, for a liberal philosophy is the traditional repository of individual rights, including the right to criticize religion! Most progressive causes in the U.S., like the civil rights and gay-liberation movements, have succeeded precisely because they were able to speak freely in ways others found offensive. A gay liberation movement would not succeed in Saudi Arabia, for its proponents would not only be censored, but killed.

It’s an indication of the Zeitgeist, then, that FIRE is now so busy that it’s the subject of a new New York Times profile, “Fighting for free speech on America’s campuses.” Greg Lukianoff, the president and chief executive of FIRE, dates the beginning of the big rise in censorship on American campuses:

“Something changed,” Mr. Lukianoff said. “I don’t entirely know why.” But he can date the shift: October 2013, at Brown University, when the New York City police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, was invited to speak but was shouted down by students over his support of stop-and-frisk practices.

“I count that as the symbolic beginning because that’s when we noticed an uptick in student press for disinvitations, trigger warnings and microaggression policing,” he said. “That doesn’t mean administrators have stopped doing goofy things, but now they can say, at least more convincingly, that they are being told by students that they need to do those things.”

I was unaware of the 2016 Gallup survey quoted in the article (Free Expression on Campus: A Survey of U.S. College Students and U.S. Adults; free pdf), but, as reported by the Times, its findings are disturbing:

  • Asked if colleges should have policies against slurs and other intentionally offensive language, 69 percent of students said yes, while 27 percent believed they should be able to restrict expression of potentially offensive political views. And 63 percent wanted schools to restrict costumes that stereotype racial or ethnic groups.

In other words, roughly 2/3 of students think their schools should restrict First Amendment rights they enjoy in society as a whole.

While 76 percent agreed that students should not be able to prevent the news media from covering campus protests, nearly half supported reasons for curtailing that coverage: biased reporting (49 percent), the right to be left alone when protesting (48 percent) and the right to tell their own story on the internet and social media (44 percent). For black students, percentages are higher (66 percent, 61 percent and 54 percent).

Black students were least sanguine about the right to peaceable assembly: 60 percent saw it as a threat, compared with 29 percent of white students.

And yet, despite the 2/3 mandate for speech and dress censorship, over half recognize that their own campuses have a climate that suppresses free speech:

Over all, 54 percent polled said the climate on their campus “prevents some people from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive.”

Finally, if you go to the report, you’ll find another result:

  • U.S. college students are highly confident about the security of each of the five First Amendment rights, particularly freedom of the press (81%), freedom to petition the government (76%) and freedom of speech (73%).

Yet these are the very rights they want to remove or restrict on their own campuses! I’m not sure what’s going on here, unless students simply don’t understand the First Amendment and its historical interpretation by courts, which includes allowing speech now largely seen as “hate speech.” We’ll get to this ignorance in a minute.

In the meantime, FIRE has been extraordinarily successful in investigating and rectifying violations of First Amendment rights on campus (my emphasis below):

A lawsuit is FIRE’s tactic of last resort, especially when it comes to speech codes. In about 90 percent of cases, it uses “persuasion,” as staff members call it, to get administrators to revise or revoke questionable parts of a code. Depending on the level of “obstinacy,” Mr. Bonilla said, “the levers of publicity” — news releases, op-eds, media appearances — kick in. Most administrators, wary of bad press or an expensive suit, eliminate the speech codes.

As Mr. Lukianoff likes to note, FIRE has not lost a speech-code legal challenge yet. (He recounts many of them in his 2014 book, “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate.”)

I’ve read that book, and it’s very good as well as eye-opening. I’ll soon offer a free copy as the prize in an as-yet-undetermined contest.

The Times piece does show some criticism of FIRE by universities, but I don’t find it compelling. And the article offers up one more bit of information relevant to the Christakises Halloween Dustup at Yale University:

Katie McCleary, a Little Shell Chippewa student raised on the Crow Reservation in Montana, is a Yale junior who was active in the protests. “I would not seek out FIRE even though they say they are founded for reasons of defending students who feel their voice is lost,” she said. “It seems like a specific kind of lost voice that they are interested in. It’s usually a voice that’s racist and says things that are immoral. I’d rather speak for myself.”

This shows a profound misunderstanding of the First Amendment. The court cases and complaints do indeed often involve protecting “offensive” speech (here characterized as “immoral” or “racist”). If someone didn’t find the speech offensive, there wouldn’t be any complaints requiring interventions by FIRE. But make no mistake about it—if McCleary’s right to speak her mind was violated on campus, FIRE would be there for her. Her criticisms make no more sense than saying that because accused criminals are usually guilty, yet are entitled to a defense (one that’s free if you’re indigent), then the whole judicial system is worthless.

The ignorance of students about the Constitution is amply displayed in another article in yesterday’s Times: “Want a copy of the Constitution? Now, that’s controversial!” Apparently, students passing out the Constitution on campus is considered a subversive activity

Passing out the Constitution on campus isn’t the benign activity one might expect, especially when egged on by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The group provides a pocket-size “Student Activist Edition” of the Constitution, which includes directions on how to hand it out and what to do if you get stopped: “Refer administrators to the First Amendment (p. 43)”; “Consider taking a video of the conversation”; “Contact FIRE for further assistance.”

On Constitution Day — the day delegates signed the document, Sept. 17, 1787 — a student Army veteran at Modesto Junior College in Fresno, Calif., was prevented from distributing copies and told to make an appointment to use the “free-speech zone,” a small, remote area available only certain hours of the day (three states now prohibit public colleges from designating only certain areas as free-speech zones). Likewise, at the University of Hawaii, Hilo, student members of Young Americans for Liberty, a national libertarian group, were ordered back to their table after handing out copies.

It’s hard to imagine that such activity could rise to the level of infraction, but both are cases FIRE filed suit over, and settled for a combined $100,000.

When I put up the following video, made by a provocateur, showing students at Yale (a hive of The Perpetually Offended) signing a petition to ban the First Amendment, some commenters here chimed in saying that the video was fake, or edited to make people look bad. I’m not so sure about that! People simply don’t know what the founding document of America law really says—or means.

 When the Constitution of the U.S. is regarded as subversive and worthy of banning, then we’re really in trouble.

h/t: Greg Mayer