We have been discussing how the left has fallen out of love with free speech and how free speech is now being treated not as the defining right of liberty but the very threat to liberty. Indeed, the most existential threats to free speech around the world are now coming from the left, which has embraced speech codes and the criminalization of speech with a passion. There are exceptions like Bernie Sanders who recently declared that Ann Coulter should be allowed to speak at Berkeley — a position that I obviously have shared on this blog. However, that principled position was countered by the most common response of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean who declared that hate speech is not protected by the Constitution. He is obviously wrong but his inclination — even eagerness — to limit free speech is now a mainstream idea among liberals who once were…
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Eugene Volokh has a few things to say about things that aren’t supposed to be said. Volokh, a professor of free speech law at U.C.L.A., has seen books banned, professors censored, and the ordinary expression of students stifled on university campuses across the nation.
Volokh believes free speech and open inquiry, once paramount values of higher education, are increasingly jeopardized by restrictive university speech codes. Instead of formally banning speech, speech codes discourage broad categories of human expression. “Hate speech. Harassment. Micro-aggressions,” Volokh says. “Often they’re not defined. They’re just assumed to be bad, assumed they’re something we need to ban.”
Volokh spoke at Reason Weekend, the annual event held by Reason Foundation.
MSNBC reporter Hallie Jackson ironically referred to Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos as a “flame-thrower” on Thursday while scenes played out of people at California-Berkeley literally setting fires the night before in protest of him speaking on their campus.
“Jackson’s use of the term ‘flame-thrower’ was humorous given that Yiannopoulos was not the one who actually caused parts of campus to go up in flames.”
“This protest developed overnight out at Berkeley because Milo Yiannopoulos, sort-of noted troll, sort-of flame thrower if you will, was set to speak,” Jackson said, as images showed of the chaos. Read the rest of this entry »
Ed West writes: I’ve learned that it’s best not to say anything about a terrorist atrocity on social media, especially not if it confirms one’s political prejudices. It just looks crass, or it has when I’ve done it. Try not to say anything profound either, as it will probably look insipid; also ideally do not make any point about similar atrocities occurring in less well known parts of the world, as people will quite reasonably think you’re just scoring points. And best not to bother with the tweets of solidarity, which are superfluous these days surely; France and Belgium and Germany are our close allies, friends and neighbours, and it goes without saying that when one of us is attacked we feel for them.
German social media is apparently filled with anger, not with Islamic extremists or Angela Merkel but with Alternative für Deutschland and its supporters. I’m not sure what the psychological condition is called; I suppose it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome.
I can understand the human urge to protect the vulnerable, refugees and Muslims generally, from hostility as these awful events repeat themselves. It’s easy to sneer at politicians who come out with vapid theological comments, as I have in the past, but their job is to protect all the country’s citizens. I can also see why this urge might convince an intelligent person that Merkel’s migration policy has actually helped the fight against terrorism. But it’s extremely unlikely; all things being equal, hosting refugees does lead to an increase in terrorism, although the risk is smaller in richer countries, largely because they have better security services. It’s at times like this when I thank God for ours, who have saved countless lives in our country by preventing a good dozen attempts at mass murder. I’d suggest we all send them Christmas presents but I imagine they’d be destroyed. But if you’re reading – thank you all.
“German social media is apparently filled with anger, not with Islamic extremists or Angela Merkel but with Alternative für Deutschland and its supporters. I’m not sure what the psychological condition is called; I suppose it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome.”
In fact, Merkel’s policies have some pretty serious implications for Germany in the future. I’ve read many people arguing that it was actually a clever, shrewd policy to admit one million migrants because Germany has a low birth rate and needs more people. Yet the education levels and skill sets of most of the people who have entered in the past 18 months are, by German standards, extremely low; Germany has a fairly high-wage economy, especially compared to Britain, and there are not a whole lot of positions available for low-skilled men. The number of recent migrants who have found employment is exceptionally low. Employment rates among second generations migrants from the Middle East, mostly Turkish, are also considerably worse than ethnic Germans. Read the rest of this entry »
Paul Bedard writes: A key Federal Election Commission Republican warned Wednesday that liberals are moving aggressively to “amend the First Amendment” so that conservatives are silenced and businesses are chased “out of the democracy.”
“The general tenor of the Left in American politics today has certainly spoken out against First Amendment rights. It has been a reversal over the last 50 years.”
In some the toughest criticism leveled at Democrats, Commissioner Lee E. Goodman said that the attack started once the Tea Party changed American politics in the 2010 election and now dominates the politics of the Left.
“The general tenor of the Left in American politics today has certainly spoken out against First Amendment rights. It has been a reversal over the last 50 years,” he added, citing FDR Democrats who defended socialists and communists.
“I have been concerned about bias both in how complaints are brought to the commission just like in the way, the lobbying campaign for Lois Lerner. It was all one sided. But generally I try to make my First Amendment case by pointing out that we have to impact liberal and conservative speech in the same way.”
“But I have been concerned from time to time about every time a conservative group comes up, somehow, some way, exceptions and distinctions are made and this is the problem giving government the power to regulate speech in the first instance because ultimately human beings have to make that decision.”
THE HORROR: Majority of Democrats–and an Increasing Percentage of Republicans–Support Criminalizing Free SpeechPosted: May 22, 2015
John Sexton reports: A new poll shows that a majority of Democrats want to limit free speech with laws that would prohibit so-called “hate speech.”
A clear example of this desire to limit speech can be found in the New York Times editorial board’s reaction to the attack in Garland. In a piece titled, “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech,” the Times criticizes Pam Geller, the organizer of the cartoon contest and the intended victim of the attack. Speaking of Geller, the Times wrote, “she achieved her provocative goal in Garland — the event was attacked by two Muslims.”
The Times goes on to argue that no amount of violence—not the Charlie Hebdo attacks, not the theatrical brutality of ISIS, not even 9/11—can justify “provocations” (i.e. cartoons) of Islam. This is the severely limited view of the 1st amendment the left-leaning NYT has already embraced.
In contrast, the opposing view, held by most Republicans and independents according to this YouGov poll, is probably best exemplified by a piece Eugene Volokh published at the Washington Post:
Eugene Volokh writes:
I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas. One is as free to condemn Islam — or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens — as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialism or Democrats or Republicans….(read more at Washington Post)
The 1st Amendment protects all speech, but there is no doubt the left is increasingly comfortable with limiting this…
Unmentioned in John Sexton‘s analysis however, is that Republicans and Independents, not Democrats, are increasingly warming to the idea of free speech bans, while Democrat support is relatively unchanged. For example:
Democratic support for banning hate speech hasn’t increased at all; on the contrary, Dems are a bit more likely to oppose a ban than they were seven months ago, a rational reaction to the creepy spectacle of western media outlets self-censoring images of Mohammed cartoons after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It’s Republicans and independents who are slowly warming to hate-speech bans. Indie opposition has dropped 12 points, with an increase of eight points in support. GOPers are now 12 points more likely to support hate-speech bans than they were last year.
Allahpundit‘s exit question:
I can understand why progressives would want a legal cudgel to silence their enemies but I can’t understand why conservatives increasingly would. Even if you don’t value free speech enough to abhor that sort of cudgel on principle, surely you understand that the “politically incorrect” will be the main target of prosecutions. Why on earth would you enable this?
…Hillary Clinton has said that overturning Citizens United is a priority for her if elected President. Read the rest of this entry »
“There’s a fine line? There’s NO line. There’s NO LINE you IDIOT! It’s free speech or it isn’t, there’s NO LINE.”
— Bill Whittle
Chris Matthews said that the Texas incident was a mousetrap for terrorism, and that event organizers crossed a line. The Trifecta Gang rips this apart.
“Chris Matthews, you miserable lowlife COWARD, you have the audacity to make a living giving your opinion on American television and now you’re gonna say that these people deserved this, the same way Gary Trudeau said that the people at Charlie Hebdo deserved to be butchered in their chairs because they drew cartoons just like he did?”
“You have got a lot of nerve, you don’t deserve to live in this country, none of you deserve to live in this country, and if you want to know what the basis of this is, you’ve got it exactly right, Scott, it’s COWARDICE, it’s FEAR, these WEASELS, these LOWLIFES, these TRAITORS, in the media…”
— Bill Whittle, just getting warmed up
The Inevitable Chilling Effect: Despite Its Stand Against the ‘Terrorist’s Veto’, France Treats Offensive Words and Images as CrimesPosted: January 19, 2015
Jacob Sullum writes: On Sunday, as more than a million people marched through the streets of Paris in support of the right to draw cartoons without being murdered, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication declared that “artistic freedom and freedom of expression stand firm and unflinching at the heart of our common European values.” It added that “France and her allies in the EU safeguard these values and promote them in the world.”
“In a free society, that is simply not the government’s job. When courts are asked to draw this line, artists and commentators must try to anticipate whether their work will pass muster, which promotes self-censorship.”
In the wake of last week’s massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, perpetrated by men who saw death as a fitting punishment for the crime of insulting Islam, these were stirring words. If only they were true. Sadly, France and other European countries continue to legitimize the grievances underlying the barbaric attack on Charlie Hebdo by endorsing the illiberal idea that people have a right not to be offended.
“Sacrilege may upset people, but it does not violate their rights. By abandoning that distinction, avowed defenders of Enlightenment values capitulate to the forces of darkness.”
It is true that France does not prescribe the death penalty for publishing cartoons that offend Muslims. But under French law, insulting people based on their religion is a crime punishable by a fine of €22,500 and six months in jail.
In addition to religion, that law covers insults based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. Defamation (as opposed to mere insult) based on any of those factors is punishable by up to a year in prison, and so is incitement to discrimination, hatred, or violence. Read the rest of this entry »
OBERLIN, Ohio — An Oberlin College student acknowledged posting anti-Islam fliers and racist cards around the campus of the historically liberal Ohio university earlier this year, saying he meant them as a “joke” to provoke a reaction, according to statements he made after being detained by campus security.
The student also took credit for the display of a large Nazi flag, which he also said he meant as a joke, and posting the face of Oberlin’s president onto a picture of Adolf Hitler, according to the statements contained in an Oberlin city police report.
The student, detained after allegedly being seen posting anti-Islam fliers in the college’s Science Center Feb. 27, denied involvement in other, earlier racist postings and said he was trying to show people had overreacted to them.
The student, whose name was blacked out, said the people who put up earlier fliers were just looking for attention.
“I put out these fliers to get a similar over-reaction to prove this point,” the student said, according to the report. Read the rest of this entry »