Tag: First Amendment

The Multi-Front Attack on Free Speech


Free speech…free expression generally…is under attack in America and throughout the Western world to a degree not seen in a long time. I think there are specific phenomena and (partially-overlapping) categories of people which are largely driving this attack, to wit:

The Thugs. As I pointed out in my post The United States of Weimar?, illegal actions against political opponents, ranging from theft of newspapers to direct assault and battery, have in recent decades become increasingly common on university campuses, and now are well on track to being normalized as aspects of American politics. Incidents of political thuggery are reported almost daily: just the other day, pro-Trump women at an upscale DC hotel were verbally attacked and apparently physically assaulted by members of a wedding party that was heavy on Democrat attendees; including, reportedly, some top officials from the DNC. A pro-free-speech film was reportedly interrupted by two men wearing masks. Interruption of movies they didn’t like was a tactic used by the Nazis prior to their obtaining official censorship powers. The film “All Quiet on the Western Front” was plagued by Nazi disruptions when released in Germany in 1930. And attempts to shut down dissident speakers on college campuses, such as this, have become so common as to now be almost the default expectation.

Democrat Candidate for NH Governor, Andru Volinsky, Blocks Media Outlet on Twitter


Andru Volinsky, a Democrat, announced this morning that he will seek the Democrat nomination to run for governor of New Hampshire against incumbent Chris Sununu, a Republican. New Hampshire Journal, run by friend of Ricochet @michaelgraham, naturally wanted to get a comment from the candidate, but noticed that Volinsky has blocked New Hampshire Journal’s twitter account.

Volinsky is engaging in unconstitutional “view point discrimination” according to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled unanimously this past July in upholding a lower court’s decision in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump:

This case requires us to consider whether a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, “block” a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States. The answer to both questions is no. …blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.

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With nearly seven in 10 American adults worried about cultural and political threats to free speech, good news may be closer than you think. In fact, a recent court decision provides hope that free speech protections are trending upward, charting the course for future victories for all Americans. Free speech was at the very center […]

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Victory for Christian Filmmakers Is a Win for Everyone


With nearly seven in 10 American adults worried about cultural and political threats to free speech, good news may be closer than you think. In fact, a recent court decision provides hope that free speech protections are trending upward, charting the course for future victories for all Americans.

Free speech was at the very center of Telescope Media Group v. Lucero. The case challenged the state’s attempt to force Christian filmmakers—with the threat of fines and jail time—to promote messages that violate their faith. On August 23, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled 2-1 in favor of the filmmakers, overturning a lower court’s decision and giving that court a roadmap for how this case should move forward.

The win isn’t just a major victory for the filmmakers—it’s a game-changer. Last summer, when the US Supreme Court decided Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission on free exercise grounds, it did not even need to reach the free speech issue presented because Colorado’s hostility against cake artist Jack Phillips was so egregious.

An Antidote to Conservative Gloom on Campus Free Speech


FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff is in National Review this week with a rather simple message for conservatives: There are actually a lot of things we can feel good about regarding the state of free expression on college campuses today.

The welfare of campus discourse is not perfect, of course, and its easy to sense that the issue is only getting worse–especially as free speech on campus gets no shortage of media exposure. The playing field has also changed in other fundamental ways. College students today are more aligned against free speech than they were ten or even five years ago, for reasons Greg and Jonathan Haidt expound on at length in their bestselling book The Coddling of the American Mind.

I’ve been at FIRE since 2008, and I can attest to those changes in the culture firsthand. I can also, however, attest to these meaningful changes FIRE has brought about nationally:

Andrew Doyle is the man behind satirical Twitter account Titania McGrath – a radical intersectionalist, feminist, and slam poet, who is constantly telling people how oppressed she is – and author of Woke: A Guide to Social Justice. He and Bridget have a fascinating and important conversation about the dangers of taking art and comedy literally, how smart people are becoming stupid because of woke ideology, why self-censorship is a slippery slope, and they wonder when the left became such pearl-clutchers. They discuss winning the culture war by winning people over, rather than locking them up or making certain types of speech illegal, the fact that there’s nothing more likely to help the far right to grow than the way the far left are behaving, the dangers of eroding the distinction between right wing and alt right, and the problems with The Faith of Intersectionality. Should the word “douchebag” be considered ableist? Where did the idea that “speech is violence” come from? What is it like being tribeless in an increasingly tribal world? What is the path forward? Find out on this not-to-be-missed episode.

The Absolute Right to Choose Your Own Pronouns


I believe both in the right of individuals to express their personal pronoun preferences and in the right of other individuals to ignore them. It’s the same right in each case: the right of freedom of expression and it’s a right I hold dear.

I understand that some folks in the trans movement would like to tell other people which words they can and can’t use. I don’t approve of that, because I really do believe in freedom of expression: the same freedom that lets a guy put on a dress and say “I’m a woman” lets me chuckle and say, “yeah, no. But let’s agree to disagree.”

Nick Sandmann Lawsuit against WAPO for $250 Million and Clarence Thomas’ Solo Opinion


Two stories have intersected making for intriguing discussions about the First Amendment as well as the laws against defamation.

The first story is the defamation lawsuit of Nick Sandmann against the Washington Post for $250 million. WaPo’s coverage of the confrontation between Sandman and a Native American man exploded into a national story and was fed by the inflammatory and reckless coverage by WaPo and other media outlets. Sandmann’s lawyer, Lin Wood, said, “Nick Sandmann was perceived as an easy target. He is 16. Inexcusable on every level.”

I suspect that the attorney will also include information on the threats, intimidation, and harassment that Sandmann went through, which included his family leaving their home for security reasons, explaining how the extreme coverage endangered all those involved. The lawsuit claims that. . .

Daniel DiSalvo joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss the impact of last year’s Supreme Court decision in Janus v. ASFCME, in which the Court ruled that public-sector unions’ mandatory “agency fees” were unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

Unions provide an important source of financial support for politicians—primarily Democrats—around the country. In a new report for the Manhattan Institute, DiSalvo finds that blue states are taking steps to shield their public unions from the full consequences of the Janus ruling.

Formidable to Tyrants Only


The title comes from the Declaration of Independence. Third on the list of grievances, Ol’ Tommy J. has this to say:

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

FIRE report: 9 out of 10 Universities (Still) Restrict Free Speech


For more than a decade now, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has published its Spotlight on Speech Codes report, an annual survey of speech policies at hundreds of universities across the United States. Yesterday, we unveiled our latest report.

I’ll start with the good news. First, the percentage of universities receiving FIRE’s worst, “red-light” rating, has fallen to its lowest ever, at 28.5%. Compare this to our first report, when three quarters of all universities bore this distinction. Second, the number of schools receiving our “green-light” rating, meaning that their policies, as written, are fully consistent with the First Amendment’s requirements. This year, 42 such institutions can claim the honor.

Now for the less-good news: A decisive majority of institutions (61%) receive FIRE’s “yellow-light” rating. This is better than a red-light rating in that the policies on paper are not plainly unconstitutional as written. However, the rating means that their policies as written are too vague to pass First Amendment muster, and could easily be abused to unconstitutional ends. (Both public and private universities are included in the report; while private institutions are not bound by the First Amendment, they often make robust free speech promises, and we assess them accordingly.) This means that, even with the significant policy improvements many universities have made in recent years, 90% of the schools in the survey still fail to live up to their free speech obligations in their policies.

Professor Files Lawsuit Against University Requirement to Use Transgender Labels


Professor Nicholas Meriwether has finally had enough.

In June 2018, a warning was put in this professor’s personnel file because he refused to refer to a transgender student, who was biologically male and called himself Alena Breuning, with female personal pronouns.

But Ms. Bruening demanded to be referred to as “Miss” and “she” in accordance with the student’s gender identity, filing a complaint against her professor earlier this year for not accommodating her wishes.

Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast for August 28, 2018 it is the End of Trump edition of the show, number 189!!! This week is a special show because our guest is my esteemed editor from the Boston Globe, the editorial page editor Marjorie Pritchard. As noted by NPR host David Greene:

An editorial in The Boston Globe this morning [August 16] has the headline “Journalists Are Not The Enemy.” This is in response to President Trump’s attacks. He has called the media, quote, “the enemy of the American people.” Now, the Globe asked other newspapers to join them today in running an editorial like this, and more than 300 publications heeded the call. This was spearheaded by Marjorie Pritchard. She’s the op-ed editor of The Boston Globe.

David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America take on three heavy topics, starting with Colorado baker Jack Phillips now having a powerful case of discrimination against the Colorado Civil Rights Commission after the commission ruled Phillips had violated the rights of a transgender lawyer for not customizing a cake for their gender transition or one depicting Satan engaged in a sex act.  They also hammer the Catholic church in Pennsylvania over the new grand jury report that reveals more than 3oo priests horrifically abusing more than a thousand children over the decades and the despicable lengths officials in the church went to in order to silence accusers and keep the priests in active ministry.  And they shred Chelsea Clinton’s absurd contention that abortion has been great for the economy because it allows more women to stay in the workforce.

Richard Epstein on Classical Liberalism, the Administrative State, Free Speech, and Silicon Valley Regulation


For this week’s Big Ideas with Ben Weingarten podcast, I had legendary classical liberal legal theorist and longtime professor at University of Chicago Law School and now at NYU Law — and prodigious Ricochet podcaster Professor Richard Epstein on the podcast to discuss among other things:

  • The role that Professor Epstein’s famous book, “Takings” played in Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearing — and then-Senator Joe Biden’s hectoring
  • Professor Epstein’s groundbreaking theories on private property rights, eminent domain and the Takings and Commerce Clauses
  • The practical argument against progressivism
  • Whether we should deconstruct the administrative state, and if so how to do it
  • The danger to free speech emanating from college campuses in a world of microaggressions, trigger warnings, de-platforming
  • The folly of regulating Silicon Valley social media companies
  • Classical liberalism versus socialism and libertarianism

You can find the episode on iTunes, everywhere else podcasts are found or download the episode directly here.

Richard Epstein explores the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay marriage ceremony, critiques the judicial style of Anthony Kennedy, and explains how anti-discrimination laws have expanded beyond a useful scope.

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America cheer the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a Christian baker who was sued for not customizing a wedding cake for a same-sex ceremony but note the ruling focused on this particular case rather than broader issues of conscience and religious liberty.  They also cringe as Bill Clinton still sees himself as the victim in the Monica Lewinsky scandal and scolds an NBC reporter for even bringing it up.  And they’re incredulous as President Trump boldly announces he has the power to pardon himself and Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, contends Trump could not even be indicted for killing former FBI Director James Comey while still in office.

My Encounter with Gun Control Fanatics


We had been seated for only a few minutes at the Grille, the restaurant in our gated community. Suddenly I saw my husband’s eyes open, then roll, as he shook his head in disgust. He was looking behind me, and as I turned around, I saw a couple sitting down at a table for two. Standing in front of their table for all to see was a white sign with the large letters “AR IS FOR WAR.” We live in a 55+ community, so the man was no youngster. His hair was grey, as was his wife’s, and he was wearing a distinctive military cap on his head, although I couldn’t read what it said.

We called our waiter over, who is a very nice young man, and said this was not the place for a political statement. He said he couldn’t do anything, but said he would let the manager know. After several minutes, the manager didn’t appear, so my husband lost his patience and went to fetch her. She told him she didn’t realize it was a political sign. Right. Several minutes later she appeared at the table with the sign, chatted, and left. Nothing else was done.

I could see that my husband was working up a head of steam; neither of us could let go of the couple’s insistence on making what we considered to be an offensive political statement. I finally told my husband that I was going over to see what kind of statement they thought they were making. I saw that the man was a Seabee from his hat, and said my husband was a Vietnam War vet. The conversation went somewhat like this: