Tag: First Amendment

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The signs of the institutional terminal illness of the American university are increasingly plentiful. The stories out of Missouri and Yale and a half-dozen other places in recent months might be easily dismissed as the grumblings of an entitled generation—and they are that—but something far more insidious is entangled with this “movement.” Preview Open

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Students at Yale and the University of Missouri have been exercising their First Amendment free speech right to protest—well—the right of others to exercise their right to free speech. Textbook irony. Free speech should be enjoyed and exercised by all, not just small groups on campuses trying to insulate themselves from intellectually-challenging ideas. It is […]

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When I got to that point in the Ricochet sign-up I had to stop and think. You see, I know how the Internet works. Every single employer I get from now to forever will google my name and see it associated with right wing ravings. Never mind that I don’t actually rave often; employers are […]

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In modern America, much evil may be committed in the name of “justice” or “equality” or, ironically, “freedom.”   All of us believe in some version of those precepts.  Thus, to oppose a strain of totalitarianism that gallops into town under a banner bearing the name of so noble an ideal would make one a monstrous bigot. […]

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Video: Mizzou Protest Shuts Down First Amendment


A young photojournalist tried to do his job today and take pictures of a protest movement roiling the University of Missouri. The protest, named #ConcernedStudent1950, complains of institutionalized racism at the Mizzou campus and society at large. Their disruption has gotten so bad, the university president decided to resign earlier today. Since this is obviously news, sympathetic reporters are there to spread the protesters’ progressive message. Unfortunately for the journalists, Mizzou doesn’t seem to teach its students about the First Amendment.

China: Harbinger of a Brave New World


shutterstock_275764925Totalitarianism is a function of technology. Prior to recent times, governments might claim to be absolute, but they did not have the record-keeping, administrative capacity to make good on that claim. Now they can do so far more easily than ever before — without hiring armies of spies. All that they have to do is follow the population on the Internet and use computers to collect and analyze the data. What Google can do, governments can do — and in Xi Jinping’s China that is what they are going to do. As The Weekly Standard reports,

China’s Communist government is rolling out a plan to assign everyone in the country “citizenship scores.” According to the ACLU, “China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control. It is, as one commentator put it, ‘authoritarianism, gamified.’ ” In the system, everyone is measured by a score ranging from 350 to 950, and that score is linked to a national ID card. In addition to measuring your financial credit, it will also measure political compliance. Expressing the wrong opinion—or merely having friends who express the wrong opinion—will hurt your score. The higher your score, the more privileges the government will grant you.

To do this, of course, the Chinese government needs help, and that is where private enterprise comes in. Alibaba and Tencent are set to administer the plan; and, if you hold stock in Yahoo, you are party to this as well.

Setting The New Yorker Straight on Freedom of Speech


free-speech-flagEarlier this month, The New Yorker ran an article by Kelefa Sanneh called, “The Hell You Say,” which purports to examine “the current free-speech debate.” Unfortunately, the article is chock full of inaccuracies and flawed arguments. We simply could not let this slide, so I, along with other staff members at FIRE, have carefully compiled A Dozen Things ‘The New Yorker’ Gets Wrong about Free Speech (And Why It Matters). Why is criticizing this one magazine article important, you might ask? As I say in our rebuttal:

First of all, in a time when people seem increasingly comfortable with book banning, blasphemy laws, hate speech laws, and amending the Constitution to limit the First Amendment, it’s important to take every opportunity we can to correct common misconceptions and explain some of the basics of the deep and profound philosophy behind free speech and the wisdom inherent in First Amendment law. Second, it’s important to take on the growing tide of critics, including authors and even journalists, who rely on freedom of speech but want to dismiss it as something unsophisticated or even dangerous. Whether from Eric Posner, Gary Trudeau, or Noah Feldman, there is a push to dismiss freedom of speech that seems to lionize the fact that other countries limit it. Every single one of these critics should sit down and read Flemming Rose’s book on international censorship, The Tyranny of Silence, before assuming that “enlightened censorship” is either justified or working out well for anyone.

There are ten more things the intrepid staff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education believes The New Yorker got wrong about free speech. Here’s the first:

The Silly and Dangerous Things Senators Say


Senator Tammy BaldwinReimagining the First Amendment:

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) says the 1st Amendment’s religious liberty protections don’t apply to individuals.

On MSNBC last week, Wisconsin’s junior Senator claimed that the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion extends only to religious institutions, and that individual’s do not have a right to the free exercise of their own religion.

Oregon: Bakers’ Statements to National Media Were “Unlawful”


Most of us probably assume that if legal charges are filed against us and we consider them unjust, we have a First Amendment right to raise a ruckus in the press. But last week’s controversial Oregon cake ruling suggests that some public officials are not so sure about that.

Last week, the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Brad Avakian, ordered Melissa and Aaron Klein of Sweet Cakes by Melissa to pay $135,000 in damages, primarily for emotional distress, to a same-sex couple it had turned down for a wedding cake (earlier). In addition, the ruling ordered the Kleins to

The Great Progressive Rewind: The Left Is in a Word War


Note: I should clarify this title, lest I invite confusion: the Left is not so much fighting an intellectual war through words, but one against words. And in this context, words mean spoken words, thoughts, or symbols.

From inane trivialities to proper comedic etiquette to authoritarian speech codes, the Left is deserting an expansive view of free speech that it once nourished during the Progressive Era. Where its forbearers defended with a vigorous voice a more fundamental right to free speech — particularly for those whose opinions were outside the mainstream of American political thought — the modern Left seeks out problematic views and quashes them. Whether inventions of First Amendment exclusions, punishment of climate heresy, or shaming of non-PC humor, the Left finds a new scourge on an almost weekly basis, oftentimes buried in American culture’s most innocuous places.

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Freedom of association is commonly related to the first amendment right to peaceably assemble.  If a union can force non-union workers to either join or pay union dues—or lose one’s job, doesn’t that violate the individual’s rights of freedom of association? To put it another way, if the employees of a business vote to unionize, […]

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The Wrong Kind of Renaissance: A New Age of Campus Censorship


shutterstock_141582367When I published my first book, Unlearning Liberty, in 2012, I felt optimistic that the situation for free speech on campus, though not good by any means, was improving. A lot of the campus censorship efforts had become less ideological and more of the old-fashioned, “Don’t you dare criticize my university” type of censorship. Even the scourge of campus speech codes seemed to be eroding—albeit very slowly in the face of Herculean efforts.

Still, I knew from experience that things could turn around—and, sadly, turn around they have. In the last two years, the intense political correctness of the late 1980s and early ’90s has returned with a vengeance, and we are now experiencing the wrong kind of renaissance.

Yesterday, I examined the contributing forces to this “renaissance” in my latest essay on Minding the Campus. As I write in the piece:

The Nature of Defiance


MuhammadThere is an argument about Pamela Geller’s cartoon contest, favored by Bill O’Reilly as well as by many garden variety liberal pundits, that goes like this:

Of course the right to free speech is sacred and the murderers who wish to infringe on that right are vile criminals. Our vigor in the defense of free speech, however, (equally obviously) does not mean that we agree with the speech we are defending. The cartoons that Geller assembled are insulting to 1.5 billion, predominantly peaceful Muslims around the world. We can judge Geller offensive or (as Bill O’Reilly does) “stupid” for deliberately mocking the religion of the benign majority just in order to taunt the violent minority.

I can embellish this argument.

The First Amendment for Dummies


Most of us have some ritual to help bring us to full alertness in the morning.  Since it is not socially acceptable to run an IV drip of caffeine directly into your blood stream, most people settle on coffee as their delivery method.  I prefer a shot of adrenaline in the morning courtesy of the rage induced by reading the left-wing commentariat.

Take this morning as an example. The left has never been particularly fond of the Bill of Rights, but usually avoids blatant calls to abridge First Amendment protections on speech. Not today. The LA Times, for example, is wondering where free speech ends and hate speech begins. For the Time’s edification, I have included a handy Venn diagram. The yellow circle represents hate speech, and the blue circle represents the applicability of free speech protections.

The Libertarian Podcast: “Hollywood, Washington, and Transparency”


Are some companies so powerful that the public should have a right to know about their internal deliberations? That’s the argument WikiLeaks offered up when they decided to publish the entire archive of the Sony emails that were hacked last year. In this episode of The Libertarian podcast, Professor Epstein looks at the legal recourses that are available when information that was intended to stay private goes public; the limits of First Amendment protections for people who’ve stolen privileged information; and what it means to live in a world where your every e-mail could someday be newspaper fodder. Listen in below or subscribe to The Libertarian via iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.