Tag: Free Speech

Quote of the Day: Pro-Free Speech


Any online community that is explicitly pro-free speech will inevitably become right-leaning. This is because in the free market of ideas right-leaning ideas win. Which is why we see these left-wing tech companies censoring. No one is buying their progressive, globalist [REDACTED] anymore, so it must be force-fed down the throats of users and dissent must be stamped out with the iron fist of censorship.” — Gab CEO Andrew Torba

If you think about it, it makes sense. Ricochet is an example. We have had progressives and liberals join Ricochet to convert the heathen conservatives t0 their political bent instead staying and becoming right-leaning. Because the center-right arguments convinced them. In a free marketplace of ideas, the better arguments win.

Politics and Religion


In the first and second centuries, the ruling authoritarian government of Rome persecuted Christians for crimes against the state. What were those crimes? Chief among the reasons for Christian persecution was the refusal of Christians to worship Roman gods. To the Romans, their deities, their gods, were the reason for their victory in war or bountiful resources. When told to give obeisance to these gods, Christians refused, claiming there is only one God who has disclosed Himself in the person and work of Jesus, the Christ. Roman authorities then used their political beliefs to penalize Christians for their speech in their finances and, ultimately, in their deaths.

Christian views that go against the ruling vision of any culture are seen as an attack on the accepted gods of that age, including political viewpoints. Everyone worships something. And by ‘worship,’ I mean a total dedication to current, cultural beliefs. Cultural idols come in many forms. We customize our preferences. We commercialize our consumer desires, equating our views with what we buy. We determine the logic of a thing. If it makes sense to our group – even if it doesn’t conform to created reality – then it must be true. We measure “truth” (in air quotes) by popularity and polls promoted by publicity. We live in the “now,” refusing to consider that there is a “then,” a life after this life, a final judgment.

To many people, politics is their religion. Groups live and die with each election, each ballot cast. And the governance of a nation can become a real idol. Parties and platforms are human-centered idols. Not bowing to the beliefs and threats of a governing body may begin the suppression of speech and the elimination of one’s job. What happened in Rome is happening here. For Truth in Two, this is Dr. Mark Eckel, president of the Comenius Institute, personally seeking Truth wherever it’s found. [First published at MarkEckel.com]

Campuses Struggle with Free Speech


Freedom of speech is widely acknowledged as vital in the abstract. Yet that principle presents serious problems in its concrete applications. The constitutional text that invokes this principle is both cryptic and emphatic when it says that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” At the time of the founding, the First Amendment bound only the federal government. It was not held to bind the states until 1925 under Gitlow v. New York, when it was further determined that the amendment did not protect any speaker who advocated the overthrow of the United States government by force and violence. To this day, the First Amendment does not apply to any private institution, but without question most of these institutions have incorporated free-speech provisions in their own charter or governance provisions.

The difficulties start, however, with its interpretation in both public and private settings. Courts have resisted the tendency to engage in free-speech absolutism that makes no exceptions or excuses from the constitutional command. Such free-speech exceptionalism does not withstand the test of common sense. We all believe in the freedom of action, but that does not countenance actions such as theft, murder, or rape. And the freedom of speech surely does not protect any threats of the use of force. That simple libertarian observation requires some account of exceptions that should be grafted on to the basic principle of freedom of speech.

Attempts to find the right balance are constantly tested on college campuses, as shown by some recent incidents.

‘Disinformation’ Campaign vs. Open Debate


On July 4, in Missouri v. Biden, Judge Terry A. Doughty issued a broad injunction whose primary function is to prevent the Department of Health and Human Services, the FBI, and multiple other federal agencies from speaking to or meeting with social-media companies for the purpose of “encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.” The government has insisted throughout the litigation that its active cooperation with these companies is part of a vital public campaign to stop the spread of “disinformation” on social media, including its efforts to prevent what the Biden administration termed “vaccine hesitancy” on the part of the public.

The Doughty decision has generated fierce opposition in the liberal press. Thus Paul Barrett fumes in The Hill about “how a right-wing judge got social media and free speech dead wrong,” and then misses the point by writing: “Doughty’s dubious notion that there is a First Amendment right to spread socially harmful disinformation could well become constitutional law.” In so doing, he makes the fundamental blunder of insisting that he knows the right answer without the need for debate in which counterspeech, not suppression, is the order of the day. The Biden administration has appealed the ruling to the Fifth Circuit, which has already issued a stay order of Doughty’s initial injunction. The case seems destined for the Supreme Court. But no matter how far it goes, the government ought to lose.

The campaign against Doughty rests heavily on the claim that the suit, brought by two right-wing attorneys general, from Louisiana and Missouri, has all the marks of a political vendetta brought before a sympathetic judge in a favorable forum. The critics do not mention that three of the plaintiffs in this case are Dr. Jayanta Bhattacharya, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, and biostatistician and epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff. Bhattacharya and Kulldorff were two of the original authors and signers of the Great Barrington Declaration, which sought in fall 2020 to defend the proposition that COVID-19 lockdown policies were harmful and should be replaced by a program of “focused protection” aimed at the most vulnerable subpopulations, typically older individuals often with additional comorbidities such as diabetes and kidney diseases.

Mixed Signals on Free Speech


Lorie Smith of 303 Creative.

In June, the Supreme Court announced its decisions in two important cases, both from Colorado, that take divergent views on freedom of speech. The more controversial was a 6-3 decision in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which once again pitted claims of religious freedom against Colorado law.

As everyone now knows, Lorie Smith, the owner of 303 Creative, has strong, bona fide Christian beliefs that make her unwilling to prepare marriage websites for same-sex couples. She was more than willing to serve all customers, regardless of their sexual orientation or political preferences, in any other business transaction. Justice Neil Gorsuch held that any effort to force her to make a website against her will was a form of coerced speech, much as the forced flag salute imposed similar restrictions on Jehovah’s Witnesses eighty years ago, until upended by Justice Robert Jackson in West Virginia v. Barnette (1943).

This week on The Learning Curve, Cara and Gerard talk with Rachel Silber Devlin about her memoir, Snapshots of My Father, John Silber, which captures the wide-ranging and remarkable life of the late philosopher, teacher, and president of Boston University. Devlin discusses how her father became known as a vigorous proponent of a traditional liberal arts education, improved the prestige and endowment at B.U., and became a national leader in K-12 education reform. She offers listeners a unique, personal look at a man and an educational leader who had a deep commitment to academic quality, music, and the arts, and capped his career by authoring books on the absurdity of modern architectural fads and the ethics of Immanuel Kant.

Stories of the Week

Join Jim and Greg as they applaud the congressional testimony of former FBI Special Agent Nicole Parker about how the politics of the FBI’s leadership are affecting the work and the credibility of the bureau. But will shining the spotlight on this result in any meaningful changes? They also fume as new reporting on Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman’s stroke and very difficult recovery prove that the campaign and Fetterman’s doctor flat-out lied to the people of Pennsylvania and that Fetterman’s inability to process what he hears is making it very difficult for him to do his job. Finally, they unload on the State Department for spending U.S. tax dollars through outside groups to muzzle conservative reporting through the Orwellian-sounding Global Disinformation Index.

Edgy Comic Refers to Audience as ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’


David Deeble, a standup comedian referred to by his critics as an “insult comic,” brazenly opened up his set at Sarah Lawrence College by addressing the audience as “Ladies and gentlemen.”

“Discomfort in the room was immediate and palpable,” said booker Gwynyd Simms (she/her, Bachelor of Arts in English.) “In hindsight, the absence of pronouns on his résumé should’ve been a red flag,” she added. (Simms would later embark on a month-long listening tour after being reminded that the term “red flag” is deemed offensive to indigenous peoples.)

According to witnesses, tension in the room only increased after Deeble claimed to have gotten married “old school — to a woman.” Undeterred, Deeble went on to say that he had “three children — one of each,” according to an audience member who wished not to be identified as their identity is currently in transition.

To Protect Religious Students’ Feelings, Hamline University Jettisons Academic Freedom


I’ve spent nearly 15 years advocating for free speech in higher education and defending the rights of students and faculty to do the same. That’s to say that hopefully the following statement carries a bit of weight: In defending the non-renewal of an art history instructor’s contract for showing a 14th-century painting depicting the Prophet Muhammed, Hamline University president Fayneese Miller made one of the worst pronouncements on academic freedom I’ve ever seen a university president make – maybe the very worst. 

The instructor in question showed the painting – in a class session on Islamic art, it can’t be stressed enough – as part of an optional exercise, one students were given the opportunity to opt out of, and which was preceded with a warning about its content. In spite of the exit ramp offered by the instructor, a Muslim student in the class complained about the display, and the administration took swift action. David Everett, Hamline’s associate vice president for inclusive excellence, denounced the classroom exercise “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful, and Islamophobic.” Days later, he announced that the instructor would be “no longer part of the Hamline community.”

Strike a Blow for Free Speech


Those people who consider themselves as the prince-electors are aiming to destroy the Elon Musk-owned Twitter unless they are able to bring Musk to heel.  Many advertisers have been pressured into stopping or suspending their advertising on the platform, and Apple is apparently thinking of banning Twitter from the App Store.

As Musk said yesterday: “This is a battle for the future of civilization. If free speech is lost even in America, tyranny is all that lies ahead.”

Did Gov. DeSantis Get the ‘Stop Woke Act’ Wrong?


When I saw that the court’s Judge Walker rejected key parts of the “Stop Woke Act”(Individual Freedom Act) in Florida, I assumed that he was just another Leftist judge attacking the Conservative legislation. But then I saw that he was responding to a lawsuit brought by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) on behalf of a faculty member, a student, and a student group. FIRE is a highly regarded organization that champions free speech. You can review their lawsuit here. FIRE stated that the act was unconstitutional in that it disallowed free speech on public college campuses.

Judge Walker’s blistering criticism referred to the work of George Orwell:

Member Post


In Thomas Pynchon’s novel Gravity’s Rainbow, one of the characters explains a ‘European-style gangster hit’, which he says consists of three shots: head, heart, and stomach. Yes, that should definitely ensure the target’s demise. It strikes me that this comprehensive approach to high-certainty murder provides a pretty good analogy for what is going on in […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

Twixt Gentleman and Brigand


Our own Susan Quinn recently wrote an interesting post exploring the wisdom of Judge James Ho’s recent decision to disfavor Yale Law School graduates when seeking judicial clerks. In Should a Judge Use Cancel Culture to Boycott Cancel Culture?, Susan presents arguments for and against Judge Ho’s position (which echoes that of the late Judge Laurence Silberman).

Judge Ho’s position has been mischaracterized by some on both the left and right as a form of viewpoint discrimination: what the judge is doing, given this understanding, is rejecting a particularly left-leaning law school because it is particularly left-leaning. I disagree. What the judge is doing is, as I tried to make clear in my comments to Susan’s post, objecting to Yale’s institutional intolerance to diversity of thought. That’s a very different thing: the judge rejects a process that betrays our civilizational norms of open discourse and free expression. And well he should.

Despair and the Difficulties of the Enemy


I see a a lot of posts and comments from people who have concluded that the 2022 election is hopeless–that election fraud, combined with the huge Democrat funding advantage and the dominance of Democrat-advocating media, will make it impossible for any Republican candidate to win (any Republican candidate other than those who aren’t a challenge to the Democrat-desired status quo, at least).

I’m reminded of a passage in the book Infantry in Battle, written between the world wars–it contains numerous individual-experience monographs (American, French, and German) along with some rather philosophical thoughts about conclusions to be drawn from these experiences.  (The book was edited by then-colonel George C Marshall)

The Rule of the Prince-Electors


During the Middle Ages, in the time of the Holy Roman Empire, there was a small group of men known as the Prince-Electors.  They, and only they, got to choose the next Emperor.  We have something kind of similar in America today.  There is a cluster of influential and would-be-influential people who fervently believe that–while they might not get to actually select the next President–they should have the authority to decide who may and who may not be considered for the Presidential role.  These Prince-Electors include national journalists, Ivy League professors and administrators, and high-level government officials.  Their primary means of action is via the control of communications channels.

A few days ago, Jon Gabriel linked a YouTube video of a 2019 speech by Giorgia Meloni, the newly-elected Prime Minister of Italy.  For at least 12 hours, that video showed a  message: “This video has been removed for violating YouTube’s Terms of Service.”   It now has been restored.  But the fact that a video platform would take it upon themselves to censor a speech by the elected leader of a major and generally-US-friendly country betrays an astonishing level of arrogance.  Although not surprising, given the recent history, including Twitter banning of Donald Trump and the Facebook suppression of stories about the Hunter Biden laptop–and much more.

This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pacific Legal Foundation Senior Fellow Alison Somin about the Biden Administration’s proposed modifications to Title IX fair treatment guidelines, challenging principles of free speech and due process, and potentially chilling the culture of free debate in American universities.


This week on Hubwonk, host Joe Selvaggi talks with Noah Rothman, associate editor of Commentary magazine, about his recently released book, The Rise of the New Puritans: Fighting Back Against Progressives’ War On Fun, examining how the attempt to remoralize American culture mirrors similar social movements in the past and what concerned onlookers can do to better manage this frenzied phenomenon.