Tag: Free Speech

Mob Censorship on Campus


In today’s political climate, there are sharp divisions of opinion over a range of issues, from health care and climate change to education and labor law. Ideally, a civil debate undertaken with mutual respect could ease tension and advance knowledge. Politics, however, often takes a very different turn.

One of the landmark decisions of the United States Supreme Court, New York Times v. Sullivan, was decided in 1964 at the height of civil rights movement. Writing for the majority, Justice William Brennan insisted that the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech rested on “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.” He then concluded that the First Amendment offered extensive protection to the media from defamation suits brought by private individuals—a principle that was later extended to apply to public figures as well. Defamation suits in his view could chill public debate.


FIRE’s 2017 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech


Unfortunately, it isn’t an easy undertaking deciding which schools belong on FIRE’s “10 worst colleges for free speech” list every year. This year was no exception.

This morning, we at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) published our annual “worst of the worst” list, which can be read with detailed descriptions of each school’s misdeeds at The Huffington Post.


Regulate Twitter as a Utility?


Should Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram be considered as Public Utilities and regulated accordingly? This was the question posed yesterday by Scott Adams, of Dilbert (and election 2016 prognostication) fame. Of course the question itself assumes that the existing regulation of utilities, in their operations and services, is already a good (or least a necessary) activity of government, and that regulation in turn requires us to define what a Public Utility is. Merriam Webster’s definition is, to my mind, unsatisfactorily circular:

a business organization (as an electric company) performing a public service and subject to special governmental regulationhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/public%20utility


Sailing the Magnanimous Sea


At night, Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam’s showroom hosts illusionists, concerto pianists, song and dance acts, and run-of-the-mill cruise entertainment. But it was during the day the real stage action occurred as the “O.N.T.P.’s of the Caribbean” (Original NeverTrump Pirates) sat on panels discussing what historically may have been the craziest election cycle of our lifetimes. The Weekly Standard’s post-election cruise included an impressive collection of conservative writers, editors, pundits, politicos, and a few non-Weekly Standard surprises.


Yale, Beyond the Pale


shutterstock_278796842In his recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Yale President Peter Salovey tried to explain how colleges can make room for both freedom of speech and a culture of inclusion and diversity. Salovey wants to have his cake and eat it, too. The supposed tension between free speech and inclusion is false, he argues, because it is possible to pursue both ends simultaneously.

Several days later, Yale was again in the news for its sexual harassment tribunals. As Jennifer Braceras explains in her op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, “College Sex Meets the Star Chamber,” Yale’s current policy on sexual harassment has led to a massive expansion of Yale’s control over the life of its faculty, students, and staff. At first, look, Salovey’s defense of free speech and inclusion seems unrelated to Braceras’s argument about the reach of Yale’s sexual harassment directive. But they are part of the same problem.


9th Circuit affirms CA forced abortion promotion law


So, you want to help pregnant women and girls with the information and resources they need to bring a healthy baby into the world? Well, in California, you can do that, but only if you tell these women and girls about free or discount-rate abortions they can get through the state. And only if the pro-life pregnancy care centers also provide the name, address, and phone number to the nearest abortionist.

The most reversed federal appeals circuit Friday upheld AB 775 – a speech coercion law that has less to do with women’s health than with political cronyism – in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Harris


What if the Founders Took a Page from Today’s College Administrators?


At the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), it goes without saying that we’re big fans of the First Amendment and our legal system’s robust guarantees of freedom of expression. Goodness, though, the free speech protections we enjoy in our society can bear awfully little resemblance to the conceptions of free speech (and un-free speech) that have taken root in the speech-code-heavy culture of our colleges today.

This got us wondering: What if the Founding Fathers conceptualized the First Amendment with the same boundaries college administrations so often put in place — what with their policies on “biased” speech, unconstitutional “free speech zone” restrictions, and increasingly intolerant attitudes toward “microaggressions?”


FIRE Launches New Free Speech Podcast


So To SpeakI’m proud to announce that FIRE has launched So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast. New episodes will be posted every other Thursday morning. The first of our bi-weekly episodes features interviews with me and with Brookings Institution Senior Fellow and Kindly Inquisitors author (as well as a personal hero of mine) Jonathan Rauch. As FIRE says over at The Torch:

In 1993, a young Rauch published Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. It was his response to what he saw as the West’s lackluster and apologetic defense of the novelist Salman Rushdie’s free speech rights. In this inaugural episode, Rauch talks about his book and its impassioned moral (not legal!) defense of liberal inquiry and criticism. You’ll also hear the inside scoop from Greg on his and Rauch’s first meeting. (Hint: It involved comic book superheroes.)