Tag: Free Speech

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Hate Speech Is Constitutional


Yik Yak, a controversial social media app, has colleges embroiled in debate as to the proper extents of speech on campuses. Yik Yak is a program that gives the user a “a live feed of what everyone’s saying around you.” On campuses around the country this can lead to predictable results when you combine adolescents, newly freed from the control of their parents, with the ability to spontaneously broadcast whatever they happen to be feeling in that moment within a 10-mile radius.

As noted by one writer at LSU, the results can often be what is popularly considered “hate speech.” Noting some of the truly terrible things that her fellow students feel free to share through the app, she writes:

A Meditation on Politics and Speech


Jonathan Chait just published a lengthy think-piece in the New York magazine about political correctness, identity politics, and the left’s newfound skepticism about free speech. I won’t bother to reproduce it here, because a) it’s mostly a series of interconnected anecdotes that don’t lend themselves to fisking, and b) there’s not really anything in it conservatives haven’t been grumping about for the past few years. Still, it’s nice to see that even flaks who make their living calling Republicans murderers for not being fond of Obamacare can have a sensible thought once in a while.

Chait is correct — though it galls me to admit it — in saying, along with fellow-travelers Frederik DeBoer (who wrote a similar essay last year) and Andrew Sullivan, that the modern social-justice left has in large part devolved into a whinging comparative-oppression Olympics where the laurels go not to the strong or swift but to those who reach for the smelling salts quickest, and whose swoons onto the nearest fainting couch are most theatrical and filled with au courant buzzwords. He is also correct in recognizing that there is a powerful trend in modern progressivism turning away from small-l “liberal” abstract values like free speech and towards a hard-nosed consequentialism where the ends truly do justify the means. On this point Chait actually gets off something resembling a zinger:

‘God Cannot Be Mocked’


As a teenager, I was easily offended. Any perceived slight would earn an immediate “That’s not fair!” to which adults within earshot would either roll their eyes or ignore. (I didn’t think that was fair either, nor do my tween daughters today.) At 15, I became an evangelical Christian and appended this teenage whininess to my faith. When evil sinners denigrated my God or my inchoate beliefs, I would angrily condemn their blasphemies. After all the Good Book states, “God cannot be mocked.” The Big Guy upstairs needs an uptight high schooler to defend His honor!

Wednesday we had a vastly more violent reaction to religious offense. As is all too common, Islamist radicals murdered individuals who mocked not their God, but a flawed human whom they claim as a prophet. Jihadists never seem as defensive about Islam’s other prophets, be they Jesus, Moses or Jonah. No, only the scimitar-swinging Mohammed is so fragile that he cannot even be illustrated without a bloodbath of vengeance.

Bask in the Crazy: Hate Speech


Though the bulk of a conservative’s time engaging liberal arguments is best spent addressing their most pointed and nuanced positions, I believe we should occasionally indulge ourselves by reveling in their worst arguments and fringe elements. Arguments such as this piece by Tanya Cohen which flips George Orwell the proverbial bird.

Published on the site Thought Catalogue — a name is straight out of an Orwell novel — Cohen makes the case that the United States trails far behind such paragons of virtue as Turkey, Jordan, Russia and India when it comes to basic human rights.

Campus Speech Codes Decline, But Federal Government Threatens to Impose Censorship Codes at 100% of Colleges


The Wall Street Journal penned a great staff editorial about my organization’s (FIRE’s) 2015 speech code report, which was just officially released today. There is some good news in the report, as the Journal reports:

55% of the 437 colleges it surveyed this year maintain “severely restrictive” policies that “clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech.” They include 61 private schools and 180 public colleges. Incredibly, this represents progress from Fire’s survey seven years ago when 75% of colleges maintained restrictive free speech codes.

Arguing Maher: Can We Just Assume for the Sake of Argument That Everyone Who Disagrees with Me is Hitler?


I’m sure Ricochet readers who know my work are surprised it has taken me this long to write something about the disinvitation push at UC Berkeley against comedian Bill Maher. After all, it’s one of the major topics in my latest short book, Freedom From Speech, and even the term “disinvitation season” was an internal FIRE term until this year. The truth is, I was waiting to hear back on an op-ed I’d written about Maher which fell through as the case developed.

But today, at the Huffington Post (I think it’s important not to just preach to the choir), I outline five major points that people should keep in mind even as UC Berkeley seems to be doing the right thing. But, one point I thought Ricochet readers would enjoy in particular, was my criticism of Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR for trying to shift the debate about Bill Maher over to a hypothetical about the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. Here’s my take on that in full in the fifth point of my piece.

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Political ads on TV have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission as political contributions. That rule has not applied to political statements posted on the internet, but, as announced by Commissioner Ann Ravel, the FEC is looking into changing that. If you have posted political messages on the internet, you may have thought […]

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The NAACP Leads the Charge Against Free Speech


NaacplogoLast year, a pro-life blogger posted an essay at LifeNews with the title “NAACP: National Association for the Abortion of Colored People.” The author, Ryan Bomberger (an African-American) took the NAACP to task for its cozy relationship with Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups:

They’ll beat the drums of economic, social and environmental “justice” while over 360,000 black babies, annually, never get a chance at one of the few Constitutional rights that actually exist—the right to Life. . . .At a time when 72.3% of black children are born into homes without fathers and (in some places like Philadelphia) 50% of viable black pregnancies end in abortion one would think protecting future generations would become a national emergency for this historic organization.

How did the NAACP respond? They sued Bomberger’s organization, the Radiance Foundation, for trademark infringement because the essay’s title took the NAACP’s name in vain. The title, of course, was good old-fashioned parody, akin to calling the ACLU the “Anti-Christian Lawyers Union.”

Member Post


I was reading an excellent post today at www.powerlineblog.com by John Hinderaker about the vote on Thursday on the Udall amendment to the Bill of Rights that would remove free speech protection for federal and state elections. It’s an atrocity and a great opening handed to conservatives by the truly despicable Sen. Harry Reid, Senate […]

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I have been a big fan of Lawrence Lessig for years, mainly for his work versus SOPA, PIPA, and earlier fights. But his latest campaign is a different matter altogether. His MayDay PAC just completed a pledge drive that raised $5M to “reduce the influence of money in politics.” Fighting flooding with water, or something. Preview […]

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Left-Wing McCarthyism at the University of Hawaii


HawaiiAs a graduate student at Texas A&M, and later at Princeton, I studied how unfair allegations and unfair investigative practices had chilled freedom of speech in the United States during the McCarthy era in the 1950s. Having suffered from the political repression of China’s Cultural Revolution, I can testify to the collective madness that destroyed the lives of millions. I consider McCarthyism a similar political horror, though generated by the American Right and less destructive than the Chinese nightmare.

Yet today, more than half a century after the death of McCarthy (and, we had thought, his method of waging politics) Left-wing McCarthyism dominates the discourse of too many college campuses, supposedly the home of learning. Unfortunately, the campus where I teach, the University of Hawaii, is among them.  With collective identities of gender, race, and class dominating practically every discussion, both in and out of classes, professors seek to protect themselves from attack from the politically correct through ritual obeisance. Liberal arts education is no longer even slightly “liberal,” (a word derived from the Latin “libertas,” or liberty, subsequently resurrected by the civic culture of early modern Europe). Students are systematically discouraged from questioning the new orthodoxy, sometimes through bullying and sometimes through the threat of ostracism, enforced by “speech codes.” Administrators have at best become apathetic in promoting a free exchange of ideas and have signed on as sensitivity police.

 Consider Rutgers, “The State University of New Jersey.” Condoleezza Rice had been scheduled to give the commencement address this spring. An African-American success story, Dr. Rice has served the academy as a professor of Political Science and Provost at Stanford University and has served America as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. Who can doubt that, having risen from modest beginnings in the hothouse environment of the 1960s South, she would have much of value to impart to the graduating class at Rutgers? And yet, the faculty approved a resolution calling for the university to disinvite her.  Dr. Rice gracefully withdrew from the graduation ceremony in order to preserve the harmony of the celebration. It should have never come to that.

Tolerance is Dead


DanSavageRaunchy gay sex columnist (and sometimes political activist) Dan Savage has been caught up in a perfect storm of liberal identity politics. While speaking at the University of Chicago last week, Savage used the word “tranny” – a slang term for transgendered people – in the context of “reclaiming” words that might otherwise have a negative connotation.

In a perfectly ironic turn of events that followed, a self-identified transgendered student in the audience is now saying that he/she was deeply hurt by Savage’s use of the “reclaimed” slur.

The Illinois Review reports the details:

FIRE Study: ‘Disinvitation Season’ Is Getting Worse


shutterstock_150667244It’s not just a question of perception; the push for speakers (commencement and otherwise) to be disinvited from campus has gotten worse.

As I wrote in a long piece today in the Huffington Post:

So far, FIRE has discovered 192 incidents in which students or faculty have pushed for speakers invited to campus (both for commencement and other speaking engagements) to be disinvited since 2000. Eighty-two of those incidents were “successful” in that ultimately the speaker did not speak. Of those 82 successful disinvitations, 53 occurred via the revocation of the speaker’s invitation to campus, 17 were from speakers withdrawing in the face of protest, and 12 were “heckler’s vetoes” in which speakers were shouted down, chased off stage, or otherwise prevented from speaking.

Bloomberg Chastises Thought Police at Harvard Commencement


Jannis Tobias Werner / Shutterstock.comMichael Bloomberg just wrapped up quite a commencement address to Harvard grads. Titled “Don’t Major in Intolerance,” the political independent and former mayor surprisingly took academia’s thought police to task:

In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left-wing ideas. Today, on many campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species.

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than here in the Ivy League. In the 2012 presidential race, 96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama. That statistic, drawn from Federal Election Commission data, should give us pause — and I say that as someone who endorsed President Obama. When 96 percent of faculty donors prefer one candidate to another, you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a university should offer. Diversity of gender, ethnicity and orientation is important. But a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous.