By David French • National Review
When free speech threatens government power, government has a tendency to get curious about the identity and funding of dissenting speakers. This was true in the civil-rights era, when the state of Alabama tried to force the NAACP to divulge its membership lists. It was true during the Obama administration, when the IRS targeted the Tea Party for illegal scrutiny not merely by asking in some cases for donor lists but also by inquiring about the political activities of family members of tea-party leaders and the login information of tea-party websites. And it was certainly true in the state of Wisconsin, when law enforcement used terrifying dawn and pre-dawn raids to gather information about First Amendment–protected issue advocacy about labor-union reform.
But why threaten to batter down a door when you can just pass a law that batters away at the Constitution? Continue reading
By Peter W. Wood • The Federalist
The Middlebury College protest on March 2 that silenced an invited speaker and hospitalized a popular professor has continued to garner attention.
More than 100 Middlebury professors—included the one injured in the encounter—have signed a statement of principles, Free Inquiry on Campus, upholding the classic virtues of “free, reasoned, and civil speech.” The document implicitly repudiates the actions of some other Middlebury professors who instigated the effort to deny Dr. Charles Murray the opportunity to speak on campus.
The American Political Science Association, representing 13,000 professors and students, issued its own statement condemning “Violence at Middlebury College.” The APSA statement says, in part, “The violence surrounding the talk undermined the ability of faculty and students to engage in the free exchange of ideas and debate, thereby impeding academic freedom on the Middlebury campus.” Continue reading
by David French • National Review
I’m supposed to be encouraged, but I’m not.
In the aftermath of this month’s violent attack on Charles Murray and a Middlebury professor, I’m supposed to be encouraged, as a supporter of free speech and academic freedom in higher education, that pundits, professors, and writers from across the political spectrum have united to condemn mob censorship. I’m supposed to be encouraged that even stalwart men of the left such as New York Times columnists Frank Bruni and Nicholas Kristof are waking up to the modern American academy’s serious intellectual-diversity problem. And I’m supposed to be encouraged that Middlebury’s president and dozens of Middlebury professors have united to express their support for free speech.
But I’m not.
I’m certainly grateful for the near-unanimous condemnation of the protesters and rioters at Middlebury (and also at Berkeley, where the so-called “black bloc” shut down Milo Yiannopoulos’s planned speech, started fires, vandalized shops, and beat Trump supporters in the streets), but I’m not encouraged, and I don’t think other free-speech advocates should be either. Continue reading
By Dustin Siggins • The Federalist
On Thanksgiving morning, while most people were prepping for football and eating far too much turkey, the website company Leadpages was shutting down an opinion its executives disagreed with, in the name of diversity.
In an e-mail, Leadpages Director of Operations Doug Storbeck ordered 2nd Vote to take down its #AnywhereButTARGET website. According to Storbeck, ‘at Leadpages, we strive to create an inclusive workplace that upholds the dignity of all people. We value, respect, and celebrate everyone’s individualities and honor their unique strengths from all different walks of life.’
2nd Vote’s campaign encouraged conservatives to shop #AnywhereButTARGET because of the company’s policy that allows males who identify as females to use the restroom and changing room of their choice. Conservatives have boycotted the retail giant, though Target executives said in August that a stock drop and an investment in single-sex restrooms was unrelated to the backlash. Continue reading
by Elizabeth Harrington • Washington Free Beacon
The head researcher behind the government-funded project to track “misinformation” and “hate speech” online is now getting into the fact-checking business.
Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, explained during a lecture earlier this fall that he is creating a new system to go along with “Truthy” that he hopes can automatically extract tweets to be “fact-checked.”
During his talk at Northwestern University, Menczer also falsely claimed that the Washington Free Beacon is an “alt-right” website. Continue reading
When we limit students’ ability to discuss controversial ideas, we allow harmful prejudices and thoughts to fester. Classrooms should offer more.
By Jonathan Helwink • The Federalist
In his seminal work, “The Closing of the American Mind,” Allan Bloom recalled having a debate with a colleague about education. During the debate, the colleague said that his duty as an educator was to get rid of his students’ prejudices. Bloom wondered: Would his colleague render his students passive, indifferent, and subject to authorities like himself? Or was he just showing off?
Bloom’s response: he said he tried to teach his students prejudices. Prejudices, to Bloom, were avenues to knowledge. Error is the enemy, but error points to the truth, and therefore deserves our respectful attention. This notion is undervalued on college campuses, where increasing numbers of students learn to become citizens in a republic. But Bloom’s method could point to a new way forward for free expression on campus. Continue reading
Faculty, students believe Jefferson shouldn’t be included in emails
by Kate Bellows • Cavalier Daily
Several professors on Grounds collaborated to write a letter to University President Teresa Sullivan against the inclusion of a Thomas Jefferson quote in her post-election email Nov. 9.
In the email, Sullivan encouraged students to unite in the wake of contentious results, arguing that University students have the responsibility of creating the future they want for themselves.
“Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that University of Virginia students ‘are not of ordinary significance only: they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes,’” Sullivan said in the email. “I encourage today’s U.Va. students to embrace that responsibility.” Continue reading
by Lachlan Markay • The Federalist
Tom Steyer wants to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow the government to regulate religious sermons, tap the phones of the American Civil Liberties Union, seize phone record and Internet search histories on a whim, and give bureaucrats veto power over the content of The New York Times.
If that sounds like hyperbole, you need only read the text of Proposition 59, the California ballot measure Steyer endorsed last week. Billed as an attempt to roll back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the measure is actually far broader and more dangerous: it seeks to eliminate all constitutional rights for incorporated entities—for-profit companies, but also nonprofit groups, labor unions, charities, churches, and any other association given an official government imprimatur.
Steyer has focused of late on the ostensibly pernicious effects of money in politics as he pours more money than any other individual into federal elections. But for all of Prop 59’s focus on Citizens United, it never even mentions the separate Supreme Court case that has allowed Steyer to almost single-handedly finance one of the wealthiest political groups in the country. Continue reading
by Tom Ciccotta • Breitbart
At a free speech symposium at the University of Missouri, CNN commentator Sally Kohn argued that pro-free speech conservatives are really just afraid of the increasing desire for multiculturalism on college campuses.
Kohn, who frequently appears as a progressive commentator on CNN, claimed at the symposium that the right, by fighting for free speech, has merely been seeking new ways to stifle calls for diversity, particularly on college campuses.
Kohn argued that pro-free speech conservatives are really just afraid of “multiculturalism.”
Kohn’s CNN colleague Kirsten Powers challenged her, arguing that “speech is not in itself dangerous.” Kohn responded that their white, upper-middle class backgrounds disqualify them from deciding if free speech is harmful. Continue reading
By Rudy Takala • Washington Examiner
Regulators in Washington are showing increasing interest in tightening rules on political speech on the web, arguing that the dissonant voices enabled by “new media” have become too influential. If that effort is successful, experts wonder whether it could impact more traditional media as well, especially in how it relates to conservatives.
“The best example we can give is going back a few years to when the [Federal Communications Commission] was looking at trying to silence talk radio, which was obviously a realm of conservatism,” said Drew Johnson, executive director of the nonprofit group “Protect Internet Freedom.” He was referring to the agency’s “Fairness Doctrine,” which required broadcasters to grant equal time to opposing political candidates.
Democrats on the Federal Election Commission demonstrated a similar regulatory ambition in February, when they voted unsuccessfully to apply campaign finance laws, which are traditionally intended to govern paid political advertisements, to unpaid political accounts on Twitter. Continue reading
On the rare good sense of a college administrator.
We’ll come back to the admirable President Drake below. First, the story thus far. For the last six months, since the disruptive and pitiable nonsense at the University of Missouri and Yale made headlines nationwide, university administrators have been in full-cringe mode. Students across the country, seeing what pushovers the administrators at Yale and Mizzou were, have tied themselves into squalid little knots of needy and petulant resentment. At Yale, a posse of students showed up at President Peter Salovey’s house at midnight to present him with a list of demands, including the demand for “a University where we feel safe.” President Salovey, though acknowledging that the students had appeared “somewhat late” on his doorstep, professed himself “deeply disturbed” by the “distress” they felt and promised that he would “seriously” review their new demands.
He certainly did that. Among many other accommodations, he promised to distribute $50 million to the congeries of ethnic, racial, and sexual pseudo-disciplines that provide holding pens for the exotic populations with which contemporary universities assuage their guilty consciences. Continue reading
In an open letter to faculty, George Mason University president resists descent into grievance culture.
By Alice B Lloyd • Weekly Standard
In the May 9th issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, the Scrapbook reports a particularly shameful episode of campus outrage. Recently, at George Mason University, thuggish puritanical progressivism apotheosized in a meeting of the university’s faculty senate and a vote to disapprove of naming the law school for the late Justice Scalia. “Thus continues the closing of the campus mind,” the Scrapbook wrote.
But in an open letter on Friday April 29, GMU president Angel Cabrera responded to his faculty. He defended the future Antonin Scalia Law School and commended his dean’s fundraising prowess, bucking the New York Times’ front page “exposé” of major donors’ alleged undue influence. More importantly, though, he came out on the side of education:
“…We must ensure that George Mason University remains an example of diversity of thought, a place where multiple perspectives can be dissected, confronted, and debated for the benefit and progress of society at large. Rejecting a major naming gift in honor of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice on the basis that some of us disagree with some of his opinions would be inconsistent with our values of diversity and freedom of thought.”
Read the full letter.
by Glenn Harlan Reynolds • USAToday
Federal law makes it a felony “for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the Unites States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same).”
I wonder if U.S. Virgin Islands Attorney General Claude Walker, or California Attorney General Kamala Harris, or New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have read this federal statute. Because what they’re doing looks like a concerted scheme to restrict the First Amendment free speech rights of people they don’t agree with. They should look up 18 U.S.C. Sec. 241, I am sure they each have it somewhere in their offices.
Here’s what’s happened so far. First, Schneiderman and reportedly Harris sought to investigate Exxon in part for making donations to groups and funding research by individuals who think “climate change” is either a hoax, or not a problem to the extent that people like Harris and Schneiderman say it is. Continue reading
by Robby Soave • The Daily Beast
Students at Western Washington University have reached a turning point in their campus’s hxstory. (For one thing, they’re now spelling it with an X—more on that later.) Activists are demanding the creation of a new college dedicated to social justice activism, a student committee to police offensive speech, and culturally segregated living arrangements at the school, which is in Bellingham, up in the very northwest corner of the state.
Students have the right to push for robust changes to campus conditions, of course. But if administrators care about free speech at all, they will ignore these calls to create an almost cartoonishly autocratic liberal thought police on campus. Continue reading
On Monday evening, just three days before Breitbart News Senior Editor-At-Large was scheduled to give his speech at California State University Los Angeles (CSULA) titled “When Diversity Becomes a Problem,” the president of the university officially cancelled the lecture, citing the need to organize a more “inclusive event.”
In an email to the Young America’s Foundation chapter at CSULA, university president William Covino wrote, “After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity. Such an event will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints.” Continue reading