Last week, at the invitation of Sen. Ted Cruz, I spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Google’s having placed more than 60 Prager University videos on its restricted list. Any family that filters out pornography and violence cannot see those particular videos on YouTube (which is owned by Google); nor can any school or library.
This statement is as much about what I and PragerU stand for as it is about Google. Those interested in viewing the presentation can do so here:
It is an honor to be invited to speak in the United States Senate. But I wish I were not so honored. Because the subject of this hearing — Google and YouTube’s (and for that matter, Twitter and Facebook’s) suppression of internet content on ideological grounds — threatens the future of America more than any external enemy.
In fact, never in American history has there been as strong a threat to freedom of speech as there is today.
Before addressing this, however, I think it important that you know a bit about me and the organization I co-founded, Prager University — PragerU, as it often referred to.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My late father, Max Prager, was a CPA and an Orthodox Jew who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II. My father’s senior class thesis at the City College of New York was on anti-Semitism in America. Yet, despite his keen awareness of the subject, he believed that Jews living in America were the luckiest Jews to have ever lived.
He was right. Having taught Jewish history at Brooklyn College, written a book on antisemitism and fought Jew-hatred my whole life, I thank God for living in America.
It breaks my heart that a vast number of young Americans have not only not been taught how lucky they are to be Americans but have been taught either how unlucky they are or how ashamed they should be.
It breaks my heart for them because contempt for one’s country leaves a terrible hole in one’s soul and because ungrateful people always become unhappy and angry people.
And it breaks my heart for America because no good country can survive when its people have contempt for it.
I have been communicating this appreciation of America for 35 years as a radio talk show host, the last 20 in national syndication with the Salem Radio Network — an organization that is a blessing in American life. One reason I started PragerU was to communicate America’s moral purpose and moral achievements, both to young Americans and to young people around the world. With a billion views a year, and with more than half of the viewers under age 35, PragerU has achieved some success.
My philosophy of life is easily summarized: God wants us to be good. Period. God without goodness is fanaticism and goodness without God will not long endure. Everything I and PragerU do emanates from belief in the importance of being a good person. That some label us extreme or “haters” only reflects on the character and the broken moral compass of those making such accusations. They are the haters and extremists.
PragerU releases a five-minute video every week. Our presenters include three former prime ministers, four Pulitzer Prize winners, liberals, conservatives, gays, blacks, Latinos, atheists, believers, Jews, Christians, Muslims and professors and scientists from MIT, Harvard, Stanford and a dozen other universities.
Do you think the secretary-general of NATO; or the former prime ministers of Norway, Canada or Spain; or the late Charles Krauthammer; or Philip Hamburger, distinguished professor of law at Columbia Law School, would make a video for an extreme or hate-filled site? The idea is not only preposterous; it is a smear.
Yet, Google, which owns YouTube, has restricted access to 56 of our 320 five-minute videos and to other videos we produce. “Restricted” means families that have a filter to avoid pornography and violence cannot see that video. It also means that no school or library can show that video.
Google has even restricted access to a video on the Ten Commandments … Yes, the Ten Commandments!
We have repeatedly asked Google why our videos are restricted. No explanation is ever given.
But of course, we know why: because they come from a conservative perspective.
Liberals and conservatives differ on many issues. But they have always agreed that free speech must be preserved. While the left has never supported free speech, liberals always have. I therefore appeal to liberals to join us in fighting on behalf of America’s crowning glory — free speech. Otherwise, I promise you, one day you will say, “First they came after conservatives, and I said nothing. And then they came after me. And there was no one left to speak up for me.”
By Mairead Mcardle • National Review
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said Friday that some advocates of net neutrality saw a political advantage in fomenting fear about the policy’s end.
Pai joined Charles Cooke of National Review at the National Review Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit to discuss how the agency’s role has changed from its founding in the 1930s to today.
“Net neutrality” is a “very seductive marketing slogan,” Pai said. But “ultimately what it means is government regulation of the Internet.”
“As to the question of why people are upset, I’ll be candid. I think it’s because a lot of people saw a political advantage in fomenting a lot of fear,” he continued, recalling the doom-and-gloom warnings of critics who warned that Pai’s rollback of Obama-era net-neutrality regulations would be the “end of the Internet as we know it.”
“Last time I checked, you can still hate-tweet your favorite FCC chairman,” he quipped.
By Kyle Smith • National Review
The First Amendment has never been stronger. Yet freedom of speech is under dire threat. Both of these things can be true, and both are.
The kinds of corporations that frequently proclaim their dedication to the First Amendment — and are quick to denounce President Trump’s taunts of the media — are doing something Trump has not done and will not do: muzzling writers. Publishers are presenting authors with contracts containing clauses that essentially say, “We will cut you loose should a Twitter mob come after you.” It’s a revolting, shameful trend.
As Judith Shulevitz writes in the New York Times, Condé Nast, publisher of The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and many other magazines, recently started burying in its standard writers’ contracts a landmine. If the company should unilaterally rule that the writer has become “the subject of public disrepute, contempt, complaints or scandals,” the publisher can void the contract. Shulevitz mislabels such stipulations “morality clauses.” To paraphrase Mae West, morality has nothing to do with it. “Cowardice clauses” would be nearer the mark. Continue reading
By Jeremy Carl • The Federalist
Less than two weeks ago, President Trump signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement intended to be the successor to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has attacked for decades. The White House says the agreement will “better serve the interests of American workers and businesses” and “includes the strongest digital trade … provisions of any United States trade agreement.”
Unfortunately, an obscure article in one provision of the agreement only serves the interests of the largest tech monopolies by granting them special privilege to censor conservatives. Congress should demand the removal or amendment of this article before giving consent to confirm section 230.
How did this happen? Big Tech lobbyists orchestrated the quiet insertion of a seemingly innocuous provision (Article 19.17) into the deal that is based on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Continue reading
by Katherine Timpf • National Review
Nobody likes a mean person, and it’s better to be nice. But there is nothing nice about restricting students’ speech.
The University of Montana Western has a policy that allows for punishing students for “mean” words or “facial expressions” — and that punishment could technically be as severe as expulsion.
“While discussions may become heated and passionate, they should never become mean, nasty or vindictive in spoken or printed or emailed words, facial expressions, or gestures,” states the Student Code of Conduct.
Another area of the code states that “committing any act prohibited by this Code of Conduct may result in expulsion or suspension from the University unless specific and mitigating factors are present.”
“Factors to be considered in mitigation may include the present attitude and past disciplinary record of the offender, as well as the nature of the offense and the severity of any damage, injury, or harm resulting from it,” the code continues. Continue reading
By James Altschul • The Federalist
After two days of public outcry, Twitter has reinstated the account of conservative commentator Jesse Kelly. Contradicting their initial message to Kelly, which notified him that his account had been “permanently suspended” and “[would] not be restored,” a Twitter spokesperson stated on Tuesday that Kelly’s account had instead been “temporarily suspended for violating the Twitter rules.” Precisely which rules Kelly violated were not specified.
Given the opacity of the process, we can only speculate on what caused Twitter to reverse course, but a good bet would be the threat of governmental reprisal hinted at by tweets from Sen. Ben Sasse and Senator-elect Josh Hawley.
While Sasse merely commented that “The trend of de-platforming and shutting down speech is a bad precedent for our free speech society,” Hawley was more explicit, writing, “The new Congress needs to investigate…Twitter is exempt from liability as a ‘publisher’ because it is allegedly ‘a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.’ That does not appear to be accurate.” Continue reading
We can remember when the left used to accuse conservatives of being prudish censors. Now it’s the left that appears determined to censor speech it doesn’t like. And they appear to have three incredibly powerful allies in their quest: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The CEO’s of those tech giants — Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, and Susan Wojcicki — routinely describe their services as neutral platforms, fiercely committed to openness and free expression.
“Twitter stands for freedom of expression,” Dorsey once declared. Twitter’s general manager in the U.K. once called it “the free speech wing of the free speech party.”
YouTube parent Google claims that “the flow of ideas and open access to information on the web helps communities grow and nations prosper.”
Zuckerberg told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that Facebook is “a platform for all ideas.” Continue reading
by Ben Domenech • The Federalist
The firing of Kevin Williamson from The Atlantic on the day he was set to give an opening Q&A in their offices was sadly unsurprising given the pattern of these types of hires. It is an incident that will be referred to largely as a “media story”, meaning that Williamson is not a figure so prominent nor The Atlantic a brand so ubiquitous as to graduate this to a national story, in the way that the situations of Brendan Eich at Mozilla or James Damore at Google became national cable news stories. But they really are the same story, a story about the times that we live in and the changing nature of America. They tell a story about what happens when a talented individual has deeply held beliefs those in his profession find unacceptable.
This story is a predictable continuation of the left’s ownership not just of media but indeed of all institutions. It is depressing. It is predictable. And it is where we are as a country now. It is not confined to the realm of ideas. Eich, Damore, Williamson and others are subject to blacklists and HR reports and firing in every arena of industry and culture. If you have wrongthink, you will not be allowed for long to make your living within any space the left has determined they own – first the academy, then the media, then corporate America, and now the public square. You will bake the cake, you will use the proper pronoun, and you will never say that what Planned Parenthood does is murder for hire, and should be punished as such under the law.
Imagine what the few lonely voices that inhabit a position at a prominent publication or network to the right of Hillary Clinton on social issues if their hiring was taking place right now. Imagine what Ross Douthat would be going through if the Times hired him today (recall he was at The Atlantic before that). Continue reading
By Joseph A. Wulfsohn • The Federalist
In recent years, especially since Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, Internet giants like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have started policing things they find offensive or deem “fake news.” However, they often reprimand individuals whose politics lean one way and leave unscathed others whose politics lean another way.
While this is common knowledge among conservatives, the most recent examples of such a double standard are truly glaring. Conservative commentator and comedian Steven Crowder uploaded a video onto his YouTube channel that showed his intern crashing an LGBT panel on gender fluidity at SXSW, where he went undercover as a man who identified as a computer. YouTube removed the video. And Twitter suspended Crowder’s account.
According to screenshots, this was Twitter’s reasoning behind what was initially a 12-hour suspension: “Violating our rules against hateful conduct. You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” Continue reading
By Douglas Murray • National Review
It’s much more comfortable for those in power to go after amorphous concepts than to address real-world issues.
At the start of January this year a new law came into effect in Germany. The “NetzDG” law allows an un-named and unknown collection of government agencies and tech companies to police the Internet and remove content deemed to be “hateful” or otherwise deemed to constitute “hate speech.” Around the world politicians from other nations are looking at these laws with envy.
Of course, the whole notion of “hate speech” should warrant far more suspicion and push-back than it has done recently. Incitement to violence is already illegal in most countries. As are credible threats to kill someone. But “hate speech” brings a high bar down several pegs. And the problem with it is not only that it attempts to read purpose and imagined consequences into words, but that it inevitably comes framed to give ideological protection to whoever wields power at a particular point in time.
The temptation is obvious. In Germany “hate speech” can include words that are true and which are accurately critical or even merely descriptive of terrible events that are going on: particularly events that have followed from Angela Merkel’s open-borders policy of 2015. Doubtless the crack-down on her online critics is comfortable for Merkel and the government she has finally managed to assemble. But you have to have a remarkably short political memory to think that banning words that accurately describe situations is a wise way to try to order society. Continue reading
By Nicole Russell • The Federalist
The Federalist society at the Lewis and Clark Law School invited Christina Hoff Sommers, scholar, author, and outspoken critic of feminism to speak Monday, and student groups quickly organized to get her invitation rescinded. When that didn’t work, protesters gathered inside and outside the venue, accused her of being a fascist, and Sommers’ actual speech was cut short, due to protestors’ interruptions and heckling.
The fact that law school students, acting more like social justice warriors than thoughtful scholars, would falsely label Sommers as a fascist, yet prohibit her from speaking at a venue, is a bad sign about the future of our public discourse and the right of free speech. Apparently it needs to be said that Christina Hoff Sommers is not a fascist. She isn’t. Continue reading
By David French • National Review Online
If you follow free-speech controversies for any length of time, you’ll understand two things about public opinion. First, an overwhelming percentage of Americans will declare their support for free speech. Second, a shocking percentage of Americans also support censoring speech they don’t like. How is this possible? It’s simple. “Free speech” is good speech, you see. That’s the speech that corrects injustices and speaks truth to power. That other speech? The speech that hurts my feelings or hurts my friends’ feelings? That’s “hate speech.” It might even be violence.
A new survey of college students demonstrates this reality perfectly. Conducted by McLaughlin & Associates for Yale’s William F. Buckley, Jr. Program, the survey queried 800 college students attending four-year private or public colleges, and the results were depressingly predictable. Continue reading
By Glenn Reynolds • USAToday
The former governor showed himself to be a constitutional illiterate on Twitter.
I tell my constitutional law students that there are a couple of statements that indicate that a speaker is a constitutional illiterate who can safely be ignored. One is the claim that the Constitution views black people as ⅗ the worth of white people (actually, it was all about power in Congress, with slaveowners wanting black people to count 100% toward apportionment so that slaveowners would get more seats in Congress, and abolitionists wanting them not counted at all so that slaveowners would get fewer seats in Congress; the ⅗ compromise was just that, a compromise).
The other hallmark of constitutional illiteracy is the claim that the First Amendment doesn’t protect “hate speech.” And by making that claim last week, Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and Democratic presidential candidate, revealed himself to be a constitutional illiterate. Then, predictably, he doubled down on his ignorance. Continue reading
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