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Gawker Is Bankrupt, And Now Liberals Are Pretending To Care About Free Speech

So Gawker and its owner Nick Denton filed Chapter 11 today to avoid paying Hulk Hogan the $140 million they owe him after losing an invasion of privacy trial. The suit was funded by libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel, which, according to many liberals, makes this the most vital First Amendment case of our lifetime.  Do Liberals Really Care About Free Speech?

In a spasm of hypocrisy, many of the same people who don’t believe corporations deserve constitutional rights; who think allowing the state to ban political movies and books is a fine idea; who are constantly telling us how important the courts are in realizing a just society; who are in the pocket of the trial lawyer lobby; and who have achieved almost every major political victory through third-party-funded court battles (sometimes taxpayer-funded) now worry about slippery slopes because a libertarian has funded a successful lawsuit.

Restricting Freedom of Thought, Free Speech, Freedom of Expression

Take the illiberal New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, a proponent of censorship who is considering using racketeering charges against global warming skeptics. A government official who wants to punish people for thought crimes now has the temerity to talk about freedom of the press. Gawker, by the way, once favorably wrote about arresting climate change deniers. Unlike Michael Mann and Bill Nye and a bunch of AGs, there are those who believe political speech should be protected, and yet also that media organizations should not be immune from the law.

It’s worth once again pointing out that the trial was okayed by judge, the verdict was rendered by a jury, and the decision was upheld by a circuit judge. In no sense does this suit fall under the concept of “frivolous.” Yet liberal writers do not like the outcome mostly because Thiel is politically unacceptable to them and because they don’t like that he was driven by revenge.

I wrote this when the ruling came down:

“Moreover, if Thiel’s motivation were a cause liberal pundits felt some moral or ideological affinity towards, they would be cheering him on. Vox asserts that Thiel ‘sees his lawsuit as a public-spirited attempt to enforce norms of decency and respect for personal privacy.’ Or, in other words, he uses the judicial system the same way liberals have for decades when trying to enforce their own norms—including ones on abortion rights, gay marriage, and basically everything else they value.”

“Actually, every contemporary major lawsuit of any political consequence has probably been funded in some way by a third party. If Thiel is a problem, so is the pro bono legal work of wealthy lawyers who donate their time and resources to causes that move them. So is contingent litigation. So are class-action lawsuits. So is every advocacy legal group. Start with the ACLU, which is backed by hundreds of One Percenters and works to enforce its own norms of ‘decency and respect’ when it comes boys’ and girls’ bathrooms and leads crusades to do away with the Free Exercise Clause.”

You think these awards are out of control? Let’s talk about tort reform. If you have a problem with the merits of the case, we can debate it. Let’s remember, a Gawker editor claimed that he was okay with publishing sex tapes for anyone older than four. Is that covered under the First Amendment? Let’s discuss.

“Gawker might be undeserving, but eventually the billionaires will come for “deserving” publications too.— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) June 10, 2016”

But if you’re okay with empowering government to ban a political documentary during an election season by overturning Citizens United, but lament that Hulk Hogan won a suit against a tabloid site that ran a sex tape of him without his permission, you’re not serious about freedom of expression. If you’re anxious about Thiel’s solid suit but not about multimillionaires like Nick Denton regularly destroy people’s lives — people who often don’t have the resources to fight back — you don’t really care about the little guy. Is Gawker beyond the reach of the law? Or should it just be beyond the reach of third-party funders that liberal pundits don’t like? Because it sure sounds like the latter.

Source:  The Federalist

Free Speech Doesn’t Require Colleges To Sponsor Their Opponents

One-sided advocacy events that blatantly defy a college’s religious teachings have no academic value, do not invite true dialogue on divisive issues, and could spiritually harm students.  It’s good that many Americans — even unlikely allies Charles Koch and Michael Bloomberg — are rallying to the defense of free speech on college campuses. The freedom to discuss ideas and reasoning is how people discover truth and, hopefully, find a degree of certainty in it.

But it’s important to ensure that our appeals to free speech do not undermine the search for truth. This point is especially important concerning religious colleges, which are founded upon the conviction that certain truths are revealed by God and require assent if we are to better understand our world.

Plenty has been written over the past year about the chaos on college campuses, violent protests against guest speakers, and college students who retreat to “safe spaces” to avoid having their feelings hurt by someone else’s opinion. Campus protests of guest speakers and “offensive” speech this year were so distressing they caused Koch and Bloomberg to join together in a Wall Street Journal column in  May.

“Across America, college campuses are increasingly sanctioning so-called ‘safe spaces,’ ‘speech codes,’ ‘trigger warnings,’ ‘microaggressions’ and the withdrawal of invitations to controversial speakers,” the two billionaires lament. “By doing so, colleges are creating a climate of intellectual conformity that discourages open inquiry, debate and true learning.”

The typical reaction from conservatives, often the targets of campus protests, is to jump at the defense of free speech in every instance. Understandably so: most of the campus speech that is curtailed today concerns conservative-leaning ideas that are deemed uncomfortable or offensive by students who have been fed a regular diet of progressive thought.

Some Colleges Have Distinct Missions, Free Speech of One’s Faith

It’s unclear if Koch and Bloomberg believe their arguments apply to private religious institutions as well as public universities. Many believe that distinction shouldn’t matter. But the question of who should be invited to speak on campus or receive honors at commencement is different when we’re talking about religious colleges, specifically Catholic colleges and universities.

Catholic institutions have a mission and purpose distinct from secular institutions, outlined by Saint John Paul II in the Catholic Church’s constitution on higher education, “Ex corde Ecclesiae.” A Catholic college is consecrated “without reserve to the cause of truth,” and it commits to act “in accord with its Catholic identity” in every official action or commitment. Both are commitments to truth: to reasoning and open dialogue about human observation and experience, and to God’s revelation. The two are not contradictory; in fact, the Catholic college is more open to truth than modern secular academia, which simply denies religion’s insights.

There is no place at a faithfully Catholic college for the head of Planned Parenthood or a public abortion advocate such as Wendy Davis to proclaim that killing the innocent unborn is a legitimate position. These one-sided advocacy events that blatantly defy the moral teachings of the church have no academic value, do not invite true dialogue on divisive issues, and — from the perspective of a Catholic college that embraces the Catholic faith — could spiritually harm students.

Discussion Is Different from Denial

Such lectures are unwelcome at Catholic colleges not because they’re offensive or “hate speech,” but because they deliberately lead students away from truth. Controversial issues should be addressed at Catholic colleges, which are as committed to reasoning as any secular institution, but it does not serve the cause of truth to promote intrinsic moral evils and outright denials of our faith.

Commenting on Davis’ endorsement of abortion while speaking at the University of Notre Dame last April, Ed Morrissey wrote at the conservative blog Hot Air:

“Perhaps Notre Dame is due a half-hearted cheer, but a cheer nonetheless, for its decision to allow abortion advocate Wendy Davis an opportunity to speak on campus. …Notre Dame should have followed Davis’ appearance with someone who could challenge Davis on those arguments and represent church teachings. However, given what has happened at universities and colleges over the last several years, I’ll take a civil forum of heterodox views over the demand for indoctrination of a narrow ideological agenda any day.”

Morrissey confuses students’ freedom to follow their consciences and wrestle with even thorny moral issues with a Catholic college’s commitment to seeking and teaching truth. The question is not whether students should be free to weigh various opinions, but whether Catholic colleges should deliberately invite abortion supporters to spew propaganda at Catholic students as long as there is “balance.”

While this type of forum or debate might be entirely appropriate at a secular college — where moral claims can never be held to the light of any certain moral truth — it’s completely irresponsible for a Catholic college to knowingly persuade students of heterodox views.

“Ex corde Ecclessiae” extols dialogue, including between faith and reason and “the Gospel and culture.” But it’s the responsibility of a Catholic college — really of any college — to aim this dialogue toward the pursuit of truth. The “privileged task” of a Catholic university, Saint John Paul II pointed out, is “to unite… the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth.” Accepting that God is the fount of truth necessarily informs everything that we know and believe.

No More Scandalous Commencement Honors

We’re in the midst of college commencement season, and there’s no shortage of outrage going around from students and advocacy groups across the political spectrum. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) calls this time of the year “disinvitation season” due to the numerous protests of commencement speakers and honorees.

FIRE contends we should oppose protests aimed at disinviting controversial speakers to protect the free exchange of ideas: “[U]sing free speech to criticize selected speakers is superior to attempting to get the university to revoke the speakers’ platform,” FIRE’s Chris Marchese wrote in April. Marchese even cited the University of Notre Dame’s decision to honor Vice President Joe Biden with its most prestigious award for American Catholics, given “in recognition of outstanding service to Church and society.”

In promoting a good principle, Marchese makes the mistake of disregarding the very mission of a Catholic college and its commitment to truth. Notre Dame’s choice to honor Biden as an exemplary Catholic is perhaps the most scandalous commencement honor of the year, due to his lifetime of support for abortion and his more recent defense of same-sex marriage and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception mandate.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Notre Dame’s surrounding South Bend said the university’s honor of Biden could “provoke scandal” by giving the impression “that one can be ‘a good Catholic’ while also supporting or advocating for positions that contradict our fundamental moral and social principles and teachings.” Rhoades noted the importance of Catholic identity and mission to colleges’ decisions about granting honors.

We Already Know the Truth, So This Isn’t a Search for It

In 2004, the U.S. bishops specifically directed Catholic institutions, including colleges, to not bestow honors on those who defy the church’s fundamental moral teachings. Honors for abortion advocates like Biden, doled out freely by Catholic college administrators, were already inappropriate per “Ex corde Ecclessiae.” But beyond issues of mission and responsibility, it just doesn’t make sense for a Catholic college to hold up someone who is an active and unrepentant champion of immoral activity as a role model for students.

As Rhoades indicated, these scandalous honors send a dangerous message to students and the greater community. Those who advocate for abortion are not just dismissing some church teaching, they’re denying truth: the truth that human life begins at conception, is created in the image and likeness of God, and has an inviolable right to life. Unfortunately, many Catholic colleges still honor those who deny the sacred dignity of human life.

The recent string of platforms and honors being given to abortion advocates by Catholic colleges sparked 31 Catholic and pro-life leaders to join in a statement reminding college leaders: “There is no sensible appeal to ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘academic freedom’ to justify university-sponsored events or activities that hold up opponents of known moral truths for special honor, as if falsehood and immorality are to be celebrated and not firmly rejected.”

The problem isn’t offensive opinions. The problem is promoting the legitimacy of positions that defy known truths God has revealed, which should guide the formation of students at Catholic colleges. The protests against speakers and honorees at Catholic colleges who are openly opposed to church teaching are not opposed to rational, free speech in the pursuit of truth. Instead, they seek to uphold the mission of Catholic colleges and their dedication to the cause of truth.

Truth is a cause we can all support, respecting disagreement among not only individuals but also institutions that are genuinely committed to increasing and not diminishing wisdom — as so many campus radicals have tried to do.

Source:  The Federalist