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Berkeley has gone berserk against free speech

It’s not mass insanity, but rather mass infantilism, that necessitated the “unprecedented” security measures taken Thursday at the University of California, Berkeley so that mild-mannered conservative pundit Ben Shapiro might speak there safely.  Worse, the whole campus seems to be having a spoiled-toddler meltdown not just about Shapiro but about the whole idea of free speech. An embarrassing 132 faculty members have lost their faculties, signing a letter demanding a total cessation of classes and organized campus activities due to abject fear of “Free Speech Week” later this month.

Berkeley has gone berserk against free speech

Ben Shapiro

No word yet on how many lollipops the faculty will demand. Or crying pillows. Or stuffed teddy bears for those who need a safe space to recover from the trauma of hearing ideas they don’t like or probably don’t even understand.

(Brown University actually set the standard for this in 2015, with coloring books, Play-Doh, and videos of puppies.)

The Los Angeles Times reports that, for Shapiro alone, Berkeley “has told students that counseling is available to those stressed by all the commotion. A large swath of the campus will be closed off, including the plaza where the free speech movement began in the 1960s. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on security, and police now can use pepper spray on protesters after a 20-year-old ban was lifted by the City Council this week.”

Shapiro isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a right-wing radical. He’s polite, thoughtful, and a strong critic of both President Trump and of the “alt-right” movement that does harbor racists and provocateurs.

But he also belittles (quite rightly) the idea that campuses need “safe spaces” where unwanted ideas are unwelcome, and he holds to other conservative views as well. For half-wits who can’t tell the difference between a conservative and a fascist, Shapiro’s ideological sins are something like Binkley’s Closet of Anxieties emerging from the Bloom County comic strip and galumphing all over campus.

Lefty professors and crybaby students fully believe that a giant spotted snorklewacker is still a giant spotted snorklewacker even if it is, like Shapiro, a courteous one.

Oh, the horror, the horror! Oh, the humanity! Next thing you know, Shapiro might say something nice about supply-side economics, or advocate (Lord forbid) an expansion of health savings accounts.

The hand-wringers all warn of right-wing “violence” incited by right-wing speakers – but on campuses these days, almost all the violence comes from leftists protesting, or rather rioting, against conservative speakers’ right to be heard. Of course, Berkeley itself was awash in left-wing violence early this year in response to a speech by the loathsome but hardly threatening Milo Yiannopoulos, and again just last month against what even the Washington Post labeled as “peaceful” demonstrators. The left also used physical force, shouted down speakers, and even injured people in incidents at Middlebury College, Evergreen State College, Claremont McKenna College, and Auburn University in the past year.

But the Left, using verbal jujitsu, tries to claim that unwanted speech itself is violence. Even The Atlantic, far from a hotbed of conservative thought, ran an article earlier this making mincemeat of that dangerous notion. The false equation of speech with violence is dangerous because “it tells the members of a generation already beset by anxiety and depression that the world is a far more violent and threatening place than it really is.”

The tolerance for, or even encouragement of, radicalized thumb-sucking in response to opposing ideas is seriously retarding the emotional development of a large cohort of collegians, and ill-equipping them to cope with the real world beyond college walls.

To her credit, Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ is insisting that free speech is a fundamental right and a cherished value. To respond to speech one finds offensive, she wrote, “the right response is not the heckler’s veto, or what some call platform denial. Call toxic speech out for what it is, [but] don’t shout it down. … [We must] develop inner resilience, which is the surest form of safe space.”

The rock group The Eagles, well known for liberal politics (before liberals lost their minds), put it more bluntly in a 1994 song:

“[People] point their crooked little fingers at everybody else/ Spend all their time feelin’ sorry for themselves/ Victim of this, victim of that/ Your momma’s too thin; your daddy’s too fat: Get over it, Get over it. All this whinin’ and cryin’ and pitchin’ a fit/ Get over it, get over it.”

Words to the wise – and to the whiners.

Source:  WashingtonExaminer.

Free Speech is Necessary

The right to freedom of speech is the hallmark of the American democratic experiment. The United States was the first nation to guarantee an individual’s right to speak freely and openly about one’s thoughts and ideas. It was, and remains, a radical concept. Today, speech is constantly restricted — even in the most democratic of societies. And it appears as if the restrictions that chain free speech are beginning to wash upon our shores as well.

The events in Charlottesville, Va. were, quite clearly, an egregious and despicable act of hatred, bigotry and racism. Any sensible person would agree that the actions taken by the radical neo-Nazis and white nationalists that occupied Charlottesville’s streets represent all that is wrong and evil with our society. However, even these radicals have a right to free speech.

Obviously, I would rather that these deranged lunatics keep their mouths shut and mind their own business. It would be ideal if those who harbor the most deplorable of thoughts and philosophies were to just disappear and leave us all to live our lives in peace. Yet if we try to achieve this ideal by preventing freedom of expression, we risk running a very slippery slope.

If the government, or any body for that matter, has the ability to censor one group of people, a door is opened to future suppressions. The history of tyranny is laden with examples of governments removing freedoms of expression from fringe groups, and then using such removals as justification for steadily removing the freedoms of more and more groups. In essence, the protection of a white nationalist’s freedom of speech is the protection of our own right to speak freely. But there are issues that are boiling that extend well beyond the range of white nationalism.

Free Speech is Necessary

Condoleezza Rice

In 2014, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to speak at Rutgers University. Yet this decision greatly angered students, who were upset at Rice’s involvement in the Iraq War. As a result, students launched a massive — and ultimately successful — effort to pressure Rice to rescind the convocation invitation. This event marks one of the most troubling and disturbing attacks on freedom of thought and speech.

Surely most Americans agree that the Iraq War was an unmitigated disaster and a largely unnecessary conflict. And it is quite clear that as President Bush’s national security advisor, Rice played a role in facilitating American involvement in the region. Yet a poor policy decision does not discredit the ideas of an individual — especially an intellectual powerhouse such as Rice.

By forcing Rice to rescind Rutgers’s speaking invitation, the students at the university were essentially stating that anyone who does not align with their political views is not welcome to speak. And, unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. From Ann Coulter at Berkeley to Ben Shapiro at Cal State, college campuses across the nation are beginning to embrace these sorts of restrictions. If one does not possess the political views of the students, they are unwelcome to speak on their campus.

This philosophy is disturbing on a number of grounds. First of all, these refusals to listen to another person’s ideas and opinions carry a sort of medieval ignorance. Ostracizing those who do not adhere to the majority view is the sort of thinking that led to Galileo and Darwin’s rejection from society. Furthermore, refusing to listen to someone else’s ideas doesn’t make you principled — it makes you weak and insecure. Those who are truly grounded in their ideals and principles are those who truly understand the other side of the argument.

But perhaps the most concerning aspect of this philosophy is that further deepens the divide of this country. You may think that Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro’s ideas are outlandish — but nearly half the country agrees with these people. By refusing to listen to their thoughts and ideas, you are effectively refusing to understand how the other half of this country thinks.

Yet this suppression of free speech is not just limited to college kids on liberal campuses — conservatives are just as guilty as liberals at silencing those they disagree with. Many conservatives seem to genuinely believe that American liberalism is a sort of disease. They believe that liberalism is an ideology whose sole purpose is to hurt hard-working Americans and benefit those who contribute nothing to society (think welfare recipients, college students and the unemployed). Because of this mentality, they too refuse to allow liberals to speak their mind.

As a moderate, I tend to see both sides of the argument. And as someone who personally knows a great deal of liberals and conservatives, I know for a fact that their hatred of one another is driven by their unwillingness to respect the other’s right to speak freely. Each side refuses to truly listen and understand the other side — and as a result, misinformation is spread and people get very, very angry. A fellow student in one of my classes once stated that people who are pro-life want to punish a woman for having sex; a conservative once tried to convince me that liberals want to let Muslims enter the country so that they can establish Sharia law. These utterly ridiculous, offensive and wrong claims are the product of a repression of a free and open dialogue. If civility is to return to our civic discourse, then freedom of speech — and the willingness to actually listen to others’ ideas — must reign as the core of our nation’s principles.

Michael Glanzel is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at mglanzel@cornellsun.com. Cornell Shrugged appears alternate Mondays this semester. 

Source:  CornellSun.com.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

Americans Back Free Speech, Oppose SPLC Smears

A new public opinion survey conducted by McLaughlin and Associates reveals wide support among Americans for constitutional free speech over attempts to silence potentially “offensive” opinions. The revelation comes in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August, in which Antifa belligerents clashed with other extremists during a lawful protest, resulting in one woman’s murder.  Despite calls for censorship of what many on the Left consider “hate speech,” 85 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that “all Americans are entitled to free speech,” not “just some of us.” A nearly identical number (84.9 percent) regard “free speech as a fundamental right,” while only 9.3 percent hold that “it should be restricted if it offends some people.”

Americans Back Free Speech, Oppose SPLC Smears

But too many still support the violent hate group Antifa.

Worryingly, however, are the poll’s findings on Antifa, or “anti-fascist action”—a far-left network of anarchic terrorists responsible for attacks on conservative and mainstream groups across the country. While 63 percent of respondents oppose Antifa in the wake of the bloodshed in Charlottesville, 21 percent voiced their support for the group. Broken down demographically, support for Antifa was both strongest and most divided among self-identified liberals—42 percent in support, 44 percent opposed. Support was weakest among self-identified moderates (60 percent oppose) and conservatives (80 percent opposed).

Many prominent figures on the Left have refused to denounce Antifa – even after the Department of Homeland Security labeled their activities “domestic terrorist violence.” Some have even endorsed the movement, such as radical activist Shaun King, a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter. As CRC’s Jake Klein notes,

“Mainstream figures endorsing AntiFa potentially represents a major turning point towards the acceptability of political violence. While it’s true that AntiFa fought against violent white supremacists in Charlottesville, most previous violence from them has been directed against much more moderate figures.”

Americans Back Free Speech, Oppose SPLC Smears

The survey also finds that a plurality of Americans (42.8 percent) oppose Internet companies’ use of a “hate group” list compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), compared to 31.8 percent who support it.

Founded to combat true hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, the George Soros-funded SPLC has since turned its focus on aggressively targeting mainstream charities which disagree with its extreme ideology. By labelling organizations such as the Family Research Council—a Christian pro-life nonprofit—“hate groups,” the SPLC smears and censors legitimate outlets.

The SPLC’s slurs even inspired a gunman to storm the Family Research Council’s Washington, D.C. headquarters in August 2012, where he opened fire on employees. During an interview with the FBI, the shooter, Floyd Lee Corkins, stated:

“I wanted to kill the people in the building and then smear a Chick-fil-A sandwich in their face … to kill as many people as I could.”

Social scientist Charles Murray has also been a victim of SPLC-inspired violence. Earlier this year, Murray was assaulted by leftist students during a speech he gave at Middlebury College. Murray, who has been accused by the SPLC of promoting “racist pseudoscience” and white supremacism, was attacked by mask-wearing terrorists who decried his political views on the white working class. The students went so far as to grab the hair and twist the neck of the liberal professor, Allison Stanger, who attempted to shield Murray. Stanger was sent to the hospital for a neck brace.

Insert:  Free speech is under attack and we must preserve it for many generations to come.

Source:  CapitalResearch.org.    We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.


Independence Banners on Hong Kong University Campuses Spark Free Speech Row

A pro-independence banner campaign on the campus of one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious universities has sparked warnings that public calls for the city’s secession from China may be “seditious.”  Executive councillor and barrister Ronny Tong said students who put up large black banners reading “Independence for Hong Kong” on the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) campus could have “broken the law.”

Independence Banners on Hong Kong University Campuses Spark Free Speech Row

A large black banner reading “Independence for Hong Kong” hangs at Culture Square on the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) campus, in undated photo.

“There were student activities on the site, distributing pamphlets and there were other posters put up advocating the independence of Hong Kong,” Tong told government broadcaster RTHK.

“Such action has the risk of infringing section 9 of the Crimes Ordinance, which provides that if any publication is published with seditious intent then it may well be an offense.”

The banners reappeared on Tuesday after authorities at the university’s main campus, which saw one of the biggest student demonstrations during the student strike that launched the Occupy Central movement in 2014, took them down on Monday.

The removal of banners on the CUHK campus sparked the appearance of similar banners and posters on campuses across the city, including the University of Hong Kong, the Education University, City University and the University of Science and Technology.

On Tuesday, university officials warned students by letter that public talk of independence was a breach of Hong Kong’s miniconstitution, the Basic Law, and university regulations.

Freedom of speech

The student union has rejected the criticisms, saying students will defend their right to exercise freedom of speech.

“We are still looking for people who can stand guard over these banners and posters in Culture Square,” union leader Justin Au told journalists.

“We will try to persuade them, and to question the rational basis for trying to remove the banners in a place where students congregate,” he said. “However, we will do our utmost to prevent physical clashes of any kind.”

Former Occupy Central student leader Tommy Cheung said Tong’s claims made no sense, however.

“What law has been broken; they will have to say what law has been broken,” Cheung said. “Nobody has been charged over this, for just talking about Hong Kong independence … when there has been no concrete action.”

“Just discussing something doesn’t break the law, but this attempt to move the goalposts is very problematic,” he said. “Freedom of speech and the autonomy of the students’ union are inviolable, regardless of their stance [on independence].”

Hong Kong University student union leader Wong Ching Tak said CUHK had overreacted.

“Regardless of whether or not you support the idea of Hong Kong independence, I think it was important to take this action based on our support for universal values,” Wong said.

Traditional freedoms seen eroding

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, has vowed to fight “pro-independence forces” in the city and begin fostering a sense of Chinese identity among very young children, sparking fears that she will try to brainwash them into loyalty to the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Lam, who took office on the 20th anniversary of the July 1, 1997 handover to Chinese rule, said her administration would “strictly” enforce existing law, which she said bans “pro-independence behavior.”

Recent opinion polls by the University of Hong Kong found that 37 percent of respondents identified as Hongkongers, and 21 percent as Chinese, while others chose more ambiguous options like “Hongkongers in China” or “Chinese in Hong Kong.”

But only 3.1 percent of the 18-28 age group said they identified as Chinese, the lowest result since the poll began in 1997.

And a recent opinion poll commissioned by the pro-Beijing group Silent Majority for Hong Kong showed that while more than 70 percent of respondents overall strongly supported Beijing’s view that independence for the city will never be an option, only 51 percent of people aged 18-29 agreed with the Communist Party’s position.

Some 43 percent said they disagreed.

In June, Zhang Xiaoming, the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s envoy to the city, warned that young Hong Kong people would be unable to realize their life goals if they were “led astray” by such ideas.

Hong Kong was promised a “high degree of autonomy” and the continuation of its existing freedoms of speech, association and publication under the terms of the 1997 handover to China.

But a string of legal interpretations by China’s parliament of the Basic Law, as well as cross-border detentions of five Hong Kong booksellers, have left many fearing that the city’s traditional freedoms, and its judicial independence, have been seriously eroded.

Source:  Rfa.org.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

James Madison’s Lesson on Free Speech

For the people to rule wisely, they must be free to think and speak without fear of reprisal.  Those that disagree with free speech and free thought should be fought with more free speech and free thought.
James Madisons Lessons on Free Speech
The broad middle of this country seems caught between a rock and a hard place. On the far left, the “Antifa” movement has taken to protesting — often quite violently — ideas that do not conform to their transitory notions of social justice. On the other extreme, the alt-right has become indistinguishable from white-supremacist and neo-Confederate movements that have their origins in the seedy underbelly of American political history.
In light of this, it is seductive to question the utility of free speech. After all, speech is not entirely free in Europe. There are certain views you are prohibited from publicly expressing there, and they seem to have well-functioning democracies. Why must we hold to such an absolutist view? Are we not giving aid and comfort to the opponents of the republic by allowing them to utter such vile words? Is it not wiser to leaven the First Amendment with a prudent disregard for the fringes?
If we understand free speech in purely liberal terms — i.e. as a self-evident right — then these questions seem to have merit. After all, we restrict other rights for the sake of the public welfare. Most of them can be taken away, so long as it is done so with “due process.” And the process that is due, in many respects, is conditioned by the political, social, and economic climate of the day. Why not speech?
But the First Amendment is not merely an expression of liberal freedom, but of republican freedom as well. The liberal conception of liberty defines it as absence of government interference from your life — or, in its 20th-century evolution, liberty means that the government provides for a certain standard of living. But the republican notion of liberty is different. A free republic is one in which people are governed by laws that they themselves have a hand in making. From this perspective, freedom of speech needs to remain nearly absolute.
To appreciate this, consider the efforts of the man most responsible for the Bill of Rights, James Madison.
Madison was not so much the author of the Bill of Rights, but its editor. He was initially opposed to the project; the structure of the Constitution offered sufficient protection for civil liberty, he thought, and he feared that an enumeration of rights would imply a limitation to them. But the ratifying conventions in many states had approved the Constitution, with suggested revisions. Madison, who viewed these conventions as tribunes of the popular will, took their recommendations seriously. As George Washington’s de facto prime minister during the first session of the First Congress, he refined the wide array of proposals into what ultimately became the Bill of Rights.
In The Federalist Papers, Madison can come across as deeply suspicious of popular government. In Federalist No. 10 he bemoaned the “violence of faction” and sought to design a government that can corral the inherently selfish passions of humanity. In Federalist No. 51, he added checks and balances as “auxiliary precautions” to further thwart misrule.
Yet this is only one side of the Madisonian coin. Admittedly, he wanted to slow the tempo of government down to a crawl, to prevent fractious majorities from railroading minority rights and undermining the public welfare. But he also hoped to promote a robust intercourse of sentiments, so that — in due course — public opinion would cohere around principles of justice and the general welfare. Government had to move slowly and cautiously, but public discourse should be vigorous and unfettered.
“Public opinion,” he wrote in the National Gazette, in December 1791, “sets bounds to every government, and is the real sovereign in every free one.” But in a large republic such as the United States, it is “less easy to be ascertained, and . . . less difficult to be counterfeited.” It was thus key, he argued, to facilitate “a general intercourse of sentiments,” which included roads and commerce, as well as “a free press, and particularly a circulation of newspapers through the entire body of the people.”
In Madison’s view, a free republic depends ultimately upon public opinion. A Constitution could divide power this way and that, but in the end it is the people, and only the people, who rule. And for the people to rule wisely, they have to be able to communicate with one another — freely, without fear of reprisal. Thus, freedom of speech and press were not, for Madison, merely God-given rights. They were preconditions for self-government.
Conversely, Madison believed that those who sought to restrict speech revealed themselves to be opponents of republicanism. They wished to prevent public opinion from cohering, thus making it easier to counterfeit. This is why Madison and Thomas Jefferson — Jefferson himself was a staunch republican — reacted so strongly to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which restricted immigration and made it a crime to print “libelous” comments about government officers. Madison and Jefferson’s Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions called for state intervention to correct the abuses of the government (for Madison this implied “interposition,” but for Jefferson it could include “nullification”). Decades later, their resolves would be repurposed for the cause of secession, but they were actually an effort to prevent the Federalist party under John Adams from undermining the very basis of the national republic itself.
Madison’s tenure as president — 1809 to 1817 — has come in for a good bit of criticism over the years. It was, in many respects, an unspectacular administration, in no small part because of the disappointments of the War of 1812. But it is easy to overlook that although Madison was managing a relatively unpopular and difficult conflict, he did not sanction the abridgement of civil liberties. On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt — all of whom tend to score higher in historical rankings — did not show such restraint. This speaks well of Madison’s commitment to the importance of free speech.
None of this means that we should excuse the boorish and ignorant among us, those who seek to incite popular unrest for the sake of their small-minded prejudices. Instead, Madison’s commitment to free speech should serve as a reminder that, while people say things that we might find personally offensive, we should never wish the state to squash their right to do so. Our First Amendment freedoms combined — freedom of religion, of assembly and petition, of press and speech — give us the right to think what we like and say what we please. And if we the people are to govern ourselves, we must have these rights, even if they are misused by a minority.
As we confront those who use their right to free speech to abuse the norms of decency and civility, we should calmly recall Jefferson’s admonition from his first inaugural address. “If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”
Source:  NationalReview.   We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

A Roadmap for Defending Free Speech: After Backlash, SMU Restores 9/11 Memorial

If you thought Texas was immune to the campus madness spreading near-daily across America, consider the case of Southern Methodist University (SMU). This summer, the Dallas university seemed ready to leap aboard the bandwagon of censorship and intolerance. That it ultimately retreated from this illiberal undertaking should give confidence to its friends and alums and, more importantly, to friends of free speech everywhere.

A Roadmap for Defending Free Speech: After Backlash, SMU Restores 9/11 Memorial


As reported on its website, in July, the SMU chapter of the conservative student group, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), filed a request for the use of “Dallas Hall Lawn, a central location on campus” where, for the past two years, YAF has hosted the “9/11: Never Forget Project.” The Project display consists of 2,977 American flags, which “represent each of the 2,977 Americans murdered by Al Qaeda terrorists in September 2001.” There appeared to be no reason why this, its third request, would not be approved again.

However, on July 24, YAF received an email from SMU’s administration announcing that the school had altered its policy. “The email informed YAF that displays are now forbidden on Dallas Hall Lawn, and would instead be relegated to MoMac Park,” which YAF regards as “a location unquestionably less visible and further removed from students’ everyday activities. Dallas Hall Lawn is a busy thriving hub of activity,” which “functions as the central forum of SMU’s campus. MoMac Park does not.”

Why the change in policy? This is where things appeared to go from bad to worse—before they got much better—for the administration.

To provide some background, SMU—according to the nonpartisan free-speech watchdog, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)—already is suspect when it comes to protecting free speech. FIRE grades SMU with a “speech code rating Yellow,” which indicates that the school has “at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application.” To be fair, there is a worse grade that FIRE provides—a “Red Light,” which a number of Texas universities currently receive, among them, two publics, UT-Austin and the University of Houston, and one private, Rice University. A “Red Light” rating means, quoting FIRE’s website, that the school “has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”

This is not the first time that SMU has tussled with YAF; the latter’s website avers that the school had objected to a prior version of the Memorial, citing scheduling and logistical obstacles. The new policy, announced at the end of July, stated, “While the University respects the rights of students to free speech, the University respects the right of members of the community to avoid messages that are triggering, harmful, or harassing” (emphasis mine).

For the sake of not offending anyone, the Memorial would be moved from its prior place of prominence.

But then, something peculiar seems to have happened. Perhaps someone in the administration realized that the new campus obsession with “triggering speech” does not play well, nor should it, in a country founded on the principle that freedom of speech includes “offensive” speech, as a number of Court decisions have affirmed. Although SMU, as a private school, is not legally bound to uphold the First Amendment—as UT-Austin, the University of Houston, and all public universities are—SMU’s Mission Statement “affirms its historical commitment to academic freedom and open inquiry.”

For some reason, on August 1, SMU announced an additional revision to its just-revised policy on public displays. The Dallas Morning News accordingly updated its coverage with the following explanatory note: “Revised to include that SMU has updated its campus expression policy by removing language about ‘harmful or triggering messages.’ An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the university had ruled the 9/11 memorial must move because it could be triggering to students. The university’s policy requires all displays to move to the new site.”

By insisting that it “incorrectly” asserted that the university would move the 9/11 memorial “because it could be triggering to students,” the Morning News update appears to be practicing interpretive charity, which is always a noble stance; but in this instance is it more charitable than accurate? After all, SMU’s “revision-of-the-revision” expressly states its purpose is “to remove” its “poor wording regarding triggering or harmful messages.”

Whatever the case, if the school thought that its speedy deletion of the term, “triggering”—while still holding to its decision to relegate the Memorial to a less-trafficked location—would end the controversy, it was mistaken. On August 2, the Lone Star State’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott, sent the school a public letter asking President R. Gerald Turner to permit his students to place the Memorial flags in their “traditional place of honor” on the “Dallas Hall lawn,” adding, “This display is not political. It is not partisan. It is not controversial. This is about our nation united.”

Alas, we are far from a nation united these days—from Charlottesville, to Berkeley, to Yale, to Middlebury, to Evergreen State College, and beyond—our campuses and country are roiling with ideological conflict. The cause? Much of it owes to the rise in “hypersensitivity,” the public venting of which has sometimes been met by guilt-induced servility on the part of administrators, as I argue here and here.

As a former professor and senior university administrator, it is not difficult to imagine the genuine angst with which SMU’s leadership struggled to satisfy both sides of a battle not of the school’s making. From this unplanned war there would be no easy exit—someone would be offended by the school’s choice, whichever way it went: Some could be expected to decry the perceived insensitivity of the Memorial; others, to rail at what appeared to them as not only an infringement on free speech, but a slighting of the slaughtered of 9/11.

I sympathize with SMU’s plight. At the same time, it is unclear that its first attempted solution—to move all displays to MoMac Park—would have bought the peace it sought at the price of its “historical commitment to academic freedom and open inquiry.” In time, thoughtful members of the SMU community might come to wonder just what exactly the school stands for anymore, and why.

But then came the good news. Unlike a number of state officeholders nationwide, who have attempted, and largely failed, to convince their states’ campuses to protect free speech, Abbott’s entreaty hit pay dirt. A few days after the governor sent his admonition, SMU announced that it had reversed its prior decision, and would now restore the 9/11 Memorial and “all displays to the traditional location on the lawn.”

In this effort, the governor was aided by a free-speech-friendly coalition that, with YAF, included “leaders from the College Democrats, College Republicans, Feminist Equality Movement, Mustangs for Life and Turning Point USA.” Their joint letter to President Turner opined: “People absolutely have to have a right to their own opinions, but this does not come with a right to be shielded from opposing ideas, especially in an environment dedicated to the learning, sharing and developing of new ideas.”

One can approach this happy resolution in one of two ways. On the one hand, some might lament that students had to band together to teach their university elders that the intellectual excellence at which higher education aims depends ineluctably on the protection of free speech and debate.

One the other hand, others, this writer included, may eschew lamentations and instead take SMU at its word. After announcing its reversal, President Turner offered this statement: “I thank the students from across campus who came together in the spirit of mutual respect and civil discourse to achieve this outcome. Throughout these discussions, students have expressed their commitment to freedom of expression — a value the university shares.”

A no-less magnanimous postmortem on the saga was offered by Grant Wolf, Chairman of SMU’s YAF: “We have not fought against our university. We have fought for America. And America has won.”

I agree with and admire both Turner’s and Wolf’s assessments. In the end, SMU resisted PC/SJW’s gravitational pull, which has caused too many other schools to spin way from their core mission. At such schools, the “Social Justice” enterprise has already inclined their campuses in the totalitarian direction depicted in George Orwell’s 1984“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.

Unlike so many campus meltdowns of the past few years, in this case, what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” prevailed. Let us hope that the triumph of freedom at SMU will stand as a model for other schools confronting similar stumbling blocks to the freedom to learn.

Source:  Forbes.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.


A Handful of Tech Companies Decide Who Has Free Speech Online. That’s Not Good.

Conservatives and others outside the Silicon Valley consensus are right to be paranoid.  On August 18, statistics professor and researcher Salil Mehta discovered his Google account had been shut down. Not only did he lose access to his email, but his popular blog Statistical Ideas was inaccessible — right after The New York Times had linked to it, directing a stream of readers his way. Google’s automated message told Mehta that he had violated the Terms of Service, but didn’t specify how and offered little recourse.  Insert:  The tech giants do not have to provide any reasons for shutting you down whether related to free speech or not.

A Handful of Tech Companies Decide Who Has Free Speech Online. That's Not Good.

Too Easy?

The incident came soon after Google fired software engineer James Damore for his outspoken views on diversity in the tech industry. In the tense atmosphere, Mehta assumed that writing he had done about electoral politics was the cause. “Apparently if you show [p]robability work like Hillary having lower election odds, then this is new definition of hate speech,” he tweeted in frustration. Mehta’s plight went semi-viral after Ricardo Blanco, a Tesla communications manager and himself a former Google executive, signal-boosted Mehta’s complaint, as did bombastic economics author Nicholas Nassim Taleb.

Like Damore, who saw himself as merely presenting scientific data showing differences between populations, Mehta did not think of himself as an ideological bomb-thrower. He told ZeroHedge, “I am not promoting any specific viewpoint. I teach probability math and that’s it.”

Mehta was lucky. The public outcry and press attention prompted Google to manually review his case. A Google spokesperson told Inc. that Mehta mistakenly marked some of his own email as spam, which confused the algorithm and triggered the shutdown. By August 21, the account had been fully restored.

It could have turned out differently. Without his impressive credentials and far-reaching network, Mehta never would have found out why his Google account was shut down. He wouldn’t have been able to access his correspondence or restore his blog, which he says has been read by the likes of Elon Musk and Warren Buffett.

After regaining access to his blog, Mehta published an out-of-character post. Instead of talking about math, Mehta discussed the societal danger posed by artificial intelligence. He pointed out that algorithms constructed by ideologically homogenous groups will reflect that homogeneity — an argument that is common among technology critics and activists of all political persuasions.

“Risk-taking off the backs of billions of citizens, an increasingly unstable segment of whom are fuming at the moment,” Mehta called the practice.

Mehta’s experience with Google illustrates just how little some of us trust our digital gatekeepers. Anyone who is right of center — or otherwise holds views that don’t jibe with the dominant Silicon Valley paradigm — can’t help but feel antsy in 2017. This anxiety exploded into public view last year after Facebook was rumored to be suppressing conservative articles in its “Trending Topics” module. People are worried about being no-platformed; about losing their ability to advocate for themselves and their communities.

“Despite their participatory rhetoric,” media critic John Herrmann wrote in The New York Times, “social platforms are closer to authoritarian spaces than democratic ones.” Users have no ability to vote in new CEOs, and the shareholders who do are more concerned with earnings and dividends than free speech rights. Your whole life could be tied up in an account, and then a fluke mistake could get you banned. There would be nearly nothing you could do about it. Unless you’re prominent enough for the media to care, you’ll be hard-pressed to get human eyes on your case.

Tech companies that offer free consumer products get away with promising very little to their users. Due process is not part of the deal. Platforms like Google and Facebook go through the rigmarole of establishing official policies, but they can break them arbitrarily whenever they want. The backend infrastructure of the internet, made up of hosting companies and DNS registrars, is also governed by what boils down to whim.

Sometimes the affectation is broken. Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince caused a stir when he reversed the company’s policy of content neutrality in order to ax a neo-Nazi site. In a sorry-not-sorry email to Cloudflare staff, Prince wrote, “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet.”

To his credit, Prince recognized his exercise of power as problematic and attempted to use it as a teachable moment. “Firing a Nazi customer gets you glowing notes from around the world, thanking you for standing up to hate,” he subsequently noted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “But a week later, I continue to worry about this power and the potential precedent being set. The reality of today’s internet is that if you are publishing anything even remotely controversial, your site will get cyber-attacked. Without a massive global network similar to Cloudflare’s, it is nearly impossible to withstand the barrage.”

Prince added, “The upshot is that a few private companies have effectively become the gatekeepers to the public square — the blogs and social media that serve as today’s soapboxes and pamphlets. If a handful of tech executives decide to block you from their services, your content effectively can’t be on the internet.”

Conservative writer David French critiqued Prince’s decision in National Review, and came to the same conclusion:

“This was an ominous development for free speech — and not because there is anything at all valuable about The Daily Stormer’s message. It’s an evil site. Its message is vile. Instead, The Daily Stormer’s demise is a reminder that a few major corporations now have far more power than the government to regulate and restrict free speech, and they’re hardly neutral or unbiased actors. They have a point of view, and they’re under immense pressure to use that point of view to influence public debate.”

Everyone is on edge. Even rote decisions made by algorithms — like the one that booted Salil Mehta from his Google account — are easy to interpret as ideology-driven malice. In most cases, users are disenfranchised to the extent that they’ll never find out either way.  Talk about free speech rights being stompled by Big Tech.

Source:  Inc.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.


Birthplace of free speech movement braces for possible fight

The California city that birthed the American free speech movement is preparing for potential clashes even though the person behind a right-wing rally scheduled for Sunday has pleaded with supporters to stay away, saying that she fears violence.

Birthplace of free speech movement braces for possible fight

Protesters march in San Francisco, Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017. Officials took steps to prevent violence ahead of a planned news conference by a right-wing group.

The “No to Marxism in America” rally in downtown Berkeley comes a day after a controversial freedom rally planned by a right-wing group fizzled amid throngs of counter-protesters in San Francisco. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee declared victory over a group he branded as inviting hate.

Both Amber Cummings and Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson have repeatedly denounced racism. Cummings canceled her Sunday event and Gibson called off his Saturday rally late Friday, saying that demonization by mayors in both cities and left-wing extremists made it impossible to speak out.

Cummings said she would be the sole attendee. In a message to the media Saturday she said she might be forced to cancel if she is not provided police protection.

It’s uncertain if supporters’ or opponents’ will show up. The left-wing group By Any Means Necessary, which has been involved in violent confrontations, had vowed to shut down the rally at Civic Center Park. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin has urged counter-protesters to stay away.

Berkeley police were planning for a number of contingencies, police spokeswoman Jenn Coats said in an email Saturday. The city has banned a long list of items from the park, including baseball bats, dogs and skateboards. People at the park are also not allowed to cover their faces with scarves or bandanas.

Cummings is a transgender woman and supporter of President Donald Trump who has said on social media and in media interviews that Marxism is the real evil and that members of the anti-fascist movement are terrorists.

“I’m not safe to walk down the road with an American flag in this county,” she said to reporters in Berkeley last week, her face covered with a bandana to make a point about masked anti-fascist members.

“We’ve had enough,” she said. “We have the right to speak patriotism, we have the right to speak about our country. We have the right to be proud of our country.”

Cummings called off her event in a lengthy statement issued via Facebook, saying that she had “grave concerns for the safety of the people attending my event.”

Asked Saturday whether he had any plans to go to Berkeley, Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer, said he would “analyze the situation.”

Gibson downgraded his Saturday rally into a news conference at a San Francisco park, but was thwarted when police swarmed the park and city workers erected a fence around it. He and several other people scheduled to speak at the rally were forced to travel to a suburb to hold their news conference.

Will Johnson, who is African American, said he is obviously not a white supremacist and was frustrated about the use of the term in connection with Patriot Prayer and the rally. “We’re here in the middle of nowhere because we don’t want the violence,” he said.

The pivots by the group didn’t deter more than 1,000 left-wing counter-protesters from descending on Alamo Square park, where they suspected right-wing supporters still might show up.

Student activism was born during the 1960s free-speech movement at Berkeley, when thousands of students at the university mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.

However, the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 during a rally of white supremacists led San Francisco police and civil leaders to rethink their response to protests.

Source:  DenverPost.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

Black-clad anarchists storm Berkeley rally, assaulting 4

Black-clad anarchists on Sunday stormed into what had been a largely peaceful Berkeley protest against hate and attacked at least four people, including the leader of a politically conservative group who canceled an event a day earlier in San Francisco because of fears violence could break out.

Black-clad anarchists storm Berkeley rally, assaulting 4

Demonstrator Joey Gibson, second from left, is chased by anti-fascists during a free speech rally Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Several thousand people converged in Berkeley Sunday for a “Rally Against Hate” in response to a planned right-wing protest that raised concerns of violence and triggered a massive police presence. Several people were arrested for violating rules against covering their faces or carrying items banned by authorities.

The group of more than 100 hooded protesters, with shields emblazoned with the words “no hate” and waving a flag identifying themselves as anarchist , busted through police lines, avoiding security checks by officers to take away possible weapons. Then the anarchists and blended in with a crowd of 2,000 largely peaceful protesters who turned up to demonstrate in a “Rally Against Hate” opposed to a much smaller gathering of right-wing protesters.

Among those assaulted by the anarchists was Joey Gibson, the leader of the Patriot Prayer group, who canceled a rally Friday and was prevented from holding a news conference on Saturday when authorities closed off the public square Gibson planned to use. Gibson has said he launched Patriot Prayer after several supporters of President Donald Trump were beaten at a Trump campaign stop in San Jose, California last year.

After the anarchists spotted Gibson at the Berkeley park, they pepper-sprayed him and chased him out of it as he backed away with his hands held in the air, accompanied by a masked man wearing football shoulder pads. Gibson and the man went behind a line of police wearing riot gear, who set off a smoke bomb to drive away the anarchists.

Earlier in the day, another group of left-wing demonstrators dressed in black attacked at least three men in the park, kicking and punching them until the assaults were stopped by police. Police also used a smoke grenade to stop one scuffle.

Police in the San Francisco area have been braced for violence and trying to prevent protests that draw left-wing and right-wing opponents since the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 12 during a rally of white supremacists.

Berkeley authorities did not issue a permit Sunday’s gathering of right-wing protesters and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin had urged counter-protesters to stay away.

It had been canceled by organizer Amber Cummings, who encouraged supporters to stay away but said she would attend on her own.

By mid-afternoon Cummings had not appeared and left-wing protesters far outnumbered right-wing supporters.

Earlier in the day, police had set up barricades around park and checked people who entered to make sure they did not have prohibited items like baseball bats, dogs, skateboards and scarves or bandanas they could use to cover their faces.

Several people were arrested for violating rules against covering their faces or carrying items banned by authorities.

At one point, an anti-rally protester denounced a Latino man holding a “God Bless Donald Trump” sign.

“You are an immigrant,” said Karla Fonseca. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

Several other people also yelled at the man, who said he was born in Mexico but supports Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the southern border.

Police pulled one supporter of President Donald Trump out of the park over a wall by his shirt as a crowd of about two dozen counter demonstrators surrounded him and chanted “Nazi go home” and pushed him toward the edge of the park. At least two people were detained by officers for wearing bandannas covering their faces.

Anti-rally protesters chanted slogans “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA” and carried signs that said: “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate.”

A separate group of counter protesters had assembled earlier Sunday at the nearby University of California, Berkeley campus and then marched park to merge with the anti-rally protesters who had already gathered there.

Both Cummings and Gibson have disavowed racism and say they wanted to hold the rallies to bring conservative voices to the liberal San Francisco Bay Area.

Student activism was born during the 1960s free-speech movement at Berkeley, when thousands of students at the university mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.

However, the violence in Charlottesville led San Francisco area police and civil leaders to rethink their response to protests.

Source:  TheFederalist.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

San Francisco shuts down ‘free speech’ group

Protesters opposing a right-wing gathering in liberal San Francisco claimed victory Saturday when the event was canceled after city officials walled off a city park — a move that the event’s organizer said was more about silencing his group’s free speech message than preventing a violent clash.

San Francisco shuts down 'free speech' group

Civic leaders in San Francisco — a cradle of the free speech movement that prides itself on its tolerance — repeatedly voiced concerns that the event organized by Patriot Prayer would lead to a clash with counter-demonstrators.

Joey Gibson, who is Japanese American and leads Patriot Prayer, said his group disavows racism and hatred and wanted to promote dialogue with people who may not share its views. He canceled a planned rally Saturday at a field under the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge after he said his members received anonymous threats on social media and feared civic leaders and law enforcement would fail to protect them.

He said Saturday in a phone interview that he felt like San Francisco’s Democratic leaders had shut him down.

Earlier in the week, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee raised concerns that Patriot Prayer would attract hate speech and potential violence.

Gibson and other scheduled speakers at the rally said at a news conference that Lee wrongly labeled them a hate group, needlessly raising tensions and stirring emotions in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lee defended his characterization of the group and the city’s response, which included ordering all available police officers to duty.

He said that “certain voices” will find it difficult to be heard in San Francisco, and that people who want to speak need to have a message that “contributes to people’s lives rather than find ways to hurt them.”

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Democrat who represents San Francisco, called the planned rally a “white supremacist” event.

“They’re definitely doing a great job of trying to make sure my message doesn’t come out,” Gibson said.

San Francisco officials closed the park where Gibson had planned a news conference after cancelling the rally at Crissy Field. City officials surrounded Alamo Square park with a fence and sent scores of police officers — some in riot gear — to keep people out. Mayor Ed Lee defended the city’s response.

“If people want to have the stage in San Francisco, they better have a message that contributes to people’s lives rather than find ways to hurt them,” Lee said. “That’s why certain voices found it very difficult to have their voices heard today.”

Gibson later spoke in suburban Pacifica with a handful of supporters that included African Americans, a Latino and a Samoan American. Several said they support President Trump and want to join with moderates to promote understanding and free speech.

More than 1,000 demonstrators against Patriot Prayer still turned out around Alamo Square Park waving signs condemning white supremacists and chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets!” Hundreds of others took to the streets in the Castro neighborhood.

“San Francisco as a whole, we are a liberal city and this is not a place for hate or any sort of bigotry of any kind,” Bianca Harris said. “I think it’s a really powerful message that we’re sending to people who come here to try to spew messages of hate that it’s just not welcome in this city.”

Benjamin Sierra, who organized counter protesters, said the demonstration had become a “victory rally.”

Lee said Saturday’s protests against a right-wing “freedom rally” (insert:  free speech rally) that never happened were peaceful celebrations of love.

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said there was one arrest Saturday —for public intoxication.

The San Francisco Bay Area has nurtured freedom of speech, and police in San Francisco have traditionally given demonstrators a wide berth.

Student activism was born during the 1960s free-speech movement at Berkeley, when thousands of students at the university mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.

However, the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12 during a rally of white supremacists led San Francisco police and civil leaders to rethink their response to protests.

Gibson had said his followers would attend an anti-Marxist rally on Sunday in Berkeley. But a short time later, the organizer of that rally, a transgender woman named Amber Cummings, called it off. The left-wing group By Any Means Necessary, which has been involved in violent confrontations, had vowed to shut down the event at Civic Center Park.

Asked Saturday whether he had any plans to go to Berkeley, Gibson said he would “analyze the situation.”

Berkeley police were planning for a number of contingencies, police spokeswoman Jenn Coats said in an email.

The city has banned a long list of items from the park, including baseball bats, dogs and skate boards. People at the park are also not allowed to cover their faces with scarves or bandanas.

Source:  TribLive.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.