We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have even seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Now a recent complaint filed by a professor against Home Secretary Amber Rudd illustrates vividly how hate speech has become for some people an extension of political disagreements. The complaint by Prof Joshua Silver, an astrophysicist, will not result in any serious investigation but it was recorded as a hate crime allegation under the existing standards. We recently discussed the criminal charges brought against a conservative Dutch politician. Continue reading
We previously discussed the case of Bruyton Mellott who was arrested after posting online pictures of himself burning an American flag has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have the state’s flag desecration law declared unconstitutional. The 22-year-old the Wal-Mart employee was charged with flag desecration despite two Supreme Court cases clearly saying that such an act is constitutionally protected. After various experts (including myself) said that the arrest was unconstitutional, the charges were dropped, but Mellott is now suing. I personally find Mellott’s actions to be highly offensive and disturbing. I have never understood the burning of the flag which represents our collective rights, including free speech. Unfortunately, important free speech cases are often triggered by the most reprehensible forms of speech or most reprehensible individuals. In the end, the lawsuit may force legislators to confront the fact that they have continued a facially unconstitutional law on their books because they fear the political backlash if they comply with long-standing Supreme Court precedent.
I have long been a critic of politician interfering with curricular issues in our schools. Most of us do not look to politicians as paragons of knowledge. Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez personifies the perils of politicians dictating course choices. Gomez is pushing for a course on to teach students who to avoid fake news. It is part of a new trend around the world to rally people against the scourge of “fake news” — a trend that is already been used as a rationale for censorship and the criminalization of speech. Fake news is now the rallying cry for people who disagree with coverage and is used as a way to avoid answering questions. What one person consider fake news and other considers real news can be highly subjective. The most recent controversy reveals the difficult lines to draw. President-elect Donald Trump made headlines yesterday by denounced CNN as “fake news” and refusing to take a question from its reporter. Yet, the report was “news” that was reported by most major outlets. I agree with the Trump staff about the need for BuzzFeed to have looked more closely at specific allegations and I do find the contractions raised by the Trump staff to be very problematic. Indeed, James Clapper appears to have supported Trump in his outrage over the leaks and further distanced the U.S. intelligence community from the merits of the allegations. [Here is Clapper’s statement] Yet, the legitimacy of these stories comes down to the details published in the stories. A former MI6 agent made the allegation and those allegations were forwarded to the FBI by a U.S. Senator. That is news. The specific “dirt” alleged to be in the possession of the Russians is a far more difficult question for editors and most declined to run those details while reporting the lack of independent confirmation.
We have previously discussed the plight of women and girls subject to Sharia law and extreme Muslim traditions of marriage. The nightmare faced by many women was captured in a horrific guide being distributed by in Turkey by former religious affairs department employee Hasan Caliskan. The guide supports the beating of women who do not “beautify” themselves, supports the marriage of 10-year-old girls, and advances absurd notions like the danger of having a stuttering child if a woman talks during sex.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe has dismissed the defamation case against against President-elect Donald Trump brought by political strategist and TV pundit Cheryl Jacobus. Trump slammed Jacobus during the campaign and said that she “begged him for a job” at one time. Jaffe, however, held that such tweets are manifestly opinion and not facts for the purposes of defamation law. It is perhaps fitting that the first major ruling related to Trump would be over the character of tweets. If upheld, this could be a major new rule. As if on cue, Trump make more headlines today in the wake of the decision on Twitter with a tweet attacking the intelligence agencies saying “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?” That is clearly opinion and hyperbole but the scope of Jaffe’s decision certainly adds a layer of protection not just for Trump but other regular tweeters.
Matt Krause is a deeply religious man who feels that people too easily divorce. That is clearly understandable view and probably speaks well of his own marriage. However, Krause is also a Texas state representative and wants to make that decision more difficult for his neighbors. He has introduced bills that should more divorces more expensive and more time-consuming and thus more difficult for couples to secure. This is a point where libertarians and some conservatives part ways. As someone with strong libertarian tendencies, I recoil at the government enforcing moral codes on a couples in making it difficult for them to divorce after they have made that difficult decision within her marriage or families. He would specifically bar no-fault divorces to protect the sanctity of marriage.
There is an interesting controversy brewing on Capitol Hill where Missouri Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., wants California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Ca) criminally charged after Hunter took down a painting by one of Clay’s constituents that contains insulting images of police as pigs and other animals. The question is what the crime might be in such a circumstance since the painting was not damaged. It is analogous to the recent controversy at the University of Pennsylvania where students pulled down a portrait of William Shakespeare and replaced it with a portrait of a black feminist author. The painting (as in this case) was brought undamaged to the office. Of course, this is the removal of art from a Capitol building.