Category: Free Speech

Fourth of July in Derry, Northern Ireland

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

I thought it an interesting twist and in the end quite fitting to celebrate this year’s U.S. Independence Day in Derry, Northern Ireland which coincides a month shy of the fiftieth anniversary Battle of the Bogside and the birth of the Free Derry zone within NI.

I’ve noted in my travels that one can learn from different expressions of freedom, or the lack thereof, in visiting other nations that in the end resulted in a better appreciation for the gift of Liberty that we have a civil right to experience in the United States.

The Derry Murals: (click on each to enlarge)

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Virginia Beach Employee Arrested For Telling Supervisor That She Is The Type Of Boss Who Pushes Employees To Violence

There is a disturbing case out of Virginia Beach where city employee Elizabeth Mann, 48, was fired and then arrested for telling Wendy Swallow, a supervisor, that she is the type of boss who pushes people to violence. She was referencing the recent shooting spree of DeWayne Craddock, 40, an engineer with the city’s Public Utilities division, that killed 12 people and wounded several others. It was a uniquely stupid thing to say but Mann’s arrest raises serious constitutional concerns.

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Doctoral Candidate At UC-Santa Barbara Faces Protests After Speaking Out Against Transgender Ideology

We have previously discussed the growing intolerance on campuses over those who speak or write from a conservative or opposing perspective. The latest such target is Laura Tanner, a doctoral candidate in its Department of Feminist Studies. Tanner has written against transgender status and ideology. Her tweets have led students and alumni at the University of California-Santa Barbara to demand the termination of Tanner’s association with the university.

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Law Professor: MAGA Hat “Undeniable Symbol Of White Supremacy”

download-3Gonzaga University School of Law Visiting Law Professor Jeffrey Omari has written a column in the ABA Journal that demonstrates the increasingly shrill environment faced by conservative students.  Omari took to the pages of the Journal to recount his almost breathless encounter with a student wearing a “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hat. Most of us are used to students wearing political hats and teeshirts.  I am always happy to see students with such clothing because it shows that they are engaged and passionate regardless of their views. For Omari, the incident was chilling since he declares the MAGA hats worn by many conservatives to be per se racist symbols. Continue reading “Law Professor: MAGA Hat “Undeniable Symbol Of White Supremacy””

France Emerges As One Of The World’s Greatest Threats To Free Speech

libertyBelow is my column on the vote scheduled for this week by France to impose a new regulation on Internet speech — essentially forcing companies to scrub their sites of any hate speech as defined under sweeping French laws.  What is astonishing is how many Americans are prepared to follow the European model in limiting free speech on the basis for loosely defined terms of threatening or intimidating or harassing anyone on the basis for race or religion or sexual orientation or other protected groups. The implications for free speech is sweeping and chilling. The West has fallen out of love with free speech.  What is most concerning however is that countries like France and Germany are likely to strip away free speech protections for the rest of the World, even in countries like the United States where free speech is still given broad protection.

Here is the column: Continue reading “France Emerges As One Of The World’s Greatest Threats To Free Speech”


download-1The Fourth is one of my favorite holidays as a time when citizens should put aside our differences and focus on the freedoms that unite us.  The American Republic is still a work in progress, a constitutional system that must be renewed by each generation.  This holiday unfortunately shows how our differences threaten to overwhelm our common article of faith in this representative democracy.  The Nike controversy shows how our differences are now overwhelming our core shared values, including the very symbol of this nation.  Nevertheless, many of us will join today to celebrate these United States and its history and values.  My family will celebrate with a cookout and, of course, fireworks. Continue reading “HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!!!”

“Just Don’t Buy It”: Nike Controversy Is About More Than Sneakers

nike-logoBelow is my column in The Hill Newspaper.  Even after Nike embraced Colin Kaepernick, I was flabbergasted by the decision of Nike to pull sneakers showing the early American flag because Kaepernick found it offensive.  Supporters of Kaepernick has insisted that the flag is now a symbol of white supremacists.  I do not know about the adoption by white supremacists but I am familiar with the flag being used by prior protesters  ranging from Civil Rights marchers to anti-Vietnam activists as well as displayed at events like President Barack Obama’s inauguration.  Today, the Anti-Defamation League added its voice in saying that  “We view it as essentially an innocuous historical flag. It’s not a thing in the white supremacist movement.”

Nevertheless, Nike has clearly decided that it will write off those citizens who feel strongly about the flag as a national symbol and play to Kaepernick’s base.  The company’s sales went up seven percent after its controversial decision to hire Kaepernick for its campaign in 2018.   Yet, the move has also hurt its brand with a sizable number of Americans and the latest move will likely weigh heavily on many not to buy Nike products. Many of us are not inclined to buy Nike products in light of its extreme position on the flag.

Here is the column: Continue reading ““Just Don’t Buy It”: Nike Controversy Is About More Than Sneakers”

Top Universities Sanctioning Law Professors For Unpopular Clients

I have previously written about the growing intolerance of faculty and students for opposing views and speech. Recently, however, there has been a further erosion in long-standing principles of free speech and academic freedom in the targeting of law professors for representing unpopular clients. Harvard University has been widely denounced for its removal of Law Professor Ronald Sullivan and his wife Stephanie Robinson as “House Deans” after Sullivan agreed to represent former Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in his criminal trial. Columbia effectively forced out Columbia University law professor Elizabeth Lederer due to her prior work as a prosecutor in the “Central Park Five” case. It appears that no speech or even the principle of the presumption of innocence is to be recognized in the new realities of higher education.

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Trump Supports Flag Burning Amendment

Today President Donald Trump declared support for a new constitutional amendment to allow Congress to override the First Amendment and criminalize the burning of the American flag. The legislation for the amendment was reintroduced by Sen. Steve Daines (R- Montana) and Sen Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota). While I consider flag burning (of any country) to be deeply offensive, there is no need for such an amendment to combat the extremely few incidents of flag burning. It is certainly a popular political cause, but we should not amend the Constitution to reduce free speech, particularly given the low number of flag burnings.

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New York Times Confirms Death of Humor . . . And Daily Editorial Cartoons

Political cartoons are some of the oldest forms of commentary and dissent of humanity. They have had transformative effect on politics and policies, often highlighting important issues through satiric or absurd images. Indeed, a cartoon can often say in a single image what some of us struggle to explain in hundreds of words. Legendary figures from Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Nast advocated such forms of commentary. They are visual narratives that continue to be valued by readers but have been curtailed by small groups of well-organized critics. It is for that reason that the recent announcement by the New York Times is so distressing. After a controversy over a cartoon denounced as anti-Semitic, the paper will cease running political cartoons. It is the perfect embodiment of our humorous, hyper-sensitive environment of the age of rage.


“The Enemy of the People”: Trump Resumes His Attacks On American Media As China Bans The Washington Post

Flag of the Peoples Republic of China

I was been a long critic of President Donald Trump’s attacks on the media even though I have been critical of biased reporting by some outfits. Trump’s mantra of calling the media, and particularly the Washington Post and the New York Times, “the enemy of the people” was repeated on Twitter last weekend as China banned the Washington Post (and the Guardian) from access to its citizens. Both publications joined others behind the infamous “Great Firewall” of China’s massive censorship apparatus. While Trump has only called for greater liability for American media (rather than censorship), the confluence of these stories is concerning. China can cite our own president in declaring the Washington Post as an enemy and “fake news” to justify its censorship of one of the last remaining free press accessible to some Chinese.

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High School Bars Student From Graduation Walk For Discussing Bullying And Sexual Assault At School

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

After a high school senior chose to deviate from a pre-approved speech at an event and instead discussed allegations of bullying and assault at the school, administrators provided a learning opportunity of what bullying is really about–banning the student from his graduation walk.

While the school could have simply let the matter go, it instead managed to enshrine itself in an avoidable controversy simply because it could not see beyond the administration’s collective egos and will suffer the resultant benefits of its actions: National embarrassment. 

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Tiananmen Square 30 Years Later

Today is a sad anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. It is all the more sad due to the success of the Chinese regime to wipe out memories of the massacre in the country while crushing dissent. It falls to the rest of the world to keep the memory alive in the hope that truth, like water, will find its way through the most formidable walls.

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Vanity Fair: New York Times Blocking Reporters From Going On Certain MSNBC and CNN Shows As ‘Too Partisan”

For two years, I have written about the declining journalistic values in this age of rage with both reporters and legal analysts becoming open partisans for or against Donald Trump. I recently spoke on this decline in objective and neutral reporting. It appears that the situation has become a threat to the journalistic principles of The New York Times. According to Vanity Fair, the newspaper is barring its reporters from appearing on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and CNN Tonight with Don Lemon as too biased and one-sided.

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