Category: Free Speech

PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan Granted 1st Visit in Two Years After Jailed Pol. Listed In Critical Condition During Hunger Strike Protesting His Isolation

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Abdullah Öcalan, in 1997 by Halil Uysal

Turkey granted imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan his first visitor in nearly two years this Saturday. Turkish courts ruled in 2016 that he was to receive no visitors, including family. Mr. Öcalan has not had access to visits from his attorneys since 2011 despite filing over seven hundred requests to do so. Mr. Öcalan was visited by his brother, Mohammad Öcalan.

While it is unclear exactly why Turkey had a change of heart regarding the visits, it was recently widely reported on Thursday in Turkish and Kurdish news media that a jailed member of Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey is suffering “life-threatening” medical conditions during her hunger strike that started sixty-five days ago. She began the strike to protest the conditions and isolation that Mr. Öcalan was experiencing at the hands of his Turkish captors.

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Saudi Teenager Continues Standoff In Thailand In Seeking Asylum

There remains confusion in Thailand over the fate of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, who is seeking asylum after renouncing Islam and refusing to be treated as chattel under the medieval laws of Saudi Arabia. We have previously discussed the sexist and repressive laws imposed on women in the Kingdom, making adult women effective wards of male family members, including younger siblings or family members. Since the Saudis kill people for apostasy, the fear of this young woman is real and immediate. She is deserving of asylum and the United States should show that it truly believes in women’s rights and step forward to give her protection against our Saudi allies.

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Hitler Goes Ballistic Over Patreon Censorship: Patreon Part 5

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

You know you’ve reached a level of notoriety when someone creates a Hitler Goes Ballistic meme in your disfavor. Well, now it has happened for our friends at Patreon where a creator dubbed over a clip from the WWII film “Der Untergang / Downfall” and had the charity to cast Patreon CEO Jack Conte as Hitler.

The reported author surely displays courage to craft this, considering that he receives significant funding from Patreon, who’s Trust and Safety Team seems bent on wiping out what they disagree with, or what others label as being “Nazi” or such. Casting Mr. Conte as Hitler is worth a laugh in itself for the irony.

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Exodus: Patreon: A Threat To Free Speech Part 4

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

The damage resulting from Patreon’s ill-advised venture into censorship continues with the departure of both content creators and their patrons.

Among many others, two of Patreon’s largest subscribers not only announced their departure but that they also intend to construct a crowd-funding source that they hope will insulate content creators from the whims of Patreon’s and other exchanges’ staff’s political or personal ideals. Many regard their departure not just in terms of protests in the name of free speech, but as sound financial stewardship to protect their own livelihood from a possibly unreliable payment and revenue source.

The bleeding continues

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Significance of Kurdish Writer’s Translation of Orwell’s Animal Farm Cannot Be Overstated

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Yesterday brought us in my view a greatly significant event–the Ebril, Iraq book launch of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, translated into the Kurdish Language.

The book was formerly banned under the Saddam Hussein regime; rather obviously for its negative portrayal of how a dictatorship can emerge in a nation or community. Coupled with the dark history that for decades nations such as Turkey proscribed the Kurdish language, the fact that such a work can be sold publicly shows the remarkable transformation that has taken place in the former dictatorship.

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Patreon: A Threat to Free Speech Part 3: Would Patreon Censor & Ban Aristotle?

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

As part of a series of articles regarding censorship by the crowd-funding service Patreon, I now pose the question of whether Patreon, as based upon its current actions and policy, would censor and ban great historical figures such as Aristotle, Jacob Riis, and numerous other contributors to the betterment of the human condition. The men and women of those times certainly did not subscribe to the ideas of 21st century political correctness and were the products of their own times, but since Patreon through its actions seems to conflate the idea of these people as a brand, where an arbitrary set of ideas about the author dictates the value of the content of their ideas or speech. It seems most likely these figures would not have been granted a voice had Patreon been the gatekeeper to their ideas.

What contributions to history might have been lost had the mindset such as that engendered today by Patreon prevailed?

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Patreon: A Threat to Free Speech Pt. 2: Your Person is a Brand That Can Be Censored.

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

As part of a series of articles to be published on how I believe the crowd-funding source Patreon and its current practices represent a threat to free speech we look at insights reported by several current and former patrons and content creators. The conclusion I cannot help but arrive at is that the individual, as evidenced by Patreon’s words, represents a “brand” where choices made outside the scope of content posted to Patreon can be used against the user, resulting in their livelihood earned from income being revoked without notice. In other words, if the company does not like you as a person, they can remove your income. The restraint of this form of “depersoning” is just another example of how Americans are steadily losing their hard-won free speech rights.

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Patreon: A Threat To Free Speech

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

What began as a laudable business model to fund individual content creators such as writers, bloggers, vloggers, and artists–providing many now with generous incomes aggregated from their subscribers–has devolved into heavy-handed practices antithetical to the basic tenets of Free Speech, small business, and the spirit of Self-Employment and  Self-Sufficiency. The platform exercises the worst kind of censorship, cutting off the incomes of individuals and their families for often arbitrary accusations of unacceptable speech off-platform or for association with those Patreon finds objectionable.

This censorship is not just for content hosted by Patreon, as many former subscribers to their service report that they are forced to walk a fine line in their own personal lives for fear that Patreon’s “Trust and Safety” team will take away their patrons and lifestyle for engaging in wrong-think or speech.

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Five Texans Sue After Being Barred From State Jobs For Refusing To Sign A Required Statements On Israel

I have previously written about the increasing state and federal efforts to impose bans on contractors and employees who refuse to sign agreements not to boycott Israeli products. The agreements raise serious free speech concerns under the First Amendment and contravene a host of constitutional rights from speech to religion to association. Now a speech pathologist in Texas is suing after she was barred from employment with the school district after nine years of work with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas. The lawsuit on her behalf was filed in the Western District of Texas is the latest federal challenge to these laws.

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It’s A Wonderful Libel? Trump Suggests Legal Action Against SNL For Latest Skit

I have previously criticized President Donald Trump for his calls for greater liability of the media for its coverage of the controversies surrounding his Administration.   This weekend, Trump was again suggesting the need for legal review as he was excoriated by Saturday Night Live in a skit based on the classic Christmas movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Fortunately, the courts have maintained core free speech and free press protections from such assaults, particularly in the realm of comedy and parody.  

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Putin On The Rap: Russian President Says Rap Will Not Be Banned But “Directed” By The State

For an authoritarian leader like President Vladimir Putin, this may seem like the height of liberalism.  Putin told cultural advisers  that the rising popularity of rap music will, not be banned by rather “we must lead it and direct it.”  It is not clear what Putin rap might sound like but it is clearly going to be something Stalin rather than Solzhenitsyn would dance to.  We all know what Soviet central planning did to the economy.  We can now watch the same magic of centrally planned rap music.

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Quebec Theater Fined In For Actor Lighting Fake Cigarette On Stage

One could imagine a number of things that might draw the attention, if not the ire, of aspiring censors in Quebec in the performance of Conversations avec mon pénis, starting with the woman dressed as a giant penis.  However, the $500 fine levied against the theater was for Marc-André Thibault sitting next to the giant penis while he smoked a fake cigarette on stage.

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British Ads Barred in 2019 From Showing Any Form Of Gender Stereotype

We have previously discussed how Great Britain has embraced the “nanny state” in regulating speech and conduct that are deemed unhealthy or inimical to good social policy.  The latest example are new rules to take effect in 2019 the will ban sexist or gender stereotypes from advertising. This includes showing men or women in gender stereotypical activities because such images are deemed to contribute to pay inequality or psychological harm.

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French Protesters Take To The Streets Wearing Yellow Vests . . . So Egypt Cracks Down On Yellow Vest Sales

The Egyptian government has reason to be nervous.  After cracking down on civil liberties, free speech, free exercise, and the free press, the government has watched with growing alarm over the protests engulfing France by thousands of yellow vested citizens.  So Egypt is rethinking its denial of basic liberties, right?  No, the government is preventing the sale of yellow vests and prosecutors are seeking jail time for a lawyer who was merely pictured in yellow vest.

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Vermont Man Causes Controversy Over One-Finger Salute To City Officials

Facebook: Ted Pelkey

We previously discussed the sometimes thin line between free speech and a nuisance.  The latest such controversy has arisen in Westford, Vermont where Ted Pelkey decided to make a statement after city officials refused his permit to build an 8,000 square foot garage on his property. His response was a single finger salute to  the Westford Selectboard and Development Review Board.  This is not the first such salute piece to prompt legal questions over its display.  Notably, the Vermont Supreme Court recently ruled that ugly is not a nuisance.

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