Category: Free Speech

Florida To Impose Sweeping Anti-Semitism Ban On Florida Schools

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is reportedly planning to travel to Israel and use the trip to sign a bill that imposes a sweeping anti-Semiticism law that raises serious free speech implications. Florida and other states are enacting a bill being duplicated through the country that would ban statements that “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective.” I have previously raised my concerns over the curtailment of free speech from such laws as well as bans on support for boycotts of Israel. While courts have struck down the boycott laws, supporters are still trying to curtail speech under ill-defined hate speech models. Recently, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations called for an international ban on anti-Semitic speech.

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France Investigates Journalists For Exposing Alleged Lies About War In Yemen

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 here). Now France is adding an attack on the free press that parallels its growing intolerance for free speech. A reporter from Radio France and the co-founders of Paris-based investigative news organization Disclose are under criminal investigation for their reporting on France’s role in the war in Yemen with the use of leaked secret documents. In the United States, such journalism could get you the Pulitzer. In France, it could get you prison.

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Poll: Almost Half Of College Students Do Not Believe First Amendment Protects Hate Speech

We have previously discussed how speech codes and regulations are changing the way students are viewing free speech. There is now a steady message for students from elementary school to college that speech must be regulated and that even people can be punished for not just hate speech but the ill-defined category of “microaggressive” speech. Past polls showed that one-third of students believed that violence is justified in dealing with some exercises of speech. Now a survey of college students found almost half do not believe that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment — a chilling indication of the collapsing support for traditional free speech values on our campuses.

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Brazil Prosecutes Comedian In Latest Attack On Free Speech

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in Europe (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Now Brazil is joining the anti-free speech movement with a ridiculous prosecution of a comedian named Danilo Gentili. Gentili is known for his caustic and sometimes offensive jokes. One joke about a congresswoman however proved too much for the government and he is now facing criminal charges for making a joke.

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Iraqi Police Forces Confront Crime Wave of Short & Ripped Jeans

The horror

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

It would seem that either Police Forces within the disputed territory of Kirkuk in Northern Iraq have otherwise vanquished all traditional urban crimes and have far too much time on their hands or a return to authoritarianism found a new attraction with withering memories of Saddam and Islamist attacks via ISIS.

Kurdish news reports police forces are arresting any miscreant and fashion terrorista openly wearing ripped or short length jeans. According to a police source, “the decision was sent to all the police stations to arrest anyone who wears short jeans and jeans with fashionable slits or rips in them.”

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“This Is Triggering”: UNC Student Attacks Pro-Life Students On Videotape

We have seen a litany of attacks on conservative and pro-life students on college campuses in the last couple of years. Even professors have joined in such attacks, including one who pleaded guilty to assault and was supported by other faculty members and even honored at other schools. The most recent example is an attack on a member of the pro-life group Created Equal at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The attack was caught on video (below) and student Jillian Ward, 19, was charged.

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Florida Man Arrested for Profane Bumper Sticker

Free speech cases often require defending obnoxious speech or people. Dillon Shane Webb, 23, appears to be both. Webb is one of those people who think that it is funny to say obscene things and does not care at all about how his speech is impacting children or others. For that reason, Webb thought it was really, really funny to have a window sticker reading “I eat ass.” When he was asked to take down or change the offensive sticker, he refused and was arrested for criminal obscenity. The problem is that obscenity often depends who defines what is obscene. For free speech advocates, it is a standard that invites subjectivity and ambiguity in an area that depends bright line rules. That does not mean however that we cannot and should not denounce Webb for his offensive and careless speech.

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Williams Student Body Refuses To Recognize Pro-Israeli Group

I recently was critical of students at Trinity College opposing the recognition of a club on Western Civilization named after Winston Churchill. Now, the same content-based bias is evident at Williams College where the student body has refused to recognize a pro-Israel group.

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Jeh Johnson Withdraws As USC Law Graduation Speaker After Protests

As many of you know, I have long lamented the rising intolerance shown at colleges and universities over free speech. Both faculty and students now regularly fight to prevent people from speaking rather than allow a diverse array of views and experiences on campuses. Fortunately, most law schools have sufficient free speech advocates to counter such moves. However, this week the University of Southern California Law School joined this ignoble list when the school pushed Jeh Johnson, the former Obama Secretary of Homeland Security, to withdraw as the commencement speaker. Johnson was a wonderful choice for the graduation and could share not just his incredible career but his powerful personal story with the law students. Instead, he was told by Dean Andrew Guzman that there were “concerns” about his appearance.

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Trinity Students Protest Western Civilization Club Named After Churchill

Students at Trinity College voted recently to block a club purportedly dedicated to the discussion of the values and works underlying Western Civilization. The 10-member club is named after Winston Churchill as “dedicated to the preservation, dissemination and extension of the Western moral and philosophical tradition.” The group met the underlying criteria of the school but was still blocked by the student government. It is another example of intolerance shown rivaling values by many students and faculty today. To her credit, President Joanne Berger-Sweeney overruled the vote of the student government. However, that decision was met with the same unhinged, intolerant protests that we have seen on too many colleges and universities.

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Israeli Ambassador Calls For The Criminalization of Antisemitic Speech

In the aftermath of another tragic shooting at another synagogue, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon has again called for the criminalization of antisemitic speech. I have previously written about such international efforts to criminalize speech, including a proposal supported by the Obama Administration. The implications of such laws for free speech are easy to dismiss amidst the sorrow of another attack. However, the free speech community must remain firm that free speech is not the cause of hate, it is solution to hate.

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Middlebury College Under Fire For Canceling Event By Conservative Speaker

We have previously discussed the anti-free speech controversies at Middlebury College where a professor and a speaker were attacked. Now protests have erupted over another conservative speak, Ryszard Legutko, who was invited to speak on campus but then forced into a small classroom presentation. That did not satisfy students who demanded to know how such a speaker could be invited and how it would be avoided in the future. According to a recording of the meeting, the college officials apologized for allowing such a speaker and promised actions in the future to avoid such controversies.

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Brothers Sue Lawyers for Jussie Smollett For Defamation

Abel and Ola Osundairo: Instagram

Abel and Ola Osundairo, the two brothers implicated in the hoax attack on Jussie Smollett, are heading back to court. This time however they will be appearing as plaintiffs in a defamation case against Smollett’s attorneys,  Tina Glandian and Mark Geragos. It is a relatively rare case against counsel and could test the limits of legal privilege in defamation.

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Trump: New York Times Is “The Enemy of the People” and Should “Beg His Forgiveness”

President Donald Trump is again on Twitter attacking the media and frankly sounding strikingly authoritarian. On Tuesday, Trump said that the New York Times should “get down on their knees & beg for forgiveness” for its coverage of his presidency and again called the newspaper “the enemy of the people.” It is easy to dismiss such comments as Trump’s signature mantra but it is far more serious for a president to use such rhetoric to denounce journalists. As someone who has strongly criticized some coverage for biased reporting over the last two years, it is difficult to maintain a neutral viewpoint when the President is engaging in such hyperbolic and reckless comments. The President is justified in objecting to some of the coverage of the media, but he destroys any credibility in that position when he is tweeting diatribes of this kind.

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France Launches Investigation Into Protesters Insulting Police

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 here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). The insatiable appetite for speech criminalization and regulation was apparent this week. The government continues to struggle to deal with the “yellow vest” protests in Paris, but it has now opened a criminal investigation into protesters who yelled that police should commit suicide. Despite being treated as clearly protected political speech in the United States, such protest chants will be charged as crimes in France where free speech is being eradicated under a variety of speech codes and criminal provisions.

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