We often discuss the deafening silence of professors and writers in the face of campaigns to cancel or censor conservative writers. Indeed, many have supported blacklisting and censorship. That disturbing silence is evident this week after Amazon appeared to deplatform Ryan Anderson and his best-selling book, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement.” Now various conservative sites are objecting that a documentary on conservative Justice Clarence Thomas has been reportedly removed from Amazon’s streaming service — a glaring omission during Black History Month. Amazon has not responded to inquiries as to why the Thomas documentary is no longer available, so it is not clear if this was an intentional or negligent act. Given the controversy over the Anderson book, the sudden unavailability has triggered objections.
There could be a significant First Amendment case brewing in New York after the School of Education at the State University of New York-Geneseo suspended student Owen Stevens for posting his view that gender is limited to biologically males and females. As a state institution, SUNY is subject to the limitations of the First Amendment and Stevens could challenge the action based on his statements on Instagram. Continue reading “SUNY Suspends Student For Posting Views On Biological Gender”
Below is my column in the Hill on yesterday’s hearing on possible private and public limitations on free speech and the free press, including a letter from Democratic members asking companies why they do not remove Fox News and networks from cable. I recently responded to comments made by Rep. Anna Eshoo in the hearing. However, the letter highlighted the continuing pressure from members on both Big Tech and cable suppliers to silence opposing viewpoints. What was most disappointing was that no Democratic members used the hearing to offer a simple and unifying statement: we oppose efforts to remove Fox News and these other networks from cable programming. Not a single Democratic member made that statement, which (in my view) should be easy for anyone who believes in free speech and the free press. Even though every witness (including one who lost her father to Covid-19) made that statement, no Democratic member was willing to state publicly that they would oppose efforts to remove Fox News from cable access. That silence was also chilling to the point of glacial.
Here is the column:
I testified yesterday on possible private and public limitations on free speech and the free press, including a letter from Democratic members pressing companies to remove Fox News and networks from cable. Democratic members sent the letter to AT&T, Verizon, Roku, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Charter, DISH, Cox, Altice, Hulu and Google’s parent company, Alphabet. During the hearing, House Democrat Anna Eshoo (D., Cal.) insisted that she was only “asking questions” and then reframed the objections to the letter as whether the letter itself was a violation of the First Amendment. It seemed like the line from “It all meant something. Until it didn’t.”
Given the limited opportunity to respond to Rep. Eshoo in the hearing, I wanted to respond. Continue reading ““It All Meant Something. Until It Didn’t”: A Response To Rep. Anna Eshoo”
We have been discussing disciplinary measures taken against faculty who engage in the public debate over social and political issues ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to police misconduct to systemic racism in society. Now Professor Gregory Manco, a math professor at St. Joseph’s University, has been suspended after he made arguments opposing reparations on Twitter. Few media outlets beyond conservative sites like The College Fix are covering the controversy but it raises serious questions over the curtailment of free speech for both faculty and students in expressing opposing views in our ongoing national debate over social, economic, political, and legal reforms.
I have the honor of testifying this afternoon before the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The hearing will address calls for public and private regulation of speech, including the recent letter from Democratic members asking why Fox News and other networks should be allowed on cable news. The hearing entitled “Fanning The Flames: Disinformation and Extremism In The Media” will be held at 12:30. My testimony is below.
My home city of Chicago continues to reel from soaring crime rates. Among the categories of increasing crime is a 135% spike in carjackings. One would think that the legislators would be focused on better policing and other programs. Rep. Marcus Evans Jr. (D, Chicago) however wants to ban video games like “Grand Theft Auto” which depict “motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present.” While it would not likely make a dent in carjackings, it would curtail free speech and individual choice. Continue reading “Chicago Faces 135% Increase In Carjackings . . . So Legislator Seeks To Ban “Grand Theft Auto””
There have been a variety of reported conflicts in school districts over curriculum changes and materials addressing racism, including the recent controversy in New York where white families were asked to chose between such “white identities” as “white supremacist” and “white traitor.” Such controversies make for poor lawsuits since they reflect policy, curricula, or programmatic choices of a given district. It becomes a legal matter when a district punishes parents for objecting to such material. That is part of the allegations raised in a recently filed lawsuit by the conservative group Judicial Watch. It is representing fired high school football coach Dave Flynn who alleges that he was terminated by the Dedham High School after raising objections as a parent over the course material in his daughter’s World Geography and Ancient History class. While I have not seen the school’s answer, the lawsuit highlights troubling allegations over how the district handled the matter and allegedly retaliated against Flynn. Continue reading “Fired High School Coach Sues Massachusetts School In Free Speech Lawsuit”
Jason Kilborn is a professor at John Marshall Law School at the University of Illinois-Chicago who wrote a Civil Procedure exam based on an employment discrimination hypothetical. The question referenced the use of racial and sexual epithets but, rather than use the words, Kilborn used commonly censored versions of just the first letter and blanks. That led to his suspension at the school and now, after he was reinstated, University of Illinois-Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis has issued a letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that did little to quell concerns over academic freedom. Indeed, it seemed to minimize those concerns. While I disagree that the letter was a categorical denial any academic freedom protection, the controversy is chilling for those who see both free of speech and academic freedom being eroded on our campuses. (For full disclosure, I have an honorary degree from John Marshall Law School).
“The First Amendment does not apply in impeachment proceedings.” If there is a single line that sums up the sense of legal impunity in the second Trump impeachment, it is that line from a letter sent by law professors to deny any basis for the former president to challenge his impeachment on free speech grounds. The scholars call any such arguments “legally frivolous” but only after misstating the argument and frankly employing a degree of circular logic. While I agree with aspects of the letter, I believe that the thrust of the letter misses the point of those of us who have raised free speech concerns. Continue reading ““The First Amendment Does Not Apply”: A Response To The Letter Of Scholars In Rejecting Trump Arguments Under The First Amendment”
We have have been discussing how writers, editors, commentators, and academics have embraced rising calls for censorship and speech controls, including President-elect Joe Biden and his key advisers. The erosion of free speech has been radically accelerated by the Big Tech and social media companies, including YouTube. Now YouTube has censored actual testimony given to the United States Senate by Dr. Pierre Kory, who was testifying on different drug treatment. So now these companies are going to censor what was told to the government and decide what viewers will be allowed to consider from the public debate. It is a continuation of the movement to prevent people from hearing opposing views and to control what is shared or discussed in a growing attack on free speech. Continue reading “YouTube Censors Senate Testimony From Doctor On Possible Covid Drug”
Over the last four years, there has been a type of race by politicians and pundits who seek to outdo each other in the most sensational claims of how Donald Trump could be prosecuted or impeached on an ever-expanding list of offenses. Each claim is stated with absolute certainty despite long-standing questions or constitutional barriers. Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California has been a standout in this crowd — calling for impeachments and prosecutions from the very beginning of Trump’s term in office. She is now insisting that Trump can and should be charged with “premeditated murder” over the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th. The statement was made on MSNBC which has trafficked in such ridiculous theories without any pushback from the media or legal experts. Continue reading “Rep. Waters: Trump Needs To Be Charged With Premeditated Murder”
We have seen in the last four years how rage has replaced reason for many experts. Legal experts who long defended criminal defense rights have suddenly become advocates of the most sweeping interpretations of criminal or constitutional provisions while discarding basic due process and fairness concerns. Academics who teach journalism have called for an abandonment of neutrality and objectivity. The Democratic Party itself has become the champion of censorship. Even in this company, CNN’s media expert Brian Stelter is a standout. Stelter has been regularly criticized for alleged bias but this week Stelter offered an argument for limiting both free speech and the free press that would have kept George Orwell up at night. Stelter told his viewers that they really do not have to talk about censorship and simply should refer to reductions of free speech as “a harm reduction model.” Continue reading ““A Harm Reduction Model”: CNN’s Brian Stelter Offers A Perfectly Orwellian Attack On Free Speech And Freedom Of The Press”