We just discussed the free speech and academic freedom issues of schools investigating professors for their postings on social media. Now we have A New Jersey college professor who was fired by Essex County College after appearing on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Professor Lisa Durden staunchly defended a black-only Black Lives Matter event and caused an uproar of criticism over her highly insulting comments about “white people.”
There is a new controversy involving an investigation of a professor for statements made on social media. Trinity College Professor Johnny Williams has fled Connecticut after receiving death threats over his postings, including an inflammatory reference to people considered bigots and how we should “Let Them. F**king Die.” Williams teaches classes on race and racism and clearly wanted to get others to read this hateful screed.
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a major victory for free speech on Monday in striking down a provision of the Lanham Act that barred registration for “disparaging” trademarks. The decision came in Matal v. Tam, a case that we have been following. I have previously written about my disagreement with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decision to rescind federal trademark protections for the Redskins as a racially disparaging name. As predicted, the ruling answered the question raised in the prior column in controversies like the denying of trademark protection to the Washington Redskins. The decision is good news for Washington’s NFL team, which lost its trademark because its name is disparaging to Native Americans.
Laura Loomer from the conservative website The Rebel ran on to the stage on Friday of the controversial production of Julius Caesar in Central Park. The show has been criticized for its characters modeled on President Donald Trump and others. Trump, as Caesar, is killed in the show to the delight of the crowd. Many find the show to be distasteful and hateful. However, for those of us who have actively criticized liberals who shutdown conservative speakers on campuses and other public events, this is an equally objectionable effort to stop free speech. Indeed, it seeks to prevent both artistic and political expression.
There is an interesting free speech controversy in Florida where Vero Beach High School junior J.P. Krause won the election for class president only to be told that he would be retroactively disqualified. The reason was his tongue-in-cheek campaign speech using Trump slogans. Vero High Principal Shawn O’Keefe accused Krause of harassing an opponent with his speech invoking President Trump’s proposed border wall. The Superintendent had to reverse O’Keefe’s decision after a public outcry.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has declared that she is prepared to dispense with human rights laws if they hinder her efforts to fight terrorism. The statement is a chilling example of how politicians are willing to take a hatchet to civil liberties and privacy in response to attacks. The more chilling fact is that many citizens will willingly part with their freedoms based on such promises of greater security. May has already pledged to curtail free speech on the Internet to fight extremists.
Reality Leigh Winner, of Augusta, Georgia has the unfortunate distinction of being the first leaker caught by the Trump Administration. With members like Jason Chaffetz saying “I want to see people in handcuffs,” the 25-year-old federal contract worker could be facing some serious jail time. In addition, she seems to fulfill the image advanced President Trump as a liberal, anti-Trump advocate within the system. What will be interesting is the sentence sought by the Administration after high-ranking officials have been given no criminal charges or misdemeanors for removing classified information and other related charges.