Category: Free Speech

Free Speech Inc.: How Democrats Have Found A New But Shaky Faith In Corporate Speech

Below is an updated version of my column in The Hill on Facebook’s decision to uphold the ban on former president Donald Trump. Notably, this weekend, Twitter took it upon itself to add a gratuitous response to an observation made by Donald Trump Jr. after he tweeted “Biden isn’t the next FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt] he’s the next Jimmy Carter.” Twitter took it upon itself to say that many are “confused” by the remark since Carter was a great humanitarian and noble prize winner. It was a telling moment. These companies now act as either censors as officious intermeddlers when it comes to comments made on the platforms. They view themselves as a party to any postings and that viewpoints must be corrected or clarified to advance the corporate position.

Here is the column:

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Professor Suspended After Denying Canada is a Racist County and Criticizing BLM

Mount Allison University Professor Rima Azar feels a strong identification to Canada. Born in Lebanon during a civil war, Azar developed a lasting appreciation for the freedoms of Canada, particularly free speech. An accomplished academic in the field of health psychology, she often discusses her views of political and social issues on her  personal blog Bambi’s Afkar from her unique perspective. However, she recently ran afoul of an individual who spotted comments denying that Canada is a racist country and criticizing Black Lives Matter as an organization.  The individual compiled an array of what was viewed to be objectionable positions and triggered a movement to have Azar fired. In a direct attack on free speech and academic freedom, the University then suspended Azar without pay. Continue reading “Professor Suspended After Denying Canada is a Racist County and Criticizing BLM”

New York Court Orders Mother To Remove Confederate Flag Decoration or Risk Losing Custody of Her Daughter

There is an interesting First Amendment case brewing in New York after an appellate ruled that a mother identified as Christie could lose custody of her daughter unless she removes a rock with a small confederate flag image on it in the driveway. The child is of mixed races and the court has deemed the display as inimical to the best interests of the child.  The family court judge did not make such a determination and the ruling raises a very serious free speech concern over conditioning a right to custody on the curtailment of political speech. As will come as no surprise to regulars on this blog, I view the order as an unconstitutional infringement of the First Amendment.

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“A Failure To Be Anti-Racist”: Faculty Denounce Cypress College Over Suspension Of Professor In Anti-Police Diatribe

We recently discussed the controversy at Cypress College involving a professor becoming irate after student, Braden Ellis, stated that he felt police officers are heroes in our society. The College later put the teacher on leave. Now the faculty union at Cypress College has denounced the school for “a failure to be anti-racist” in its treatment of the teacher. I agree that a professor should not be fired or even suspended over such an incident, though the issue for me is academic freedom. However, there is a notable omission in the statement from Christie Diep, president of United Faculty of the North Orange County Community College District, and Mohammad M. Abdel Haq, its lead negotiator: a criticism of the professor for her overtly hostile and biased treatment of the student.  Continue reading ““A Failure To Be Anti-Racist”: Faculty Denounce Cypress College Over Suspension Of Professor In Anti-Police Diatribe”

New Jersey Police Officer Fired For Calling BLM Protesters “Terrorists”

We have been discussing the termination of public employees and others for their postings on social media or public displays.  The latest case is out of New Jersey where former Hopewell Township police officer Sara Erwin was fired recent over a June 2020 posting on Facebook in which she referred to Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters as “terrorists.”  There remains an uncertain line of what political or social views are tolerated and what are barred on social media.  Indeed, Sgt. Mandy Gray was suspended and demoted for simply liking the June 2020 post.

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Facebook Upholds Trump Ban But Admits Permanent Ban Lacked Any Objective Standard

Facebook’s Oversight Board just voted that the company may want to give Trump back his boots.

The decision of the board to uphold the decision to ban Trump but reconsider his lifetime ban may seem transparently convenient for many. However, there is precedent. One of my favorite trial accounts is from Ireland where an Irishman was accused by an Englishman of stealing a pair of boots. The guilt of the defendant was absolutely clear but the Irish jury could not get itself to rule for the Englishman. Instead, it acquitted the Irishman but added a line, “We do believe O’Brien should give the Englishman back his boots.” Case closed. Continue reading “Facebook Upholds Trump Ban But Admits Permanent Ban Lacked Any Objective Standard”

“Kierstien Hening Refused To Kneel”: Virginia Tech Sued By Student Who Alleges Abuse Over Her Refusal To Support BLM and Diversity Displays

The lawsuit of Virginia Tech student Kierstien Hening begins with a simple statement: “Kierstien Hening refused to kneel.”  The lawsuit filed this week against Virginia Tech soccer coach Charles “Chugger” Adair (in his official capacity) alleges that when Hening refused to kneel and support Black Lives Matter, she was benched, harassed and ultimately forced off the team. If the allegations are true, she could have not only a winning case but a case that could set important precedent for the freedom of speech. Continue reading ““Kierstien Hening Refused To Kneel”: Virginia Tech Sued By Student Who Alleges Abuse Over Her Refusal To Support BLM and Diversity Displays”

Evolving With Big Tech: Facebook’s New Campaign Should Have Free Speech Advocates Nervous

In 1964, Stanley Kubrick released a dark comedy classic titled “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” The title captured the absurdity of getting people to embrace the concept of weapons of mass destruction. The movie came to mind recently with the public campaign of Facebook calling for people to change her attitudes about the Internet and rethink issues like “content modification” – the new Orwellian term for censorship. Continue reading “Evolving With Big Tech: Facebook’s New Campaign Should Have Free Speech Advocates Nervous”

Police Groups Ask The University of Minnesota To Investigate Student’s Call To Make Life “Hell” For Officers

Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and the Law Enforcement Labor Services has taken the unusual (if not unprecedented) step of asking the University of Minnesota to investigate a student for her call to make the lives of campus police a living “hell.” In a video conference captured on video, student Lauren Meyers is caught making the statements in her capacity as Chief Financial Officer of the Minnesota Student Association Executive Board. Continue reading “Police Groups Ask The University of Minnesota To Investigate Student’s Call To Make Life “Hell” For Officers”

California Professor Triggers Controversy Over Anti-Police Comments Captured On Videotape

There are growing complaints about faculty using classes for raw advocacy or political diatribes. The most recent such complaint arose at Cypress College where an instructor slammed a student, Braden Ellis, after he called police “heroes.” The unnamed adjunct professor insisted that police were created in the South to track down runaway slaves and represent a danger to her and others.  What is particularly ironic is that the presentation was on cancel culture.

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Tennessee Coach Sues After Being Fired For Tweet Insulting Stacey Abrams

We have been discussing disciplinary actions taken against faculty and students for statements made outside of their respective schools.  The latest involves Chris Malone who was fired as the offensive line coach for The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after he posted an insulting tweet about Georgia politician Stacey Abrams. The tweet was insulting and sophomoric but the action taken by the university is rightfully now a legal matter before the Eastern District of U.S. District Court of Tennessee.  The defendants who Malone is suing include Chancellor Steven Angle, Athletic Director Mark Wharton and Coach Rusty Wright.

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Georgetown Professor Under Fire For Reading The “N-Word” In A Class On Free Speech and Racism

We have been discussing professors who have been investigated or sanctioned for the use of the “n-word” in classes or tests at Duquesne, John Marshall, Augsberg, Chicago, DePaul, Princeton, Kansas, and other schools. According to The Hoya, we can now add Georgetown as after Professor Michele Swers read the words of a Ku Klux Klan leader in her “U.S. Political Systems” class, and “did not censor the racial epithet.” What is notable in this case is that the complaint against Professor Swers suggests that she would have the protection of free speech and academic freedom if she were black but that no white person may use or read the word in any context for any purpose.

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University of North Carolina Awards NYT Reporter Hannah-Jones A Chair In Investigative Journalism

We have been writing about the assault on foundational concepts of neutrality in journalism in academia. This includes academics rejecting the very concept of objectivity in journalism in favor of open advocacy. Columbia Journalism Dean and New Yorker writer Steve Coll has denounced how the First Amendment right to freedom of speech was being “weaponized” to protect disinformation. Now the University of North Carolina has awarded the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism to New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. While Hannah-Jones was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her writing on The 1619 Project, she has been criticized (including on this blog) for her role in purging dissenting views from the New York Times pages and embracing absurd anti-police conspiracy theories.

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University of Rhode Island Condemns Faculty Member For Publishing Criticism Of “Trans-Sex/Gender Ideology”

This week Women’s Studies Professor Donna Hughes was publicly condemned by the University of Rhode Island for writing an op-ed that criticized what she called the LGBTQ ideology.  The op-ed actually criticized the far right as well for what Professor Hughes calls extreme “ideological fantasies” but the university only objects to her criticism of LGBTQ views from a feminist perspective. The university also warned that, while “faculty have the same rights, obligations, and responsibilities as other American citizens” under the First Amendment those rights are not “boundless.”

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Barnard Professor Triggers Free Speech Controversy After Writing About “Detonating” and Gassing White People

A book by a Barnard College English instructor named Ben Philippe has caused a firestorm due to his depiction of a fantasy of gassing white people.  The book passage has led some to demand review from the college for possible discipline or termination. As will come as no surprise to many on this blog, I believe such writing should be protected as a matter of free speech and academic freedom.  The incident does however raise another case highlighting the uncertain or conflicting treatment given such writings by universities. It is doubtful that even a fictional account discussing the gassing of minorities would have resulted in anything other than a rapid suspension and ultimate termination in many universities. That conflicting standard should also be a concern for free speech and academic freedom. Continue reading “Barnard Professor Triggers Free Speech Controversy After Writing About “Detonating” and Gassing White People”