Putting aside the discussion of whether or not actions taken by various elected officials were reasonable, the hurried effects suffered by the public during the COVID-19 virus pandemic at the behest of politicians should if anything prove the potential for damage caused by unscrupulousness or incompetence in government.
Today’s events should be by now a self-evident reminder of the great importance of putting the right people in office and the folly of settling for very fallable politicians. The next coming weeks will make that point likely more for you, with less consideration to your rights or interests.
Lake Superior State University student Lucas Gerhard is facing terrorism charges after he posting picture with his new AR-15 on Snapchat with a taunting message for “snowflakes.” Another student objected that she felt threatened by the posting and ultimately the police arrested Gerhard for what was clearly a simple taunting message.
The site Campus Reform is reporting a disturbing confrontation between student members of the conservative group Turning Point USA and Central Michigan University Professor Sara Moslener. The group posted a videotaped purportedly showing Moslener admitting to tearing down their posters because “I’m terrified of your organization.” While I have defended the right of academics to post and write in controversial and even offensive ways, this does not fall into any category of protected speech. This is the denial of free speech and should be a serious matter for the university.
We previously discussed the controversy over the writings of Trinity College professor Johnny Eric Williams and his position that “whiteness is terrorism.” in a recent opinion editorial. I previously supported Williams when many called for his removal because I believed — and still believe — that his writings are protected by both free speech and academic freedom. Williams has now penned a new opinion piece that lashes about at any one who identifies as white. My concern is not whether Williams’ speech is protected. It should be. Rather my concern that another professor saying that same about black people would not receive the same protection and the lack of any bright line rule protecting all free speech.
President Trump’s re-election campaign filed a defamation action in Georgia against CNN on Friday for publishing an opinion piece by Larry Noble, a CNN contributor and former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission. Based largely on an opinion piece by a well-known Trump critic, the lawsuit is weak and unlikely to succeed. The complaint offers more heat than light as a defamation action.
We have previously discussed President Donald Trump’s repeated calls for changing libel laws and suing his critics, particularly the New York Times. Now his campaign has done just that with a defamation lawsuit against the New York Times for allegedly publishing false claims in an op-ed written by Max Frankel on March 27, 2019, entitled “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo.” The selection of an opinion piece makes this case especially difficult. In addition to suing a newspaper for the alleged defamation of a public official, it is doing so for a piece that is identified as opinion and appears on the opinion page. In my view, the column is protected speech under the First Amendment.
A report, titled, “Free expression and constructive dialogue at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,” is latest study to confirm what many of us have said for years: universities and colleges are becoming increasing hostile environments for free speech generally and for conservatives specifically. The study of the UNC environment found that “The current campus does not consistently promote free expression and constructive dialogue across the political spectrum.” It further found that conservative students are 300 times more likely to self-censor their views to avoid repercussions from students and faculty.
While China is being criticized for withholding information, it has confirmed one lethal side effect of the virus: the death of free speech. Chinese professor Xu Zhangrun has been arrested after publishing criticism of President Xi Jinping and the handling of the crisis. He is now cut off from the Internet, banned from social media, and could soon find himself in prison. The government will no doubt argue that he had a pre-existing lethal condition in China: a desire for free speech.
I have written for years on the effort of European countries to expand their crackdown on free speech globally through restrictions on social media and Internet speech. It appears that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has relented in what may prove the death knell for free speech in the West. Zuckerberg seems to relent in asking governments for regulations stipulating what speech will be permitted on Facebook and other platforms. It is the ultimate victory of France, Germany, and England in their continuing attack on free expression though hate speech laws and speech regulation.
I have long criticized Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for making comments on political issues to liberal and academic groups. While not unique on the Court in what I have called the era of “celebrity justices”, Ginsburg is something of recidivist in abandoning the long-standing avoidance of political discussions by justices as well as issues that are likely to come before the Court. Despite repeated controversies in speaking publicly on political issues, Ginsburg is clearly undeterred. This week, Ginsburg tripped both wires in discussing a matter in litigation and heading toward the Court while encouraging what would be a political campaign for a new constitutional amendment. As we have discussed, there is currently litigation over whether the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified by the recent vote in Virginia. Ginsburg did not wait for the appeal and announced that the ERA is dead. She then called for a new ERA movement. Both statements were inappropriate, but the statement on the status of the amendment was wildly at odds with standards of judicial restraint and ethics.
We have discussed the growing trend of teachers being fired or disciplined for their discussions or postings on social media. These cases raise difficult free speech issues for educators who make political, religious, or social comments as private citizens but are then held accountable by their schools. The latest such case is out of Milwaukee where teacher Travis Sarandos has been put on leave over a deeply offensive and callous tweet about the cancer prognosis of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Sarandos reportedly said that he thought the advanced cancer prognosis was “awesome” and that he hoped Limbaugh’s death would be a painful one. It is hard to feel much sympathy for someone who has so little for others. However, there remains a question of free speech and who decides what is permissible or impermissible for teachers to express outside of their schools and employment.
Diversity in hiring is the top priority of most colleges and universities. However, the effort to hire more women, minorities, and LGBT individuals notably lacks one group: ideological diversity. It is well-known that most faculty are composed of an overwhelming majority of liberal and democratic members. However, this view, while generally accepted, is largely anecdotal. Now a new study by Heterodox Academy Director of Research Sean Stevens and Brooklyn College Professor Mitchell Langbert claims to have put hard numbers on that lack of diversity. In reviewing records with the Federal Election Commission, they say that they found that professors gave to Democrats over Republicans by a 95:1 ratio.