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 England ( here and here and here and 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. Once allowed to criminalize speech, individuals and groups demand more and more prohibitions. England is in a free fall over free speech and this week is yet another example. The police have indicated that they are considering making wolf whistles the latest category of hate speech.
There is a brewing controversy at Fordham University where students were thrown out of a coffee shop called Rodrigue’s Coffee House simply because they were wearing pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” hats. The manager of the shop insisted that the hats violated its “safe space” policy as if being conservative is now a de facto threat to other students. We recently discussed an increase in such conflicts in coffee shops targeting conservatives and Trump supporters. In this case, the encounter was captured on tape (below) and raises serious questions about the function of some “safe spaces” and whether it is code for an area protected from conservative views or voices.
The GW Hatchet, our award-winning student newspaper, has another interesting article this week on the establishment of a new group on campus, the Internationalist Students’ Front, an anti-fascist, anti-nationalist organization. They are advocates of internationalism, a position similar to the prior world socialist movement. The addition of such groups are a good thing for our university in bringing diverse and passionate views to our campus debates. However, it is worrisome that the first organized effort of the group is reportedly to ban a book on campus.
Conservative commentator Lucian Wintrich was arrested recently after he grabbed a protester who stole his speech notes during an event at the University of Connecticut. The video however shows Wintrich trying to stop a woman who acted to prevent him from speaking and grabbed his notes. That led to many asking why the woman was not arrested. Now she has been identified and it is worse than thought. Her name is Catherine Gregory and she is associate director of career services and advising at Quinebaug Valley Community College. It is particularly disturbing to see someone associated with an institution of high education acting to silence opposing speakers and actually stealing material. Update: the charges against Wintrich have been dropped and Gregory has turned herself in for charges based on her outrageous conduct.
Former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has reportedly scuttled his own deal to secure release from home confinement under a deal Manafort with prosecutors. Prosecutors learned (from an unspecified source) that Manafort was working with a ghostwriter on an opinion piece on his case. The second man reportedly had ties to Russian intelligence — hardly ideal for a man at the center of the Russian investigation. The work was deemed to be in violation of a court order for all parties to refrain from “trying the case in the press.” However, the order raises a long-standing question of the need and constitutionality of orders limiting the free speech of defendants and counsel. While once the exception, gag orders have become the rule with many judges. Yet, Manafort is presumed innocent and the order prevents him from responding to those questioning his loyalty and honesty.
Texas State University is this week’s ground zero in our campus speech debate. The most recent controversy was triggered by an opinion column by student Rudy Martinez on November 28th in The University Star titled “Your DNA is an abomination.” While insisting that he cannot by definition be racist, Martinez declares that “white death will mean liberation for all.” Martinez is a racist and the column is deeply disturbing. However, as will come as no surprise to regulars on the blog, I still support his write to publish such views. My concern is that universities continue to be selective in affording free speech rights to students. It is doubtful that the university would be so circumspect if the the column called for the death of minorities. UPDATE: The student columnist has been fired by the newspaper.