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. We have even seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Now a recent complaint filed by a professor against Home Secretary Amber Rudd illustrates vividly how hate speech has become for some people an extension of political disagreements. The complaint by Prof Joshua Silver, an astrophysicist, will not result in any serious investigation but it was recorded as a hate crime allegation under the existing standards. We recently discussed the criminal charges brought against a conservative Dutch politician. Continue reading
We have been discussing the largely successful efforts by students and faculty to prevent certain conservative speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos from being able to speak on campuses. The latest such example is University of California at Davis where protesters succeeded in preventing fellow students and faculty from hearing Yiannopoulos. There is one promising element to the story however. Unlike school administrators who have either supported or yielded to the “heckler’s veto,” Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter denounced the effort to not only silence an opposing voice but to deny the right of others to hear that voice on campus. While the school professes “let there be light” on its seal, the school is now cloaked in a forced silence after the ignoble victory of protesters in curtailing the exercise of free speech.
We previously discussed the case of Bruyton Mellott who was arrested after posting online pictures of himself burning an American flag has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have the state’s flag desecration law declared unconstitutional. The 22-year-old the Wal-Mart employee was charged with flag desecration despite two Supreme Court cases clearly saying that such an act is constitutionally protected. After various experts (including myself) said that the arrest was unconstitutional, the charges were dropped, but Mellott is now suing. I personally find Mellott’s actions to be highly offensive and disturbing. I have never understood the burning of the flag which represents our collective rights, including free speech. Unfortunately, important free speech cases are often triggered by the most reprehensible forms of speech or most reprehensible individuals. In the end, the lawsuit may force legislators to confront the fact that they have continued a facially unconstitutional law on their books because they fear the political backlash if they comply with long-standing Supreme Court precedent.
New York State Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe has dismissed the defamation case against against President-elect Donald Trump brought by political strategist and TV pundit Cheryl Jacobus. Trump slammed Jacobus during the campaign and said that she “begged him for a job” at one time. Jaffe, however, held that such tweets are manifestly opinion and not facts for the purposes of defamation law. It is perhaps fitting that the first major ruling related to Trump would be over the character of tweets. If upheld, this could be a major new rule. As if on cue, Trump make more headlines today in the wake of the decision on Twitter with a tweet attacking the intelligence agencies saying “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?” That is clearly opinion and hyperbole but the scope of Jaffe’s decision certainly adds a layer of protection not just for Trump but other regular tweeters.
The Chinese communist regime reminded the world of its unwavering fear of independent thought and analysis for any kind. The latest victim is Deng Xiaochao, 62, an art professor at Shandong Jianzhu University in central China who was fired for a commentary that criticizing Chairman Mao Zedong. Of course, Mao has been dead for 40 years and he was a brutal, moronic dictator. However, this is this 123rd birthday and various people in China still revere a man who killed millions directly in the cultural revolution or indirectly through idiotic policies of centralized planning and controls. One of the best things that ever happened to China was the passing of Mao on September 9, 1976 but many still believe the decades of propaganda on the founder of Communist China,
There is an interesting controversy brewing on Capitol Hill where Missouri Rep. Lacy Clay, D-Mo., wants California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Ca) criminally charged after Hunter took down a painting by one of Clay’s constituents that contains insulting images of police as pigs and other animals. The question is what the crime might be in such a circumstance since the painting was not damaged. It is analogous to the recent controversy at the University of Pennsylvania where students pulled down a portrait of William Shakespeare and replaced it with a portrait of a black feminist author. The painting (as in this case) was brought undamaged to the office. Of course, this is the removal of art from a Capitol building.
It is with profound personal sadness that I share the passing of one of the true great commentators of our generation. I have known Nat for decades. I knew him before he knew me. When I started to write as a columnist, Nat recognized a kindred spirit and reached out to me. I was floored to be getting a call from a man who I had so long admired. We kept up the communications on hot button sides. Nat didn’t use email (indeed he continued to use a typewriter). You would just get a call out of the blue with that unique gravely voice on the other end. He would immediately delve into something he read of mine or some idea that he had. I cherished every call. Nat was a mentor and a friend. With his passing goes one of the most authentic and brilliant minds of our generation. Many of us lost a friend but more importantly this country lost something that is becoming far, far more rare and precious: an honest voice. Nat was 91