Below is my column on the call by Democratic members for censorship of political ads by Facebook. The overwhelming support for the call by members like Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez shows the erosion in our values of free speech. Democrats and the media were once the defenders of free speech and critics of censorship. They are now demanding that corporations police political ads and remove ads viewed as false or misleading. It is a standard that many of these members would quickly denounce if applied to some of their own past comments.
Emory University University is now the focus of the national debate over the conflict between academic freedom and university rules against the use of racial slurs, even as part of academic work. Professor Paul Zwier is currently on suspension over he was accused of using the “n-word” in the course of a class and later in a meeting about the controversy. He first used the word to discuss who the word “negro” was likely used in a case as a sanitized version of the slur. Students complained and charges were brought, including an allegation that Zwier used the word again in an office discussion with a student on the incident. This month, a report from the Office of Equity and Inclusion that recommended Zwier be suspended for up to two more years due to his usage of the racial slur.
There has been legitimate criticism (including on this blog) of President Donald Trump retweeting images of his killing or beating media figures. However, there is often less coverage of such violent images from the left. One shocking example appeared this week in advertisements in New York for the athletic apparel company Dhvani showing a model assaulting Trump. The company did not back down from its violent display, though Planned Parenthood denounced the ads after Dhvani named it as a collaborating partner in the campaign design. The campaign titled #StandForSomething seems to mean stand for something tasteless and brutal.
We have previously discussed the trend of students and faculty preventing speakers from being heard on campus without any disciplinary action taken by universities. The latest example occur at Georgetown University Law School where students and faculty opposed an invitation of Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to speak on campus. It was a wonderful opportunity for an exchange of views but both students and faculty wanted opposing views to be silenced. When the school went forward with the event, protesters immediately stopped the event. CREDO Action – the advocacy arm of the progressive nonprofit group CREDO — has admitted that Georgetown students participated in the action and videotapes clearly show those responsible. However, Georgetown would not commit to taking disciplinary action despite repeated inquiries.
The National Basketball Association debased itself in public as it heaped praise on the authoritarian regime of China after a manager simply tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters. China has canceled plans for a NBA exhibition game and is threatening a lucrative expansion deal into China. Basketball player James Harden profusely apologized to China for a manager simply expressing a view in favor of human rights. The league and top players have shown how money is an easy substitute for principle. Morey was forced to delete his innocent tweet and apologize. Harden is shown proclaiming “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.” As the NBA heaps fawning praise on the Chinese regime, Amnesty International is calling for world action over its crackdown on protesters seeking simple forms of democracy and free speech. They however give no money to the NBA or its stars.
Apple has been repeatedly accused to yielding to the demands of China in its censorship and access control demands. Now, even after a protester was shot, Apple has removed a crowd-sourced app developed by protesters to track the location of demonstrations and police. The app however is still being offered by Google.
I have previously written about the toleration shown by colleges and universities in students and faculty disrupting speakers with whom they disagree. This has included protests where students have been prevented from studying as other students accuse them of privilege or racism. Administrators at schools like Dartmouth have allowed such abusive conduct to occur without disciplinary action, even apologizing to the protesters. Students at Columbia University library prevented College Republicans from speaking at a meeting while students at Northwestern prevented a class from being held. The latest example occurred last week at Georgetown where the Georgetown University College Republicans were prevented from holding an event critical of climate change theories. It is precisely the type of diversity of opinion that should be welcomed on a campus, but student protesters stopped others from hearing these views. As with the prior incidents, there is no indication of any punishment for the students in stopping the exercise of free speech on the Georgetown campus.
There is an interesting story in the New York Times that the city has decided that any of its 1.1 million public school students will be allowed to skip classes without penalties to join the global youth climate strikes to be held this Friday. As someone who has long advocated for action on climate change and opposes the Trump environmental policies, I am entirely in support of demonstrations. However, the decision raises some concerns over how the New York Public School system chooses which protests to sanction. Would students be permitted next month to attend anti-climate change protests? If not, this authority is being used in a viewpoint discriminatory manner.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has filed a lawsuit against San Francisco over the resolution denouncing the organization as a “domestic terrorist organization.” I am cited in the brief, which can be read below. The NRA is correct that I have written in opposition to the resolution of the Board of Supervisors as a direct attack on free speech and “the very definition of demagoguery.” However, the quote that is attributed to me is in error. it was in fact from another column by Henry Olson. It is minor matter since the NRA correctly attributes my view that the resolution is an attack on first amendment rights of free speech and association.
We have been discussing the rising attacks on free speech across the country, including students and faculty who support the silencing of speakers who hold opposing views. What is most concerning is that these attacks are working. The latest example can be found in New Jersey where the Broadway Theater in Pitman cancelled an event because anti-free speech organizations and individuals threatened protests and some even threatened to burn down the theater. Among the speakers was journalist Andy Ngo, who suffered a brain hemorrhage after being beaten by Antifa supporters at an event in Oregon. My concern is not with planned protests but the coordinated effort to have the event cancelled to prevent others from hearing opposing views.
The northern Italian town of Sanoara has offered another chilling reminder of how the West is rejecting free speech at an accelerating pace. Mayor Walter Stefan has announced with some pride that the town is going to make it illegal “to blaspheme against any faith or religion.” That’s right, the town has embraced the same blasphemy used by extremist Muslim countries to punish those who dare speak against religion.
I thought it an interesting twist and in the end quite fitting to celebrate this year’s U.S. Independence Day in Derry, Northern Ireland which coincides a month shy of the fiftieth anniversary Battle of the Bogside and the birth of the Free Derry zone within NI.
I’ve noted in my travels that one can learn from different expressions of freedom, or the lack thereof, in visiting other nations that in the end resulted in a better appreciation for the gift of Liberty that we have a civil right to experience in the United States.