Even in this age of rage and delirium, a claim being made on the Internet is breathtaking. Videos are circulating on social media that claim that taking the Covid-19 vaccines makes you legally “transhuman” and therefore you have no rights guaranteed under the Constitution. What is impressive about this demonstrably false claim is that it is based on a purported holding of the Supreme Court. The viral story has been cited as an example of “disinformation” that supports calls for greater governmental or corporate censorship. However, it is a prime example to prove the opposite: how free speech can correct bad speech. There is no need to censor rather than expose such lunacy. Vaccines will clearly not make you transhuman but censorship will certainly make you less free. Continue reading “The Ultimate Disinfectant: The Only Thing Worse Than The “Transhuman” Videos Would Be Banning Them”
We have previously discussed the worrisome signs of a rising generation of censors in the country as leaders and writers embrace censorship and blacklisting. The latest chilling poll was released by 2021 College Free Speech Rankings after questioning a huge body of 37,000 students at 159 top-ranked U.S. colleges and universities. It found that sixty-six percent of college students think shouting down a speaker to stop them from speaking is a legitimate form of free speech. Another 23 percent believe violence can be used to cancel a speech. That is roughly one out of four supporting violence. Continue reading “Heckler’s Veto: Sixty-Six Percent of College Students Say Stopping Speech Is Free Speech”
We have been following various controversies involving academics who have referred to Covid-19 as the “China Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus.” There is even a lawsuit on the issue. There is now an interesting case brewing at the University of Dallas. Professor William Atto is accused of using the reference on a syllabus, which the student newspaper University News called “misnaming COVID-19” and violating the university policy on such references. In response, the head of the History Department, Susan Hanssen, came out in support of her colleague and denied that any such policy exists. Continue reading “Dallas History Professor Triggers Academic Freedom Fight Over Reference To “China Virus””
We recently discussed the controversy at Washington University in St. Louis after Student Senator Fadel Alkilani pulled up flags memorializing 9/11 and throwing them into the trash. At the time, I raised the issue of whether preventing or destroying the speech of others is itself an exercise of free speech. Now, Law Professor Gregory Magarian has gone public with his view that Alkilani was indeed engaging in free speech and criticizing the position of the school in condemning his actions without also recognizing the discomfort for many in seeing the flags as a “powerful, contestable political statement.”. Continue reading “Law Professor: Tearing Down 9/11 Memorial is the Exercise of Free Speech”
Today at 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (PDT), I will have the pleasure of speaking as the Constitution Day speaker for Santa Monica College. It will be on a crisis of constitutional faith in our country, particularly in the abandonment of free speech principles. The moderator for the event, which will be shown by Zoom, is Professor Hari Vishwanadha. Continue reading “Turley Speaks At Santa Monica College on Constitution Day”
Occasionally we discuss pieces in student newspapers that reflect the evolving views on our campus toward free speech. One such editorial appeared last week in the
As we discussed yesterday, there are different views of what occurred on 9/11 that are expressed (appropriately) on our campuses. Indeed, while some have criticized the holding of critical forums on the anniversary, it is precisely the type of diversity of viewpoints that sustains higher education. However, a student senator at Washington University in St. Louis has triggered a free speech debate after he allegedly removed American flags from a 9/11 memorial display and threw them into the trash. While condemning the action, the school has taken no action against Fadel Alkilani, vice president of finance for the student union. A common argument on campuses today is that shutting down the speech of others is itself an exercise of free speech — something I have long contested. Continue reading “Flagging Free Speech: Washington University Student Triggers Free Speech Debate by Removing 9/11 Memorial”
There is an interesting lawsuit filed in Washington against the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) over censorship. The lawsuit was brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and the Animal Legal Defense Fund after the government blocked comments on opposing animal testing on the agencies’ social media sites. The lawsuit has ample support in the case law. Notably, it also comes at a time when the Administration and many Democratic leaders, like President Joe Biden, have called on private companies to engage in massive censorship programs on social media. The lawsuit was filed in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals v. Collins, No. 1:21-cv-02380 (D.D.C.).
Below is my column in The Hill on the re-arrest of an Iowa man who took part in the January 6th riot. The case raises a growing concern over the way courts are weighing the political views of defendants a matter for bail and sentencing. While raising such concerns inevitably brings out an Internet mob and accusations of being a “fellow traveler,” free speech often demands the protection of the least popular individuals in our society. Many of those who long denounced the censorship of suspected Communists in the 1950s now support censorship or blacklisting of individuals on the right. Others remain conspicuously silent in the face of speech sanctions or censorship. The Jensen case reflects a new sense of license in weighing the political views of defendants in determining whether to release or to jail them.
Free speech has always held a precarious position in Australia which does not have an equivalent to the First Amendment in guaranteeing free speech as a constitutional right. Despite this history, a new decision out of the High Court is still shocking in its implications for further attacks on free speech. The court ruled that newspapers and television stations that post articles on social media sites like Facebook are liable for other third party comments on those posts. The ruling, if replicated in other countries, could accelerate the censorship of viewpoints on the Internet. Continue reading “Australia High Court Delivers Major Blow to Free Speech In Defamation Ruling”
There is an interesting ruling this week out of New York where a federal court has ruled in favor of a conservative student group alleging that the State University of New York at Binghamton has engaged in a pattern of censorship of conservative speakers and events. We previously discussed the controversy. What makes this lawsuit by the Young America’s Foundation particularly significant is the allegation that SUNY-Binghamton barred events by allowing protesters to shut them down. Lawrence Khan, a U.S. district judge denied SUNY Binghamton’s motion to dismiss. I discuss this type of failure to protect public forums in my forthcoming law review article, Jonathan Turley, Harm and Hegemony: The Decline of Free Speech in the United States, 45 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (2021). Continue reading “Federal Court Rules Against SUNY-Binghamton in Important Free Speech Challenge”
There is an important ruling on academic freedom out of Australia where one of the most controversial academic figures in the country secured a ruling from a federal court to overturn his dismissal by Sidney University. Professor Tim Anderson was fired after inserting a swastika in the middle of an Israeli flag and posting a picture of a lunch in which one of the guests wore badges that said “Death to Israel” and “Curse the Jews” written in Arabic. The lower court found that the academic freedom promised Anderson upon his hiring was unenforceable and largely aspirational. The ruling (below) found an enforceable standard, though this does not end the long controversy over Anderson’s status. Continue reading “Australian Court Overturns Dismissal Of Anti-Israeli Professor”
Faculty across the country are being asked or required to take courses on diversity and equity as part of anti-racism programs. There are remarkable differences between these programs, including one at the Colorado University at Boulder where faculty and graduate students are taught to shed the “cultural norms of white supremacy” and to “decolonize” their classes. According to the conservative site Campus Reform, this includes rejecting “neoliberal” concepts of time by combating “perfectionism” and the “sense of urgency.” Continue reading “Colorado University-Boulder Conference: “Decolonize” Yourself But Not With a “Sense of Urgency””