New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is the latest liberal leader to call for an international alliance to censor speech. Unsatisfied with the unprecedented corporate censorship of social media companies, leaders like Hillary Clinton have turned from private censorship to good old-fashioned state censorship. Speech regulation has become an article of faith on the left. Ardern used her speech this week to the United Nations General Assembly to call for censorship on a global scale. Continue reading “New Zealand Prime Minister Calls for a Global Censorship System”
A researcher at Leeds University, Salma al-Shehab, has been sentenced to 34 years in prison for spreading “rumors” and retweeting dissidents on social media. Saudi Arabia is known for its harsh punishments under Islamic Sharia law, but this sentence has shocked even those familiar with the kingdom’s draconian laws. It appears that the Saudi Sharia-based system has moved into the Internet age with grotesque sentences applied to retweets. Al-Shehab was originally given six years but, when she appealed, a national security court increased her punishment to 34 years.
It appears that Oberlin has another major controversy on its hand. For the last couple years, Oberlin has been embroiled in a fight with a small family-owned grocery that it defamed over a shoplifting case involving black students. Oberlin lost $25 million in a record verdict but Oberlin President Carmen Twillie Ambar continued to refuse to apologize. In the meantime, the school seems intent on running the 137-year-old grocery into insolvency as it delays paying on the judgment. Now the school is under fire over a faculty member, Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, who supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie. The author of Satanic Verses is recovering from a savage knife attack. Hadi Matar, 24, is accused of carrying out the stabbing attack and has expressed support for Iran in the past. The campaign to have Mahallati fired could present some difficult free speech and academic freedom questions.
We have been discussing controversies over “land acknowledgement” statements at universities, including recently at the University of Washington. A new such controversy has arisen at George Brown College in Toronto where, in order to join a Zoom call, both faculty and students were required to agree to a statement that included an acknowledgement that they benefited from colonization.
There is a controversial decision out of a French administrative court this week to suspend a policy allowing for Muslim women to wear “burkinis” in municipal pools in the city of Grenoble. The court ruled that such policies “undermin[ed] secularism.” While a long advocate of the separation of church and state, I have opposed these bans on burkas and burkinis as inimical to religious rights. France has Europe’s largest Muslim population and devout Muslim women can only use the pools with such coverings under Islamic teachings. France also has a long and proud history of supporting women in making their own choices — the very essence of Joan of Arc who followed her own religious dictates to heroic ends. This is a denial of such self-determination and self-expression for French Muslim women.
The ruling is reportedly based on a 2021 “separatism” law passed in President Emmanuel Macron’s first term, which allows the suspension of measures that would “undermine secularism and the neutrality of public services.”
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin publicly supported his ministry filing an objection against the burkini policy in Grenoble. He announced that “The administrative court considers that the mayor of Grenoble, with his decision allowing burkinis in municipal pools, is seriously undermining secularism.”
Many opposed the proposal by Mayor Eric Piolle and conservative leader Marine Le Pen declared that she wants to introduce a law banning burkinis in municipal pools.
The ban undermines free speech and associational rights as well as the free exercise of religion. Many people find such coverings sexist and offensive. However, this is a long-established matter of religious faith within the Islamic community. I fail to see how this harms others or society as a whole. French society can remain neutral and secular by neither opposing nor endorsing such clothing choices. If France supports the right of women to make their own choices in society, that freedom should include the right to choose to follow a devout religious lifestyle.
Joan of Arc famously declared “I was in my thirteenth year when I heard a voice from God to help me govern my conduct. And the first time I was very much afraid.” While she wore armor rather than a burkini, the same religious imperative dictated her actions and she is now celebrated as martyr for France.
Whatever harm is perceived from burkinis, it pales in comparison to the harm from banning such swimwear in a nation committed to the freedoms of religion, expression, and association.
French journalist Jacques Mallet du Pan famously observed during the French Revolution that “like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.” It appears that the same can be said for censorship. We previously discussed how WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has supported censorship to combat what he calls the “infodemic.” Now Tedros has been reportedly censored by China for disinformation on its own pandemic measures.
According to reports, Elon Musk is now expected to take over as the temporary CEO of Twitter as soon as his financing of the purchase is finalized. It is good news because buying Twitter may prove a mere skirmish in comparison to the coming battle. Political forces in the United States and abroad are already aligning to resist his effort to restore free speech to social media.
I previously wrote about Hillary Clinton’s call on European countries to pass censorship laws to force social media companies like Twitter to regulate speech even after Elon Musk’s pledge to restore free speech to Twitter. Now the Parliament has called on Musk to testify and to explain his alarming pledge to restore free speech.
There is a new free speech controversy in the United Kingdom after Joseph Kelly, 36, was convicted of posting a “grossly offensive” tweet about a war veteran. Kelly has been sentenced to 150 hours of community service. The conviction is another blow to free speech in the UK in a case of clear political speech.
Below is my column in USA Today on the continuing push to seize the yachts and other property of Russian oligarchs. While enormously popular, it is easy to take a yacht. It is far more difficult to keep it. Indeed, the public could end up footing the bill for not just litigation but possible repairs to these opulent vessels.
We have been discussing Russian artists and athletes blackballed for failing to publicly denounce Putin of his invasion of Russia. Despite the support that most of us have expressed for Ukraine against this unprovoked and savage attack, there is a danger that we are losing a war at home against free speech. The Russian invasion has added new allies in a growing anti-free-speech movement to censor and blackball dissenting voices. The latest such controversy involves Sergey Karjakin, a Russian grandmaster who supports the Russian invasion. He has been banned from competitions for six months by the International Chess Federation (FIDE). He has been banned due to the unpopularity of his political views — an act that should be denounced by anyone who values free speech.
Many of us strongly support the fight of Ukraine against the Russian invasion and have commended Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for the heroic leadership that he has shown in the face of this unprovoked and savage attack. Yet, that support should not shield the country or Zelenskyy from criticism whether it involves filming POWs or cracking down on free speech. The latter concern has arisen after Zelenskyy banned Ukraine’s main opposition party and ten other parties. It is hard to criticize the actions of a nation facing annihilation at the hands of a tyrant. However, Putin is carrying out precisely this type of anti-free speech, counter-democratic crackdown in Russia. Ukraine has the moral high ground in this struggle and should not surrender that ground through its own acts of political censorship and suppression. Continue reading “Zelenskyy Bans Opposition Parties in Ukraine in Blow to Free Speech”