I have been critical recently of remarks attributed to Attorney General Bill Barr, including the alleged consideration of criminal charges against a mayor for not acting against rioters and the use of sedition charges against some individuals. The latter allegation was reinforced by the Associated Press after it obtained a memo to United States attorneys. The memo suggests a more general use of sedition for anyone opposing government authority by force. Such a use of sedition laws directly threatens free speech values and would return to dark periods of the suppression of dissent in our country. It is also entirely unnecessary given the array of ample and severe laws available to punish looters and rioters.
I recently testified on Antifa and the growing anti-free speech movement in the United States. I specifically disagreed with statements by Democrats denying that Antifa was playing a role in protests or, as House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler claimed, Antifa is a “myth.” This afternoon, FBI Director Chris Wray pushed back on similar claims and declared that “Antifa is a real thing” and that the FBI has various cases of self-identified Antifa members involved in criminal conduct.
Today I have the pleasure of speaking at the University of Michigan as part of a Constitution Day event. I will be joined by Professor Michael Gerhardt (UNC School of Law) in discussing the history of presidential impeachments from Johnson to Trump. Both Professor Gerhardt and I testified at both the Clinton and Trump impeachment. I also served as lead defense counsel in the last judicial impeachment of Judge Thomas Porteous. The event was switched to a virtual format and will be held from 4:10 to 5:30 pm ET today. You can join via Zoom at https://umich.zoom.us/j/97622039094
Many of us criticized statements attributed to Attorney General Bill Barr this week calling for the use of sedition laws against rioters. However, instead of raising constitutional or statutory objections, Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe instead raised Barr’s Catholic faith in a completely unwarranted and unfounded tweet. The response to the reference was total silence. Not a single professor at Harvard or elsewhere chastised the use of a person’s religion in such commentary. This is not the first profane or prejudiced statement by Tribe.
Alan Dershowitz just filed a whale of a lawsuit against CNN, though it could end up beached in short order under controlling case law. The Harvard Law professor emeritus is demanding $300,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from CNN for misrepresenting his legal arguments in the Trump impeachment trial. In fairness to Dershowitz, the coverage of the trial by CNN was dreadful with intentionally and consistently slanted coverage of the evidence, standards, and arguments. However, the objections raised by Dershowitz are likely to be treated as part of the peril for high-profile figures operating in the public domain. In other words, you can complain about the weather but you cannot sue the storm. Continue reading “Dershowitz Sues CNN For $300,000,000 In Defamation Action”
There was an awkward moment this morning on Fox when President Donald Trump announced that he would have a regular appearance on Fox and Friends every week at this time. That came as obvious news to the hosts who repeatedly told the President that there is no such understanding. The exchange, however, raises a legal question of whether such a regular show with the President would run afoul of federal laws requiring equal time for political candidates. The answer is likely no but it is not clear if Joe Biden would relish a regular segment on Fox since he has largely avoided such interviews. Continue reading “Trump’s Weekly Fox Show? It Could Present Some Interesting Political and Legal Issues”
For four years, I have written about the alarming loss of neutrality and objectivity in journalism — a trend that is reflected by many polls showing that the majority of the public no longer trusts the media for fair and honest reporting. While I have regularly criticized President Donald Trump, I have also objected to unrelentingly biased reporting as well as embarrassingly soft coverage of former Vice President Joe Biden. Now, Stanford Communications Professor Emeritus Ted Glasser has publicly called for an end of objectivity in journalism as too constraining for reporters in seeking “social justice.”
Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the anti-racism demonstrations from the NFL displays to corporate campaigns to academic confessions. What is most striking about these campaigns is how little they are likely to impact opinions on racism. Indeed, the NFL displays were not only booed by fans but denounced by figures like former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as meaningless propaganda. Most people are unwilling to discuss racism honestly. Booing is a form of anonymous speech and many of those individuals would not want to speak publicly about countervailing views of racial justice or the role of the NFL in such causes. Unless we can have that honest (and mutually tolerant) discussion, few minds will be changed in these campaigns. That requires a real interest in discussing different views of racial justice and its underlying issues for social reform, not just repeating affirmations or offering confessions. Otherwise, many are tuning out these demonstrations. There is clearly a view of many that corporations “doth protest too much” and mean too little in terms of real change in attitudes on racism.
Here is the column:
Several GOP leaders are calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate and take legal action against Netflix for its promotion of the “Cuties” film. The film has been denounced for its “sexualization of children.” I have seen the clip of the most controversial scene of young girls dancing which I found deeply disturbing and offensive. However, there is no criminal act alleged of child abuse. What is left is a strong and widely shared revulsion with the film, but that should not be an invitation for governmental action. The threat to free speech of such action is considerable, including the return to a long and detestable period of film censorship in the this country.
Facebook is under fire this week after it was discovered that the company has allowed Rose City Antifa, a violent group associated with riots for many years, to maintain a Facebook page despite the company’s controversial program to take down certain sites. As will come as no surprise to many on this blog, I would not have the page taken down on free speech grounds. My greatest fear is not Antifa (which I have criticized for years) but the growing censorship of the Internet. While I recently testified about Antifa, and specifically Rose City Antifa, as part of a violent anti-free speech movement, I have opposed declaring them terrorist organizations and believe that their speech should be protected. While Facebook is a private company not subject to the First Amendment’s limits, it should adhere to free speech values on the Internet.
Please forgive a departure from our usual discussions but I wanted to share an interesting controversy in the area of fashion and apparel. A new campaign to “unveil historical erasure and resist capitalism” is under fire. Such campaigns are now commonplace on campuses but this is a campaign to end capitalism by Lululemon, a publicly traded brand worth billions and in the business of selling such things as leggings for $120 apiece. The campaign brought to mind the quote attributed to Lenin that “When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract.” In this case, Lululemon will sell you the rope in various colors plus some “hotty hot” styles for $60.
I have previously written (here and here) about the need to break the duopoly of power in this country by creating greater opportunity for other parties and candidates. Every presidential election, the voters are told that they have to chose between two candidates who garner little support in their own right. It is the continual replay of “choosing between evils” option for voters. Now we have a new disgrace: a majority of polled voters in swing states view both Donald Trump and Joe Biden as mentally unfit but are told that they must chose between them.
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 here and here). Many European nations like Germany have struggled for years to suppress speech only to fuel movements like neo-Nazis who operate underground or evade limits. Now France has given another example of why speech regulations often fail. The effort to ban the book “Men, I hate them” by Pauline Harmange has backfired with increased sales from defiant citizens.
Most human beings were disgusted by the murder of Aaron “Jay” Danielson, the member of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer, in Portland. University of Rhode Island Professor Erik Loomis is not among them. Loomis defended the killing by Michael Reinoehl, an Antifa member who appears to have stalked Danielson before gunning him down. Loomis insisted that any problem in gunning down right-wing counterprotesters was tactical not moral. Continue reading ““I See Nothing Wrong With It”: Rhode Island Professor Defends Murder Of Right-Wing Protester In Portland”