Published on 4 Apr 2017
Eugene Volokh has a few things to say about things that aren’t supposed to be said. Volokh, a professor of free speech law at U.C.L.A., has seen books banned, professors censored, and the ordinary expression of students stifled on university campuses across the nation.
Volokh believes free speech and open inquiry, once paramount values of higher education, are increasingly jeopardized by restrictive university speech codes. Instead of formally banning speech, speech codes discourage broad categories of human expression. “Hate speech. Harassment. Micro-aggressions,” Volokh says. “Often they’re not defined. They’re just assumed to be bad, assumed they’re something we need to ban.”
Edited by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.
April 14, 2017
April 10, 2017
Published on Aug 8, 2012
From Robert Bolt’s classic A Man for All Seasons (1966), directed by Fred Zinnemann, starring Paul Scofield as Thomas More, the famous English lawyer, philosopher, and Renaissance humanist.
Alice More: “Arrest him!”
Sir Thomas More: “For what?”
Alice More: “He’s dangerous!”
Margaret More: “Father, that man’s bad!”
Sir Thomas More: “There’s no law against that.”
William Roper: “There is: God’s law!”
Sir Thomas More: “Then God can arrest him.”
Alice More: “While you talk, he’s gone.”
Sir Thomas More: “And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!”
William Roper: “So, now you’d give the Devil the benefit of law!”
Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”
William Roper: “Yes! I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”
Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast — man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.”
April 5, 2017
“… if you’re on the side that says the other guy isn’t entitled to a side, you’re on the wrong side“
Mark Steyn on the amazing discovery that a “female, atheist, black, immigrant” is really a white supremacist!
Over the weekend, I swung by Judge Jeanine’s show to talk about one of the most malign trends of our time: the ever more open refusal by one side to permit those on the other side to speak. As I always say, I don’t care what side you pick on the great questions of the age – climate change, gay marriage, Islam, transgendered bathrooms, whatever – but, if you’re on the side that says the other guy isn’t entitled to a side, you’re on the wrong side. […]
They don’t want to participate in the debate, and win it. It’s easier to shut it down and save themselves the trouble. Case in point:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali Tour Cancelled
Citing security issues, the Somalian-born activist calls off her scheduled Australian tour…
Let’s just expand that “Somali-born activist” précis a little. She’s not a dead white male like me or Charles Murray. As someone once said, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists profess to dig: female, atheist, black, immigrant. But, because she does not toe the party line on Islam, her blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly anchorman – and so do her femaleness and godlessness and immigrant status. And in the end she is Charles Murray, or Geert Wilders – or even David Duke. A black Somali woman is, it turns out, a “white supremacist”.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is someone who fled genital mutilation and arranged marriage in a backward, barbarous society to come to the west and live in freedom. Her first stop was the Netherlands. But the director of the film she wrote, Theo van Gogh, was murdered in the street, and the man who shot him then drove two knives through what was left of his chest pinning to it a five-page death-threat promising to do the same to Ayaan. So she was forced to leave the Netherlands, and has lived with round-the-clock security ever since. Now she has to cross Australia off the list, too. Where’s next? Can she speak in Sweden? Or Canada? Ireland or Germany? She left Somalia to live as a western woman, only to watch the west turn itself into Somalia, incrementally but remorselessly, at least as far as free speech is concerned.
March 26, 2017
Published on Mar 23, 2017
In this brand new edition of The Mark Steyn Show, Mark talks to Canadian Conservative Party leadership candidate Maxime Bernier. M Bernier was the country’s Foreign Minister under Stephen Harper until his rising star somewhat spectacularly self-detonated. But, after biding his time, he returned as a hero of the libertarian right – “the Albertan from Quebec”, as he became known. Steyn and Bernier talk about what it means to be a conservative francophone in rural Quebec, the role of a medium-rank power in a turbulent world, and Canadian-US relations.
March 18, 2017
In Vice, Mitchell Sunderland talks to Camille Paglia about her latest book and other topics near to her heart:
BROADLY: Your book is called Free Women, Free Men. Why do you believe men need to be free for women to be free?
Camille Paglia: My primary inspiration since adolescence has been the thrilling decades of the 1920s and 30s, following American women gaining the right to vote in 1920. There were so many major women figures entering the professions—like my idols Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn, who were determined to show that women could achieve at the same level as men. The bold new women of that period did not insult or denigrate men. They admired what men had done and simply demanded the opportunity to show that women could match or surpass it. One of my persistent quarrels with second-wave feminism is how male-bashing became its default mode from the start. Movements often attract fanatics or borderline personalities, and that’s exactly what happened. Too many damaged women with bitter gripes against men took over feminist discourse. Kate Millett was a prime example — her life has been an endless series of mental breakdowns and hospitalizations.
What I’m saying in Free Women, Free Men is that women can never be truly free until they let men too be free — which means that men have every right to determine their own identities, interests, and passions without intrusive surveillance and censorship by women with their own political agenda. For example, if there is an official Women’s Center on the Yale University campus (which there is), then there should be a Men’s Center too — and Yale men should be free to carry on and carouse there and say whatever the hell they want to each other, without snoops outside the door ready to report them to the totalitarian sexual harassment office.
The book argues that construction workers and other working class men’s work have gone unnoticed. How has society ignored their contributions to society?
It is an absolute outrage how so many pampered, affluent, upper-middle-class professional women chronically spout snide anti-male feminist rhetoric, while they remain completely blind to the constant labor and sacrifices going on all around them as working-class men create and maintain the fabulous infrastructure that makes modern life possible in the Western world. Only a tiny number of women want to enter the trades where most of the nitty-gritty physical work is actually going on — plumbing, electricity, construction. Women have played virtually no role in the erection of those magnificent towers in every major city in the world. It’s men who operate the cranes or set the foundations or wash windows on the 85th floor. It’s men who troop out at 2:00 AM during an ice storm to restore power to neighborhoods where falling trees have brought down live wires. It’s men who mix the stinking, toxic cauldrons to spread steaming hot tar on city roofs. Last year in a nearby town, I drove by a huge, chaotic scene where emergency workers in hazmat suits were struggling with a giant pipe break, as raw sewage was pouring into the street. Of course all those workers up to their knees in a torrent of thick brown water were men! I’ve seen figures indicating that 92 per cent of people killed on the job are men — and it’s precisely because men are heroically doing most of the dangerous jobs in modern society. The bourgeois blindness of feminist leaders to low-status working-class labor by men is morally corrupt! Gay men, on the other hand, have always shown their awed admiration of working-class masculinity and fortitude. It’s no coincidence that a buff construction worker in a hard hat was one of the iconic personae of the gay disco group, the Village People, during the Studio 54 era!
How should young people preserve free speech?
Stand up, speak out, and refuse to be silenced! But identify the real source of oppression, which is embedded in the increasingly byzantine structure of higher education. Push back against the nanny-state college administrators who subject you to authoritarian surveillance and undemocratic thought control! I sent up a prophetic warning shot about this in my 1992 article, “The Corruption of the Humanities in the US,” which was published in London and is reprinted in my new book. The rapid, uncontrolled spread of overpaid administrators on college campuses over the past 30 years has marginalized the faculty, downgraded education, and converted students into marketing tools. Administrators are locked in a mercenary commercial relationship with tuition-paying parents and in a coercive symbiosis with intrusive regulators of the federal government. Young people have been far too passive about the degree to which their lives are being controlled by commissars of social engineering who pay lip service to liberalism but who are at root Stalinist autocrats who despise and suppress individualism. There is no excuse whatever for the grotesque rise in tuition costs, which has bankrupted families and imposed crippling debt on students trying to start their lives. When will young people wake up to the connection between rampant student debt and the administrator-sanctioned suppression of free speech on campus? Follow the money — the yellow brick road leads to the new administrator master class.
March 10, 2017
George Leef on how the protests at Middlebury College in Vermont against Charles Murray show just how thin the veneer of civilization has become at America’s institutes of higher learning:
The reason why, I think, is explained by the intellectual tribalism that grips much of America.
I mean that many people label others as either being in their tribe (consisting of people who are righteous and always correct) and the opposing tribe (consisting of people who are evil, stupid, and wrong on everything). Real scholars never impart such ideas because they know that reasonable and moral people can disagree on almost everything. They also know that the only way for civilized people to counter error is through debate; they know that people cannot be persuaded with violence.
Unfortunately, intellectual tribalism is spreading like the Black Death among so-called progressives. Anyone who disagrees with progressive policies is likely to be labeled an enemy, much as Karl Marx labeled everyone who rejected his beliefs a “class enemy.” The more influential such a person is, the more vehement the attacks and hatred against him. Murray, for example, is called a “racist” and “white supremacist” even though he is neither.
(Try this thought experiment. What would have happened if one of the good, liberal students had piped up and asked, “But shouldn’t we find out if this guy really is a white supremacist before we shout him down?”)
And turning to the toxic effects of this indoctrination, one is the growing idea that the enemy tribe must be fought by any means necessary. Not only do evil people like Murray not deserve to be heard, they deserve to be punched.
Professor Michael Munger of Duke University recently commented on this disturbing phenomenon after he discovered a flier on campus. The flier, he wrote, “encouraged students to ‘bash the fash!’ meaning physically assault fascists. The definition of ‘fascist,’ conveniently, appears to be anyone who disagrees with the smothering leftist orthodoxy that the flier-istas embrace.” Just smear your opponents with a nasty name and it’s easy to whip up hatred and violence.
In Orwell’s 1984, Big Brother’s regime utilized the Two Minute Hate against an imaginary villain to maintain support among the people. At Middlebury, it was more like two hours, and the “villain” perfectly real, but the effect was the same. The leftist zealots “won” by preventing discussion and forcing “bad” people to flee in fear.
The veneer of civilization is thin enough under the best of circumstances. Education ought to strengthen it by making people more willing to listen respectfully to others, disagree rationally, and peacefully walk away from intractable disputes. The behavior of the Middlebury mob shows that for a significant number of students, education has taken them away from civilization, putting them back into the mindset of primitive tribalism.
March 9, 2017
Once you have passed fifty it gets harder and harder not to notice that you are being left behind. Styles and manners change, of course: that you can cope with, if you are willing to put forth a little effort. Thinking changes too, though, and for that there’s no coping. You can change the outer man, just as you can buff up at the gym, if you follow a few sensible precautions. The inner man, though, is fixed by middle age (if not much earlier). As you lip-sync your way through the new manners, the new fashions, the new cant, the inner man will be whispering inside your head, louder and louder as the years go by: This is all so bogus! These kids don’t know squat!
You may drop the facade at last and just let the inner man speak out, succumbing to “Elderly Tourette’s Syndrome,” saying things that can’t be said any more (but which you know to be true, and which you further suspect that the canters also, at some subliminal level, know to be true), scandalizing and horrifying all the young fools within earshot. You might even — I’ve some way to go yet, I’m glad to say, so this is hearsay testimony from an ETS-afflicted geezer known to me — you may even find that you have righteous fun doing so, though you get invited into polite society less and less.
John Derbyshire, “Flashman, Ron Paul, James Kirchick — And Liberty”, Vdare.com, 2008-01-15.
February 21, 2017
L. Neil Smith on what has happened to political discussion since the accession of Il Donalduce:
It’s very difficult to convey the unreality, the surreality, of things that those of us who think for a living (or at least a serious hobby) have been subjected to, since the General Election last November, and especially since Inauguration Day in January. The other day I found myself embroiled in a passionate argument with an old friend which had started out to be about my reasons for voting for Donald Trump and had somehow inched its way around to the subject of lynching black people. I don’t exactly remember how, but, apparently, since I was born decades after the era of lynchings in the South, had never actually seen a lynching, or been lynched, myself, in the view of the person I was arguing with (who was black, but had also never seen a lynching), I was denying that lynchings had ever happened.
I was not, of course. Nor did my friendly antagonist ever explain to me what alleged factual or historical connection exists between lynchings and Donald Trump. I play very close attention to these things — for example, I actually heard the man when he accused the Mexican government of deliberately sending its criminals to the United States, which is decidedly _not_ a racist remark — and, to my knowledge, Trump, who is the same age I am, never lynched anybody, either. Unfortunately, this is a reasoned observation I am making, and the Leftists’ way of dealing with a reasoned observation is to scream as loud and talk as fast as they can, peppering everything they say with absurd Orwellian slogans. They do this all over the country to shut down speakers they don’t like and to stifle truths they can’t bear to hear—or to have heard by the public.
If you require an example, I suggest that you look up Milo Yiannopoulis on YouTube. He is a remarkable young man, an editor for Breitbart, who combines the outlooks of Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, and H.L. Mencken. He is constantly shouted down on college campuses, although what he has to say is witty and urbane. The Left just can’t take a joke any more, it seems. These are the very mobs, first seen in France, that our Founding Fathers feared, and the reason they made Presidential elections indirect. If you don’t like the Electoral College, blame Black Lives Matter or the disgraceful and disgusting Precious Snowflakes who make our political lives so tedious these days, If they were on fire, the Founding Fathers wouldn’t have crossed the street to piss them out.
Jim Geraghty on the “Milo at CPAC” issue:
An observation for everyone bothered or worse at the thought of Yiannopoulos addressing CPAC: Fighting Yiannopoulos with protests and boycotts is like fighting a fire with gasoline. The most salient point Yiannopoulos makes in his shtick is that the Left is intolerant, filled with rage, and incapable of respecting any dissenting view … and campus leftists live down to his portrait, time after time. He has become a big show because he more or less is a walking, talking perpetual threat of a riot, and a big part of this is that he keeps going to places like Berkeley, the places most inclined to respond to provocations through violent outbursts.
It would be an enormous blunder for the Right to make the same mistake. And thankfully, the CPAC crowd is not a rioting crowd.
Perhaps the right measuring stick of Yiannopoulos is, what does he really have to offer an audience of conservative activists when he isn’t being shouted down, attacked, or besieged by riotous Leftists? We on the Right will rightfully instinctively defend anyone threatened by the pincers of a politically correct speech code and the radical mob. Once that threat to free speech is removed … then what?
Are there things Yiannopoulos can teach us to advance the conservative cause, conservative ideas, or conservative policies? Can the methods that get him what he wants be used by others, or are they non-replicable? Does the toolbox of the provocateur really have the kinds of tools useful to those of us who want to build something more lasting and create structural changes – i.e., tax reform, a stronger military, a solution to the opioid addiction crisis, a thriving economy full of innovation and consumer choice, support networks of community and family, etcetera? I’m skeptical, but willing to listen. Let’s hear it.
Yiannopoulos triggers rage in Leftists like no one else in the world today other than Donald Trump, and a lot of folks on the right will cheer that. But let’s face it, triggering rage in a leftist is not a terribly hard thing to do.
Update: Fixed broken link.
February 19, 2017
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has been getting a lot of media attention for their efforts to ensure due process rights are observed for students at US universities. In the process, some distortions have been included in that media coverage:
In recent weeks, news outlets across the country have written about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her family foundation’s donations to FIRE. In doing so, many outlets have mischaracterized FIRE’s work defending students’ due process rights — particularly in the realm of campus sexual assault, where the federal government has taken several significant steps to impede the ability of institutions to provide fair hearings and freedom of expression.
We have written on this topic before, but it is worth reiterating a few points.
Perhaps most importantly, our defense of accused students’ rights is not an attack on complainants’ rights, as some writers have suggested. To the contrary, we aim to ensure all students’ rights are protected. The procedural safeguards for which FIRE advocates — such as the right to cross-examine witnesses, active assistance of an attorney, and impartial fact-finders — help ensure that campus adjudicators reach accurate and reliable findings of fact. This goal serves the entire campus community and is appropriate in all cases, but it is especially paramount where the ramifications of either an erroneous guilty finding or an erroneous not guilty finding are particularly significant, such as with accusations of sexual assault or other violent offenses.
Accordingly, FIRE has opposed legislation that attempts to address the issue of campus sexual assault simply by making it easier to find accused students guilty, rather than by helping fact-finders reach accurate results. We have not opposed provisions that could “prevent campus sexual assault,” as some writers have claimed. FIRE’s concern is focused on how the parties are treated and campus justice is served after an assault is alleged to have occurred.
Because only the criminal justice system can remove perpetrators from the streets and not just from campuses, and because the court system has procedural safeguards in place to help fact-finders reach reliable findings, FIRE supports legislation that would strengthen law enforcement’s role in addressing campus sexual assault. Campus criminals are not immune from the criminal law. Even in advocating for greater involvement by law enforcement, however, we have emphasized that colleges and universities have an important role to play in responding to alleged sexual misconduct.
February 18, 2017
At Forbes, Kalev Leetaru reports on Friday’s introduction of “hate speech” filtering on Twitter:
Earlier this morning social media and the tech press lit up with reports of users across Twitter receiving half day suspensions en masse as the platform abruptly rolled out its decade-overdue hate speech filter to its platform. The company has refused to provide details on specifically how the new system works, but using a combination of behavioral and keyword indicators, the filter flags posts it deems to be violations of Twitter’s acceptable speech policy and issues users suspensions of half a day during which they cannot post new tweets and their existing tweets are visible only to followers. From the platform that once called itself “the free speech wing of the free speech party” these new tools mark an incredible turn of events for the company that just two years ago famously wrote Congress to say it would do everything in its power to uphold the right of terrorists to post freely to its platform. What does Twitter’s new interest in hate speech tell us about the future of free speech online?
It was just a year ago that I wrote on these very pages about Twitter’s evolution from bastion of free speech to global censor as it stepped back from its utopian dreams as they collided with the realities of running a commercial company. Yet, even after changing its official written policy on acceptable speech and touting that it would do more to fight abuse, little has changed over the past year. Indeed, from its inception a decade ago, Twitter has done little to address the problem of hateful and abusive speech on its platform.
[…] the concern here is that Twitter has thus far refused to provide further detail into at least the broad contours of the indicators it is using, especially when it comes to the particular linguistic cues it is concerned with. While offering too much detail might give the upper hand to those who would try to work around the new system, it is important for the broader community to have at least some understanding of the kinds of language flagged by Twitter’s new tool so that they can offer more informed feedback to help it shape that tool given that both algorithms and people are far from infallible. Simply rolling out a new tool that begins suspending users without warning or recourse and without any visibility into how those decisions are being made is a textbook example of how not to roll such a feature out to a user community in that the tool instantly becomes confrontational rather than educational.
Moreover, it is unclear why Twitter chose not to permit users to contest what they believe to be a wrongful suspension. The company did not respond to a request for comment on why suspended users are not provided a button to appeal a suspension they believe is due to algorithmic or human error or lack of contextual understanding. Given that the feature is brand new and bound to encounter plenty of unforeseen contexts where it could yield a wrong result, it is surprising that Twitter chose not to provide a recovery mechanism where it could catch these before they become news.
H/T to Peter Grant for the link.
November 25, 2016
Commenting on the recent fine handed down by a Dutch court against opposition leader Geert Wilders, Perry de Havilland points out that it’s not just governments on the continent that are working so hard to quash free speech:
Now whatever you think of Wilders, this has been an astonishing attempt to simply shut down free expression in a western nation. And of course this will not silence anyway and will probably prove to be a spectacular establishment own-goal.
And in the UK, more and more infrastructure to censor internet porn is being put into place. Why is this related? Because once control infrastructure exists, it can and will be re-purposed, in much the same way the Department for Education’s “counter extremism unit“, set up ostensibly to prevent violent Islamic extremist views being taught in UK schools, gets re-purposed to shut down a gay secular journalist who has not called for any violence against anyone.
All across the Western World, political verities and assumption are starting to shift, and almost nothing can be accurately predicted any more. We live in times that are a danger and opportunity in equal measure, and people who care about liberty will have to get their hands dirty, making common cause with others who will not pass any purity sniff tests but with whom we share common enemies (however care does need to be taken in such matters for sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my enemy … but sometimes not), however now is the time for engagement and action.
November 15, 2016
October 15, 2016
Some years ago, the liberal writer Michael Kinsley described the different attitudes to free speech in the U.K. and the U.S. as follows: “In a country like Great Britain, the legal protections for speech are weaker than ours, but the social protections are stronger. They lack a First Amendment, but they have thicker skin and a greater acceptance of eccentricity of all sorts.”
Today, both sorts of protection for speech — legal and social — are weaker than before in both countries. This year, official regulation of the press was passed into U.K. law for the first time since 18th-century juries nullified press prosecutions. These new restraints enjoyed the backing not just of all the parties but apparently of the public as well.
In the U.S., the case of Mann v. Steyn, let alone a hypothetical case involving Quran-burning, has yet to be decided. But Democrats in the Senate are seeking to restrict political speech by restricting the money spent to promote it. And in the private sector, American corporations have blacklisted employees for expressing or financing certain unfashionable opinions. In short, a public culture that used to be liberal is now “progressive” — which is something like liberalism minus its commitment to freedom.
The U.S. and Britain have long thought of themselves as, above all, free countries. If that identity continues to atrophy, free speech will be the first victim. But it will not be the last.
John O’Sullivan, “No Offense: The New Threats to Free Speech”, Wall Street Journal, 2014-10-31.
October 11, 2016
[P]olitical correctness represents something far more profound than its critics appreciate. The victory of PC is built upon the demise and decay of traditional forms of authority and traditional forms of morality. It is parasitical on what we might call the crisis of conservative thought. In fact, I would argue that the power of PC is directly proportionate to the weakness of the old, taken-for-granted forms of morality.
I can understand the temptation to present political correctness as simply the imposition of a stifling framework by small groups of illiberal liberals, to see it as the conscious project of a cut-off, head-in-the-clouds middle-class elite determined to remake everything and everyone in its own image.
Yet to look at political correctness in that way only — as a kind of new Ten Commandments enforced by tiny elites — is to miss what is the foundation stone of PC, the ground upon which it is built. Which is the inability of the traditional moralists to justify themselves and defend their way of life and moral system. It is that inability which, towards the end of the twentieth century, created a moral vacuum that was filled by instinctive and often kneejerk new forms of moral control and censorship.
Because when you have a profound crisis of traditional morality, which governed society for so long, then previously normal and unquestioned ways of behaving get called into question. From speech to interpersonal relations, even to nursery rhymes — nothing can be taken for granted anymore when the old frameworks have been removed. All the given things of the past 200-odd years start to fall apart. Political correctness is really the scaffolding that has been hastily erected to replace the old morality. It represents the tentative takeover by a new kind of modern-day moralist. And the end result is undoubtedly tyrannical and stifling and profoundly antagonistic both to individual autonomy and freedom of speech.
That is why political correctness is so hysterical, so intolerant, so keen to govern everything from how professors communicate with their students to whether teachers can touch their pupils to when it is acceptable to say ‘blackboard’ — not because it is strong, but because it is weak and isolated. It has no real roots in society or history, like the more traditional forms of morality did. It enjoys no popular legitimacy or public support; in fact, the phrase ‘political correctness gone mad’ rather reflects the disdain amongst large sections of the public for today’s new speech codes and behaviour etiquette. It is the shallowness of PC, its parasitical nature, which makes it so insatiably interventionist.
Because at a time when it is no longer clear what is right and wrong, what is good and bad, who is respectable and who is not, then everything is thrown into a kind of moral chaos, giving rise to a weird hunger among the new elites to clamp down on and closely govern what were previously considered to be normal interactions that required little, if any, external intervention.
Brendan O’Neill, “The new war against PC – it’s too late and it’s picked the wrong target”, Spiked, 2015-01-29.