Free Speech

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Don’t Fall for the First Amendment = Free Speech Trick

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/08/2018 - 7:43am in

Image result for soviet censorship

Like climate change, this is one of those problems I keep expecting people to wise up about but — because they never do — it keeps getting worse.

Thus this tutorial.

The problem is that too many Americans conflate the First Amendment with free speech.

You see it when people discuss the current social-media crackdown against controversial right-wing radio talk show host Alex Jones and his website InfoWars. Jones was banned by Facebook, YouTube (which is owned by Google), Apple and Spotify, and more recently suspended by Twitter for one week. Writing in The New Yorker Steve Coll mocked Jones for calling himself the victim of “a war on free speech.”

“Such censorship is not unconstitutional,” Coll reminds readers. “The First Amendment protects us against governmental intrusions; it does not (yet) protect speech on privately owned platforms.”

The U.S. government is rarely in a position to censor Americans’ freedom of expression. Because the vast majority of censorship is carried about by non-government entities (like the social media companies blocking Jones) the First Amendment only bans a tiny portion of censorship.

Some government agencies do censor the press. A federal judge ordered The New York Times to halt publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The LAPD, whose pension fund owned part of the parent company of The Los Angeles Times and was angry about my work criticizing its brutality and incompetence, ordered the Times to fire me as its cartoonist. They complied. Annoyed by an editorial in the local paper criticizing them for conducting random searches of high school students at basketball games using dogs, the police in Baker City, California created a fake dossier of crimes committed by the editorial writer, which they used to get him fired from his job.

These cases are covered by the First Amendment. But they are outliers.

We can’t protect existing rights if we don’t understand the current parameters of the law. New rights arise from unfulfilled political needs and desires; we can’t fight for expanded protections without defining what is lacking yet desired. Schoolchildren and student journalists, both public and private, are constantly running up against censorship by teachers and administrators. Employers constrain political speech, obscenity and other forms of expression on the job. These are free speech but not First Amendment issues.

In recent decades opponents of free speech, mostly but not exclusively on the right, have relentlessly conflated First Amendment debates with those over free speech. The effect has been to reduce society’s expectations of how much freedom we ought to have to express ourselves.

Take the Jones case.

Writing for the website Polygon, Julia Alexander provides us with a boilerplate (liberal) response to Jones and his allies’ complaints that the big social media companies are suppressing his free speech. First she described some of the episodes that prompted banning Jones, such as pushing PizzaGate and Sandy Hook shooting denialism. Then she pounces: “It’s not a freedom of speech issue, nor one of censorship,” Alexander writes. “The First Amendment…gives American citizens the freedom of speech…The United States government isn’t bringing the hammer down on Jones. This isn’t a political issue, as badly as Jones might want to pretend otherwise.”

See what Alexander did? In just a few sentences she squeezes and smooshes the extremely broad practice of “censorship” into the relatively tiny box of “the U.S. government…bringing the hammer down.” I don’t mean to pick on her — I’ve seen this same exact ball of sophistry used over and over by countless other pundits.

Of course Twitter, Facebook et al. are censoring Jones. Of course the First Amendment doesn’t cover him here. Obviously it’s a freedom of speech issue. The question — the question pro-censorship folks like Alexander doesn’t want us to ask — is, is it right?

For what is right is not always what is legal (see: slavery). Alex Jones and his allies may or not be legit. Their political arguments often are not. But the question they’re asking here is legit and important: should companies like YouTube have the power to suppress speech — any kind of speech?

Alexander ends with a message you ought to find chilling: “Don’t publish vile content, and your video will probably be a-ok.”

“Probably”?

Who gets to define “vile”? Alexander? Mark Zuckerberg, apparently.

Obviously it is a political issue. But that’s not the main point here.

Free speech used to belong to the man with the means to buy ink by the barrel. Now you can buy a newspaper for pennies on the dollar, but who will read it? Much if not most of the political debate in our civic life takes place on platforms owned, controlled and censored by the companies blocking Jones’ content. They write and enforce their own rules. As private companies they are unaccountable to we, the people. We don’t know how they make censorship decisions or who makes them.

Perhaps this is a splendid state of affairs. Maybe Americans don’t mind surrendering control of political debate to faceless tech giants.

Whatever we decide, however, we deserve a transparent discussion. We ought not to let ourselves be fooled into falsely equating free speech to the First Amendment. Free speech means exactly that: everyone and anyone can say anything at all, anywhere they please, to anyone.

Every First Amendment case is a free speech issue. But only a tiny fraction of free speech issues is a First Amendment case.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

Distributed by Creators Syndicate

(C) 2018 Ted Rall, All Rights Reserved.

Internet Censorship: Appeal to Reinstate “American Everyman”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 16/08/2018 - 1:00am in

Just a week or so after Spotify, Google, Apple and Facebook made the curiously synchronized move to kick Alex Jones and InfoWars off their platforms, and just days after Facebook shut down Venezuelan news network TeleSur’s facebook page (for the second time), the war on the free internet has opened up another front. Small independent blogs are being shut down, seemingly without reason and certainly without explanation. AmericanEveryman.com has been closed without notice or warning, according to the blog’s owner Scott Creighton. Allegedly for violating WordPress’ “terms of service”, although they have apparently been entirely vague about how. Other such blogs – fellowshipofminds.com and jaysanalysis.com – have suffered the exact same fate, on the exact dame day. There is undeniably a push to silence dissent and purge it from the internet. There may well be dozens – even hundreds – of other examples. If you object to censorship, of any kind, please fill out a form on automattic.com and request that these blogs are reinstated. Please support our friends who wish to do nothing but …

Katter Condemns Fraser Anning For Not Mentioning Crocodiles In His Maiden Speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/08/2018 - 11:45am in

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Bob Katter has lashed out at his Senator Fraser Anning over his maiden speech to Parliament after the new Senator failed to mention crocodiles at any stage during his speech.

“People are angry at Fraser and rightfully so,” said Mr Katter. “I mean it’s all well and good to get up and tell a yarn in Parliament. But to not mention crocodiles, when every three months someone in Northern Queensland is being torn apart by one is criminal.”

“I’ll be taking old mate Fraser out to the woodshed later on to teach him a lesson.”

When asked whether he condemned Senator Anning over any other part of his maiden speech Mr Katter replied: “Oh look he did go a bit hard on the Muslims and his language was a bit clunky. But the main thing we need to take out of this is the lack of people talking about crocodiles.”

“Maybe we could start deporting crocodiles. Oh Bobby boy what an idea, where’s Dutton?”

Mark Williamson 

www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook

Who’s got the bad faith? A reply to Pavlos Roufos on moral panics, power relationships and that sodding book

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/08/2018 - 7:12am in

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An examination of a recent Brooklyn Rail article that repeated rightwing/centrist narratives about censorship and free specch, and cited some writings hosted on libcom in support of this argument.

...at what point does mentioning the holes in someone’s argument become a personal attack?

read more

Canadian Bigot Shocked To Learn How Few People Actually Watch Sky News

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/07/2018 - 8:19am in

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Media, Free Speech

Alt-right Canadian bigot Lauren Southern was shocked to learn how few people actually watched Sky News after appearing on the network over the weekend. Southern who is in Australia as part of her, “Look At Me Say Racist Crap’ world tour, appeared on the network in the hope of selling a few more tickets.

“I was shocked that so few people watched, normally when I appear on TV I get a few ticket sales or at least some angry tweets but this time nothing,” said Southern. “I will have to go with plan B and wear something controversial like a ‘Make Australia Great Again’ cap or a Collingwood football club jersey.”

When reached for comment over their low ratings a Sky News Spokesperson said: “When Lauren appeared on Rita Panahi’s show we had a record number of viewers, I mean we almost hit double figures.”

“It’s easy for people to dismiss Sky News over our low ratings but we are extremely vital to the discourse. I mean without us who would comedians make jokes about?”

Mark Williamson 

www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook

What is the Real Agenda Behind the Great “Twitter Purge”?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 16/07/2018 - 6:45am in

Kit On July 12th, Twitter launched their announced “purge”. Stripping roughly six percent of all the followers on the platform. Barack Obama lost millions, so did Katy Perry. The stated aim of the exercise was to increase “accuracy” of follower counts, thereby making them more “meaningful”. This was announced in Twitter’s official explanation on July 11th, the day before the “purge”: Twitter has claimed the power to simply force people to stop following certain accounts – they claim to only target “locked” accounts (this isn’t actually true, as we’ll see later), but even if it were…the grounds for “locking” an account are purely subjective. “Unusual activity” is the cited as the reason accounts are locked, and “unusual activity” can mean whatever they want it to mean. Whether or not YOU are considered a real person is now entirely up to people who have never met you, judging whether or not your behaviour is “unusual”. We know, from previous experience, how well this works, considering provably real people such as Ian56 and PartisanGirl were listed as …

Bert Newton And Barry Hall Sack David Leyonhjelm As Speech Writer

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/07/2018 - 8:28am in

Following a disastrous Logies speech and equally dismal radio performance Australian TV legend Bert Newton and Footballer Barry Hall have announced that they’ve sacked their speech writer Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm.

“David came highly recommended to me by Mark Latham and he seemed to say all the right stuff,” said Newton. “I guess I should’ve known he wasn’t much chop when I got the speech off him and it had the word poof in it. Sure I didn’t have to read it but I’m a thespian and I always recite my lines. What a disaster this’ll set me back further than when my Son Matthew had his troubles.”

When asked for comment on his sacking Senator Leyonhjelm said: “Those softcocks can go and get stuffed. I’m funny dammit and edgy and relevant. Bloody country has gone to the dogs. It’s political correctness gone mad.”

Upon hearing of his sacking Skynews has offered Leyonhjelm his own chat show which they hope will double the stations viewing numbers from 5 to 10 viewers.

Mark Williamson 

www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter or like us on facebook

The “Moral Panic” of Campus Free Speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 12:30am in

People get awfully solemn in the United States about the civic function of our institutions of higher education. They talk about college as the nursery of democracy and the care that we must take with our young people. As educators, the future is in our hands. I believe it is worth puncturing this solemnity with some awkward questions.

That’s Jeremy Waldron, University Professor at New York University, in a review of several books on questions regarding free speech on college campuses in The New York Review of Books.

He writes:

There’s a sort of moral panic going on: writer after writer, politician after politician, says we ought to be frightened about what’s happening on campuses because that is where the future of free speech will be determined.

Waldron discusses several different concerns of those worried about free speech on campus. One of these is that “colleges and universities cannot work as institutions of higher learning unless there is a spirit of unfettered inquiry in the research they undertake.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Speech, including controversial speech, is central to teaching and learning,” [Sigal] Ben-Porath writes. [Erwin] Chemerinsky and [Howard] Gillman devote a lot of attention to this as well. Historically the university has been a special domain of freedom, they say, and students are selling this heritage short when they shout down visiting speakers: “Campuses cannot censor or punish the expression of ideas, or allow intimidation or disruption of those who are expressing ideas, without undermining their core function of promoting inquiry, discovery, and the dissemination of new knowledge.” Claims like this sound more convincing than they are. Is the free research of mathematicians or philosophers or physicists really in peril because of how one group of students responds to an invitation to Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos? Most of the free speech issues on campus have nothing to do with the lectures, laboratories, or seminars in which academic freedom is implicated.

Aside from commencement addresses, a college or a university rarely invites or hosts speakers itself. Academic departments sometimes do, but few of the incidents that people complain about have involved speakers invited as part of a classroom series. Mostly it’s students showing off and trying to provoke and annoy one another. So we have to ask: What’s the connection supposed to be between the rough-and-tumble of student politics and academic freedom in the disciplined research undertaken in the schools and departments of the university?

I ask this because sometimes the complaints about student protests are quite absurd. Here’s a report from January 2016 in The Guardian: “Chris Patten, the chancellor of Oxford University, has told students involved in the campaign to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes that they must be prepared to embrace freedom of thought or ‘think about being educated elsewhere.’ Patten accused students who had criticised Rhodes, who regarded the English as racially superior, of trying to shut down debate. He said that by failing to face up to historical facts which they did not like, students were not abiding by the values of a liberal, open society that ‘tolerates freedom of speech across the board.'”

This is nonsense. The students weren’t trying to shut down debate; they were trying to open it up. A dreary statue of Cecil Rhodes on the front of Oriel College is hardly a focus of higher learning. (I don’t remember tutors taking their charges out onto the High Street to study it when I was at Oxford. If they had, why on earth wouldn’t a debate about Rhodes’s views on imperialism have been a perfectly appropriate learning experience?) It is typical of a moral panic to run together all the issues that make us uneasy. Patten’s comments here are an egregious instance of that. He is worried about students disrupting provocative political speeches and he is worried about students questioning the value of cherished memorials. He wants us to believe that the questioning and the disruption are the same thing, whereas they are more or less polar opposites.

The whole review is here. Readers may also be interested in remarks by Jacob Levy (McGill) on how “freedom of speech is not a value of universities.”

(via Mary Fratini)


Robert Rauschenberg – Statue of Liberty

The post The “Moral Panic” of Campus Free Speech appeared first on Daily Nous.

Lift the ban on communications! Free Julian Assange!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/06/2018 - 12:53am in

by James Coga, via WSWS June 6 will mark 10 weeks since the Ecuadorian government blocked all communication by WikiLeaks’ editor Julian Assange with the outside world, including personal visitors. Assange has been trapped inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, when Quito granted him asylum in the face of a legal witch-hunt by the governments of the United States, Britain and Sweden. Britain was moving to extradite Assange to Sweden on trumped-up allegations of sexual abuse as the first step in transferring him to the US to face charges of espionage, which carry a possible death sentence. Washington had vowed to punish Assange for having exposed before the world war crimes committed by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as US intrigues against other countries. In remarks last Wednesday, Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno attempted to defend the silencing of Assange. He sought to deny—unconvincingly—that this action was the outcome of his government’s capitulation to pressure and threats by the United States. Moreno put forward an Orwellian conception of freedom of speech …

Propornot 2 — Setting Up the Atlantic Council for Lawsuits

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/05/2018 - 2:22am in

by George H. Elias, Donbass Early in 2018, I pulled back the veil Propornot hid behind and disclosed the groups behind the smear site.  Propornot is a product of the Atlantic Council’s backers.  It is a symptom of the ongoing Information War.  People in the groups behind it are waging to destroy Press Freedom in the US by branding dissenting voices as objects of ridicule at best and enemies of the state at the worst. Below, you’ll see the results of yet another website scan, as well as circumstantial evidence showing the InterpreterMag and the Atlantic Council, are responsible for Propornot. The lawsuits are starting and because of the damage Propornot’s lists have done, will trickle down to the InterpreterMag staff,  the Atlantic Council, and their backers at some point. For those that don’t know, the Atlantic Council is brought to you by the Central and Eastern European Coalition (CEEC), the Ukrainian Congressional Committee of America (UCCA), and the Ukrainian World Congress(UWC). Between these three organizations, there is a constituency of 20 million voting ultranationalist …

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