Free Speech

WATCH TRAILER: “The Conspiracy Theorist”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/10/2018 - 12:00am in

In 2015 Florida Atlantic University abruptly terminated Professor James Tracy under what is alleged to have been a false pretext. When Tracy filed a federal civil rights lawsuit his attorneys “discovered how university officials repeatedly schemed to defeat Tracy’s First Amendment rights without violating the US Constitution.” From the makers of the film: After a corrupt federal court threw out most of Tracy’s claims it then prevented the jury from viewing crucial evidence. News outlets continued to denigrate Tracy while publicly misreporting the case. The Conspiracy Theorist sets the record straight through extensive interview footage of Tracy, his legal team, and university witnesses and defendants. Today social media play a gigantic role in our everyday lives. Will something you or your loved ones say online one day make you the target of harassment and defamation, perhaps even resulting in the loss of your livelihood? What happened to James Tracy could happen to you. Find out more HERE, or at Professor Tracy’s blog Please note that this is NOT about whether you or we agree with …

Reddit “Quarantines” 9/11 Truth Board

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/10/2018 - 12:15am in

On Septemtber 27th Reddit went on a surge of what it calls “quarantining”. Quarantining, in Reddit parlance, is putting certain boards behind warning screens, essentially placing a barrier between the public and the information. Some boards affected by this were r/TheRedPill and r/FULLCOMMUNISM (a full list of quarantined boards is available here). For the most part the boards are concerning political opinion – whether about gay marriage, religion or gender. Some of these boards are potentially racist (one is called “white pride”). The majority of these boards carry a warning along these lines: The 9/11 Truth board carries this warning: Note that: The warning is not about offensive speech or possibly disturbing images, but about “misinformation”. The warning suggests a government-run website as an alternative. Reddit is basically admitting, in their own warning, that this information is not offensive and is not hate speech. Their only concern is that it may be “misinformation”. In which case some questions become paramount: Who gets to decide what is “misinformation” and what isn’t? Is “misinformation” defined simply by …

Behind Your Back: How the new “anti-stalking” bill could silence online dissent

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 22/09/2018 - 12:00am in

John Ward MP Sarah Wollaston quite rightly wants the police to do more about (and tighten up the prosecution of) potentially dangerous stalkers. But now the crime includes “Cyber abuse”, her Private Member’s Bill is too lax in its definitions about what stalking is, and police guidelines on priorities. Equally worrying, a majority of those sponsoring the legislation have dubious elements in their pasts. In a special investigation, The Slog raises the alarm. Viewed in the round, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Tory MP Sarah Wollaston is a good egg. She isn’t Party voting fodder, she had a real job as a doctor before entering Parliament, she is suspicious of private sector health rip-offs, and she’s enormously popular in her Totnes constituency, where her ability to double and then treble majorities seems immune from the whimsical winds of electoral change as a whole. She espouses radical reform (in favour of the citizen) in how UK politics operate, and rebelled against the Government to vote against setting up a Royal Charter to regulate …

The Difference Between Snowflakes and Champions of Free Speech

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/09/2018 - 6:42pm in

What is the difference between those accused of being whiny, coddled, politically correct snowflakes and those who are considered brave champions of free speech?

If you speak up loudly for the social change, or complain about harms to the vulnerable, then you’re called a politically correct snowflake. If you speak up loudly for the status quo, or complain about harms to the powerful, then you’re called a champion of free speech.

We’ve seen this time and time again. Many kinds of speech given dismissive labels (such as “politically correct” or “grandstanding” or “censorship”) don’t differ structurally from many kinds of speech given complimentary labels (such as “politically incorrect” or “standing up for our values” or “calls for civility”); rather, they tend to differ in either who issued them, or whose interests they serve.

 

The latest iteration of this story is Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto psychology professor who markets himself as a fearlessly politically incorrect, tell-it-like-it-is, defender of free speech, threatening this past summer to sue Kate Manne, an assistant professor of philosophy at Cornell University, because she said things about him and his work that he didn’t like.

Manne, whose book Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny made its timely appearance last year, criticized Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life in a review of the book for the Times Literary Supplement and was interviewed about Peterson’s ideas at Vox.

The Cut reports:

In letters to Manne, Cornell, and Vox, Peterson’s lawyer, Howard Levitt, demanded that all three parties “immediately retract all of Professor Manne’s defamatory statements, have them immediately removed from the internet, and issue an apology in the same forum to Mr. Peterson. Otherwise, our client will take all steps necessary to protect his professional reputation, including but not limited to initiating legal proceedings against all of you for damages.”…

Among the statements Levitt objected to: Manne’s contention that Peterson’s book included “some really eyebrow-raising, authoritarian-sounding, and even cruel things,” as well as her observation that “it doesn’t seem accidental that [Peterson’s] skepticism about objective facts arises when it’s conveniently anti-feminist.” The lawyer and his client were equally unhappy with this line: “I also suspect that for many of Peterson’s readers, the sexism on display above is one tool among many to make forceful, domineering moves that are typical of misogyny.”

As journalist Irin Carmon notes:

Ironies abound, but one is that Manne—a young, untenured scholar who argues that misogyny isn’t about hatred as much as it is about enforcing hierarchies—is being threatened with legal action by an older man who ranks much higher than she does in the professional and cultural pecking order.

According to The Cut, Peterson’s lawyer, Levitt, said that it was a mistake to think the legal threat was an attempt to shut down Manne’s speech, and warned that to do so would “encourage the radical left practitioners of identity politics to avoid such debate by castigating our client with libelous false aspersions to avoid engaging in the constitutionally protected (and desired) clash of ideas.” Wait. Who’s avoiding the clash of ideas? Certainly not Manne. Have you seen her Twitter?

Below is the letter from Peterson’s lawyer (via The Cut):

You can read more about the story here.

UPDATE (10/1/18):Another instance of Peterson’s attempt to silence critics by threatening a lawsuit .

The post The Difference Between Snowflakes and Champions of Free Speech appeared first on Daily Nous.

When Social Networks Care About National Security

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 16/09/2018 - 11:00am in

Harry Bentham Controversies surrounding online fake news, having alarmed political activists in Britain and the US, are prompting social media companies to be more active in combating the alleged threat. For many people in opposition to the policies of US President Donald Trump and Britain’s exit from the EU, the internet is to blame for the situation because it illicitly influenced voters. As a result, increased policing of social networks to root out foreign spies and domestic dissidents seems necessary to them. One of the latest examples is Twitter’s permanent suspension of American conspiracy theorist entertainer Alex Jones. The responsibility to police the social networks seems to have largely been placed, by pushy and concerned politicians, on the management of tech companies themselves. British MPs and US senators did this by summoning them to hearings and campaigning openly against the internet’s permissiveness on political content, making demands they should shut down dissident and foreign outlets because they have gone too far. Although the most vocal of them are not actually in the incumbent government and …

Amazon Censorship of 9/11 Unmasked?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 16/09/2018 - 7:00am in

Edward Curtin On September 10, 2018, I published a laudatory review of the new book, 9/11 Unmasked: An International Review Panel Investigation by David Ray Griffin and Elizabeth Woodworth.  It is the definitive book on the defining event of the 21st century.  The book concludes that the official version(s) of the attacks of 11 September 2001 are false.  The review was subsequently reposted at many publications. There was great reader response and interest in the book, which was due for official release the next day, 11 September.  My review provided a link to the book’s Amazon page that noted the 11 September availability date. By the next day readers were responding in great number that the Amazon site was reporting the book was “out of print,” when in fact it had just been published.  This “out of print” notification lasted until the evening of 13 September when it was changed to “in stock on September 30, 2018.” By the following morning it was changed to “in stock on September 21, 2018,” only to be changed …

Debate Debacle

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 06/09/2018 - 5:00pm in


Debate! The highest form of communication. You have to listen to every idea - even if that idea is “you should be dead.”

Universities as a Bulwark Against (and Target of) Fascism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/09/2018 - 10:57pm in

“Fascist politics seeks to undermine the credibility of institutions that harbor independent voices of dissent,” says Jason Stanley (Yale), and chief among such institutions are universities, which for the past 50 years have been “the epicenter of protest against injustice and authoritarian overreach.”

In an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education that is adapted from his new book, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, Professor Stanley looks at a few different kinds of fascist attack on universities. One is attempting to portray universities as hostile to free speech.

Right now, a contemporary right-wing campaign is charging universities with hypocrisy on the issue of free speech. Universities, it says, claim to hold free speech in the highest regard but suppress any voices that don’t lean left. Critics of campus social-justice movements have found an effective method of turning themselves into the victims of protest. They contend that protesters mean to deny them their own free speech…

Some will argue that a university must have representatives of all positions. Such an argument suggests that being justified in our own positions requires regularly grappling with opposing ones (and that there was no room for those views in the first place). Anyone who has taught philosophy knows that it is often useful to confront cogent defenses of opposing positions, and universities unquestionably benefit from intelligent and sophisticated proponents of positions along the political spectrum. Nevertheless, the general principle, upon reflection, is not particularly plausible.

No one thinks that the demands of free inquiry require adding researchers to university faculties who seek to demonstrate that the earth is flat. Similarly, I can safely and justifiably reject ISIS ideology without having to confront its advocates in the classroom or faculty lounge. I do not need to have a colleague who defends the view that Jewish people are genetically predisposed to greed in order to justifiably reject such anti-Semitic nonsense. Nor is it even remotely plausible that bringing such voices to campus would aid arguments against such toxic ideologies. More likely, it would undermine intelligent debate by leading to breakdowns of communication and shouting matches.

Universities should supply the intellectual tools to allow an understanding of all perspectives. But the best way to achieve that is to hire the most academically qualified professors. No method of adjudicating academic quality will be free from controversy. But trying to evade that difficulty by forcing universities to hire representatives of every ideological position is a particularly implausible fix, one that can perhaps be justified only by a widespread conspiracy theory about academic standards being hijacked by, say, a supposed epidemic of “political correctness.”

Professor Stanley discusses politicians’ attacks on gender studies and attempts to fight efforts at diversifying university curricula. He also draws striking parallels between expressed desires of some U.S. politicians and the widely condemned authoritarian attacks on academia that took place in Turkey and Hungary.

These ideas are also developed in a related piece by Professor Stanley at Boston Reviewwhich focuses on how the benefits of a Millian “marketplace in ideas” can be undermined through conspiracy mongering and other forms of sowing distrust among citizens and distrust of academia and the press:

Allowing every opinion into the public sphere and giving it serious time for consideration, far from resulting in a process that is conducive to knowledge formation via deliberation, destroys its very possibility. Responsible media in a liberal democracy must, in the face of this threat, try to report the truth, and resist the temptation to report on every possible theory, no matter how fantastical, just because someone, somewhere, advances it. 

Models of free speech that allow “conspiracy theories to have a platform on par with reasonable, fact-based positions” are dangerous:

When conspiracy theories become the coin of politics citizens no longer have a common reality that can serve as background for democratic deliberation. In such a situation, citizens have no choice but to look for markers to follow other than truth or reliability; as we see across the world, they look to politics for tribal identifications, for addressing personal grievances, and for entertainment. When news becomes sports, the strongman achieves a certain measure of popularity. Fascist politics transforms the news from a conduit of information and reasoned debate into a spectacle with the strongman as the star. 

Fascist politics seeks to undermine trust in the press and universities. But the information sphere of a healthy democratic society does not include just democratic institutions. Spreading general suspicion and doubt undermines the bonds of mutual respect between fellow citizens, leaving them with deep wells of mistrust not just toward institutions but also toward one another. Fascist politics seeks to destroy the relations of mutual respect between citizens that are the foundation of a healthy liberal democracy, replacing them ultimately with trust in one figure alone, the leader. When fascist politics is at its most successful, the leader is regarded by the followers as singularly trustworthy.

You read more of these pieces in The Chronicle of Higher Education and Boston Review.


Arnold Böcklin, “Isle of the Dead” (fifth version)

The post Universities as a Bulwark Against (and Target of) Fascism appeared first on Daily Nous.

WATCH: Problem Reaction Solution: Internet Censorship Edition

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 26/08/2018 - 2:00am in

In episode 344 of The Corbett Report, James discusses the new push to shut down alternative voices on the internet. Links, sources, show notes and an audio-only version can be found here. Don’t be an idiot! The government is NOT going to be the neutral arbiters of the internet and the big tech companies are NOT monopolies unless YOU forfeit your responsibility and use their controlled platforms. The answers to the social media crackdown are already here and it is your choice whether the alternatives that already exist thrive or die. It’s up to you. Choose wisely.

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.

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