Denmark had allowed its old blasphemy law to fall into disuse, but now it’s reviving prosecutions by way of its ban on hate speech purportedly aimed at religious groups [Jacob Mchangama, Columbia U. Global Freedom of Expression & Information Jurisprudence Project]
While on the topic of presidential candidates’ disturbing views on speech: Matt Welch recalls the former Secretary of State’s many campaigns against controversial videogames, ads, and entertainment, her regular support for government intrusion in communications technology and social media on a rationale of national security, and her far from wholehearted defense of speech values when an inflammatory amateur YouTube video caused riots in Muslim nations [“Hail to the Censor! Hillary Clinton’s long war on free speech,” Reason] Nor should we forget the Citizens United case, which arose from a legal effort to suppress a critical movie made about her: Mrs. Clinton imagines that “allowing more campaign-related speech has made elections less competitive” [Jacob Sullum, Reason] More/update: Matt Welch.
While we’re at it: that period of his career when Bernie Sanders bent himself in knots to rationalize government censorship of opposition voices. [Michael Moynihan, Daily Beast] Bonus: Bernie sees brighter side of breadlines!
When a self-promoter trolls the online outrage machine, freedom of travel and assembly wind up as collateral damage [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason on the “Roosh” furor and resulting shut-him-down efforts; Daily Mail] The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey speaks to Southern Poverty Law Center official Heidi Beirich who seems to find it regrettable that “a guy with a blog” should get so much free publicity, seeming to forget who gave him so much of it.
Say, how about letting random juries in sympathetic damages cases determine the boundaries of free speech? Twitter “is being sued by the widow of an American killed in Jordan… [Tamara Fields] said Twitter knowingly let the militant Islamist group use its network to spread propaganda, raise money and attract recruits.” [Reuters]
- Malheur standoff: here come the self-styled “citizens’ grand jury” hobbyists [Oregonian, my two cents on this branch of folk law, earlier]
- Your egg-flipping, coffee-guzzling grandma was right all along about nutrition, federal government now seems gradually to be conceding [Washington Post]
- “Obama’s State of the Union pledge to push for bipartisan redistricting reform was a late add” [L.A. Times, Politico, American Prospect, Todd Eberly on Twitter, some earlier takes here and here]
- More Charlie Hebdo retrospectives after a year [Anthony Fisher, Reason] Another bad year for blasphemers [Sarah McLaughlin, more] The magazine’s false friends [Andrew Stuttaford; hadn’t realized that departing NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, who so curiously compared the magazine’s contents to “hate speech unprotected by the Constitution,” has lately held “the James Madison Visiting Professorship on First Amendment Issues” at the Columbia School of Journalism]
- “The Ten Most Significant Class Action Cases of 2015” [Andrew Trask]
- More from Cato on Obama’s “mishmash” of executive orders on guns [Adam Bates, Tim Lynch, Emily Ekins]
- The “worst and most counter-productive legal complaint that’s been filed in a long, long time” [Barry Rascovar, Maryland Reporter on move by ACLU of Maryland/NAACP Legal Defense Fund to challenge as racially discriminatory the decision to cancel construction of a new Baltimore subway line]
- “Charlie Hebdo editor: Censorship must not win” [Charb/New York Post] Today, on anniversary of that attack, Cato hosts free speech attorney Robert Corn-Revere on “The Assassin’s Veto,” with comments from GWU lawprof Catherine Ross, moderated by John Samples [details, and watch live]
- Florida lawmakers muzzle doctors’ comments to patients regarding guns. 11th Circuit says okay. No, not okay [Ken White, Eugene Volokh]
- The ‘speech integral to criminal conduct’ exception, important in early free speech law, has come roaring back [Eugene Volokh; for the role of this doctrine in the Oregon cake case, see my post then and his]
- Good news if you’re a Wisconsin conservative who forgot to archive your emails: that nice John Doe prosecutor secretly did it for you [Watchdog]
- From Federalist Society national lawyers’ convention, Prof. Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz interviews Kirsten Powers on her new book The Silencing (wobbly audio in early minutes, which eventually clears);
- “Ex-tenant barred from saying that ex-landlord had been in the Witness Protection Program, ‘[r]egardless of the truth or falsity of this information'” [Volokh]
- Lawprof Eric Posner wants to roll back First Amendment to curb ISIS recruitment. Hell, no [ABA Journal, Anthony Fisher/Reason, Ken White/Popehat]
- “What student protestors should learn from bygone free speech fights” [Conor Friedersdorf]
- You’d expect Oberlin students to have some of the very best demands and you won’t be disappointed [Blake Neff/Daily Caller, my earlier Storify on student demands around the country] “Soon enough, microaggression monitoring was on the table” at Occidental College, and secret snitches will help [Scott Greenfield] President of Washington, D.C.’s American University responds to student demands. tl;dr version: “How high?”
- Diversity means cracking down on religious colleges that discriminate based on church dogma. Right? [Scott Greenfield] Human Rights Campaign huffs and puffs about (perfectly legal) religious-college Title IX exemptions [Washington Post, HRC] Canadian judge: B.C. provincial law society wrongly barred accreditation for conservative Christian law school [Globe and Mail, earlier]
- Just out: “Free Speech on College Campuses” issue of Cato Unbound leads with Greg Lukianoff (“Campus Free Speech Has Been in Trouble for a Long Time”), with responses to follow from Eric Posner and Catherine Ross;
- The year in campus hysteria [Ashe Schow/Examiner]
- Feds’ diversity bureaucracy has engaged in epic power grab in past couple of years, Congress’s omnibus spending bill rewards them with 7 percent funding hike [PowerLine, Bader and earlier, Schow/Examiner]
- “ACLU Silence Enables Campus Anti-free Speech Movement” [Nat Hentoff; related, Emily Ekins]
- Venezuela files suit in U.S. against American website, Dolar Today, that is critical of its currency policies [George Selgin]
- Michigan: “Felony prosecution for distributing pro-jury-nullification leaflets outside courthouse” [Eugene Volokh, earlier here, here, etc.] More: Judge tosses Denver D.A.’s attempt to jail jury nullification pamphleteers [Jacob Sullum, earlier]
- Federal agencies should not get to decide for themselves whether they’re violating the First Amendment [Ilya Shapiro, Cato on cert petition in POM Wonderful v. Federal Trade Commission]
- “After all, a wall can be built around many things, but not around the First Amendment.” One election lawyer’s response to cease/desist letter from Donald Trump [Chris Cillizza/Washington Post, letter courtesy Politico]
- Court in Turkey considering a doctor’s comparison of Turkish President Erdogan with “Lord of Rings” character Gollum, and the results are preciousss [Sarah McLaughlin, Popehat]
- Update on climatologist Michael Mann’s defamation suit, still in progress [Jonathan Adler, earlier]
- Attacks on the right to speak one’s mind are multiplying. Would better civics education help? [George Leef, Forbes]
Environmentalist writer Bill McKibben, often cited as a key intellectual influence behind the push to have some climate advocacy by business declared illegal, concedes to a friendly interviewer that he’s “not sure what the legality of all this is” concerning ExxonMobil’s alleged conduct: “one assumes that there is something illegal about that, but, even if there isn’t…” [Rolling Stone] William Tucker alleges, based on his account of a personal encounter some years back, that the New Yorker writer himself elects to de-emphasize as politically unhelpful (as opposed to actually false) some scientific insights favorable to nuclear generation of electricity [Real Clear Energy, no #McKibbenKnew hashtag yet]
Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman confirmed to Judy Woodruff that donations to “climate denial organizations” such as the center-right American Enterprise Institute (!) are central to his probe [PBS] I worked at AEI back in the 1980s but have no recollection of spending time on any issues related to climate change, although perhaps I had better wait for the subpoena before saying anything definitive.
Daniel Fisher at Forbes notes the likely course of the “fishing expedition”: “if you are the New York attorney general you can create public theater to bring pressure on a particular defendant.” Fisher notes that oil majors face political risks in Africa, central Asia and thanks to our feckless politicians, the United States too (duplicate link fixed now). Michael Bastasch at the Daily Caller notes evidence that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), an impresario of the climate prosecution push, conferred behind the scenes with scientists who signed a letter endorsing the effort. And Richard Epstein discusses the various developments in a Hoover podcast.
Of the demands being made by protesters in the current wave of unrest on American campuses, some no doubt are well grounded and worth considering. Some of them, on the other hand, challenge academic freedom head on. Some would take control of curriculum and hiring out of the hands of faculty. Some would enforce conformity of thought. Some would attack the rights of dissenters. Some would merely gut the seriousness of the university.
Last night I did a long series of tweets drawing on a website which sympathetically compiles demands from campus protests — TheDemands.org — and noting some of the more troublesome instances:
- From Dartmouth: “All professors will be required to be trained in not only cultural competency but also the importance of social justice in their day-to-day work.”
- From Wesleyan: “An anonymous student reporting system for cases of bias, including microaggressions, perpetrated by faculty and staff.”
- From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “White professors must be discouraged from leading and teaching departments about demographics and societies colonized, massacred, or enslaved under white supremacy.”
- From Guilford College: “We suggest that every week a faculty member come forward and publicly admit their participation in racism inside the classroom via a letter to the editor” in the college paper.