- Soon after reports that World Health Organization wants to keep kids from viewing classic films depicting smoking, purported class action lawsuit seeks damages from Hollywood for not instituting such a ratings policy [Courthouse News]
- UK police arrest another man over dumb political tweet, defend our First Amendment to make sure such things don’t happen here in US [Telegraph] “How about we ‘defend European values’ by not arresting people who say stupid things?” [Brendan O’Neill, Spectator]
- The monocle that blinked: New Yorker magazine now often found on wrong side of free speech issues [Jamie Kirchick/Commentary, earlier]
- What does Donald Trump really think about suing the press? Ann Althouse goes line by line through what he told the Washington Post at an editorial board meeting [earlier here, here, etc.]
- High court should step in against law regulating speech regarding ballot measures by small, low-budget groups [John Kramer, Institute for Justice on Justice v. Hosemann] Paul Sherman of Institute for Justice joins Trevor Burrus and Aaron Ross Powell for a discussion of the First Amendment, political and occupational speech [Libertarianism.org]
- Merrick Garland’s record on First Amendment issues [Ronald Collins] State of play in the Supreme Court on First Amendment cases this term [same; published before 4-4 outcome in Friedrichs]
Remember that “scientists’ letter” in which twenty or so credentialed scientists signed their names to a letter asking that so-called climate deniers be investigated, as Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) had been demanding? On inquiry, however, some of the signatories did not seem to know much about the letter or to be particularly committed to the idea. According to David Rifkin and Andrew Grossman’s new Wall Street Journal piece (ungated here), open records requests have now established that the letter was coordinated by Sen. Whitehouse himself. Background here, here, etc.
Rifkin and Grossman also announce the formation of a new, and badly needed, Free Speech in Science Project. “The project will fund legal advice and defense to those who need it, while executing an offense to turn the tables on abusive officials.”
- Unbowed by terror: interview with heroic Danish editor Flemming Rose [Simon Cottee/The Atlantic]
- “If The Left Had Its Way On Citizens United, ‘Funny Or Die’ Would Not Be Allowed To Ridicule Trump” [Luke Wachob, Independent Journal]
- Justice Department considers push for law criminalizing support of domestic terror groups [Reuters] Per federally funded police-support center, possible indicators of “extremist and disaffected individuals” include display of “Don’t Tread on Me” flag [Jesse Walker, Reason]
- U.S. BigLaw firm Squire Patton Boggs represents Venezuela as it tries to shut down U.S.-published DolarToday for publishing data about inflation [Jim Wyss/Miami Herald, Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica, earlier here, etc.]
- When scandal broke about IRS targeting of opposing groups, even President Obama talked about accountability. After press attention waned came refusal to press charges, whitewash, denial [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today]
- Bad, bad bar: behind recent rise in blasphemy prosecutions in Pakistan is a lawyers’ group [Reuters]
I’ve got a new piece at Cato noting that an important plank of American political consensus over the past century — that it’s wrong to disrupt and shout down your opponents’ speeches and events — seems to be on the verge of collapsing. An obvious parallel, of course, is to the speech-intolerant “shut-’em-down” culture on many American campuses; but the actions of Black Lives Matter supporters in taking over microphones and blockading freeways have also played an important role.
I begin the piece with the story of a speech I attended at a Federalist Society event last Friday at which Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was shouted down by a squad of disrupters sent, incredibly, by the (c)(4) affiliate of a major think tank in Washington, the Center for American Progress:
— Generation Progress (@genprogress) March 11, 2016
(“Today at @SenOrrinHatch’s SCOTUS book event, we said #DoYourJob and vote on on a SCOTUS nominee. They didn’t listen.”)
To which @thomasehopson replied:
— Thomas Hopson (@thomasehopson) March 11, 2016
More thoughts on shoutdowns and organized heckling as a tactic: Ed Krayewski; Eugene Volokh on the legality/illegality of disrupting events and of some responses to disruption. And: while left-on-right disruption appears to have been more common in recent years, note also this coverage of the equally objectionable other way round, from an Austin town hall on ObamaCare. Plus, Marc Thiessen: disrupters go after Trump rallies in well-organized groups. Yet a “responsible leader tries to calm a volatile situation.”
- Some profs still deny: “The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus” [Conor Friedersdorf]
- Student demands at Western Washington University would “create an almost cartoonishly autocratic liberal thought police on campus” [Robby Soave] After University of Kansas professor tried awkwardly to discuss her own white privilege, students took offense and things haven’t gone well for her [Robby Soave: update, Althouse]
- Feds equivocate on whether notorious campus “Dear Colleague” letter has force of law [Hans Bader, CEI; George Leef, Pope Center; me on the letter in 2013]
- Yale expels the captain of its basketball team, and KC Johnson has some questions Minding the Campus, Academic Wonderland]
- I wanted to scream about insensitive canoe discourse in Canada and there was no one to hear me but the loons [CBC] And an instant classic: feminist glaciology framework for a more just and equitable science and “human-ice interactions” [Sage Journals; U. of Oregon, part of $412K NSF grant]
- Lose that worldview, citizen: attending public Oklahoma university requires “changing our worldview to accommodate others’ experiences of oppression.” [Audra Brulc via @DouglasLevene]
- Sequel to Driehaus case on penalizing inaccurate campaign speech: “A Final Goodbye to Ohio’s Ministry of Truth” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato; earlier here, here]
- FCC commissioner Ajit Pai: U.S. tradition of free expression slipping away [Washington Examiner]
- Québécois comedian Mike Ward is already out $100,000 in legal fees after discovering how CHRC can stand for Crushes Humor, Ruins Comedy [Gavin McInnes, The Federalist]
- 10th Circuit free speech win: Colorado can’t shackle small-group speech against ballot measure [Coalition for Secular Government v. Williams, earlier]
- New York Times goes after publisher of “War Is Beautiful” book: are picture thumbnails fair use? [Virginia Postrel, earlier]
- Constitutional? Not quite: Illinois bill would ban posting “video of a crime being committed” “with the intent to promote or condone that activity” [Eugene Volokh]
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]