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Obama Supports (And Suppresses) Free Speech on Campus by David Bernstein

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education reports: “For the second time this year, President Barack Obama publicly defended the importance of free speech on campus.”

The president’s defense is pretty good, though I’d prefer if he had pointed out more directly that left-wing campus activists should embrace free speech not just because it will make them more effective, but also because they should be open to the possibility that they are wrong on issues.

But that’s not why I’m giving the president only two cheers. Rather, it’s because the Obama administration was responsible for undermining freedom of speech on campus, and the president allowed that to happen. Here is the relevant excerpt from my new book Lawless:

In May 2013, OCR [the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights] and the Justice Department jointly sent a letter to the University of Montana memorializing a settlement to a sexual harassment case brought against the university. The letter stated that it was intended to “serve as a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.”

Ignoring Supreme Court precedent, the First Amendment, and OCR’s own previous guidance, the letter declares that “sexual harassment should be more broadly defined as ‘any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct,” regardless of whether it is objectively offensive or sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile environment.

As FIRE pointed out in a blistering critique, this meant that the federal government was trying to impose a breathtakingly broad nationwide university speech code “that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser.” OCR was trying to force universities to ban “any expression related to sexual topics that offends any person.”

So, for example, universities would be required to punish a student for telling a “sexually themed joke overheard by any person who finds that joke offensive for any reason,” or for “any request for dates or any flirtation that is not welcomed by the recipient of such a request or flirtation.”

Fortunately, a few months later, OCR got a new leader, Catherine Lhamon. Lhamon wrote in a letter to FIRE that “the agreement in the Montana case represents the resolution of that particular case and not OCR or DOJ policy.” She also reiterated that OCR’s understanding of hostile environment harassment in educational settings is “consistent” with the Supreme Court’s [much narrower] definition. OCR even allowed the University of Montana to disregard some of the requirements of the agreement.

But despite FIRE’s urging, OCR failed to issue any clarification of the Dear Colleague letter it had sent to the thousands of colleges and universities.

It would be tempting to attribute the original OCR letter to rogue bureaucrats at OCR, but we can’t since the Justice Department signed on as well. So while I appreciate the president’s stated commitment to freedom of speech on campus and am relieved that OCR isn’t trying to enforce the Montana guidance, one is left to wonder how that guidance got through two separate Obama administration bureaucracies to begin with.

This post first appeared at the Volokh Conspiracy ©.

David E. Bernstein

David E. Bernstein

David E. Bernstein is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law.

Government Can’t Censor Content — Even If It’s ‘For Your Own Good’ by Evan Bernick

Will a recent Supreme Court decision unleash more speech than Americans can handle?

In a recent New York Times article, reporter Adam Liptak (rightly) refers to Reed v. Town of Gilbert as “the sleeper case of the last Supreme Court term.” Liptak spoke with Robert Post, First Amendment scholar and dean of Yale Law School, and Floyd Abrams, constitutional lawyer and free-speech advocate.

In Reed, the Court invalidated a town sign code that treated signs promoting church services more harshly than signs promoting other messages, and made plain that such content-based restrictions on speech must undergo strict judicial scrutiny.

Abrams praised the decision; Dean Post, according to Liptak, predicted that it will “endanger[] all sorts of laws,” “roll consumer protection back to the 19th century,” and “destabilize First Amendment law.”

Those, like Abrams, who believe that “the First Amendment is about liberty” and that “we all lose by reading it narrowly” should welcome the ruling in Reed and pay no heed to Post’s parade of horribles.

Reed resolved an ambiguity that had confused lower courts for decades and rendered many Americans’ freedom to speak uncertain in important areas. In so doing, Reed honored the broad mandate of the First Amendment, which prohibits any law “abridging the freedom of speech,” making no exception for certain messages, ideas, or subject matters — regardless of whether the government promises that curbing speech is for our own good.

How did we get to Reed? The first major case to focus on content-based speech restrictions was Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley (1972), which concerned a Chicago ordinance that barred picketing within 150 feet of schools during the school day — except for picketing related to labor disputes.

The Court invalidated the ordinance because the government provided no credible evidence that labor picketing was less likely to be disruptive than other forms of picketing.

To selectively proscribe speech on the basis of its subject matter, said the Court, is to “completely undercut the ‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide open.’”

Subsequent cases would make clear that intent to censor is not essential to a determination that a restriction on speech is content-based; if the government had to inspect the content of speech to determine how it could be regulated, that was sufficient to trigger strict scrutiny.

But the nature of the Court’s content-based jurisprudence became muddled as it began to review First Amendment challenges to local zoning rules concerning adult businesses. These zoning rules clearly regulated speech based on its subject matter — they only applied to businesses whose expression was sexually explicit.

However, in City of Renton v. Playtime Theaters, Inc. (1986), the Court concluded that an ordinance targeting theaters that specialize in sexually explicit films was content-neutral and, thus, not subject to strict scrutiny, because it was “justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech” — specifically, because “the Renton ordinance is aimed not at the content of the films… but rather at the secondary effects of such theaters on the surrounding community.”

Renton was hotly debated by First Amendment scholars at the time, and scholar Laurence Tribe expressed concern that the newly-minted secondary effects doctrine would “undermine the very foundation of the content-based/content neutral distinction.”

In Ward v. Rock Against Racism (1989), Tribe’s concern was validated. Ward involved a content-neutral rule that required the use of city-provided sound equipment at concerts in Central Park, regardless of what was being performed.

Drawing upon Renton, the Court stated that the “[t]he principal inquiry in determining content neutrality… is whether the government has adopted a regulation of speech because of disagreement with the message it conveys.”

Some lower courts understood Ward to stand for the proposition that facially discriminatory laws — that is, laws that identify regulated speech based on its content — could be treated as content-neutral for purposes of the First Amendment, so long as the courts believed that those laws were enacted for public-spirited reasons.

But since government officials always profess benign intentions, proving censorial intent proved difficult. The result: the proliferation of speech restrictions, including licensing schemes restricting occupational speech (such as that of tour guides, interior designers, and veterinarians), panhandling bans, and noise ordinances that exempt certain noises from regulation depending on either their message or who is speaking.

Reed v. Town of Gilbert was a perfect example of this trend. In the decision below in Reed, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Gilbert’s sign code was “content-neutral” because of the town’s assurances that it had no intention to discriminate.

To combat this censorial trend, when the Supreme Court granted certiorari inReed, the Institute for Justice filed an amicus brief urging the Court to clarify that strict scrutiny applies:

  1. If a law expressly requires the government to look at the content of speech in determining whether or not it is subject to regulation, or
  2. When a law’s purpose is to censor messages with certain subject matters or viewpoints.

And thankfully, to the benefit of speakers across the country, the Supreme Court did exactly that.

Writing for the Court, Justice Thomas explained,

A law that is content based on its face is subject to strict scrutiny regardless of the government’s benign motive, content-neutral justification, or lack of ‘animus’ toward the ideas contained in the regulated speech.

The Court easily concluded that the sign code at issue classified signs on the basis of their content because whether or not the restrictions applied to any given sign “depend[ed] entirely on the communicative content of the sign.”

Having done so, the Court went on to perform the kind of truth-seeking judicial engagement that is required to ensure that the government does not act as a censor, insisting that the government demonstrate, with reliable evidence, that it was pursuing a compelling interest through means narrowly tailored to that end.

The town failed to carry its burden. Although the town claimed that the sign code “preserv[ed] the Town’s aesthetic appeal” and protected “traffic safety,” the town “allow[ed] unlimited numbers of other types of signs that create the same problem[s]” and did not demonstrate that “directional signs pose a greater threat to safety than do ideological or political signs.”

Even assuming that the town’s stated interests were compelling, the Court concluded that the sign code was insufficiently narrowly tailored to pass constitutional muster.

Which brings us to the present where, as Liptak observes, Reed is already having an impact.

In the wake of Reed, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals revisited an ordinance barring panhandling in the “downtown historic district” of Springfield, Illinois.

Last year, the Seventh Circuit had upheld the ordinance as content-neutral, even though an officer enforcing the ordinance would have to listen to the content of the speaker’s message in order to determine whether the ordinance had been violated. (A request for a charitable donation might be impermissible, but a request for a commercial transaction would not.)

Following Reed, the Seventh Circuit accepted a petition for rehearing and a unanimous panel invalidated the Springfield ordinance. Judge Easterbrook, writing for the panel, recognized the broad scope of Reed’s holding: “Any law distinguishing one kind of speech from another by reference to its meaning now requires a compelling justification.”

Although Reed reaffirmed the Court’s historical (and highly critical) view of content-based regulation, not everyone sees the ruling as cause for celebration. But Dean Post’s specific criticisms are unwarranted.

Although Post argues that the decision could undermine restrictions on misleading advertising and professional malpractice, such laws have coexisted with the First Amendment for over 200 years, and there is no reason to believe that the Court’s decision will change that. Nor will Reed destabilize our First Amendment law; it stabilizes that law by providing much-needed guidance to lower courts.

Dean Post’s real complaint is that, for over a quarter century, the Court has gradually shifted away from his preferred theory of the First Amendment — one that would allow the government to privilege certain favored categories of speech — towards a more libertarian view, which leaves such judgments about the value of speech to the free choices of Americans. Reed v. Town of Gilbert is simply the most recent step in that evolution, and it is nothing to be afraid of.

In Reed, the Court affirmed that the government is not free to pick and choose what topics it would prefer Americans speak about or what information they can be trusted with, even if the government earnestly professes that it has our best interests at heart. Reed will help to ensure that speech remains uninhibited, robust, and wide open.

A version of this article first appeared at the Huffington Post.

Evan Bernick
Evan Bernick

Evan is the Assistant Director of the Center for Judicial Engagement at the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm.

A Modest Proposal For Ending Campus Microaggressions

While college students have been touring Europe, saving rainforests, or interning at high-powered government offices, college faculty and administrators have been preparing for the upcoming school year and the biggest problem that afflicts our institutions of higher learning: microaggressions.

Many people are unaware of microaggressions, but they lurk around every corner, in every classroom, dorm room, locker room, library cubicle, coffee shop, cafeteria, and under every tree and shrub on our bucolic campuses.

The journal that reports on everything important on our campuses, the Chronicle of Higher Education, explains microaggressions. This summer, it featured two lead articles on the problem.

The first, an essay, “Microaggression and Changing Moral Cultures” by sociology professors Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning, offers a good definition: “Microaggressions are remarks perceived as sexist, racist, or otherwise offensive to a marginalized social group.” And, “even though the offenses are minor and sometimes unintentional, repeatedly experiencing them causes members of minority groups great harm, which must be redressed.”

A fellow University of Virginia sociologist, Donald Black, elaborates: moral cultures are products of social conditions, and “acts of social dominance — such as belittling someone with insults,” are “more offensive in places or relationships where people are relatively equal. Likewise, acts of cultural intolerance. . . .” (The full disquisition is here.)

The Groundbreaking Discovery of Microaggressions

Chronicle reporter Peter Schmidt, in the companion investigative piece, reveals that microaggressions were discovered back in 1970 by Charles M. Pierce, a professor of education and psychiatry at Harvard’s medical school.

Those who still have images of the Confederate flag or Playboy centerfolds in their subconscious need special workshops, led by sociology and psychology professors.

In those days, the scourge was limited to “the subtle slights and insults that black people regularly experience at the hands of people who do not see themselves as racist.”

Thirty-seven years later, “a detailed taxonomy” of microaggressions was published in the American Psychologist, with the lead author of the research team and crack scientist Derald Wing Sue, a professor of psychology and education at Columbia Teachers College. In 2010, came the definitive Microaggressions in Everyday Life.

Sue explains that solutions are not as simple as, say, taking down Confederate flags and Playboy centerfolds from faculty office doors. Those who still have images of the Confederate flag or Playboy centerfolds in their subconscious need special workshops, led by sociology and psychology professors.

Most academics, being the placid creatures that they are, go along, accepting such directives as the price they have to pay for being able to work in cut-offs and Birkenstocks. But there are resisters, such as Eugene Volokh, a University of California-Los Angeles law professor, who defiantly writes, “I am going to keep on microaggressing.” No doubt Volokh has a bomb shelter filled with freeze-dried food staples and adorned with a Confederate flag.

The Solution: More Sociology Professors

Perhaps the professor needs a little explaining? Here is something from the Chronicle:

We can better understand complaints about microaggression and the reactions to them if we understand that each side of the debate draws from a different moral culture. Those calling attention to microaggressions have rejected the morality dominant among middle-class Americans during the 20th century — what sociologists and historians have sometimes called a dignity culture, which abhors private vengeance and encourages people to. . . . (This message would best be delivered to Volokh with a trickling water fountain and soft Indian zither music in the background.)

With professors across the land trained in conflict resolution and peace studies, we have hope. Consider the sociology professors’ thoughtful conclusion:

“Surely each side would benefit from a better understanding of the other. Debates might be more fruitful, and relationships on campus more collegial, if we more carefully considered the moral concerns of those who disagree with us. That does not mean the conflict engendered by this moral divide won’t or shouldn’t go on.”
I like that. There can never be too many discussions, meetings, roundtables, training sessions, reports, memos, marches, peace circles, teach-ins, sing-alongs, and group hugs at our institutions of higher learning.

Passing the Microaggression Baton to a New Generation

Here is what is happening in the new frontier of ending hurtful things: Students are reporting microaggressions through such places as the student-initiated Microaggression Project. Others use Facebook. Binghamton University, Brown University, Wellesley College, and Yale University lead the way. Thanks to being properly educated about the “Red Scare,” students are not burdened by misgivings.

Even sweet grandmas need re-education.

Some institutions have followed students’ lead and now have an “institutionalized recognition of microaggression.” Ithaca College has passed a bill “calling for a campuswide online system through which students could anonymously report microaggressions.”

At Fordham University, students describe microaggressions they have suffered in a mug-shot digital photo project. One plaint, about being asked, “So . . . you’re Chinese, right?” made me weep with guilt. Microaggressions can also happen far off campus. They occur when a female student is asked by a female relative if she has met “any nice boys.” Perhaps committees could prepare a brochure for freshpersons to take with them to protect them from such microaggressions from Grandma as the turkey is passed around? Even sweet grandmas need re-education.

There is one safeguard I wished I’d had when I was working as a graduate teaching assistant and being bombarded with microaggressions from freshmen who said they needed “at least a B” to keep their HOPE scholarships: A union contract. The Wisconsin graduate student union contract, for example, protects against microaggressions.

But in that most advanced state, California, the entire university system has issued guidelines to faculty, warning that such statements as “America is a melting pot” or “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” could be considered microaggressions.

Here, close to where I live and work in a safe space called the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, the local college responds to students’ needs with unequaled dedication. Last December, way-stations in the library assisted students assaulted with the trauma of final exams. One table offered coloring books and crayons, another jigsaw puzzles, another Legos. A bulletin board was set up for sharing tips. One heart-felt Post-It note read simply, “Cry!”

Colleges Target Microaggressions

According to a top-secret memo leaked to me, it appears that Hamilton College committees have put the same diligence into coming up with ways to combat microaggressions.

Imagine what would happen were a student to encounter a menu with fried chicken and watermelon!
The Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion has been toiling away for nigh a year now. The members have presented the initial findings in five areas of needed improvement. They are:

  1. Campus climate: a sense of belonging, with historically marginalized communities not only being tolerated but appreciated. The latter objective will be met with “social belonging/activities over the weekend” and “access to familiar comforts (foods, cultural events, services such as barbers, etc.).”
  2. Bias and microaggressions: eliminating “unconscious bias / ‘isms’” “insensitivity / misunderstandings / misconceptions,” and “anonymous acts of bias/discrimination, especially on the internet and social media sites.”
  3. Student training and education: Diversity programs will also be conducted outside of the classroom.
  4. Faculty and staff training: Mandatory trainings will be conducted at faculty orientations and will include instruction on how to value others. In performance reviews, staff will be evaluated negatively for failing to intervene or missing opportunities to “educate others.”
  5. Diversity issues in the curriculum: Faculty will be required to offer a more diverse curriculum in their classes.

Additionally, diversity trainings, such as “Difficult Dialogues,” Safe Zone Trainings by the Rainbow Alliance, an MLK Winter Book Read, a Division of Student Life training on microaggressions, a training session on acceptable theme party costumes, a transgender issues workshop, and a Ferguson Teach-In, will take place.

Recommendations include recruiting more “staff of color,” collaboration with human resources, Staff Assembly Council, and other campus offices, mandatory bystander student training, diversity training (in addition to current online sexual harassment and Title IX training), redesigning use of common social spaces, and encouraging student groups to involve faculty and staff in their events.

The Price of Comfort Is Eternal Vigilance

I would like to commend this committee for such a visionary, far-reaching list. Who would have thought of “unconscious bias / isms,” sins of omission, and food microaggressions? However, I must warn the good members: unconscious biases deep within the hearts and minds of cafeteria workers could sabotage such efforts. We know from news reports last year the harm done to students when fried chicken and collard greens were served during Martin Luther King Jr. week!

Imagine what would happen were a student to encounter a menu with fried chicken and watermelon! And while faculty certainly have the maturity and cultural awareness to enjoy their margaritas on Cinco de Mayo, our young fragile flowers might think we are stereotyping them with a taco night on May 5.

Let us not allow our students to be traumatized and scarred for life by… Any of the myriad ways microaggressions take place.
The times demand strong action. Let us not allow our students to be traumatized and scarred for life by stereotypical food, looks, refusals to make eye contact, prolonged eye contact, inappropriate conversation starters, smiling too much, or smiling too little—or any of the myriad ways microaggressions take place.

We must put in safety measures on every campus. Let the best and brightest STEM minds come together—as they once did during Sputnik—to come up with a national solution. I challenge fellow American professors to come up with a device that will measure hostilities, unconscious biases, and repressed hatreds, within not only our professoriate, but also the youth, the hope of the future. Stopping microaggressions is too important a matter to be left to chance. Bystanders may not be able to spot them soon enough. The objects of microaggression might be too lost in thought or their iPhones to notice a microaggressive stare or question.

Great scientific minds have come up with such devices for other species, such as our quadruped companions, lest they be tempted by squirrels or cats to run from the safety of yards. If we can make devices that these wear, why not one for our students and faculty? These devices could measure biorhythms, such things as heart rates, pupil dilations, and body temperature. We already, thanks to the U.S. Department of Education and the Gates Foundation, have devices that measure “social and emotional learning” and assess for such things as “grit” and “perseverance.” In fact, the department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, which used to test for such irrelevant things as historical knowledge, is now testing for “grit.”

So, whenever a hateful or angry thought would come into consciousness a gentle little tingle would remind the offender, “Do not hate. Do not microaggress.” It would quickly end a hostile stare with a head jerk that would also conveniently alert the object of the microaggressive act that the subject needs further re-education. These devices could even be designed as fashion accessories, as gender-neutral brass chains or with colorful fair-trade beads.

Junior and contingent faculty would benefit immensely from being zapped. No doubt energetic convulsions shaking instructors at the lectern would bring forth healing peals of laughter from students. Humor does so much to ease anxiety. There would be no more concerns about “student engagement,” no worries about students nodding off or web-surfing. Not when lectures are so electrifying.

And we must not forget the “workers.” That lady behind the cafeteria counter would certainly benefit from a gentle shock to remind her that, if watermelon is to be served, it should be in a nice vinaigrette with a little bit of mint.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Federalist.

Can Millennials [And Academia] Take a Joke? by Clark Conner

Millennials can be a hypersensitive bunch, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the academy. American institutions of higher learning have become veritable minefields of trigger warnings, safe zones, and speech codes.

It appears we can add another line item to the growing list of things too radical for college students: humor. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld recently joined an expanding group of high-profile figures in denouncing higher education’s culture of hyper-sensitivity.

In an interview with ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd, Seinfeld discussed why comics are reluctant to take their act on campus:

COWHERD: Does the climate worry you now? I’ve talked to Chris Rock and Larry the Cable Guy; they don’t even want to do college campuses anymore.

SEINFELD: I hear that all the time. I don’t play colleges, but I hear a lot of people tell me, “Don’t go near colleges. They’re so PC.” I’ll give you an example: My daughter’s 14. My wife says to her, “Well, you know, in the next couple years, I think maybe you’re going to want to be hanging around the city more on the weekends, so you can see boys.” You know what my daughter says? She says, “That’s sexist.”

COWHERD: That’s amazing.

SEINFELD: They just want to use these words: “That’s racist”; “That’s sexist”; “That’s prejudice.” They don’t know what they’re talking about.

It took roughly 24 hours for Seinfeld’s point to prove itself. The day after the Huffington Post ran an article on Seinfeld’s comments, an open letter appeared on the site addressed to Mr. Seinfeld from a “College Student.”

The letter touches on a myriad of topics, including racism, sexism, offending the “right” people, and (for reasons unknown) “the underlying culture of violence and male domination that inhabits high school football,” but its overarching spirit is summed up in the author’s ironic introduction:

Recently, I’ve heard about your reluctance to perform on college campuses because of how “politically correct” college students are… As a college student that loves and appreciates offensive, provocative comedy, I’m disheartened by these comments.

So, a college student was “disheartened” by Jerry Seinfeld’s observation that college students are too sensitive. Let that sink in.

Seinfeld isn’t the only comedian to denounce the current sensitivity epidemic on campus. In a discussion with Frank Rich, Chris Rock espoused the same views as Seinfeld:

RICH: What do you make of the attempt to bar Bill Maher from speaking at Berkeley for his riff on Muslims?

ROCK: Well, I love Bill, but I stopped playing colleges, and the reason is because they’re way too conservative.

RICH: In their political views?

ROCK: Not in their political views — not like they’re voting Republican — but in their social views and their willingness not to offend anybody. Kids raised on a culture of “We’re not going to keep score in the game because we don’t want anybody to lose.” Or just ignoring race to a fault. You can’t say “the black kid over there.” No, it’s “the guy with the red shoes.” You can’t even be offensive on your way to being inoffensive.

Former Tonight Show host Jay Leno, too, shared his experience with a college intern who conflated his dislike of Mexican food with racism.

The experiences of Seinfeld, Rock, and Leno obviously can’t be projected on the whole of entertainment media, but their willingness to criticize the don’t-offend-me culture indicates a growing sense that American campuses are becoming hostile to humor. 

And their criticisms aren’t unfounded: the uptrend in campus outrage over even mildly provocative humor is inescapable. Ask Robert Klein Engler, formerly of Roosevelt University, who received his walking papers after telling his class a joke he overheard as a way of stimulating conversation about an Arizona immigration bill.

“There was a sociological study done in Arizona,” Engler said to the students, “and they discovered that 60 percent of the people in Arizona approved of the immigration law and 40 percent said, ‘no habla ingles.’”

That caused a student, Cristina Solis, to file a written complaint with the university, which in turn opened a harassment investigation against the professor.

According to reporting from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Engler was summoned by university officials to discuss the harassment charges, but they wouldn’t disclose the nature of accusation, nor the identity of the accuser. Engler agreed to cooperate with the university’s investigation, but only if the accusations were put in writing.

Roosevelt wouldn’t do so, and also refused Engler the right to be accompanied by his attorney at investigation meetings. Stripped of due process, Engler chose not to participate in the sham investigation, which resulted in Roosevelt University terminating his employment.

What’s worse, Ms. Solis voiced her approval with the university’s decision to terminate Engler. In a quote to the student newspaper preserved on Minding the Campus she proclaimed:

If that [Mr. Engler’s firing] is what it took to give him a reality check, and to make sure that no other student has to go through that, maybe it’s for the best. It’s just something you don’t say in a classroom, not coming from a professor, and especially not at a school like Roosevelt University, which is based on social justice.

What a dangerous precedent this is, that a lone student infatuated with the idea of social justice can spearhead a movement to fire a professor over a throw-away joke.

Teresa Buchanan, formerly an associate professor at Louisiana State University, also knows what it means to offend the wrong people.

Buchanan was known by her students as a “gunslinger” who sometimes incorporated profanity or sexually charged jokes in class. For example, Reason reports that one of her zingers came in the form of advice to female students that their boyfriends would stop helping them with coursework “after the sex gets stale.”

After the Fall 2013 semester, Buchanan was informed by the university that she was being placed under suspension pending an investigation for “sexual harassment” and promoting a “hostile learning environment.”

The investigation dragged on, and 15 months later a faculty committee upheld the university’s accusation of sexual harassment. The committee, however, decided that termination was not the solution, but rather that LSU should ask that Buchanan tone down her language.

This suggestion was ignored by university president F. King Alexander. Buchanan was fired on June 19, 2015.

Not only are American academics under fire for using semi-edgy humor, British academics, too, are learning the hard way to leave the one-liners at home.

The saga of Sir Tim Hunt illustrates how even the most prestigious careers can be derailed by pitchfork-wielding mobs feigning outrage over innocuous comments.

Hunt, a Nobel laureate, found himself to be the object of scorn, stemming from a joke he made while presenting to the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea:

It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists.

Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?

Now, seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt, an important role in it. Science needs women, and you should do science, despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.

This comment was first reported by Connie St. Louis, a journalism professor at University College London (UCL) who was present for Hunt’s speech. She claimed his comments induced a “stony silence” on the crowd.

In reaction, an armada of social media warriors descended on Hunt, resulting in his resignation from multiple honorary positions, including at UCL. Although Hunt incessantly apologized for his “transgression,” his opponents continued to besmirch his character and career.

In making the comments public, however, St. Louis only mentioned some of Hunt’s remarks. She omitted the part where Hunt clearly stated he was joking and praised the role of women scientists.

A few weeks later, a report from a European Commission official recalled a different version of events. Unlike St. Louis, the report included Hunt’s entire statement and claimed that Hunt’s joke was received by laughter, not the agitation asserted by St. Louis.

Despite the EC report vindicating Hunt and dispelling the charges of sexism, the damage is done. Hunt’s top-shelf academic career is now in shambles after being sullied by a throng of raging speech oppressors.

A joke was all it took.

Anything Peaceful

Anything Peaceful is FEE’s new online ideas marketplace, hosting original and aggregate content from across the Web.

EDITORS NOTE: A version of this post first appeared at the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

Response to Tallahassee Democrat Op-ed on ‘Docs v. Glocks’ by Marion P. Hammer

Below is Marion P. Hammer’s response in the Tallahassee Democrat to anti-gun editorials attacking the courts on the “Docs v. Glocks” issue.

It’s not about the First Amendment

By Marion P. Hammer,

My View 4:57 p.m. EDT August 4, 2015

The column “Free Speech does not threaten gun ownership” (Aug. 3) by Howard L. Simon of the ACLU is a smokescreen.

Twice now federal judges have ruled that the so-called “Docs & Glocks” law does not violate First Amendment free speech rights of doctors and medical personnel. The law stops pediatricians and other physicians from prying into our personal lives, invading our privacy and straying from issues relating to disease and medicine into questioning children or their parents about gun ownership and guns in the home.

Read, “Free speech is no threat to gun ownership,” by Howard L. Simon posted  in the Tallahassee Democrat on August 4, 2015.

In both rulings, the court made it clear that the law is an appropriate regulation of professional speech. The state has a duty to protect the rights of vulnerable patients against doctors who use their examining rooms to interrogate parents and children about gun ownership for the purpose of delivering their anti-gun political messages.

If a patient answers questions like, “Do you own a gun?” or “Do your children have access to guns in your home?” or “Did you know that having a gun in your home triples your risk of becoming a homicide victim?,” the patient is likely to be given the “Advice to parents” the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends on their website: “Never have a gun in the home. Do not purchase a gun. Remove all guns present in the home.” That is not medical care. That is politics.

That political motivation has nothing to do with the health care and medical treatment we seek for our children and for which we are paying when we enter a doctor’s office.

Read, Federal court says state can enforce ‘doc vs. glocks’ law by Gary Fineout in the Tallahassee Democrat posted on July 29, 2015.

Further, these questions are ethically wrong. Any doctor who asks them is committing a form of unethical conduct known as an “ethical boundary violation.” Any doctor who commits an ethical boundary violation can and should be disciplined. We need to be able to trust our doctors. Doctors who intentionally step over that ethical and legal boundary clearly cannot be trusted.

Other ethical boundaries don’t allow doctors to take advantage of vulnerable elderly patients and question them about property and assets they own, allow them to encourage these elderly patients to make gifts of cars, jewelry or other assets to the doctor, or make the doctor a beneficiary in a will.

Additionally, entering the answers to gun ownership questions into medical records and computer databases is a de facto form of registration of gun owners and is already prohibited by law.

Any pediatrician truly concerned about gun safety is free to hand out gun safety brochures to all parents. The First Amendment smokescreen that is being used to excuse unethical and political abuse of patients privacy rights needs to stop and doctors should stick to medical care.

ABOUT MARION P. HAMMER

Marion P. Hammer is a past president of the National Rifle Association and current executive director of Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

RELATED ARTICLE: Seattle Approves New Tax on Guns, Ammunition

Scoundrel Judges and the Little Blue Book

The Christian faith was vitally important to early Americans, and we prove it (again!).

Remembering the New England Primer, used to teach children to read for over 200 years.

Did Oregon Gag the Anti-Gay Marriage Bakers? by Walter Olson

Readers who follow the battles over forfeiture law may recall the recent case in which a North Carolina convenience store owner from whom the government had seized $107,000 without any showing of wrongdoing decided to fight the case in the press as well as in court, backed by the Institute for Justice.

Lyndon McLellan’s decision to go public with the dispute drew a menacing letter from a federal prosecutor about the publicity the case had been getting:

“Your client needs to resolve this or litigate it,” Mr. West wrote. “But publicity about it doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency.” He concluded with a settlement offer in which the government would keep half the money.

That case ended happily, but the problem is much broader: many individuals and businesses fear that if they seek out favorable media coverage about their battle with the government, the government will find a way to retaliate, either informally in settlement negotiations or by finding new charges to throw against them.

That such fears might not be without foundation is illustrated by last week’s widely publicized Oregon cake ruling, in which a Gresham, Oregon couple was ordered to pay $135,000 in emotional-distress damages for having refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony.

Aside from the ruling’s other objectionable elements, the state labor commissioner ruled it “unlawful” for the couple to have given national media interviews in which they expressed sentiments like “we can see this becoming an issue and we have to stand firm.”

Taking advantage of an exception in free speech law in which courts have found that the First Amendment does not protect declarations of future intent to engage in unlawful discrimination, the state argued — and its commissioner agreed — that the “stand firm” remark along with several similarly general comments rallying supporters were together “unlawful.”

That ought to bother anyone who cares about free speech. I’ve got a piece up at Ricochet.com, my first there, exploring the question in more detail:

Suppose someone began a sentence with the words “I don’t think I should have to serve [group X] at my shop….”

If they follow with the words “but since it’s the law, I’ll comply,” the sentence as a whole would clearly count as protected speech under current law. If they follow with the words “and I won’t, law or no law,” it loses protection.

But suppose the speaker were to end the sentence at “…my shop.” Up to that point, the speaker has expressed only an essentially political opinion, not a forward-looking intention to defy the law.

Such speech is all the more of core First Amendment interest when it takes place not in a local, commercial context but as part of broader political discussions between citizens as to whether laws are unjust or government too heavy-handed.

Read the rest here.

Walter Olson

Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

RELATED ARTICLE: Hypocrisy ALERT: Gay Bakeries Refuse to Make Pro-Christian Cakes [+Videos]

EDITORS NOTE: This piece cross-posted from Cato at Liberty and Overlawyered.

How Team Obama helps The Organization of Islamic Cooperation wage Jihad on Freedom of Expression

Washington, D.C.: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the largest Islamic organization in the world – comprised of 56 UN Member states plus the Palestinian Authority — has long been trying to silence, and ultimately criminalize, all criticism of Islam, specifically targeting America and the West.  What has largely gone unremarked is the help the OIC has received from the Obama administration to this end.

Deborah Weiss, attorney, author and expert on Islamist efforts to stifle free speech reveals in a new monograph published by the Center for Security Policy Press how the OIC is working through UN resolutions, multilateral conferences and other international vehicles to advance its agenda.  The goal of these efforts, according to the OIC’s 10-year program of action, which was launched in 2005, is to combat so-called “Islamophobia” and “defamation of religions”.  In practice, this means banning any discussion of Islamic supremacism and its many manifestations including:  jihadist terrorism, persecution of religious minorities and human rights violations committed in the name of Islam.

Upon the publication of her monograph entitled, The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Jihad on Free Speech, Ms. Weiss remarked:

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation is the largest and most powerful voting bloc in the United Nations and yet most Americans have never heard of it. Of particular concern is the OIC’s ten-year program which amounts to an international effort to suppress freedom of expression under the guise of protecting Islam from so-called “defamation.” This initiative, however, is in the service of OIC’s long-term mission: the world-wide implementation of Shariah, a legal-political-judicial-religious doctrine which favors Muslims over non-Muslims, men over women, and denies basic human rights and freedoms.

Ms. Weiss’ monograph documents how the Obama Administration has collaborated with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in ways that, whether intentional or unwitting, have advanced the OIC’s supremacist agenda.  As it happens, recently released State Department documents obtained by Judicial Watch through court-enforced Freedom of Information Act requests underscore the extent of Team Obama’s collusion with the OIC.

Specifically, these emails offer insights into how, in September 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the White House worked with the OIC to fabricate a narrative that falsely blamed an online video “Innocence of Muslims” for the violent uprising at the U.S. special mission compound and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya.

In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, the documents reveal that the Obama administration immediately went into damage-limitation mode, with a well-coordinated effort to scapegoat the video as the cause of the attack.  Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s envoy to the OIC, reached out to the Organization’s leadership urging it to condemn the “anti-Islamic film” and “its related violence” and to respond in a way that is “consistent with Islamic principles.”

The OIC readily obliged, issuing a statement accusing the video of “incitement” – though nothing in the video called for violence against Muslims – and claiming that it “hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims” and “demonstrated serious repercussions of abuse of freedom of expression”.

The effect was to reinforce the OIC’s goal to protect Islam from “defamation” instead of supporting the US Constitutional principle of free expression.

In her monograph, Ms. Weiss elucidates examples of the escalating assault on freedom of expression that the OIC has launched against the West and their implications. She describes the critical role freedom of speech plays in preserving religious freedom, human rights and national security efforts.  As she correctly points out, “If you look around the world, you will see that freedom is the exception, not the rule.”

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., President of the Center for Security Policy, observed that:

Deborah Weiss’ important new book is a clarion call to Americans and their federal representatives to end all cooperation with the Islamic supremacists of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, including cessation of participation in the anti-free speech “Istanbul Process” launched by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Citizens and policy-makers alike should, instead, commit themselves vigorously and unapologetically to freedom of expression – including to its employment as an indispensable weapon in the execution of a comprehensive strategy to defeat the Global Jihad Movement.”

The Center for Security Policy/Secure Freedom is proud to present Ms. Weiss’s monograph as a superb addition to its Civilization Jihad Reader Series.  The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Jihad on Free Speech by Deborah Weiss, Esq. is available for purchase in kindle and paperback format on Amazon.com.

EDITORS NOTE: For further information on the threats shariah poses to our foundational liberal democratic values, see more titles from the Center for Security Policy’s Civilization Jihad Reader Series. Readers may purchase The Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Jihad on Free Speech in Kindle or paperback format on Amazon. Click here for a free PDF of the newly released monograph.

Religious Charities, Gay Marriage, and Adoption: A Case for Pluralism by Walter Olson

At Reason, Scott Shackford has a valuable piece on where libertarians’ interests are likely to coincide with those of organized gay rights advocates and where they are likely to diverge, following the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage.

One flashpoint of controversy is likely to be the role of conservative religious agencies in areas of adoption that are commonly assisted with public funds (as with the adoption of older kids from foster care).

It is now legal all across America for gay people to adopt children, and now with same-sex marriage, they can adopt their partner’s child as well. This fight is largely over, and was actually pretty much won even before gay marriage recognition.

But there is another side, and it ties back into the treatment of religious people. Some adoption agencies are tied to religious groups who do not want to serve same-sex couples or place children in same-sex homes. They are also typically recipients of state funding for placing children, and are therefore subject to state regulation. Should they be required to serve gay couples?

Some states, such as Illinois, attempted to force them. As a result, Catholic Charities, which helped the state find adoptive and foster home services for four decades, stopped providing their services in 2011.

At the time, a gay activist declared this a victory, saying “Finding a loving home for the thousands in the foster/adoption system should be the priority, not trying to exclude people based on religious dogma.”

Some libertarians I admire have taken the view that where any public dollars are involved, private social service agencies must be held to rigorous anti-discrimination standards.

While I respect this view, I don’t share it.

Programs that are explicitly voucherized (such as G.I. Bill college tuition benefits, which can be used for seminary study) often go to institutions that I might find discriminatory, and the same logic can apply even with some less explicitly voucherized benefits.

If a state depot is dispensing gasoline to rescuers’ boats after Katrina, and Catholic Charities’s boats spare the need for government boats to reach some rescue targets, the “subsidy” might in fact save the taxpayers money.

In Olson’s experience, the more agencies out there serving the needs of the children looking for homes, the better. …

Much as with the controversies over bakers and florists, being denied service by one agency does not actually impact a gay couple’s ability to find and adopt children at all.

But eliminating Catholic Charities from the pool reduces the number of people able to help place these children. It’s the children who are punished by the politicization of adoption, not Catholic Charities.

This is especially important when dealing with older children or children with special medical needs. … Allowing both sides (and others as well) to play their role as they see fit benefits all children in the system.

As for the concern that some adoption agencies take taxpayer money and then discriminate, Olson points out that it’s much more expensive to the taxpayers to leave children to be raised by the state, not to mention terribly cruel.

“If you don’t care about the kids or the families, at least care about the taxpayers,” Olson says. But you should probably care about the kids, too.

I’ve written about the same set of issues (in the foster care context) before. The new Reason piece is here.


Walter Olson

Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies.

RELATED ARTICLE: ‘Cake Artist’ Fights in Court to Be Able to Refuse to Make Wedding Cakes for Gay Couples

EDITORS NOTE: This post first appeared at Cato.org.

The Demise of America

It has been several months since I have written any counterterrorism articles. During this period I have been to several mosques and conducted individual research studies. I cannot stress enough that America is in serious trouble.

All across our beautiful country we are surrounded by the enemy which is Islam. Where is Islam practiced by the most faithful of Muslims? In mosques. There are over 2300 strategically placed mosques covering all areas of America.

Unlike many counterterrorism experts, I see the Islamic ideology as a whole as the number one enemy of America. There are no moderate Muslims. One is either a practicing Muslim in it’s entirety and follows Sharia law 100 percent, or the person who calls himself or herself a moderate Muslim who doesn’t believe in all aspects of Sharia law, is an apostate and enemy of Islam. Islam does not allow a person to be a half practicing Muslim,

Based on my years of research inside mosques across America, it is a certainty America will continue to be attacked from within. The only way America can be destroyed is by people and organizations within America who follow the Islamic ideology. There are approximately 2 million practicing Muslims in America. There are approximately 3 million who call themselves moderates. Although these people are not considered Muslim in accordance with Islam, they will make a 180 degree turn when Islam is the dominant factor in America. In other words most people who associate with Islam are cowards when it is just themselves. They become powerful giants when they have a large number of other followers with them. This is similar to gangs in America. Cowards when alone, but almighty when they are with a crowd of their own kind.

So far by my above estimates there are 5 million potential mujahadeen fighters inside our country. These people do not adhere by choice to the U.S. Constitution, they adhere to their own constitution which is Sharia law. The U.S. Constitution and Sharia law are in no form compatible. A person cannot follow Sharia law and have allegiance to America. There are many Muslims who say they are American Muslims, but in reality they are non Americans. A non American who does not believe in and follow the U.S. Constitution are potential enemies of our country.

Not only are there 1 million registered Muslims in America, there are millions of Americans who will stand up for Islam before they will America. Every liberal in America is a likely supporter of Islam. Liberals are cowards by nature and like their coward Muslims. They become strong when they are surrounded by like minded people. Liberals like Muslims will align themselves with the group that is currently most powerful. We have seen this in Iraq. The Muslim people loved Americans when we were the powerful army in their country. Now that our troops have been removed they show their support to ISIS and Al Qaeda. Muslims and liberals will always follow the most powerful group in power.

Although there are millions and millions of potential mujahadeen living and working in America, and their liberal supporters, these people rely on powerful leaders. Their leader in America is President Obama and his liberal puppy followers. Americans should not take this statement lightly. Obama has shown over the past few years that he is more aligned to Sharia law than he is the U.S. Constitution. He would rather work with Iranian and other Muslim countries than he would the leaders of Israel.  Obama majored in U.S. Constitutional law, why?  History has shown for thousands of years that in order to defeat an enemy one must know the enemy as well as they know themselves. Obama understands the working structure of our country and knows how to destroy this beautiful country and it’s people.

I spent the most part of my life working within our government. It was my responsibility as a U.S. Federal Agent working counterterrorism to identify the enemies of America. My analysis was always accepted and applauded by government officials at the highest levels. My predictions about upcoming events pertaining to the security of America occurred many times. Below is my analysis and predictions for America in the next five years.

  1. President Obama will become even more powerful within the next year. He will continue to support our Islamic enemies. He will continue to degrade the power and importance of Israel.
  2. Martial law will occur before Obama leaves office, if he leaves office.
  3. The rights of free speech and the ownership of firearms will become ancient rights of our ancestors and no longer current Americans.
  4. America will begin to suffer major attacks on a daily basis by our Muslim enemies and their supporters.

I do not like wars or revolutions because children are the ones who suffer the most. This being said I predict a civil war/revolution in our country. True and Pure Americans will revolt and fight the enemies destroying our country from within. The American civil war within the 1860’s will be looked at like a minor skirmish compared to the upcoming civil war our country will be involved in.

Who will win the war within America? Sadly it is my prediction the enemies of Islam and their supporters will defeat True and Pure Americans because they will have the support of powerful politicians like Obama who hate America, Americans, and the American way of life our forefathers fought and died for.  True Americans can only win if our military leaders come forward and refuse to follow the orders of Obama.  A few will do this, but not enough.

Blurred Lines: The Humanitarian Threat to Free Speech by Aaron Tao

“Think of liberalism … as a collection of ideas or principles which go to make up an attitude or ‘habit of mind.’” – Arthur A. Ekirch

In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville was keen to observe that “once the Americans have taken up an idea, whether it be well or ill founded, nothing is more difficult than to eradicate it from their minds.”

Reflecting upon my experience as a first-generation immigrant who grew up in the United States, I concur with Tocqueville; this inherent feature of the culture and character of the American people holds true even today.

In America, there are no sacred cows, no one is above criticism, and no one has the final say on any issue. It is worth emphasizing that today, the United States stands virtually alone in the international community in upholding near-absolute freedom of personal expression, largely thanks to the constitutional protections provided by the First Amendment.

But without certain internalized values and principles, the legal bulwark of the First Amendment is nothing more than a parchment barrier.

As cliché as it may sound, it is important to recognize that our cherished freedom to think, speak, write, and express ourselves should not be taken for granted. Defending the principle of free speech is a perennial conflict that has to be fought in the court of public opinion here and abroad.

Unfortunately, a number of recent developments have greatly alarmed civil libertarians and may very well carry long-term negative repercussions for the United States as a free and open society.

In his new book, Freedom from Speech, Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and tireless free speech advocate, highlights a troubling cultural phenomenon: the blurring of physical safety with psychological and ideological comfort.

It is a disturbing trend that is not limited to the United States:

People all over the globe are coming to expect emotional and intellectual comfort as though it were a right. This is precisely what you would expect when you train a generation to believe that they have a right not to be offended. Eventually, they stop demanding freedom of speech and start demanding freedom from speech.

On the other side of Atlantic, Great Britain is undergoing what one writer describes as a “slow death of free speech.” The land of Milton is now home to luminaries who wish to reinstate Crown licensing of the press (not seen since 1695!).

Meanwhile, ordinary people face jail time for callous tweeting. In British universities, student-driven campaigns have successfully shut down debates and banned pop songs, newspapers, and even philosophy clubs.

While the United States is fortunate enough to have the First Amendment [to] prevent outright government regulation of the press, cultural attitudes play a greater role in maintaining a healthy civil society.

Lukianoff reserves special criticism for American higher education for “neglecting to teach the intellectual habits that promote debate and discussion, tolerance for views we hate, epistemic humility, and genuine pluralism.”

Within academia, “trigger warnings” and “safe places” are proliferating. In a truly Bizarro twist, it has now come to the point that faculty members are defending individual rights and due process and decrying mob rule, while their students run off in the opposite direction.

We now hear on a regular basis of campus outrages involving a controversial speaker or perceived injustice, and the “offended” parties responding with a frenzied social media crusade or a real-world attempt to shame, bully, browbeat, censor, or otherwise punish the offender.

A small sampling from this season include attempts to ban screenings of American Sniper at the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland, resolutions to create a Stasi-like “microaggression” reporting system at Ithaca College, and the controversy involving AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers speaking at Oberlin College.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.

With the endless stream of manufactured outrages, perhaps it is fitting that George Mason University law professor David Bernstein would raise the question, “Where and when did this ‘makes me feel unsafe’ thing start?”

My personal hypothesis: When postmodernism found itself a new home on Tumblr, spread across the left-wing blogosphere, became reinforced by mobs and echo-chambers, and spilled into the real world.

Luckily, not all progressives have sacrificed the basic principles of liberalism to the altar of radical identity politics and political correctness. One liberal student at NYU courageously pointed out the grave dangers posed by the ideology embraced by many of his peers:

This particular brand of millennial social justice advocacy is destructive to academia, intellectual honesty, and true critical thinking and open mindedness. We see it already having a profound impact on the way universities act and how they approach curriculum. …

The version of millennial social justice advocacy that I have spoken about — one that uses Identity Politics to balkanize groups of people, engenders hatred between groups, willingly lies to push agendas, manipulates language to provide immunity from criticism, and that publicly shames anyone who remotely speaks some sort of dissent from the overarching narrative of the orthodoxy — is not admirable.

It is deplorable. It appeals to the basest of human instincts: fear and hatred. It is not an enlightened or educated position to take. History will not look kindly on this Orwellian, authoritarian perversion of social justice that has taken social media and millennials by storm over the past few years.

I, too, am convinced that these activists, with their MO of hysterical crusades, are one of today’s biggest threats to free speech, open inquiry, and genuine tolerance, at least on college campuses. The illiberal climate fostered by these their ideologues seems to be spreading throughout academia and is continuing to dominate the headlines.

As of this writing, Northwestern professor (and self-described feminist) Laura Kipnis is undergoing a Kafkaesque Title IX inquisition for writing a column in the Chronicle of Higher Education and making comments on Twitter that offended a number of students. The aggrieved mobilized in full force to have her punished under the federal sex discrimination law.

These groups and their tactics represent what Jonathan Rauch would describe as the “humanitarian” challenge to free speech. In his must-read book, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Rauch identified how these “humanitarians” sought to prevent “offense” to “oppressed and historically marginalized” peoples. In the name of “compassion,” words became conflated with physical action.

As speech codes spread and the definition of “harassment” (reading a book in public, for instance) became broader within the bureaucracy of academia, an “offendedness sweepstakes” was cultivated and turned into the norm.

Rauch’s book was published in 1993, but his diagnosis and arguments still apply today, if not more, in the age of social media when the “offendedness sweepstakes” are amplified to new levels.

Nowadays, PC grievance mongers can organize much more effectively and more often than not, get rewarded for their efforts. The future of a free society looks very bleak should these types become a dominant force on the political landscape. I can’t help but shiver at the prospect of seeing the chronically-offended eggshells of my generation becoming tomorrow’s legislators and judges. The chilling effects are already being felt.

Even as numerous challenges emerge from all corners, free speech has unparalleled potential for human liberation in the Digital Age. The eternal battle is still that of liberty versus power, and the individual versus the collective. I remain confident that truth can still prevail in the marketplace of ideas. It is for this reason we should treasure and defend the principles, practices, and institutions that make it possible.

Last month marked the birthday of the brilliant F.A. Hayek, the gentleman-scholar who made landmark contributions to fields of economics, philosophypolitical science, and law, and established his name as the twentieth century’s most eminent defender of classical liberalism in the face of the collectivist zeitgeist.

For all his accomplishments, Hayek practiced and urged epistemological humility (a position that should be natural to any defender of free speech) in his Nobel lecture. Looking back on his life’s work, Hayek was highly skeptical of the nebulous concept of “social justice” and its totalitarian implications. He even went as far as to devote an entire volume of his magnum opus, Law, Legislation, and Liberty, to completely demolish The Mirage of Social Justice.

Hayek concluded:

What we have to deal with in the case of “social justice” is simply a quasireligious superstition of the kind which we should respectfully leave in peace so long as it merely makes those happy who hold it, but which we must fight when it becomes the pretext of coercing other men [emphasis added].

And the prevailing belief in “social justice” is at present probably the gravest threat to most other values of a free civilization.

Hayek did not predict that “social justice” would be first used to silence dissent before moving on to its long-term agenda, but it would not have surprised him. Weak ideas always grasp for the censor in the face of sustained criticism — and feeble ideas made strong by politics are the most dangerous of all.

Humanitarians with guillotines can be found from the French Revolution to present day. Modern day defenders of individual liberty would do well to heed Hayek’s warning and resist the Siren song of “social justice,” the rallying cry of collectivists who cannot realize their vision without coercion.


Aaron Tao

Aaron Tao is the Marketing Coordinator and Assistant Editor of The Beacon at the Independent Institute.

Eco-Catholics, Eco-pessimism and the Decline of Confidence in Religion

Cathy Lynn Grossmann in USA Today writes:

Americans have less confidence in organized religion today than ever measured before — a sign that the church could be “losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation’s culture,” a new Gallup survey finds.

“In the ’80s the church and organized religion were the No. 1″ in Gallup’s annual look at confidence in institutions, said Lydia Saad, author of the report released Wednesday.

Confidence, she said, “is a value judgment on how the institution is perceived, a mark of the amount of respect it is due.”

Why has respect for the moral leadership of the Church declined?

Perhaps religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular, under the leadership of Pope Francis, are to blame?

Mitchell C. Hescox in the National Catholic Reporter wrote:

Pope Francis’ increasingly powerful statements on global warming highlight that climate action is becoming a growing moral imperative for all people of faith. Why? Because climate action is about saving people.

[ … ]

Every child, born and yet-to-be born, deserves the promise and holy covenant of clean air and a healthy climate. What’s more, every child deserves to reach the fullness of his or her God-given intellectual abilities. If we continue to rely on toxic mercury-emitting, coal-burning power plants, we risk harming our children’s achievements.

[ … ]

Action to slow warming will protect future generations’ mental development and potential, by assuring that human development is healthy and sustainable as we move from dangerous, polluting and highly subsidized fossil fuels to clean, affordable renewable energy. This transition will turn energy poverty into energy prosperity.

The Catholic Church, aligning itself politically with the Obama administration, has declared war on coal, oil and natural gas. But will eliminating coal, oil and natural gas as energy sources truly help children “reach the fullness of his or her God-given intellectual abilities”? Will the move away from fossil fuels “turn energy poverty into energy prosperity”?

The short answer is no.

Julian Simon nailed his theses to the door of the eco-pessimist church by publishing his famous article in Science magazine: “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad News.” Thirty five-years ago Simon recognized the dangers of eco-pessimism. In his article he wrote:

False bad news about population growth, natural resources, and the environment is published widely in the face of contradictory evidence. For example, the world supply of arable land has actually been increasing, the scarcity of natural resources including food and energy has been decreasing, and basic measures of U.S. environmental quality show positive trends.

The aggregate data show no longrun negative effect of population growth upon the standard of living. Models that embody forces omitted in the past, especially the influence of population size upon productivity increase, suggest a long-run positive effect of additional people.

Prosperity is based on the availability of cheap reliable power. There are no such things as wind and solar power. There is wind-fossil fuel power and solar-fossil fuel power. This is because wind and solar are costly and unreliable sources of energy and require backup power generation, e.g. when the wind stops blowing and the sun sets.

In his column “The Poor Need Affordable Energy” Iain Murray writes:

Affordable energy is fundamental to what economist Deirdre McCloskey calls the “Great Fact” of the explosion of human welfare. It remains central to the reduction of absolute poverty. Yet, some Western governments are working to increase energy costs, purportedly to combat global warming.

What they are really combating is prosperity.

This is perverse and regressive. In America and Europe, energy takes up a much larger share of poor households’ budgets compared to other income brackets. For instance, a household with an annual income between $10,000 and $25,000 spends well over 10 percent of its budget on energy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And a January 2014 study for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity found that “households earning $50,000 or less spend more on energy than on food, spend twice as much on energy as on health care, and spend more than twice as much on energy as on clothing.”

Increasing the cost of energy also harms people’s health. That’s because energy use is so fundamental to modern life that it can take precedence over other household expenses — including health care. The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association found that an increase in energy costs led 30 percent of poor households to reduce purchases of food, 40 percent to go without medical care, and 33 percent to not fill a prescription.

As Erick Erickson notes in his column “Ecology Theology“:

[T]he Bible does have an ecology theology in it.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Gen. 1:28 (ESV)

There are five imperatives in Genesis 1:28

(1) Be fruitful and (2) multiply and (3) fill the earth and (4) subdue it, and (5) have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

  1. Procreation. Man is told to be fruitful and multiply again after the flood.
  2. Colonization. There is a frontier mentality. Don’t simply stay in paradise or within sight of it, but go to every corner of the earth. There is a civilization component.
  3. Fill the earth.
  4. Work and keep the earth.
  5. Subdue and have dominion. This is a royal figure of speech “to have dominion, to subdue, and to rule.” Man is a representative of God. This is a world and life directive including culture and spiritual realms. Man is to be the earthly overseer.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Gen. 2:15 (ESV)

The great danger is when the church and state become one and the same. When the Church mimics the policies of the state confidence in both organizations declines.

If the Catholic Church wants to truly reduce poverty, then it will support efforts to provide cheap and reliable energy to every child. That means using more, not less, fossil fuels.

RELATE VIDEO: The moral case for fossil fuels.

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First They Came for Pamela Geller, and I Did Not Speak Out

Over at PJ Media I explain why everyone who cares about free speech should be standing with Pamela Geller today:

“This is a showdown for American freedom,” said Pamela Geller about the abortive jihad beheading plot against her, and she was right. The showdown is right upon them now, and mainstream media talking heads have no idea of the significance of what is happening.

“They targeted me for violating sharia blasphemy laws. They mean to kill everyone who doesn’t do their bidding and abide by them voluntarily,” Geller added.

“It’s just beginning,” she warned. “ISIS is here. Islamic terrorism is here.”

That is all true. The jihad plot against Pamela Geller was an attempt to enforce Sharia blasphemy laws upon someone who does not accept them. If it had succeeded, it would have shown Americans that no one who deviates from Sharia norms is safe. It would have been a staggering blow to the continuation of the U.S. as a free society.

Heedless of these manifest implications, however, the mainstream media hasn’t caught on. The execrable New York Daily News couldn’t stop sneering at the heroic Pamela Geller — “conservative firebrand,” “Upper East Side right-winger” — even when she was a direct target of an Islamic State-inspired murder plot.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo, interviewing Geller, lectured her:

You can show the cartoon. People have the equal right to criticize your showing the cartoon as an overt provocation of a religion.

And he asked her:

Why not do what we often teach as a function of virtue — when we’re dealing with savagery — which is show that we are better than this? Not show that we can poke them in the eye in a way they don’t like it.

Geller rightly responded:

That’s not what you’re doing. You are submitting, and you are kowtowing. And they’re saying to you, if you draw a little cartoon; if you draw a stick figure and say it’s Mohammed, we’re going to come and kill you. And so you say, okay, we won’t — we won’t draw it. CNN won’t show it.

The Daily News and Chris Cuomo and the rest at CNN, along with their many colleagues among the comfortable media and political elites, are happy to throw her under the bus. They effectively say: “Free speech? Yes, of course, but not deliberate provocation.

They don’t realize that whatever distaste they may have for Pamela Geller (and that distaste ultimately derives from the fact that she speaks truths they would rather ignore and deny), she stands for all of us now. Whether you’re as proud to stand with her as I am, or whether you wish she would go away, she is the figure today about whom one must decide: will I stand for freedom, or kowtow to violent intimidation? Will I submit to the tyranny of violence, or defend free society?

Remember Pastor Niemöller from World War II?

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Well, here we are. Those days are upon us again, and as few, or fewer, people are paying attention to what is happening as were in those days….

Read the rest here.

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The problems with this should be obvious, and it’s a sign of the fix we’re in that they aren’t. Who decides what speech is “intended to stir up hatred against a particular group”? Islamic supremacist groups such as Hamas-linked CAIR and other “Islamophobia”-mongers relentlessly claim that foes of jihad terror and Sharia supremacism are stirring up hatred against Muslims. This charge is entirely baseless, as any Muslim who sincerely rejects jihad terror and the imposition of Sharia in the West should be standing with us, and is welcome to do so.

But the key question here is, who decides? The allies and friends of those who believe, or claim to believe, that it is “inciting hatred” to oppose jihad terror and Sharia supremacism are in the corridors of power. If the Democrats succeed in criminalizing “hate speech,” there is no doubt that it will become illegal to speak honestly about the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, and the jihadis will be able to advance unimpeded.

“Half of Democrats support a ban on hate speech,” YouGov, May 20, 2015 (thanks to Anne Crockett):

Most Americans support expanded federal hate crime laws, but are divided on banning hate speech

Since 1994 people convicted of federal crimes motivated by the ‘actual or perceived’ identity of victims have faced tougher sentences. Many other states had passed ‘hate crime’ statutes in earlier years, and in recent years many states have been adopting laws which make crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation of gender identity hate crimes which face tougher sentences, something the federal government did in 2009. Unlike much of the rest of the developed world, however, the United States does not make it a criminal offense for people to make statements which encourage hatred of particular groups. For example a prominent British columnist, Katie Hopkins, is being investigated by the police for referring to African migrants crossing the Mediterranean as ‘cockroaches’.

YouGov’s latest research shows that many Americans support making it a criminal offense to make public statements which would stir up hatred against particular groups of people. Americans narrowly support (41%) rather than oppose (37%) criminalizing hate speech, but this conceals a partisan divide. Most Democrats (51%) support criminalizing hate speech, with only 26% opposed. Independents (41% to 35%) and Republicans (47% to 37%) tend to oppose making it illegal to stir up hatred against particular groups.

Support for banning hate speech is also particularly strong among racial minorities. 62% of black Americans, and 50% of Hispanics support criminalizing comments which would stir up hatred. White Americans oppose a ban on hate speech 43% to 36%.

When it comes to crimes motivated by hatred, most Americans do back the current federal hate crime laws, including the expanded definition of hate crime passed in 2009. 56% of Americans back the federal law mandating tougher penalties for cimes motivated by race, religion or gender, and 51% support expanding that to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. Democrats (68%) tend to be much more supportive of the law than either independents and Republicans. Republicans (38% to 39%) are split over the expanded definition of hate crime, while independent tend to support (46%) rather than oppose (28%) it….

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