Tag: First Amendment

Governor Coward

The Richmond (Va.) Times–Dispatch:

Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in Richmond ahead of a rally Monday that is expected to bring thousands of gun rights activists to Richmond.

The state of emergency will be enforced Friday evening to Tuesday evening. It includes a firearms ban on Capitol Square, as well as a general ban on weapons that includes bats and knives.

Northam cited safety threats “similar to what has been seen before other major events such as Charlottesville,” a reference to the deadly Unite the Right rally in August 2017.

“These are considered credible, serious threats by our law enforcement agencies,” Northam said, citing claims that groups plan on “storming our Capitol” and “weaponizing drones over our Capitol.”

Monday’s rally is being organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, which says it is expecting between 30,000 and 50,000 people to arrive on the steps of the Capitol to protest gun control legislature proposed by Democratic lawmakers.

In an email to rally participants sent Tuesday, VCDL encouraged a peaceful demonstration. It told protestors planning to go inside legislative buildings to leave their guns at home or in their hotels. But, it also encouraged unarmed protestors to travel with an armed “designated defender” that will wait outside the buildings for them. It’s unclear how the group might update its directive following Northam’s announcement.

“We cannot stress enough that this is a peaceful day to address our legislature,” Tuesday’s email reads. “The eyes of the nation and the world are on Virginia and VCDL right now and we must show them that gun owners are not the problem. Lead by example.”

By violating the First and Second Amendment rights of those opposed to Northam’s unconstitutional gun-banning efforts, Northam is certainly leading by example … the example of a coward.

First Amendment self-sabotage

Charles Lipson:

Because our country is so deeply split and so distrustful of its basic institutions, it needs solid, dispassionate reporting now more than ever. We are not getting it.

Americans know this, and we’re angry about it. Polls show we don’t trust the media any more than we trust Congress, the president, universities, or big business. And we don’t trust them at all. That’s deeply troubling since those institutions should be the secure foundations of our public life. Only one is still trusted by more than half the population — the military. Our men and women in uniform certainly deserve our trust and respect, but it’s grim news for a democracy when only the armed forces merit it.

The media has added to this sulfurous climate of distrust and division. Take the country’s most important newspaper, the New York Times. After badly misjudging voter sentiment during the 2016 election, the Times publicly promised to reevaluate its biases, take occasional trips across the Hudson, and try harder. That lasted about a week.

The Times soon joined every other media organization in the race to discredit Donald Trump’s election, imply it was the product of Russian interference, and paint him as an illegitimate intruder in the White House. Although they were right to investigate Russian interference, they were wrong to pump up a thinly based conspiracy story that served their political aims.

Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation showed the Russians did interfere, primarily to create chaos and assist Trump. The special prosecutor documented multiple Russian contacts with the Trump campaign, a troubling revelation for any fair-minded American. But the report did not show any impact on the election outcome or charge any Americans with aiding the Russians. Asked point-blank if the president had not been charged because he was in office, Mueller mumbled a befuddled answer (like much of his testimony) and eventually said “no.”

Mueller’s report left gaping holes. It made no effort to find out why the CIA and FBI began investigating Trump and his campaign in the first place, whether that was warranted, why a counterintelligence investigation became a criminal one, or why candidate Trump was never warned about Russia’s malicious efforts. The report never addressed whether James Comey’s FBI was secretly targeting Trump for partisan or illicit purposes or how it justified this unprecedented action. Ultimately, Mueller’s report was a dud, and his testimony a disappointment for those alleging a vast, treasonous conspiracy.

Did the proprietors of the Fourth Estate learn their lesson? No, siree. Like all true believers who have been thwarted, they have redoubled their efforts, reinforcing the impeachment drive by House Democrats. Even as Trump wrongly smears all news as “fake,” damaging our country (as well as his targets), those newspapers, online outlets, and cable channels are doing their best to prove him right. They have embraced their new role as active partisans, while still denying it. Who trusts their denials?

This media sinkhole was exposed once again after U.S. forces launched a daring raid that killed ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The Washington Post beclowned itself with a headline, since changed, that depicted the murderous terrorist and serial rapist as “an austere religious scholar.” The Twitter universe responded with parodies. Bonnie and Clyde were called “wealth re-distributors in the banking sector,” John Wilkes Booth “a noted thespian and member of a prominent theatrical family.” My favorite is Osama bin Laden, who was “killed in a home invasion.” Note that all of them are true, just as the Washington Post’s headline was. They are funny because, like the Post headline, they miss the point so egregiously.

How did CNN do? Not well, but thanks for asking. At 3 p.m. Eastern time, when I tuned in, the news channel’s editors had decided that al-Baghdadi’s death was not the top story. The day after the raid. Really? They led with two minor pieces, neither of them urgent, and then took a commercial break. Afterward, CNN turned to the al-Baghdadi story, but its main point was that it was far less important than killing Osama bin Laden. I agree, but what was troubling was how CNN essentially stage-whispered to its viewers, “Trust us, this story is not that important and certainly cannot compare with President Obama’s achievement.”

Burying important stories is as significant as misreporting them. Over the next few weeks, we will learn about a huge one the mainstream media has buried in a shallow grave for nearly three years. It deals with surveillance on members of the Trump campaign, based on warrants the FBI and Department of Justice gained from a secret court charged with counterintelligence investigations. DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz will report on his extensive probe of those FISA warrants and whether top FBI and DoJ officials committed fraud on the courts in obtaining them. We may learn who leaked classified materials, a crime we know happened repeatedly in 2016 and early 2017. We may learn about massive, illegal access to intelligence databases by outside contractors, who were spying on Americans without court permission. Expect criminal referrals. Expect indictments on related matters being investigated by U.S. Attorney John Durham, a highly respected, non-partisan professional. Did the CIA, which cannot spy on Americans, simply outsource the task to foreign counterparts? This is likely to be big and ugly.

Our country’s leading news organizations have done almost nothing to investigate these issues and far too little to report on them. When they do report, they editorialize to downplay them. If the worst allegations turn out to be true — and we simply don’t know yet — they will have missed the biggest story since Watergate. Worst of all, they will have missed it deliberately because they feared any investigation might aid a president they hated. That position should be reserved for the editorial pages. In the news sections, such distortion and willful blindness is an abdication of journalists’ responsibilities. Democracy dies in that kind of derangement.

Speaking of deranged, Nick Gillespie reports a different form of derangement:

If you need more proof that free expression is under serious and sustained attack, look no further than The Washington Post, that legendary and often self-congratulatory bastion of First Amendment support, which has just published an op-ed calling for hate speech laws because “on the Internet, truth is not optimized. On the Web, it’s not enough to battle falsehood with truth; the truth doesn’t always win.”

What’s even more disheartening is that the author is Richard Stengel, a former managing editor of Time, chairman of the National Constitution Center, and Obama-era State Department official whose soul-searching apparently began when challenged by diplomats from a part of the world notorious for particularly brutal forms of censorship. As a journalist, Stengel avers, he loved, loved, loved the First Amendment and its commitment to free speech. But then he got stumped by unnamed representatives of unnamed governments who asked banal questions:

Even the most sophisticated Arab diplomats that I dealt with did not understand why the First Amendment allows someone to burn a Koran. Why, they asked me, would you ever want to protect that?

Is he kidding? “Why would a country founded in large part on the Enlightenment values of free speech and religious freedom allow free speech and religious freedom?” doesn’t seem like a tough question to answer. He doesn’t name the countries his “most sophisticated Arab diplomats represented, so we need to fill that detail in. Let’s assume they were from Saudi Arabia, a country completely unworthy of emulation when it comes to respecting basic human rights and whose Prince Mohammed bin Salman has taken responsibility for the brutal torture and murder of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. We allow the burning of the Koran for the same reasons we allow the burning of King James and St. Jerome Bibles, the desecration of the U.S. flag, and the potential libeling of elected officials: We believe that individuals have rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. With a few exceptions such as “fighting words,” “true threats,” and obscenity, we know that it’s better to allow more speech rather than less. Surprisingly, people get along better when they can more freely speak their minds. The search for “truth”—or at least consensus—benefits from free expression, too, as ideas and attitudes are subjected to examination from friends and foes alike. But the pragmatic answer is ultimately secondary to the expressive one: We allow free speech because no one, certainly not the government, has a right to curtail it.

As befits a man who helmed a legacy media outlet that is slowly being reduced to rubble like a statue of Ozymandias in the desert, Stengel is particularly distraught over “the Internet” and the “Web.” He implies that the “marketplace of ideas” worked well enough when John Milton and, a bit later, America’s founders pushed an unregulated press, but, well, times have changed.

On the Internet, truth is not optimized. On the Web, it’s not enough to battle falsehood with truth; the truth doesn’t always win. In the age of social media, the marketplace model doesn’t work. A 2016 Stanford study showed that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and an actual news story. Only a quarter of high school students could tell the difference between an actual verified news site and one from a deceptive account designed to look like a real one.

If you’re basing the erosion of constitutional rights on the reading comprehension skills of middle schoolers, you’re doing it wrong. And by it, I mean journalism, constitutional analysis, politics, and just about everything else, too.

Stengel pivots from discussing truth in media to “hate speech,” a ridiculously expansive term he never defines with precision (he even writes, “there’s no agreed-upon definition of what hate speech actually is”). But because mass shooters such as Dylann Roof, Omar Mateen, and the El Paso shooter “were consumers of hate speech,” it’s time to chuck out hard-fought victories that allow individuals and groups to express themselves in words and pictures. Hate speech, laments Stengel, doesn’t just cause violence (though strangely, violence is declining even as social media is flourishing), it also

diminishes tolerance. It enables discrimination. Isn’t that, by definition, speech that undermines the values that the First Amendment was designed to protect: fairness, due process, equality before the law? Why shouldn’t the states experiment with their own version of hate speech statutes to penalize speech that deliberately insults people based on religion, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation?

All speech is not equal. And where truth cannot drive out lies, we must add new guardrails. I’m all for protecting “thought that we hate,” but not speech that incites hate. It undermines the very values of a fair marketplace of ideas that the First Amendment is designed to protect.

A quick reading of the First Amendment would have reminded Stengel—the former chairman and CEO of the National Constitution Center, fer chrissakes!—that the First Amendment isn’t about limiting speech that bothers the sensibilities of people. It’s actually all about Congress not making laws that would create an official religion or restricting individual speech and freedom of the press; it also guarantees that we have the right of assembly and petition. The values it reflects involve pluralism and tolerance, not shutting down, regulating, or restricting speech that makers of “new guardrails” find offensive, annoying, or inconvenient.

If you grew up any time in the past 60 years or so, you’ve taken freedom of speech for granted. That’s due to a series of legal rulings that struck down the ability of elected officials to strangle speech they didn’t like, ranging from potentially libelous personal attacks to once-banned literary works as Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Howl, and Ulysses, along with materials such as the Pentagon Papers and the rise of technology that made producing and consuming all sorts of texts, images, music, video, and other forms of creative expression vastly easier.

It’s incredibly dispiriting to see baby boomers like Stengel brush aside the incredible wins in free expression because of concerns about vaguely defined terms such as “hate speech.” He gives off a strong whiff of internet and Cold War paranoia—”Russian agents assumed fake identities, promulgated false narratives and spread lies on Twitter and Facebook, all protected by the First Amendment”—that seems widely shared by his generational peers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) is an increasingly strong presidential candidate who has vowed to regulate explicitly political speech, especially its online iterations …

Older boomers are syncing with millennials and younger Americans, who show a strong predilection to limiting “bad” speech (a 2015 Pew survey found 40 percent of millennials supported censoring “offensive statements about minorities”). These are not good developments, and neither is an op-ed in The Washington Post calling for an effective revocation of the First Amendment. Throw in bipartisan interest in regulating social media platforms as public utilities, the president’s interest in “opening up” the libel laws so he can more easily sue his critics, the rise of “cancel culture,” and we’re one Zippo lighter short of a good, old-fashioned book burning.

Anti-free speech during Free Speech Week

This is, according to the News Media Alliance, Free Speech Week.

(Which I found out too late to include that in the newspaper this week. Media companies and organizations are notorious for bad internal communication.)

David Chavern wrote last year:

Do you remember what it was like to not be able to get the answer to an elusive question as soon as you asked it? Like how long sea turtles live? Or how far away is the sun? Or the name of that actor from that one movie? Before the omni-present Google and smartphone, these answers were likely missing (or required a lot of work to find). So when these questions came up in the past, conversation would stop.

That’s because the language of America is our common understanding of the facts of the world. Knowledge is a type of social currency, allowing us to converse and tackle the problems we collectively face. Without it, no democratic system can continue to function.

These common understandings tie us together. They allow us to communicate effectively and work together. When they are absent or under stress, like they are at this moment in society, it may sometimes feel like we will never recover that common language. But journalists are out there every day on the front lines to uncover the facts and understandings that will allow us to find our way back to a more productive democracy where decisions can be made based on mutually agreed-upon facts.

To fortify and flourish, we need to protect free speech. Journalists must be able to do their jobs without fear of censorship so that readers have unfettered access to the facts. Free speech is our most important tool in challenging abuses of power. It was a team of journalists at the Indianapolis Star that broke the Larry Nassar scandal, leading to his imprisonment this year. It was journalists who revealed the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and journalists who dug into Donald Trump’s suspected tax schemes. We’ve witnessed these brave men and women go into storm surges, disasters and war zones to bring us the news.

Yet across the globe, we have also seen egregious attacks on the press. Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was captured and murdered for practicing his profession; a shooter entered the Capital Gazette newsroom, killing five members of their staff; The Boston Globe received bomb threats – to name a few. So far, 43 journalists this year have been killed simply for reporting the news. These attacks, while unbelievably tragic in their own right, are also denying citizens their right to be informed. They are silencing the language of America.

This year during Free Speech Week, we must remember the sacrifices of these individuals and demand better protections for the Fourth Estate. The freedom of the press is a fundamental principle of the United States and one we must seek to protect.

The News Media Alliance has joined Reporters Without Borders and other organizations to encourage voters in the U.S. to ask their congressional candidates ahead of the midterm elections where they stand on press freedom. I urge you to speak with your elected officials and work to secure free speech and protections for journalists so that the language of America may thrive.

So what a great time (/sarcasm) for the Washington Free Beacon to report:

A majority of Americans believe the First Amendment should be rewritten and are willing to crack down on free speech, as well as the press, according to a new poll.

More than 60 percent of Americans agree on restricting speech in some way, while a slim majority, 51 percent, want to see the First Amendment rewritten to “reflect the cultural norms of today.” The Campaign for Free Speech, which conducted the survey, said the results “indicate free speech is under more threat than previously believed.”

“The findings are frankly extraordinary,” executive director Bob Lystad told the Washington Free Beacon. “Our free speech rights and our free press rights have evolved well over 200 years, and people now seem to be rethinking them.”

Of the 1,004 respondents, young people were the most likely to support curbing free expression and punishing those who engage in “hate speech.” Nearly 60 percent of Millennials—respondents between the ages of 21 and 38—agreed that the Constitution “goes too far in allowing hate speech in modern America” and should be rewritten, compared to 48 percent of Gen Xers and 47 percent of Baby Boomers. A majority of Millennials also supported laws that would make “hate speech” a crime—of those supporters, 54 percent said violators should face jail time.

American hostility to the First Amendment did not stop at speech. Many would also like to see a crackdown on the free press. Nearly 60 percent of respondents agreed that the “government should be able to take action against newspapers and TV stations that publish content that is biased, inflammatory, or false.” Of those respondents, 46 percent supported possible jail time.

The poll was released just two days after two University of Connecticut students were arrested for allegedly saying racial slurs in a viral video. The 21-year-old suspects were allegedly playing “a game in which they yelled vulgar words,” according to the police report. Lystad said such incidents and the rise of social media may be behind the increased willingness of Americans to curb speech rights.

“I think [our findings] are fueled in large part because of a rise of hate speech, but traditionally, hate speech is protected in the First Amendment,” Lystad said. “The Supreme Court has upheld that principle time and time again.”

Lystad launched the Campaign for Free Speech to advocate for preserving free and open dialogue in America. The group emphasizes that hate speech should be denounced, but does not think censorship is the answer. The group plans to push back against efforts to restrict speech at the local, state, and federal levels.

“Hate speech should be condemned, but legally, the answer to speech we don’t like is more speech, not censorship,” he said. “Our primary focus is education, and to help people better understand the First Amendment, free speech, free press, and why it’s so vital to our democracy.”

If that poll is accurate, it proves that a majority of Americans (that is, those who support restrictions on free speech) are idiots who should start restricting free speech by shutting the hell up. I will not. Ever.

 

Grounds for recalls

Benjamin Yount:

Wisconsin’s attorney general says the governor doesn’t have to answer questions from anyone other than “bona fide” journalists.

Attorney General Josh Kaul made that argument in his response to a lawsuit from the MacIver News Service, which is suing Gov. Tony Evers for being excluded from State Capitol press events.

MacIver, which operates as a news agency under the auspices of the free-market MacIver Institute, wants to be able to attend certain press briefings, namely the sneak peak of the state budget, but Kaul said Evers’ administration can exclude groups if he doesn’t consider them real news organizations.

Kaul’s response says those opportunities are “open to only a select group of invited journalists who meet the criteria for bona fide press organizations.”

Kaul does not define what makes a group a bone fide press organization, nor does his filing list who is or is not on that list. Kaul’s office also did not respond to questions about what makes a journalism organization bona fide, or comment on other possible conflicts of interest for other statehouse media outlets.

MacIver has said liberal-leaning groups have been invited to cover the governor’s press briefings.

MacIver President Brett Healy said the governor’s self-selection of who gets to write about his office is a First Amendment threat.

“All MacIver wants to do is ask the Governor straight-forward questions about his policies and the actions of his administration,” Healy said Monday. “MacIver cannot do our job on behalf of the Wisconsin taxpayer if we are prevented from attending the Governor’s press briefings and other public events.”

Kaul’s filing before the court offers a pithy response to that idea.

“MacIver does not argue that its journalists will be unable to report on news relating to Governor Evers absent an injunction. It simply argues that it will have to work harder to gather news and break stories relating to Gov. Evers,” Kaul wrote.

Do you support the First Amendment?

Courtland Culver:

President Donald Trump has seemingly gone back and forth on his opinion of the First Amendment. Just a couple of months ago, the president issued an executive order tying federal research funding to free speech protections given by colleges and universities.

Like many college students, I applauded this as a victory for freedom of speech. I was thrilled that we students could enjoy the freedom to express our opinions and encourage intellectual diversity anywhere on campus—not just in designated “free speech zones.” Then the president made the following tweet:

This tweet is troubling for several reasons. It means the president is not the crusader for free speech he may have earlier appeared to be. This should not come as a shock, however, as Trump is a populist: His stances are often based not on ideologies or absolutes but on what he believes will resonate the best with his base. What is more troubling is how those who pay lip service to conservatism and to defending the Constitution have readily thrown themselves behind the president’s statement.

For example, Candace Owens tweeted the next day that while there should be no jail time or fines imposed on Americans who have set the American flag ablaze, they should be given a year to liquidate their assets and “get the hell out of our country.” When the constitutionality of her campaign promise was questioned, she justified her stance by claiming that the First Amendment includes certain exceptions, citing specifically the fact that it is illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded building.

Without delving into the constitutionality of laws such as yelling “fire” in a movie theater, or hate speech laws, there are plenty of reasons why making flag burning illegal is dangerous to our republic and contrary to the founding principles of the United States.

Founding father James Madison once said,

For the people to rule wisely, they must be free to think and speak without fear of reprisal.

Madison believed that the right to free speech should be absolute, as the fear of punishment for having the wrong opinion would deter people from speaking out against the state. James Madison was not alone in this view.

John Stewart Mill’s reasoning for the importance of absolute freedom of speech was four-fold. First, for a governing body to deny the right of a person to say something is to say that it knows, in absolute terms, what is right and what is wrong. To deny anybody of the right to express an opinion is to claim infallibility. And to be clear, the US government (as well as President Trump) is by no means infallible.

Second, Mill taught that in silencing a belief, even a false one, a government may still be silencing some truth. Just because someone has an opinion that is wrong on the whole does not mean that every aspect of the opinion is wrong. Third, a belief, even when true, is held more strongly when it withstands scrutiny. When an idea is accepted without being challenged, says Mills, it is not held as strongly and is at greater risk of being lost in the future.

Therefore, it is important that society is exposed to wrong ideas in order to strengthen their belief in the right ones. Finally, Mill taught that any abridgment of the right to free speech carries the risk of the entirety of the right falling. We see this in Owens’ argument. If society agrees that one form of speech should be punished, why not this one, as well?

If Mill’s warning is to be believed, the president and Miss Owens are heading down a slippery slope. There are going to be instances where free speech makes people uncomfortable, but it is the bedrock of a free society, and when it is chipped away, a people risks the very institutions that were built because of it. Flag burning sends a powerful message and is an act that should not be taken lightly. However, it is imperative that we fight for the universal right to do it on any occasion.

Anyone who doesn’t support the free expression of ideas they disagree with, such as burning a flag — be it an American flag or the rainbow LGBTQ flag — can’t really be called a supporter of free expression.

Neither can someone who espouses this, reported by the Daily Wire:

Democrat Rep. Frederica Wilson led a congressional delegation to inspect an immigrant detention facility on Tuesday and following her visit she said that people who are “making fun of members of Congress” online “should be prosecuted.” …

“Those people who are online making fun of members of Congress are a disgrace and there is no need for anyone to think that is unacceptable,” Wilson said during a press conference. “We are going to shut them down and work with whoever it is to shut them down, and they should be prosecuted.” …

Wilson garnered national spotlight in October 2017 over a spat she had with then-White House chief of staff John Kelly, who called Wilson “someone that is that empty a barrel” for allegedly using “a presidential call to Gold Star widow Myeshia Johnson for her own political gain.”

Wilson later laughed over the whole ordeal, which sparked national outrage, after she said on camera: “I’m a rock star now.”

Vote for Democrats, and this is what you get.

Sadly, most Americans do not support the First Amendment. That is, most Americans value their own right of free expression far more than the rights of others, particularly those with whom they disagree — people with opposing political views, a religion they don’t like, a news media outlet they don’t read, and so on.

 

Because free speech always needs defending

Bosch Fawstin:

What kind of world would it be if no one drew Mohammad? A world without Free Speech, like the Islamic world. I never want to live in that world, and drawing Mohammad is how I personally keep that world at bay. Unfortunately, almost no one is drawing Mohammad cartoons today. The horrible fact is that terrorism has worked. The violent response to criticism of Islam and of Mohammad cartoons has made those of us who continue to criticize Islam and draw Mohammad a very small minority, making us easier to pick off by leftists who want to character assassinate us, in order to ban us from mainstream society, and Muslims who want to literally assassinate us. (The word assassin is of Arabic origin).

Whatever reason that those who can draw and who claim to support Free Speech don’t draw Mohammad –and I’ve heard it all, from them claiming that they have no “interest” in doing so, to it’s just not their “thing”- the simple reason is that the murders and death threats have shut them up and shut down their alleged support for freedom. Islam’s got their tongues and their pens, and they’re ashamed to admit it. People ask me why I draw Mohammad, since I get death threats, and the reason I draw Mohammad is because of the death threats. The way I see it, death threats are not a reason to NOT draw Mohammad, but TO draw Mohammad. I never set out to draw Mohammad, and even being raised Muslim, I didn’t know of the Islamic prohibition of drawing him, but when Danish cartoonists were threatened with death over drawing Mohammad, I did what’s natural for someone who loves freedom, especially when it’s threatened, and I began drawing Mohammad, and I haven’t stopped since.

My winning Mohammad cartoon explicitly spells out why I draw Mohammad in the first place, and that’s in defiance of the Islamic prohibition, which leads Muslims to threaten to murder over cartoons. Though Mohammad cartoons are blamed for inciting Islamic violence, in truth, it’s Islamic violence that incites Mohammad cartoons.

Mark Steyn wrote the following about my winning Mohammad cartoon, in his article “Stay Silent And You’ll Be Okay” :

“It’s less about Mohammed than about the prohibition against drawing Mohammed—and the willingness of a small number of Muslims to murder those who do, and a far larger number of Muslims both enthusiastic and quiescent to support those who kill. Mr.Fawstin understands the remorseless logic of one-way multiculturalism—that it leads to the de facto universal acceptance of Islamic law.”

We’ve failed to avenge 9/11, and we’re allowing a very defeatable enemy to remained undefeated, nearly 18 years later, as it continues to mass murder across the world. We’ve failed to defend Free Speech after the Danish Mohammad Cartoons and the Charlie Hebdo massacre, with almost no Western publication publishing the Mohammad cartoons. We all know, but rarely admit, that the vast majority of Western politicians who are charged to protect us can live with the deaths of Westerners at the hands of Muslims, (though they can’t live with criticism of Islam) and that bottomless corruption has spilled over into the West at large, poisoning the majority of us who can now live with the deaths of our fellow Westerners, with very little protest.

We still have freedom of speech, yet far too many of us operate as if it’s long gone. And to those who think that we shouldn’t criticize Islam until government guarantees our safety, as some have told me over the years: Freedom isn’t won and maintained by keeping our mouths shut. That’s how tyranny wins. I have never waited for government protection to speak out against Islam and draw Mohammad, and those who claim to be waiting for this government protection that doesn’t exist, were never going to speak out against Islam or draw Mohammad anyway. It’s their ultimate excuse to remain silent in the face of evil. “But it’s not my duty!”, some cry. It’s about self-respect, it’s about being honest, it’s about not allowing evil to have its way in the world. It’s about exercising your right to speak while you still have it.

We’ve been warned about government censorship, we were worried about the FCC, but in this post-9/11 world, we’re censoring ourselves, and the government wouldn’t have it any other way. We, the people, are doing their dirty work for them, and government bureaucrats are sitting back and laughing their asses off. We’re censoring ourselves daily, from powerful leftist-run social media and tech companies punishing us for challenging their anti-Western, pro-Islam agenda, to leftists across our culture crusading against speech that they hate, which they call “hate speech”, to conservatives placing “respect” for religion above necessary criticism of Islam, to the worst censorship of all, self-censorship. So long as we have Free Speech, we must exercise it, because without it, Freedom is over.

Those who are waiting for the coast to be clear in order to speak the truth about Islam and to draw Mohammad, are parasites who are relying on others to clear the coast.

Truth-tellers don’t wait for guaranteed government protection before speaking the truth- as they’re honest enough to know that there’s no such thing- and they continue telling the truth about Islam and to draw Mohammad, even in the face of threats. Those who say what must be said will hopefully lead to those in power finally doing what must be done.

If we act as if Free Speech is over, it will be.

On World “Press” “Freedom” Day

The Wisconsin Newspaper Association announces:

As World Press Freedom Day approaches on Friday, May 3, news organizations around the world are encouraged to join in the “Defend Journalism” campaign.

The campaign is intended to stand up for free, independent and quality journalism. Special editorial coverage dedicated to the campaign will be amplified by UNESCO.

This year’s theme for World Press Freedom Day is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation.” Organizations are encouraged to promote the key messages:

  • Facts, not falsehoods should inform citizens’ decisions during elections.
  • Technology innovations should be used to help achieve peaceful elections.
  • Transparency and the right to information protect the integrity of elections.
  • Journalists should be able to work without fear of attacks.
  • Internet shutdown compromise democracy.
  • An open and accessible internet for all.
  • Fair and independent reporting can counter incitement and hate.
  • Informed citizens that think critically can contribute to peaceful elections.
  • Media contributes to peaceful, just and inclusive societies.

More from World News Publishing Focus:

News organisations across the globe are encouraged to participate in the “Defend Journalism” campaign surrounding #WorldPressFreedomDay to stand up for free, independent and quality journalism, and to dedicate special editorial coverage in the build-up to May 3. UNESCO will amplify their content, as they have done with media partners in previous years.

UNESCO is providing news organisations with materials such as banners for print, digital, and social media in the six official UN languages to build momentum around #WorldPressFreedomDay.

The global conference for the Day will take place in Addis Ababa, jointly organised by UNESCO, the Government of Ethiopia and the African Union Commission.

This year, the annual World Press Freedom Prize will be awarded to the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, imprisoned in Myanmar.

First: UNESCO, for those unaware, is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The U.S. and Israel left UNESCO earlier this year over UNESCO’s organizational bias against Israel, which is only our longest-standing ally in the Middle East. But that’s not the only problem with UNESCO, as Time Magazine reports:

The Trump administration’s statement cited “mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organization, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO” as reasons for the decision. Those rationales echo arguments made by the administration of president Ronald Reagan in December 1983, when the U.S. previously announced a decision to pull out of UNESCO: “UNESCO has extraneously politicized virtually every subject it deals with. It has exhibited hostility toward a free society, especially a free market and a free press, and it has demonstrated unrestrained budgetary expansion.” …

When 37 nations created UNESCO as a human rights organization promoting education, science and cultural causes in November 1945, “it was essentially a western entity, dominated by western funding,” says political scientist Jerry Pubantz, co-author of To Create a New World? American Presidents and the United Nations and co-editor of The Encyclopedia of the United Nations. School systems in Europe were undergoing “denazification” and, as part of that process, the U.S. wanted to be sure that they taught World War II accurately. UNESCO was a way to influence those curricula. Likewise, during the Cold War, American officials imagined UNESCO as an advocate for free speech in an era of communist propaganda.

But, as more members joined the group — about 160 members by July 1983 — U.S. policy makers grew worried their voices would be drowned out. The newest members were “largely the decolonized new independent states of Africa and Asia” who “tended to be less supportive of American policies, and more supportive of the Soviet bloc’s position,” says Pubantz.

In addition, some U.S. officials soured on the group because, despite the new members, they felt the U.S. was left footing a disproportionate amount of the bill for UNESCO’s work. Or Jeane Kirkpatrick, who represented the U.S. at the U.N. put it, “The countries which have the votes don’t pay the bill, and those who pay the bill don’t have the votes,” as TIME reported in a Jan. 9, 1984, article.

That feature, “Waving Goodbye to UNESCO,” summed up specific events that contributed to the decision to pull out of UNESCO:

The voters who elected Reagan may have influenced the decision, too. Russell L. Riley, a presidential historian at the University of Virginia, adds that the rationale behind leaving UNESCO jibed with the Reagan administration’s overall economic agenda: “It was an easy way to save a little money and could prove to Americans that we [U.S. government officials] were being fiscally responsible.”

Increasing government control over the media and press freedom are oxymorons, and UNESCO’s involvement should make everyone suspect of …

This is the second time in nine months that the media felt the need to rally around and promote itself. The first was due to the orange-haired meanie in the White House, for whom they should be thanking God — or would if they were religious, though they are not — for Trump’s making their work as easy as humanly possible. In the same way that dissent has become patriotic again now that an R and not a D is in the White House, harsh reporting upon said Oval Office occupant and his party is back in style, as it was not between 2009 and 2016.

Some of the aforementioned “key” messages should be noncontroversial. (Point three was lost on the Obama White House, and appears to be lost on this state’s Evers administration, which bars the MacIver Institute from access because MacIver has the wrong ideology.) Point four, about journalists’ working without fear of attacks (I thought the only thing we had to fear was fear itself), seems more motivated by those mean words of Donald Trump than people like Lyra McKee, who was killed in Northern Ireland by “dissident republicans.” Every time a journalist whines about mean Trump, that journalist demonstrates a lack of backbone (which I suppose reads less harsh than “cowardice”) when journalists elsewhere in the world are reporting at risk to their own lives.

What about Annapolis? Read here.

That part about “diverse sources” is ironic given that much of the news media’s current problems have to do with a lack of “diverse” sources — that is, intellectually and ideologically diverse, sources beyond the liberal institutional/governmental status quo. Arguably diversity is less of a media problem than reporters’ inability to relate to their own readers.

People will jump, and should, all over the part about “just and inclusive societies.” Our job as journalists is to report, not foment societal change, and those in for the latter reason are in journalism for the wrong reasons. Reporting might start societal change, but (1) remember that “change” and ‘progress” are not synonyms and change can be positive or negative, and (2) it is incredibly arrogant for journalists to assume they know where society should change.

Then there’s this, from Ryan Foley:

On Sunday’s edition of her weekly syndicated show Full Measure, host Sharyl Attkisson discussed the results of a poll conducted by Scott Rasmussen that reflects very negatively on media credibility. During an on-screen interview with Attkisson, the pollster highlighted the most shocking result of the poll: “78 percent of voters say that…what reporters do with political news is promote their agenda. They think they use incidents as props for their agenda rather than seeking to accurately record what happened” while “only 14 percent think that a journalist is actually reporting what happened.” Rasmussen continued: “if a reporter found out something that would hurt their favorite candidate, only 36 percent of voters think that they would report that.” Rasmussen summed up the results of the poll by declaring that voters see journalists as a “political activist, not as a source of information.” 

One reason why Republicans and conservatives should support press freedom, including open government records, is in this state, during Act 10 and Recallarama, when, thanks to the fact that election petition signatures are public records (specifically the recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker), we got to find out the people who (1) get government paychecks, (2) are candidates for office, or (3) are in the news media who signed the petitions. That is the public’s right to know.

There will never be support for press freedom from politicians. There is no question in my mind that all the Democrats jumping on the media bandwagon are hoping they will be treated with the same light touch that the media used on Obama, before him Bill Clinton, and after him Hillary Clinton. (Which has a lot to do with mean orange-hair man now in the Oval Office, but you can tell that to neither Democrats nor journalists.) Reporters worth their salt revel in being hated by politicians of any or no party. Then again, reporters worth their salt don’t hold parties celebrating themselves.

Something else you may not see acknowledged today is that the First Amendment does not belong merely to the press. (And the news media includes more than however the media defines itself, with the intent of squelching out alternative voices. The marketplace of ideas should decide which news media outlets are legitimate and which are not based on the quality of their work.) Like this state’s Open Meetings and Open Records laws, our First Amendment rights apply to every American, not just to the news media. It would be nice if the news media acknowledged that fact, as well as our other constitutional rights.

 

The free press and Trump, and me

The Boston Globe reports:

Around 200 news publications across the United States have committed to a Boston Globe-coordinated effort to run editorials Thursday promoting the freedom of the press, in light of President Trump’s frequent attacks on the media.

Some of the most respected and widely circulated newspapers in the country have committed to taking a stand in their editorial pages, including The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, The Denver Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Chicago Sun-Times. The list ranges from large metropolitan dailies to small weekly papers with circulations as low as 4,000.

The Globe initiative comes amid the president’s repeated verbal attacks on journalists, calling mainstream press organizations “fake news” and “the enemy of the American people.” Tensions came to a boil in early August when CNN reporter Jim Acosta walked out of a press briefing after White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders refused to refute Trump’s “enemy of the people” comments.

‘‘We are not the enemy of the people,’’ Marjorie Pritchard, deputy managing editor of the Globe’s opinion page, told the AP last week.

The Globe’s request to denounce the “dirty war against the free press” has been promoted by industry groups such as the American Society of News Editors, as well as regional groups like the New England Newspaper and Press Association. The request also suggested editorial boards take a stand against Trump’s words regardless of their politics, or whether they generally editorialized in support of or in opposition to the president’s policies.

‘‘Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming,’’ the Globe appeal said. …

Pritchard previously said the decision to reach out to newspapers was reached after Trump appeared to step up his rhetoric in recent weeks. He called the media “fake, fake disgusting news” at an Aug. 2 rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

‘‘Whatever happened to the free press? Whatever happened to honest reporting?’’ he asked at the rally, pointing to journalists covering the event. ‘‘They don’t report it. They only make up stories.’’

Pritchard said she hoped the editorials would make an impression on Americans.

‘‘I hope it would educate readers to realize that an attack on the First Amendment is unacceptable,’’ she said. ‘‘We are a free and independent press; it is one of the most sacred principles enshrined in the Constitution.’’

If you are a supporter of the free press specifically and the First Amendment generally, then you should accept the existence of, if not agree with, opposing points of view — in this case, Patricia McCarthy:

[Pritchard’s] big idea is her response to President Trump’s relentless attack on those among the media who relentlessly publish fake news.  Trump has never said all of the media are disingenuous, or that all of the media publish and promote fake news.  He clearly goes after the news outlets who do: CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NPR, CBS, NBC, NYT, WaPo, L.A. Times, and too many others.

The president is targeting what has become known as the mainstream media, the MSM, or the “drive-bys,” as Rush Limbaugh rightfully calls them.  They are clones of one another.  There is not an original thought or idea among their “reporters.”  Their reporters are not journalists in any sense of the word.  They all take their marching orders from the leftists who head up each of these organizations.  Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, not one of them deviated from the Clinton campaign party line.

Ms. Pritchard, then, is working hard to prove Trump’s point.  He rages against the leftist machine that is the MSM, and she is bound and determined to prove him right for all to see.  She, and all those editors who are jumping onto her bandwagon, is playing right into his hands.  How clueless can these anti-Trumpers be?  They are mind-numbed idiots, so easily trolled by the master.  They see themselves as defenders of the free press!

The only free press today is vast, available to all of us, and thoroughly outside their realm of conformity.  They think they matter; they have yet to grasp the fact that they are largely irrelevant.  Jim Acosta thinks he is a reporter; he is a rude clown, subservient to tyrants, disrespectful to Trump and Sarah Sanders.  He actually thinks people care what he says, does, or thinks.  They do not.  He is a joke.

Since interest has dimmed in Stormy Daniels and her “creepy porn lawyer,” as Tucker Carlson has dubbed him, the new star the MSM are celebrating is the pathetic Omarosa Manigault Newman, with her book of lies and accusations that everyone knows are fabricated.  The anchors on all the MSM outlets know exactly who and what she is but are wooing her in the hope that she will be the one to take Trump down.  They never give up.  They never learn.  From the Access Hollywood tape to Omarosa, they are confident that each new lowlife with a story to tell will be the one to overturn the election.  They are like Energizer bunnies; they have motors but no brains.  They never give up, no matter how ridiculous the attacks on Trump become.  In short, they are utter fools.

Ms. Pritchard says newspapers use “differing words.”  Uh, no, they don’t.  They use the same words.  Just as that JournoList functioned under Obama, talking points went out, and they all repeated them verbatim.  These people do not think for themselves.  Throw a differing, conservative opinion at them, and they cry racism.  That is their only defense, no matter how specious.

Conservatives are looking forward to Thursday’s coordinated anti-Trump editorials.  We will have a definitive list of news outlets to never trust again because they will have revealed themselves to be unthinking soldiers in a nasty war against a man for whom over sixty million Americans voted to be their president.  So far, he has been a truly terrific president.  He has accomplished more good for the nation than either Bush or Obama did in sixteen years.

  • Economy great thanks to tax cuts and de-regulation.
  • Unemployment at lowest point ever, for blacks and Hispanics, too.
  • Food stamp use down by a few million.

The man who has accomplished all this in nineteen months is whom they want to destroy.  What does that tell us about who the left is today?  Leftists do not have the country’s best interest at heart.  Their hatred of this man motivates them in a most destructive way.  Let those hundred or so newspapers follow Pritchard’s orders and publish their anti-Trump op-eds on Thursday.  They will be demonstrating for all to see just how right Trump is when he calls out the perpetrators of fake news.

McCarthy’s piece is an opinion. So is whatever those 200 newspapers write today and this week.

One of Wisconsin’s best weekly newspapers wrote this piece this week on its opinion page, patriotically called The First Amendment, that its veteran award-winning editor doubts fits into what the Globe has in mind.

As someone who has been doing this crap — I mean, has been a journalist — for three decades, I have trouble fitting in on this subject, which I will attempt to explain here.

Is the free press vital to this democratic republic? There is absolutely no question that it is. Trump specifically and whichever party and politicians in power conveniently forget that, or don’t want that to be the case, far too often. But Trump isn’t the first president to try to prevent the press from doing its job, though he probably has been the most verbal about it. (Other than Harry S. Truman, who once threatened to punch out Washington Post music critic Paul Hume for the latter’s uncomplimentary review of Truman’s daughter’s performance. Trump hasn’t gone that far. Yet.)

Should Trump not say bad things about the news media? Well … I don’t care what Trump or any other politician says about the media generally or myself specifically. I really don’t. Once upon a time when journalists had more backbone than today, nasty comments from politicians were something a journalist should put on his or her résumé.

Our job as journalists is to hold the powerful accountable, regardless of party or lack of party. Politicians, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the educational system and every other level and function of government everywhere do their work with our tax dollars, and for that reason alone the free press is necessary to make sure they’re doing what they should be doing, and not doing what they should not be doing.

Freedom of the press is part of the First Amendment. The First Amendment does not belong just to the press. It belongs to all Americans, and if it doesn’t, then it’s just almost-illegible words on old paper. The Wisconsin Constitution’s free-expression protections also belong to all Wisconsinites, as do the state Open Meetings Law and Open Records Law.

There seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding today about the media and its history on the subject of reporter bias. The period where the media was seen as impartial is not that old in American history.

To too many people “unbiased” actually means “biased in favor of my point of view.” Does this strike you as unbiased?

How about this?

In the middle of ABC-TV’s coverage of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, Howard K. Smith and Frank Reynolds practically demanded Congress pass gun control. So did Cronkite on CBS even though, of all people, Dan Rather correctly pointed out that the gun control measures then in Congress wouldn’t have prevented either Kennedy assassination.

All you need see for evidence of previous institutional press bias is see the number of newspapers with the words “Democrat,” “Republican,” “Progressive” or similar words. And even when those words weren’t in the names of the newspapers, there have usually been conservative newspapers (the Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Sentinel, Wisconsin State Journal, and once upon a time the Los Angeles Times) and liberal newspapers (the New York Times, Milwaukee Journal and The Capital Times) in multiple-newspaper markets. The State Journal is unquestionably more liberal than it was now that it’s the only daily newspaper in Madison, while The C(r)apital Times is still as lefty as always, including in its news coverage. (One associate editor wrote in a news story “the so-called Moral Majority,” which is an error because that was the group’s name, and the writer’s opinion of it didn’t belong in a news story.)

Remember these good old days?

My suspicion is that what’s written today and this week is going to be read as nothing more than ripping on Trump (particularly in the opinion of those sympathetic to views like McCarthy’s), and will give an unrealistically gauzy view of the news media, with related offended whining that people fail to worship the media’s work (this, for instance), accompanied by hand-wringing that Trump and his supporters are destroying democracy. (They aren’t and won’t.)

Truth be told, the media has a lot of flaws today, and this campaign might be one of them. For one thing, it’s practically impossible for me, someone who has worked for low pay but long and irregular hours in the First Amendment Wars, to think I have very much in common with Acosta, Pritchard or people who get their paychecks from big media, even though I used to work for one of this country’s biggest (at the time) media companies. They get paid an order of magnitude more than I do in much better conditions with much better benefits, including being wrongly famous.

Is Trump trying to control the media? Of course he is. So did his predecessor, and every president in this media age, and probably every president before that. So do most politicians. They have media relations people to feed quotes and pass on good things about their guy and bad things about the other side. They all answer questions posed by the media with answers to the questions they want to be asked, instead of what they were asked.

That, however, is part of the job, and always has been. A reporter who expects to be fed information and not have to do actual asking of questions is either lazy or a toady for whoever is in power. (Too many journalists worship at the altar of government because they cover government.)

A few things have certainly gotten worse in my professional lifetime. There have been far too many stories labeled “Analysis” that are in fact the writer’s opinion not on the opinion pages. There are far too many expressions of reporter opinion on social media, particularly on Twitter reporter accounts, when the correct number of opinions that are not labeled opinions is zero. (News-media social media should report and only report, not give the reporter’s opinion.)

Too much of this “analysis” since approximately the Clinton administration has been inside baseball — some political staffer feeds their view about the brilliant politics of (insert politician’s name here). That violates the sentence I have had printed on top of every computer I’ve had for more than 25 years — “What does this story mean to the reader?” And unless you’re a political junkie, the political fortunes of a politician are and should be about 367th in your list of important things.

There are also far too many journalists who seek to curry favor among the politically powerful. In fact, I have to wonder how much news media bitching is taking place due to failures to curry favor among the Trump administration. The Washington phrase, “If you want a friend, get a dog,” applies to journalists in state capitals, county seats and basically anywhere else.

There is a large and growing disconnect between the news media and the people we are supposed to be serving. Yes, news media people are considerably more politically liberal on average, and because of that many seem to not grasp conservative views. (Conservatives working in the mainstream media often  keep their political views secret because they think those views will hurt their career among their liberal colleagues and bosses.) The media utterly failed in not seeing the possibility of Trump’s election, and they compound that error by refusing to see why people might have voted for Trump, and that a huge number of Americans believe that government failed them under the previous administration.

But the political divide isn’t the only divide. Those readers who live in communities with newspapers or radio stations with news departments might get an education by finding out how many reporters (1) live in the community they work in, (2) have or had children, and (3) go to church regularly. That was me once upon a time, when the only thing I did among those three was live where the job was. Your view of life and what’s important, and therefore what is important news and what isn’t, changes when you have ties to a community, particularly children. And as has been pointed out on this blog, the media gets more things wrong about guns and gun control than can be listed here.

Here is a dirty little secret about Trump and the media: Trump is president today not just because he was running against Hillary Clinton and as an anti-Barack Obama vote; he is president today in large part due to the news media. Trump has been providing quotable copy and video for the media since he was a New York City developer who showed up on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” The media focused on Trump in 2015 because Trump was so much more interesting than any of the other presidential candidates. Trump and the media have a symbiotic–parasitic relationship regardless of what Trump or the media say about eachother.

I sort of feel like an orphan in today’s argument, not on Trump’s side but not on the media’s side.(I can generally pick apart most publications and see their flaws.) I have, I think, more respect for the First Amendment than most journalists do anymore. I believe in giving the opposing side a voice. It’s hard to see that from the national media today.

Individual thinking is not in very much evidence today on any side of the political divide. I have always wanted to be judged on my own work, not lumped in with everyone else in the news media.

But as I wrote before, I really do not care what politicians think of the media or of me, and I have to wonder why media people care what Trump or any other politician thinks of them. I would have thought that journalists would have thick skins and not be snowflakes, but apparently I was mistaken.

In my professional life, I’ve gotten threats of various kinds, including threats to my health. I got invited by a school board president to stand in front of their table and listen to what they were saying while they were trying to skirt the Open Meetings Law. (I did.) I got publicly asked to leave a speech given by Madison Catholic Bishop Robert Morlino. (I didn’t. He did.) They didn’t, don’t and won’t faze me from doing my work. Nor will anything any politician says about the news media. We always get the last word when we want it.

 

Internet 1, gun-grabbing judges 0

Earlier today I reported about the hysteria over the releasing of blueprints for guns that could be assembled with a 3-D printer.

A federal judge blocked the release of those blueprints. But, the Huffington Post reports via Yahoo! News:

Gun rights activist groups found a way around the temporary halting of 3D-printed gun blueprints by publishing another set of blueprints on a new website Tuesday, which they say is activity protected under the First Amendment.

“Through CodeIsFreeSpeech.com, we intend to encourage people to consider new and different aspects of our nation’s marketplace of ideas – even if some government officials disagree with our views or dislike our content – because information is code, code is free speech, and free speech is freedom,” reads a statement on the site, which was created by a variety of groups including the Firearms Policy Coalition and the Firearms Policy Foundation.

The site features downloadable blueprints for a variety of firearms, including the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, the AR-10 battle rifle as well as the Liberator, a single-shot handgun.

It went live the same day that U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik blocked a settlement that President Donald Trump’s administration had reached with digital firearms nonprofit Defense Distributed, which had been granted permission to relaunch its website on Wednesday with blueprints.

Attorneys general from eight states and Washington, D.C., announced Monday they were suing the federal government in an attempt to halt the settlement.

“There are 3D printers in public colleges and public spaces and there is the likelihood of potential irreparable harm,” Lasnik said.

Defense Distributed had been hosting schematics for seven different firearms from July 27 until the site’s founder Cody Wilson announced on Twitter Tuesday that the site was “going dark.” Thousands of the blueprints had already been downloaded by Tuesday.

Three comments on this story point out the silliness of this latest anti-gun controversy:

  • MakerBot Replicator Z18 – 3D printer $6,499.00 MakerBot PLA Filament $160.00 per roll,Not cheep for a use and lose 1 timer.
  • Even though this new era of 3D printable parts to manufacture firearms is in controversy, it may come as somewhat of a surprise that it is still completely legal to make and own a homemade gun.
  • Anyone with minimal mechanical ability can build a zip gun from hardware store supplies in under 5 minutes…. Why is this such an issue?

Brandon Burdette added on Facebook:

Ghost guns only seem to terrify the political class. No average person I’ve met really gives a crap.

I wonder why that is.

The ACLU vs. free speech

Former American Civil Liberries Union board member Wendy Kaminer:

The American Civil Liberties Union has explicitly endorsed the view that free speech can harm “marginalized” groups by undermining their civil rights. “Speech that denigrates such groups can inflict serious harms and is intended to and often will impede progress toward equality,” the ACLU declares in new guidelines governing case selection and “Conflicts Between Competing Values or Priorities.”

This is presented as an explanation rather than a change of policy, and free-speech advocates know the ACLU has already lost its zeal for vigorously defending the speech it hates. ACLU leaders previously avoided acknowledging that retreat, however, in the apparent hope of preserving its reputation as the nation’s premier champion of the First Amendment.

But traditional free-speech values do not appeal to the ACLU’s increasingly partisan progressive constituency—especially after the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville. The Virginia ACLU affiliate rightly represented the rally’s organizers when the city attempted to deny them a permit to assemble. Responding to intense post-Charlottesville criticism, last year the ACLU reconsidered its obligation to represent white-supremacist protesters.

The 2018 guidelines claim that “the ACLU is committed to defending speech rights without regard to whether the views expressed are consistent with or opposed to the ACLU’s core values, priorities and goals.” But directly contradicting that assertion, they also cite as a reason to decline taking a free-speech case “the extent to which the speech may assist in advancing the goals of white supremacists or others whose views are contrary to our values.”

In selecting speech cases to defend, the ACLU will now balance the “impact of the proposed speech and the impact of its suppression.” Factors like the potential effect of the speech on “marginalized communities” and even on “the ACLU’s credibility” could militate against taking a case. Fundraising and communications officials helped formulate the new guidelines.

One half of this balancing test is familiar. The “impact of suppressing speech”—the precedents that suppression might establish, the constitutional principles at stake—is a traditional factor in case selection. But, traditionally, the ACLU has not formally weighed the content of speech and its consistency with ACLU values in deciding whether to defend it.

Tension between competing values isn’t new to the ACLU. Given its decades-old commitment to defending civil rights and liberties, the organization has long navigated conflicts between equality rights and freedoms of religion, speech and association. The guidelines assert that “no civil liberties or civil rights value should automatically be privileged over any other.” But it’s clear that free speech has become second among equals. Where is the comparable set of guidelines explaining when the ACLU should decline to defend gay-rights claims that infringe on religious liberty or women’s-rights cases that infringe on due process?

The speech-case guidelines reflect a demotion of free speech in the ACLU’s hierarchy of values. Their vague references to the “serious harm” to “marginalized” people occasioned by speech can easily include the presumed psychological effects of racist or otherwise hateful speech, which is constitutionally protected but contrary to ACLU values. Faced with perceived conflicts between freedom of speech and “progress toward equality,” the ACLU is likely to choose equality. If the Supreme Court adopted the ACLU’s balancing test, it would greatly expand government power to restrict speech.

In Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), for example, the ACLU defended the First Amendment rights of a Ku Klux Klan leader prosecuted for addressing a small rally and calling for “revengence” against blacks and Jews. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed Clarence Brandenburg’s conviction, narrowly defining incitement to violence as speech both intended and likely to cause imminent illegal action. Brandenburgmade an essential distinction between advocacy and action, which progressives who equate hate speech with actual discrimination or violence seek to erase.

The ACLU would be hard pressed to take Brandenburg’s case today, given its new guidelines. The organization hasn’t yet endorsed a ban on hate speech, or a broader definition of incitement. The guidelines affirm that “speakers have a right to advocate violence.” But even if Brandenburg managed to pass the new balancing test for speech cases, some participants at his rally were armed, and, according to the guidelines, “the ACLU generally will not represent protesters who seek to march while armed.”