Denmark had allowed its old blasphemy law to fall into disuse, but now it’s reviving prosecutions by way of its ban on hate speech purportedly aimed at religious groups [Jacob Mchangama, Columbia U. Global Freedom of Expression & Information Jurisprudence Project]
Of the demands being made by protesters in the current wave of unrest on American campuses, some no doubt are well grounded and worth considering. Some of them, on the other hand, challenge academic freedom head on. Some would take control of curriculum and hiring out of the hands of faculty. Some would enforce conformity of thought. Some would attack the rights of dissenters. Some would merely gut the seriousness of the university.
Last night I did a long series of tweets drawing on a website which sympathetically compiles demands from campus protests — TheDemands.org — and noting some of the more troublesome instances:
- From Dartmouth: “All professors will be required to be trained in not only cultural competency but also the importance of social justice in their day-to-day work.”
- From Wesleyan: “An anonymous student reporting system for cases of bias, including microaggressions, perpetrated by faculty and staff.”
- From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “White professors must be discouraged from leading and teaching departments about demographics and societies colonized, massacred, or enslaved under white supremacy.”
- From Guilford College: “We suggest that every week a faculty member come forward and publicly admit their participation in racism inside the classroom via a letter to the editor” in the college paper.
- Uh-oh: “40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities” [Pew Research, Cathy Young on Twitter (“OK, NOW can we stop the ‘naww, political correctness isn’t a threat to free speech, it’s just about courtesy’ spin?”)]
- Breezy but informative guide to why Schneiderman & Co. might hope to find, amid the general rule that the First Amendment protects business speech about public policy, an exception/ loophole for business speech about public policy when it affects securities [Matt Levine, Bloomberg View; earlier on climate speech investigations here, etc.]
- “Lawsplainer: How The Sixth Circuit Stood Up To Hecklers (And Cops)” [Popehat on Michigan case of Bible Believers v. Wayne County, Dearborn protesters threatened with arrest for “disorderly conduct” arising from prospect of violence against them]
- Discrimination law: “Can Office Depot be forced to print flyers that it disapproves of?” [Eugene Volokh; compare Hands On Originals case in Kentucky]
- Scary: UK’s Muslim Council calls for controls on UK press coverage of Islamic issues [Ben Flanagan, Al-Arabiya] Prominent Labour MP says he would have “no problem” with reintroducing blasphemy laws [National Secular Society]
- Cook County sheriff sent letterhead takedown demands to Backpage.com over sex ads, but Supreme Court has looked askance at informal you’d-better-not-publish-this pressure by government [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
- Portland, Ore. police department “encourages the reporting to law enforcement” of “offensive language used on social media” even when not illegal. It does? [Charles Cooke]
- Mizzou campus cops: if you witness “hateful and/or hurtful speech…call the police immediately” [Eugene Volokh, more (ACLU of Missouri says memo runs “counter to the First Amendment”); James Taranto; earlier on Missouri and Yale episodes]
- “Amherst Students Protest ‘Free Speech,’ Demand ‘Training’ for Offenders” [Katie Zavadski, Daily Beast; Eugene Volokh; Greg Lukianoff and Robert Shibley, New York Daily News; while Vox takes a more positive view of recent rounds of racial intimidation]
- “Dear Colleague” letter, other Obama administration actions encouraged university communities to redefine speech as assault or retaliation under Title IX [Samantha Harris via Katie Barrows, FIRE] More: Ramesh Ponnuru, Bloomberg;
- And now, Claremont-McKenna: it’s not going to take many ruined careers to reduce administrations to the intended compliance. [Claremont McKenna Forum, background on controversy via @adamsteinbaugh] Recommended editorial: “We dissent.” [Claremont Independent]
- Conor Friedersdorf responds with far more patience than I would have shown to a truly awful New Yorker piece claiming that campus free speech alarms are a mere cover for racism (Jelani Cobb: “Right-to-offend advocates [are] trafficking in the same sort of [Jim Crow-era] argument for the right to maintain subordination”) [Atlantic, Noah Rothman/Commentary, earlier episode suggesting New Yorker having its collective doubts whether there is too much free speech in America]
- “Protesters Demand Firing Of Tenured Vanderbilt Law Professor Over Publication Of Op-Ed” [TaxProf; Prof. Carol Swain wrote critically of Islam]
- Pro-liberty liberals have played a hero role in past outbreaks of campus insanity. Will that happen again this time? [Paul Horwitz]
- More: What happened in the Dartmouth library [Charlie Lundquist/The Tab, Alex Griswold/Mediaite, @Popehat (“although I generally support screaming obscenities at Ivy Leaguers this seems of questionable persuasiveness”)] And Columbia [Aaron Short, NY Post (students said to be “uneasy and fearful” over social pressure to join protests)]
- Those who want to protect American university life from mob intimidation, speak now or forever hold your peace [Conor Friedersdorf on Yale and Missouri incidents, Greg Lukianoff on Yale, Thom Lambert on Missouri; more on Missouri; John Samples/Cato] “Sorry, kids, the First Amendment does protect ‘hate speech'” [Michael McGough, L.A. Times]
- #ExxonKnew folks, please listen: “engaging in scientific research and public advocacy shouldn’t be crimes in a free country. Using the criminal law to shame and encumber companies that do so is a dangerous arrogation of power.” [Bloomberg View editorial, earlier here, etc.]
- Judge orders Facebook post taken down as campaign contribution improper under Colorado law; while target of enforcement was public charter school, logic of ruling could extend to entirely private entities as well [Megan Geuss, ArsTechnica]
- Did anyone really not see this coming? Hate speech laws give authorities powerful weapon with which to crack down on speech by critics and minorities [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason, on Kenya]
- Cato amicus brief, Kentucky Court of Appeals: printers shouldn’t be forced to print gay-pride messages they don’t agree with [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, Eugene Volokh]
- “That’s not harassing, stalking, libeling or cyber bullying. That’s called reporting.” Florida Man offers to help with online reputation management but digs himself and client in further [Tim Cushing, TechDirt, background]
- Feminist lawprof we’ve met before attacks Internet-protecting Section 230, confusion ensues [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
After the Feminist Majority Foundation promoted a Title IX complaint against the University of Mary Washington, primarily based on the public Virginia university’s failure to crack down harder on student use of the independent Yik Yak social media gossip platform, UMW President Richard Hurley in June wrote an unapologetic letter crisply refuting many of the group’s contentions. What do you think happened next? Sponsors amended their complaint to allege that Hurley’s letter itself constituted unlawful retaliation against persons invoking Title IX protection. “The [U.S. Department of Education’s] Office for Civil Rights announced its intent to investigate the university this month.” And now a group of 72 women’s and civil rights organizations, including the respectable American Association of University Women and Leadership Conference for Civil Rights, have “announced a campaign to enlist the federal government in pressuring colleges to protect students from harassment via anonymous social-media applications like Yik Yak.” [Eugene Volokh; Hans Bader; Chronicle of Higher Education; Fredericksburg, Va. Free Lance-Star (Hurley letter)] One thing’s for sure, someone is retaliating against something.
More: Eugene Volokh is out with a don’t-miss followup post analyzing the FMF complaints in much more depth, and noting that Hurley is being charged with retaliation for “engaging in normal public debate”:
Readers might recall the recent attempt to use Title IX to shut down critical speech as retaliation, in the Northwestern University / Prof. Laura Kipnis controversy…. This complaint is yet another such attempt.
The Feminist Majority Foundation, though a publisher of a magazine [Ms.], doesn’t seem to care much about the First Amendment rights of students, or of accused university officials. Its complaint goes far beyond constitutionally unprotected and rightly punishable speech, such as true threats of violence.
Instead, it faults the university for not stopping criticism of feminist arguments and feminist arguers, whether vulgar criticism or other criticism. It faults the university for speaking out, without vulgarities or epithets, in its own defense. And the premise of the complaint thus seems to be that one side of a debate has the right to speak — to condemn and to accuse — but the federal government should step in to stop the other side from responding.
In Britain authorities have filed legal charges under “malicious communications” (roughly hate speech) law against a series of persons accused of abrasive and insensitive Tweets and social media posts, often politically charged. The latest target is diversity officer Bahar Mustafa of the University of London, who defends the obnoxious tweet in question (hashtag #killallwhitemen) by reference to the notion that “she could not be guilty of sexism or racism against white men “because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender and therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.” [The Independent] Uh-huh.
Ken White: “In a sensible legal system [the tweet] shouldn’t generate anything more than an eye-roll. But in a feels-based legal system, it’s actionable.” As for “you censorious Guardians of Feels on the Left: if you thought that the norms you created wouldn’t be used against your ‘own side,’ …[that] is almost indescribably moronic. Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.” [Popehat] “Purveyors of speech-scandals of every sort: you think it can’t happen to you?” On the use of the law by powerful people, compare also this George Galloway episode.
- Sheriff’s group wants Facebook to ax “hate speech against police,” “anti-police rhetoric”: what could go wrong? [WDIV, Daily Caller]
- The “Mr. District Attorney” comic book cover at right is from Jim Dedman at Abnormal Use, who as part of his Friday links roundup for years now has featured great law-related comic book covers related to law, crime, and justice. Check out his archive;
- “Under the Microscope: The FBI Hair Cases,” on a major forensic fiasco [Al-Jazeera America documentary, auto-plays, via Scott Greenfield]
- Knock and announce: in case from Eastern Shore of Maryland, Fourth Amendment got SWATted by militarized police [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Newsweek and Cato]
- Of course the intersection of civil asset forfeiture with sex panic is one big disaster area for liberty [Elizabeth Nolan Brown] “Should Prostitution Be Legalized?” [David Boaz, Cato; Reason panel on “sex trafficking” goes on despite threatened activist disruptions]
- Doctrine of qualified immunity shields police officers (and other public employees) from most civil liability. How does it work? [Nathan Burney at Radley Balko]
- The U.S. Department of Justice regularly settles complaints against local police departments by extracting a promise to abide by future negotiated constraints. Federalism and constitutional concerns aside, how well do these consent decrees actually work in reforming conduct? [Marshall Project]
Do you oppose laws banning hateful expression? You might be one of those American “speech nuts,” akin to “gun nuts,” that so puzzle observers in places like Europe where they do things differently [via Greg Lukianoff, Kelefa Sanneh/New Yorker; pushback from Anthony Fisher/Reason, FIRE first and second posts]
At least the police chief in Wallingford, Ct. seems to have a grip on Civics 101 following someone’s decision to call the cops on discovering that merchandise with Nazi and Confederate insignia was for sale at a flea market [WTNH]