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Category Archives: Freedom of Speech

Facebook and Zuckerberg keep getting freedom of expression wrong – The Next Web

Posted: January 21, 2020 at 12:42 pm

Last week, Facebook reaffirmed its hands-off approach to political ads, saying it wont ban them, wont fact-check them, and wont limit how granularly they can be targeted. Under siege, Facebook has continued to defend this stance by trying to position the tech giant is a bastion of free speech.

Whether in his testimony to Congress last October or his 2020 resolutions post last week, Zuckerberg has sought to frame the question of advertising as one of free expression. And in what was positioned as a landmark address at Georgetown, Zuckerberg cloaked himself in the constitution, invoking the First Amendment no fewer than eight times. He even cited the Fifteenth Amendment for good measure.

Curious, though, that Facebook never mentions the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures interpreted by the Supreme Court in Carpenter v. United States to encompass digital privacy.

The inconvenient truth for Facebook is that these rights are inextricably linked. We cannot be truly free to speak our mind when we know that our every word and action is being tracked and logged by corporations and governments. The erosion of privacy threatens our freedom of expression, and it is hypocritical for Facebook to play at free speech champion while also being at the forefront of surveillance capitalism.

According to the new Freedom on the Net 2019 report by Freedom House, free speech and privacy on the internet also declined globally for the ninth consecutive year. And one of the main reasons cited by the reports authors for the decline? Increased surveillance on social media platforms.

Facebook has been central to the rise of a world where it is taken for granted that our personal lives are public by default and our private data is extracted and processed as a commodity, and as such, it is a direct threat to our freedom of speech. This digital panopticon creates a chilling effect, where people are hesitant or afraid about exercising their rights because of the potential negative ramifications that may result from their speech and actions being used against them.

Its not just theoretical: Following the Cambridge Analytica expos, The Atlantic surveyed its readers and found that 41.9 percent of the respondents said they changed their behavior on Facebook as a result of learning about the news, mostly by being more careful about what they posted. Over four in five (82.2 percent) said they self-censor on social media. The chilling effect even extended beyond Facebook to elsewhere on the internet, with 25.6 percent reporting that the Cambridge Analytica incident changed their behavior on other social media.

Theres a clear connection between Facebooks privacy failings and negative ramifications on open expression. So perhaps its time for Zuckerberg to stop being so pious and take user privacy seriously if hes genuine about his commitment to freedom of speech.

If Facebook intends to be a platform for people to express themselves, it needs to give people more visibility into and control over who gets to see what they express. Facebook should follow through on its commitment to full and clear disclosure of the data it collects, the people and organizations that have access to it, and what is done with this data. It has claimed it will do so in the past, but was caught again less than a year ago secretly sharing data in violation of stated privacy protections.

Facebooks control over what almost three billion people in the world can see, share, and express is unparalleled in human history. Without fundamental privacy protections and full transparency on its practices, that kind of power cant be good for freedom of expression.

The chilling effect of surveillance isnt complicated. Sitting before Congress a few months ago, with dozens of cameras pointed at him, Zuckerberg surely acted in a far more constrained manner than he wouldve in the privacy of his own bedroom. How does he expect Facebook to be the champion of free expression when it wont stop pointing evermore figurative cameras at us?

Published January 18, 2020 17:00 UTC

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Facebook and Zuckerberg keep getting freedom of expression wrong - The Next Web

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Sheffield Arena urged to cancel event by ‘homophobic’ Trump ally – The Guardian

Posted: at 12:42 pm

LGBTQ+ leaders in Sheffield have called for the cancellation of an upcoming UK tour by Donald Trumps most prominent evangelical ally, claiming he promotes homophobic views.

Franklin Graham, the influential son of the late American preacher Billy Graham, has previously said he believes gay marriage is a sin.

Graham is currently on a tour of Florida which has attracted protests from thousands of other Christians and is to tour eight UK cities later this year. He is due to visit Sheffield Arena in June as part of his tour, which is not open to the public.

Sheffield City Trust, which runs the venue, has said it does not endorse Grahams views but supports the right to free speech.

But LGBT+ campaigners have written to the trust calling for the visit to be cancelled.

The letter, signed by 22 representatives of the citys LGBTQ+ community, says: Franklin Graham has repeatedly publicly promoted his homophobic beliefs, including but not limited to branding homosexuality a sin

We believe that these statements far exceed freedom of speech and are direct hate speech and incitement to violence against LGBTQ+ communities and individuals, which should not be welcomed in our city or anywhere else.

David Grey, chairman of the trust, said he had met faith groups from the city and taken advice from South Yorkshire police regarding the visit but supported the right to free speech and freedom of expression whilst promoting equality and freedom from hatred and abuse.

He agreed there was a potential conflict between these two moral stances, but added that the event was not open to the public and if individuals or groups arent breaking the law then their right to speak freely should be respected.

Heather Paterson, LGBT+ chair at the Equality Hub Network in the city and one of the signatories to the letter, said: While Sheffield City Trust defend their position on the grounds of free speech, hate speech is not free speech. Grahams rhetoric demonising some of our most vulnerable communities, referring to us as the enemies of civilisation and advocating for the harmful and abusive practice of conversion therapy inspires and encourages these attacks. As a community we stand together to reject his attempts to spread further hatred and division in our city.

A demonstration against Grahams appearance, Sheffield Against Hate Demo: Say No To Franklin Graham, is being held on 25 January at the Forge International Sports Centre in the city.

Earlier this month councillors wrote a cross-party letter to organisers of Grahams event warning that the visit could lead to protests.

And in November the bishop of Sheffield, Pete Wilcox, said Grahams rhetoric was inflammatory and represented a risk to the social cohesion of Sheffield.

Grey added: The Franklin Graham event is part of a series of closed events across the country. These events are not open to the public. Other religious groups hire the arena for similar closed events and we are happy to accommodate them as long as the law isnt being broken.

As an organisation, we take matters such as this immensely seriously. We are aware of views from some of our citys councillors and understand their concerns. [But] it is the view of the board of trustees that freedom of speech, and the ability to disagree with someones beliefs, are to be encouraged. If individuals or groups arent breaking the law then their right to speak freely should be respected.

The tour during May and June will also include venues in Glasgow, Newcastle, Milton Keynes, Liverpool, Cardiff, Birmingham and London.

Graham said: Im not coming to Sheffield to preach against anyone. Im coming to tell everyone about a God who loves them.

The gospels life-saving truth and power applies to everyone in this great city.

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Ninth Circuit Affirms Anti-Libel Injunction, Rejects Overbroad Portion – Reason

Posted: at 12:42 pm

In Ferguson v. Waid, handed down Jan. 8, the District Court had concluded that Sandra Ferguson, a former client of Brian Waid's but also a lawyer herself, had libeled Waid in online reviews; it awarded Waid damages but also issued an injunction.

The Ninth Circuitin a nonbinding decision, but one that I expect will be fairly influentialheld that the injunction was overbroad, but could be constitutional if narrowed to ban only repeating statements found to be defamatory:

Ferguson appeals from the district court's post-trial order, entering an injunction "to protect Mr. Waid from further harassment." The injunction is overbroad at section (a), which prohibits Ferguson generally "from contacting past or present clients of Brian J. Waid, either in person, via telephone, or by electronic communications." That prohibition is not supported by the district court's findings of fact or conclusions of law regarding defamation, as its effect is to preclude Ferguson from having any communications with Waid's clients, including about topics unrelated to Waid or this lawsuit.

Accordingly, we reverse and remand with instructions to revise section (a) to add the underlined language: "Sandra Ferguson is enjoined from repeating the same or effectively identical statements found to be defamatory in this case to past or present clients of Brian J. Waid, either in person, via telephone, or by electronic communications." With that modification, the injunction will be "tailored to eliminate only the specific harm alleged."

The court also upheld a different part of the injunction, which more generally barred Ferguson from repeating the libelous statements:

Ms. Ferguson is enjoined from publishing again the same or effectively identical statements found to be defamatory in this case;

Ms. Ferguson shall remove or seek to remove any defamatory statements she has already published about Mr. Waid on the internet.

I had filed an amicus brief arguing that properly tailored anti-libel injunction were constitutional, but that they had to have certain procedural protections (see here and here); the court rejected, without comment, my proposed protections, though it agreed with the substantive point. Note that two of my procedural objections to anti-libel injunctionsthat they let people be criminally punished for libel (if they violate the injunction, which exposes them to criminal contempt) (1) without a jury finding that their statements were false and defamatory, and (2) without a lawyer who can argue that the statements weren't false and defamatorydidn't apply here: Ferguson waived her jury trial rights, and was represented by a lawyer (and in any event is a lawyer herself).

The decision leaves matters unsettled in the Ninth Circuit:

[A.] San Antonio Cmty. Hosp. v. S. Cal. Dist. Council of Carpenters, 125 F.3d 1230, 1239 (9th Cir. 1997), upheld an anti-libel injunction.

[B.] On the other hand, In re Dan Farr Prods., 874 F.3d 590, 596 n.8 (9th Cir. 2017), noted that "'[s]ubsequent civil or criminal proceedings, rather than prior restraints, ordinarily are the appropriate sanction for calculated defamation or other misdeeds in the First Amendment context'" (quoting CBS, Inc. v. Davis, 510 U.S. 1315, 1318 (1994) (Blackmun, J., in chambers)), but without discussing San Antonio Community Hospital, which seemed to take the opposite view.

[C.] District Courts in the Ninth Circuit are divided on the subject, for instance, focusing just on 2016 and 2017 decisions,

This can be pretty confusing, as aPriori shows. Broquard's Informal Brief argued that the injunction violated his "First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech," and Broquard and his codefendant had made the argument below. Defendants Joint Response to Plaintiffs Supplement Memorandum of Points and Authoriities [sic], ECF No. 115, aPriori Technologies, Inc. v. Broquard, No. 2:16-cv-09561 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 10, 2017). But, given Broquard's lack of legal expertise, the Informal Brief did not offer any real legal analysis. The Ninth Circuit's disposition therefore said only that, "Broquard's contentions that the injunction violates his First Amendment rights [and other rights] are unpersuasive. We do not consider matters not specifically and distinctly raised and argued in the opening brief, or arguments and allegations raised for the first time on appeal." Perhaps the District Court in aPriori was right in issuing the injunctionbut it did so without sufficient guidance from the Ninth Court, and Broquard likewise lacked a clear statement of the legal rule around which he could have structured his argument.

Ferguson v. Waid, I suspect, will weigh in favor of allowing the narrow anti-libel injunctions (and against allowing broad anti-harassment injunctions that go beyond the material found to be libelous). But, as I said, the matter remains unsettled.

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What we still havent learned from Gamergate – Vox.com

Posted: at 12:42 pm

Its natural to assess what sociocultural lessons weve learned from the previous decade, now that weve entered a new one and whether theyre the kinds that might help us make the 2020s a better era. No honest attempt at such an assessment can be complete without grappling with the messy human dramas and the increasing trend toward polarized, incendiary conversations that emerged in the latter half of the 2010s. And that means contending with the unlikely, unpleasant, and far-reaching watershed movement that was Gamergate.

As it was happening, many members of the media were quick to dismiss it. Sparked by a single blog post published in August 2014, Gamergate was still very much alive and well when an editor asked me, as a reporter who covered it since the very beginning, to write a recap of it near the end of that year. The editor wanted a piece that framed the entire event in the past tense, even though the hashtag was still going strong, the women it targeted were still being harassed, and supporters were planning offline actions to take place at upcoming geek conventions.

Soon after I recapped it, other publications wrote about Gamergate as if it were more or less over, too. One predicted that 2015 would be the year everyone forgot about Gamergate, noting that it is still around as a twitter hashtag and a forum topic, but the relevance is waning from its peak in the fall. Thats going to keep happening.

That did not keep happening. But the medias insistence that it would provides a key insight into why Gamergate endured, and why it ultimately coalesced into the larger alt-right movement that helped fuel the election of President Trump.

If you never really understood what Gamergate was to begin with, heres a brief refresher: In the fall of 2014, under the premise that they were angry at unethical games journalists a lie that persists today thousands of people in the games community began to systematically harass, heckle, threaten, and dox several outspoken feminist women in their midst, few of whom were journalists. The harassment occurred under the social media hashtag Gamergate, which is still a hotbed of debate and anti-feminist resentment today.

Harassment and misogyny had been problems in the community for years before this; the deep resentment and anger toward women that powered Gamergate percolated for years on internet forums. Robert Evans, a journalist who specializes in extremist communities and the host of the Behind the Bastards podcast, described Gamergate to me as partly organic and partly born out of decades-long campaigns by white supremacists and extremists to recruit heavily from online forums. Part of why Gamergate happened in the first place was because you had these people online preaching to these groups of disaffected young men, he said. But what Gamergate had that those previous movements didnt was an organized strategy, made public, cloaking itself as a political movement with a flimsy philosophical stance, its goals and targets amplified by the power of Twitter and a hashtag.

Again and again, throughout 2014 and afterward and, really, well before that, as women in online subcultures withstood years of targeted harassment many failed to understand and assess what Gamergate was. The media, tech platforms, the niche internet communities these reactionaries came from (places with marginally obscure names like 4chan, 8chan, and Voat, for instance), the corporations they easily manipulated, and the general public, who seemed to take it in as nebulous online noise; no one properly identified Gamergate as a major turning point for the internet. The hate campaign, we would later learn, was the moment when our ability to repress toxic communities and write them off as just trolls began to crumble. Gamergate ultimately gave way to something deeper, more violent, and more uncontrollable.

Its tempting to wonder if we could have stopped Gamergate before it happened, in the years before it coalesced into a systematized movement. Perhaps we could have quashed these kernels of hate with better forum moderation, more serious attention to the problem of misogynistic harassment, and less reliance on the longstanding twin internet wisdoms of prioritizing free speech and starving a troll until it leaves. In truth, by the time Gamergate had begun, it was probably already unstoppable but our inability to learn any lessons from it is what allowed it to scale all the way to the White House.

Six years later, heres a look at some of the lessons we still need to learn from Gamergate in order to keep its victims safe and in order to keep the next decade from producing a movement thats even worse.

At the time Gamergate began, the question of how and when law enforcement should step in to deal with online harassment was a burning one, as multiple women reported being threatened and doxxed out of their homes. (Among them was Zo Quinn, the game developer who became Gamergates target zero after an ex-boyfriend wrote a blog post accusing her of entering an unethical romantic relationship with the reporter Nathan Grayson, of the gaming news site Kotaku. To that blog posts target audience of disgruntled gamers, the alleged infidelity rendered Quinn the poster child of hypocritical feminism and Kotaku the emblem of unethical journalism in the eyes of Gamergaters.)

Cyberstalking and revenge porn were also major issues that had been around for years but gained new prominence in 2014, as Celebgate saw celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kim Kardashian joining the countless women whove had private photos circulated online without their consent.

Today, however, the justice system continues to be slow to understand the link between online harassment and real-life violence. Although the Violence Against Women Act made cyberstalking illegal in 2006, and although one in four young women report being stalked or sexually harassed online, women frequently have difficulty getting law enforcement to take online harassment seriously especially the veiled kind thats intimidating but not overtly violent or hateful. There are more on-the-books laws about online harassment now and more prosecutions, but police are often untrained and undereducated regarding what type of behavior constitutes harassment, how to legally counter such behavior, and what should be investigated. Frequently, people who report harassment are left unsatisfied with the response.

Recently, while I was researching a violent crime with an online component, one police officer told me that most of the time, officers in his department have never heard of Twitter, let alone other social media platforms and more niche websites. Evans told Vox that while he believes people in positions of power in government and law enforcement take internet threats much more seriously, the change has yet to fully trickle down.

When I started receiving death threats earlier this year, after I was on a documentary about 8chans [politics] board, he told Vox in an interview in 2019, I went to the West Los Angeles police department with pictures of this bounty on my head and Photoshopped images of me with a bullet in my head. I had to try to explain what was going on to them, and they had never heard of the website, didnt seem to really understand that an online threat was a serious thing, [...] and I spent most of my time with the police trying to explain Bitcoin to a bunch of 50-year-old Los Angeles police officers.

I would have expected as much in 2014, when Gamergate was first in the news, because many social media platforms were still niche enough that you might not expect law enforcement to be familiar with them or their communities. Hearing it five years later was an eye-opening moment but its a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go to protect the general population, and women in particular, from violence online and off.

I think they have very slowly, far too slowly, learned certain things that are valuable, Evans said. They do now take online threats of school and [mass] shootings much more seriously. So ... I am seeing things get better. But not nearly as quickly as it ought.

In order to increase public safety this decade, it is imperative that police and everyone else become more familiar with the kinds of communities that engender toxic, militant systems of harassment, and the online and offline spaces where these communities exist. Increasingly, that means understanding social medias dark corners, and the types of extremism they can foster.

One of the strangest side effects of Gamergate was its effectiveness at convincing corporations to stop advertising on media outlets it targeted as part of its ethics in journalism motto. Among the corporations that dropped advertising from various publications as a result of Gamergate petitions were Adobe, Mercedes-Benz, and Intel, the latter of which later said it had no idea what online politics it had waded into. Mercedes also later realized its mistake and restored advertising.

But despite wide discussion within the gaming community and the media about Gamergates manipulative tactics when it was drawing peak media attention, it seems that many corporations and other businesses failed to grasp a vital takeaway from these incidents: that its crucial to understand how, when, and why an online mob is expressing outrage before you decide how to respond to it. Gamergate should have taught businesses that online mobs can and do look for excuses to be outraged, as a pretext to harass and abuse their targets.

Theres a difference between organic outrage that arises because an employee actually does something outrageous, and invented outrage thats an excuse to harass someone whom a group has already decided to target for unrelated reasons for instance, because an employee is a feminist. A responsible business would ideally figure out which type of outrage is occurring before it punished a client or employee who was just doing their job.

Instead, companies have continued to fall for the manufactured outrage playbook Gamergate and its online heirs created, often blaming employees who are dealing with harassment rather than blaming the people doing the harassing. In 2016, Gamergate brutally harassed a Nintendo employee, targeting her on social media, unearthing her old writing in order to accuse her of pedophilia, and vilifying her to her employer. Instead of protecting the employee from the onslaught of misogynistic abuse, Nintendo responded by firing her. In 2018, game developer ArenaNet fired two of its employees after their responses to what they saw as Twitter harassment sparked major backlash from gamers, prompting the company president to blame the employees for reacting to the community with hostility. In both cases, the employers framed the employees outspoken response to prolonged and intense harassment as a liability.

Also in 2018, Marvel fired popular writer Chuck Wendig over reactionary outrage that was literally manufactured most of it was generated by bots rather than people. And in reaction to what was perhaps the most effective manufactured outrage of all, Disney fired James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy 3 after a harassment campaign straight out of the Gamergate playbook, stripping past tweets of their context to generate contrived backlash. While Disney nearly a year later ultimately acknowledged it had made a mistake and rehired Gunn, its a familiar note in an exhausting, repetitive, and, crucially, easily avoidable cycle that companies have yet to learn how to sidestep.

This cycle is frustrating. And its the fault of corporations failure to understand whether an internet mobs outrage is hyperbolic, and the larger cultural failure to understand and deal with the way those mobs also spread violence, online and off.

The current debate around whether to privilege freedom of speech over the damage done by extremist rhetoric and other types of harmful speech arguably began with Gamergate.

Theres the perception of not having bias, particularly in American media, Evans told me. This idea that youre a veteran journalist if you dont take a side, even if its an issue that really somebody ought to be taking a side on, like Nazis. Dedication to free speech over the appearance of bias is especially important within tech culture, where a commitment to protecting free speech is both a banner and an excuse for large corporations to justify their approach to content moderation or lack thereof.

During Gamergate, Evans said, the movements members found out that with a little bit of plausible deniability, they could trick the media and social media platforms into taking their harassment campaigns seriously. When Gamergate found its Its about ethics in journalism mantra, it had a cloak under which to argue that all of its violent speech wasnt about a misogynistic abuse of women at all, but rather about a loftier philosophical purpose.

There were mouthpieces of the movement, like [Milo] Yiannopoulos, who were happy to provide enough of a justification that suddenly [they could claim] it was not just the story of a harassing campaign, he said. Research conducted by Newsweek in 2015 analyzing the Gamergate hashtag showed that its real purpose was abusive harassment, and that targeted women in gaming were more frequently responded to using the hashtag than the journalists whose ethics were ostensibly up for discussion. But even though the movements real motives were widely known, the community structures of platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube, to say nothing of the anonymous forum 4chan, all fostered Gamergate.

Reddits free-speech-friendly moderation stance resulted in the platform tacitly supporting pro-Gamergate subforums like r/KotakuInAction, which became a major contributor to Reddits growing alt-right community. Twitter rolled out a litany of moderation tools in the wake of Gamergate, intended to allow harassment targets to perpetually block, mute, and police their own harassers without actually effectively making the site unwelcome for the harassers themselves. And YouTube and Facebook, with their algorithmic amplification of hateful and extreme content, made no effort to recognize the violence and misogyny behind pro-Gamergate content, or police them accordingly.

Gamergaters chalked up the movements grievances over ethical journalism to confusion or self-deception. This was an intentional strategy, one that gained traction on social media with those unaware of the harassment component. And Gamergaters learned they could scale this approach. Gamergate showed them that they could make a difference in the real world, but it [also] showed them something else important, Evans said. They saw that not only could they get away with a harassment campaign like this ... they [saw that they] could do that shit all day long and nobody was going to do anything about it. They learned that it worked, and they kept doing it.

So the Gamergate movement merged into the larger alt-right sphere of online extremist culture that emerged in the middle of the decade, spreading hate speech throughout social media and setting the stage for the alt-right to influence the 2016 election.

Google, YouTube, and Twitter did eventually begin taking steps to moderate the rampage of extremist content Gamergate ushered in; Facebook continues to lean into on its free speech policies. Reddit finally isolated (though not ban) its biggest pro-Trump forum which has heavy overlap with its biggest Gamergate forum in 2019, but only after its members repeatedly violated rules and began threatening politicians with real-world violence. A recent Wired cover article profiled a Google culture in meltdown over ideological debates and Googles indecision over how to handle them. Mired in its own culture war, YouTube has become a haven for reactionaries and the alt-right, and its 2019 ban on white supremacist and conspiracy content may do little to quell the growth of extremism on the platform. And Twitter and Facebook, each with its own set of problems, are caught in the national conversation related to free speech.

All of these platforms are wrestling with problems that seem to have grown beyond their control; its arguable that if they had reacted more swiftly to slow the growth of the internets most toxic and misogynistic communities back when those communities, particularly Gamergate, were still nascent, they could have prevented headaches in the long run and set an early standard for how to deal with ever-broadening issues of extremist content online.

As things stand, many of these platforms are still wrestling with the most basic ingredients for keeping toxic elements out of their communities, even though these are the kinds of foundational building blocks inherent to good internet forum moderation. Its past time for leaders in the tech industry to learn how to be good stewards of the communities to which they are home.

2014 should have been the year the cultural conversation began to acknowledge how serious aggression toward women really is. It wasnt.

One of the most frustrating things about watching Gamergate unfold is that the seeds of it had been in place for years. Targeted online harassment against women had been occurring for years, across numerous communities, from men who spent years harassing one woman who complained of getting hit on at a professional conference to harassment of actors for playing unlikable women.

In 2012, male backlash against feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian over her attempt to expand her commentary on films into commentary on games was so intense it made international headlines and her harassment involved doxxing, death threats, rape threats, and bomb threats, some so serious that she was driven out of her home for weeks. One planned Sarkeesian lecture at a college campus was canceled over a mass shooting threat. And there were other signs prior to Gamergate that online harassment of women and minorities could escalate to real-life violence for instance, the 2014 Santa Barbara mass shooters misogynistic online manifesto and history of participation in deeply misogynistic online spaces.

All these events garnered widespread media coverage and attention but still, in 2014, when this misogyny escalated into a systematic, organized, scalable, and sustained attack on women through the establishment of Gamergate as a movement, the media and many members of the public initially dismissed it as a watershed event. During Gamergate, as Evans put it, gamers attacked women like Sarkeesian and Zo Quinn with horrific threats that escalated offline: They threat[ened] to murder people, mail[ed] them letters written in blood, sent dead animals to their door. But none of this harassment seemed to permeate mainstream discussions of Gamergate, which tended to center more on the personalities involved from profiles describing Gamergate target Quinn as troubled to those describing its hero Milo Yiannopoulos as a descendant of William S. Burroughs.

And in the same way that none of those years of escalating online assaults against women prepared us for Gamergate, somehow, the formation of Gamergate itself didnt prepare society for the cultural rise of the alt-right. The journalists who did anticipate that Gamergate could and would morph into something worse were, by 2015, drowned out by the general cultural idea that Gamergate had somehow failed even though it was a movement inherently meant to scale and grow. Somehow, the idea that all of that sexism and anti-feminist anger could be recruited, harnessed, and channeled into a broader white supremacist movement failed to generate any real alarm, even well into 2016, when all the pieces were firmly in place.

In other words, even though all the signs were there in 2014 that a systematized online harassment campaign could lead to an escalation in real-world violence, most people failed to see what was happening. Gamergate ultimately made us all much more aware of the potential real-world impact of online extremism. Yet, years after Gamergate, despite increasing evidence suggesting a connection between online violence against women and real-world violence including mass shootings many corporations and social media platforms still struggle to identify and eradicate extreme forms of violence against women from online spaces.

For instance: In early 2019, Valve, the parent company of the online game platform Steam, allowed a game called Rape Day, in which the object of the game was to rape women, to stay up in its store for days before finally removing it. Despite all of its algorithmic tweaking, Twitter is still abysmal at identifying and taking action against rape and death threats on its website. The 2019 murder of 17-year-old Bianca Devins, a well-known Instagram user, carried a disturbing online component that involved her killer posting graphic online photos of her death. The photos rapidly went viral, including on Instagram and Twitter, which were both largely ineffective at curbing their spread.

This failure to act has serious consequences, because many of the perpetrators of real-world violence are radicalized online first. In 2018, the International Center for Research on Women identified online gender-based violence as an emerging public health and human rights concern and linked it to a growing number of mass shootings, noting, Failing to detect and deter technology-facilitated GBV is a missed opportunity to prevent deadly consequences offline. Other research has found that more than half of the USs mass shootings involve the targeting of an intimate partner or ex-partner, and many of the most recent mass attacks involve a perpetrator who displayed or threatened violent behavior toward one woman or multiple women, either online or off. In the past year alone, multiple mass shootings have had an element of misogynistic or domestic violence targeted at women.

It remains difficult for many to accept the throughline from online abuse to real-world violence against women, much less the fact that violence against women, online and off, is a predictor of other kinds of real-world violence. The dots are there we just have to connect them.

Gamergate masked its misogyny in a coating of shrill yelling that had most journalists in 2014 writing off the whole incident as satirical and immature trolling, and very few correctly predicting that Gamergates trolling was the future of politics the political wave that would essentially morph into the broader alt-right movement.

But the movement was serious. It served as a rallying point for a lot of groups that wouldnt necessarily have gotten along, like more traditional conservatives and outright neo-Nazis, Evans said, and gave them all a banner to rally under where the Nazis could pretend to not be Nazis. And the conservatives could give themselves plausible deniability and pretend they werent working with Nazis. It acted as a blanket for all of this stuff.

Gamergate was all about disguising a sincere wish for violence and upheaval by dressing it up in hyperbole and irony in order to confuse outsiders and make it all seem less serious. As Evans noted to me, Gamergate was fueled in part by online extremists, who initially bonded with young men in gaming communities over what started as ironic humor and jokes about the Holocaust, jokes about racial differences and whatnot. And over time, all those things became less joking. This tactic was a deliberate strategy that formed the core of the alt-right playbook, and years after Gamergate, media outlets continued to fall for it.

Take, for example, the highly disturbing instigator Milo Yiannopoulos, who gained notoriety as a Gamergate commentator before he went to work at the alt-right blog site Breitbart in 2014. The media continued referring to Yiannopoulos as a troll, despite ample evidence suggesting his words and actions were associated with real bigoted or extremist beliefs, espoused by both him and his followers. Yiannopoulos was a prime example of a rabble-rouser who manipulated Gamergate toward his own ends. He benefited from the mayhem and chaos his rabble-rousing caused, whether he was making campus tour stops that inspired increases in hate speech as well as acts of serious violence, or just egging on the racist harassment of a public figure.

Yiannopoulos constantly exacerbated his followers and their anger. The danger posed to marginalized members of the communities he visited was immediate and real. Yet even into 2018 he would explicitly encourage violence and then claim he was just trolling. Just as Evans noted, the merest suggestion that none of his extremist rhetoric was sincere allowed him to continue spreading it.

Understanding this concept is crucial to understanding why Gamergate was able to morph into the alt-right. Gamergate simultaneously masqueraded as legitimate concern about ethics that demanded audiences take it seriously, and as total trolling that demanded audiences dismiss it entirely. Both these claims served to obfuscate its real aim misogyny, and, increasingly, racist white supremacy. By the time Yiannopoulos joined Breitbart, and Breitbarts Steve Bannon joined the Trump campaign, the links between Gamergate and the national political machine should have been clear. The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a landmark achievement for the alt-right, Hillary Clinton said in a 2016 campaign speech. A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party.

But three years after that, and five years after Gamergate, it seems that very few people have really learned how to tell when a troll is just trolling or when its about to commit real-world violence. Its hard to spot the terrorists among the trolls, the Wall Street Journal acknowledged in 2019, in response to the Christchurch mass shooting. The Christchurch shooter had posted a manifesto online; full of hyperbolic alt-right internet memes, it was intended to both obfuscate and amplify the genuine white nationalist rhetoric at its center.

The publics failure to understand and accept that the alt-rights misogyny, racism, and violent rhetoric is serious goes hand in hand with its failure to understand and accept that such rhetoric is identical to that of President Trump. Now we see similar ideologies as Gamergaters from someone as powerful as Trump. He retweets and amplifies alt-right memes on his Twitter; his son openly affiliates with the alt-right; Trump defended and continues to present the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as though it wasnt intentionally planned and organized as a white supremacist rally. (It was.)

As described by Voxs Ezra Klein, Trumps willingness to engage in incendiary racist rhetoric is similar to the tactics that have led many journalists to dismiss his followers as trolls: He chooses his enemies based on who he thinks will rile up his base. He uses outrageous, offensive insults to get the media to take notice. And then he feeds off the energy unleashed by the confrontation. In other words, he and his followers many of whom, again, are members of the extreme online right-wing that got its momentum from Gamergate are using the strategy Gamergate codified: deploying offensive behavior behind a guise of mock outrage, irony, trolling, and outright misrepresentation, in order to mask the sincere extremism behind the message.

Just as Yiannopoulos did before him, Trump speaks to his supporter base through wink-wink-nod-nod moments that lead them to respond in alarming ways, including with violence. But many members of the media, politicians, and members of the public still struggle to accept that Trumps rhetoric is having violent consequences, despite all evidence to the contrary.

That divide between reality and perception is part of the larger cultural epistemic crisis that has loomed over the US for the past five years and arguably began with Gamergate. The movements insistence that it was about one thing (ethics in journalism) when it was about something else (harassing women) provided a case study for how extremists would proceed to drive ideological fissures through the foundations of democracy: by building a toxic campaign of hate beneath a veneer of denial.

Five years later, it seems, the rest of us are still struggling to learn from the consequences.

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Montclair State Univ. Sued for ‘Unconstitutional’ Speech Policy and Favoring One Student Group Over Another Based on Their Beliefs – CBN News

Posted: at 12:42 pm

Montclair State University in New Jersey was hit with a lawsuit Wednesday challenging its policies regulating speech on campus.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) says the university's speech and permit policies stifle the free expression of ideas and unconstitutionally classifies campus student organizations based on viewpoint.

The lawsuit stems from an incident last September. Three students affiliated with Young Americans for Liberty dressed in orange prisoner-like jumpsuits and held up signs expressing support for gun-free zones. As pretend criminals, their message was clear that gun-free zones only aid lawbreakers, and harm law-abiding citizens.According to a press release on the lawsuit, the ADF says the students were peacefully expressing their ideas in a common outdoor area of the campus when a campus police officer forced them to stop. They were told if they wanted to speak on campus they had first to obtain permission at least two weeks in advance and that the dean's office would assign them a time and place to speak.

The lawsuit alleges "this two-week requirement imposes an unconstitutional prior restraint on all students throughout the entire campus," and allows the university to deny or delay a student's request for a permit for any reason.

"A public university is supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, but that marketplace can't function if officials impose burdensome restraints on speech or if they can selectively enforce those restraints against disfavored groups," said ADF Legal Counsel Michael Ross.

In an e-mailed statementto northjersey.com, University President Susan Cole said Montclair State "is absolutely and unequivocally committed to freedom of speech" and the exchange of ideas. But, she wrote, that must be balanced with "the right of all members of the university community to be able to engage without disruption" in school activities.

"No member of the university community is subject to any limitation or penalty for demonstrating or assembling with others for the expression of his/her viewpoint," Cole wrote.

ADF counsel Ross disagrees. "Policing peaceful student expression that the university doesn't favor is blatantly unconstitutional and directly opposed to the mission of public universities to encourage and allow the discussion of ideas," Ross said.

The lawsuit takes aim at two other campus policies it says violates students' rights.

One policy gives the university's Student Government Association (SGA) complete discretion to rank student organizations into "classes." Young Americans for Liberty is ranked as a Class IV group, which means it is considered "entry-level," and unlike higher-ranked groups it can not request funding from the student fees its members and all students are required to pay unless it raises outside matching funds. The Student Government Association has sole discretion to determine if a student group is entry-level or "meets the needs of a very specific and unique interest of the campus community." This, the lawsuit alleges, is a criterion based on viewpoint and content of speech and is, therefore, unconstitutional. Young Americans for Liberty is still designated as "entry-level" even though it's been registered as a group since 2018.

In a statement to northjersey.com, the SGA says its policies and procedures for student organizations are "viewpoint neutral," and that the lawsuit "mischaracterizes" them.

The second school policy involves the university's Bias Education Response Taskforce. The lawsuit quotes the University as saying the Taskforce exists "to provide a well-coordinated and comprehensive response to incidents of intolerance and bias with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, and national origin." It also has various sanctions against students whose speech it determines intolerant.

The lawsuit alleges the Taskforce guidelines for determining bias and prejudice are "vague and overbroad," and the fear of violating some vague standard stifles the expression of speech protected by the US Constitution. The ADF says the purpose of the Taskforce "is to suppress speech that may make others uncomfortable."

ADF attorneys filed the complaint called Young Americans for Liberty at Montclair State University v. The Trustees of Montclair State University with the US District Court for the District of New Jersey on Wednesday.

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POV: Trump’s Executive Order Aimed at Protecting Jews Will Have a Chilling Effect on Freedom of Speech at Colleges – BU Today

Posted: December 21, 2019 at 10:47 am

Most of us think of Judaism as a religion, rather than a race, color, or national origin. So here is the first thing about the Executive Order on Anti-Semitism President Trump signed on December 11 that has raised eyebrows: his order draws attention to anti-Semitism by making it a potential Title VI violation. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance.

However, since the executive order concedes that Title VI does not cover discrimination based on religion, how can it serve the protection of Jews from anti-Semitic harassment?

It asserts that (d)iscrimination against Jews may give rise to a Title VI violation when the discrimination is based on an individuals race, color, or national origin. This means that Jews may claim a violation of their civil rights if they feel discriminated against on the basis of their (perceived) race, color, or national origin as Jews.

This all sounds strange when we consider that the worst excesses of anti-Semitism had to do with the definition of Judaism as race. At the same time, the executive order does nothing to protect Jews from religious discrimination, which does not fall under the protection of Title VI.

And thats the problem.

The introduction states that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise in the United States and around the world. Specifically, it claims that (a)nti-Semitic incidents have increased since 2013, and students, in particular, continue to face anti-Semitic harassment in schools and on university and college campuses. [In other words, the main thrust of this executive order is to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic harassment in schools and on university and college campuses across the United States.

Branding views that are critical of Israel as anti-Semitic and making these views actionable, as the Trump Executive Order on Anti-Semitism does, will have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech at schools, colleges, and university campuses that rely on federal financial assistance.

It is not immediately apparent what kind of speech is flagged by the policy statement. In order to make anti-Semitism actionable in the sense of this interpretation of Title VI protection, Section 2 of the order refers to the May 26, 2016, definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), signed by 32 of its member states, including the United States, which states, Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities. This definition was adopted by the US Department of State and posted on its Office of International Religious Freedom website. According to that website, as a member of the IHRA, the US government encourages other countries to adopt the same standards.

In addition, the Office of International Religious Freedom and the Executive Order on Anti-Semitism also refer to a list of examples included in the May 2016 resolution that many perceive as troubling because they conflate anti-Semitism (hatred of Jews) with anti-Zionism (criticism to the State of Israel). Such examples include:

While the IHRA declaration and the State Department website include a statement to the effect that criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic, the Executive Order on Anti-Semitism does not distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate criticism of Israel. Omitting this sentence from the policy directive opens the door to civil rights proceedings being triggered by entirely legitimate Israel-critical protests on campus. Furthermore, including Israel-critical campus protests in statistics of anti-Semitic incidents leads to a misreading of trends and likely exaggerates the threat against Jewish students.

Branding views that are critical of Israel as anti-Semitic and making these views actionable, as the Trump Executive Order on Anti-Semitism does, will have a chilling effect on the freedom of speech at schools, colleges, and university campuses that rely on federal financial assistance.

As I pointed out in a recent opinion piece, we need to be careful when citing statistics. Hiding behind vague references to the rise of anti-Semitism are two potential fallacies. One fallacy hides behind the naturalistic imagery we use when speaking of social trends as waves and the like. Speaking of social movements as waves increases our sense of helplessness in the face of impersonal forces of violence. The other fallacy hides behind the conflation of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Anti-Semitism is hateful, whether you define Jews as a community of national origin or as a religious community. Criticism of Israel may be painful to Jews and friends of Israel, but it is not necessarily a form of anti-Semitism. It can be part of a legitimate struggle and advocacy for Palestinian rights and a form of protest against Israeli human rights abuses of the kind tracked by Israeli human rights organizations such as Btselem.

Opposition to the existence of a Jewish State is as old as the Jewish State. Some ultra-Orthodox and ultra-liberal Jews have opposed Jewish statehood, albeit for different reasons. Neturei Karta and the Satmar Hasidim oppose a secular Jewish state for religious reasons. In their understanding, only the Messiah, and hence G-d himself, can end the exile, return the Jews to the land of Israel, rebuild the temple, and bring about the kingdom of G-d. To these religious Jews, Zionism is rebelliousness against the divine edict of exile. Other Jews, devoted to various doctrines of internationalism or post-nationalism, believe that all nation states are evil. For them, Jewish statehood falls short of the ideals of Jewish ethics, and makes Jews and Judaism into stooges of capitalism and colonialism. Neither of these groups can be called anti-Semitic, simply because they subscribe to views critical of Jewish statehood even though both deny the right of Israel to exist.

The executive order was welcomed by many Jews and organizations combating the rising tide of anti-Semitic hate speech and violent incidents that target Jews simply for being Jews. Anti-Semitism is real and it is a danger to Jews, and of late, also to people who socialize with Jews, attend synagogue services on High Holidays, or simply shop in a kosher market. But the executive order neither combats white supremacism nor offers law enforcement a useful tool to fight bigotry in its many forms.

It merely instigates a new era of government interference in American campus life and policing of speech that feels like the beginning of a new McCarthyism. Liberal watchdogs see the measure as advancing the ongoing conservative crackdown on freedom of speech at universities and colleges under the guise of both side-ism. As reported by Erica L. Green for the New York Times, the brain behind the new executive order is the head of the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Kenneth L. Marcus. His intention, and that of the most vigorous supporters of the measure, is to create equivalence between anti-Zionism and anti-Judaism. The executive order provides legal backing to the Education Departments growing number of investigations of academic programs and campus free-speech policies triggered by complaints of discrimination or anti-Jewish bias. Palestinians and advocates of Palestinian rights fear that the measure aims to suppress advocacy and academic freedom. Prestigious Middle East Studies programs have already been scrutinized by the Education Department for anti-Christian bias. With the new executive order, it is now possible to threaten colleges and universities with withdrawal of federal funding if they are found to be critical of Israel.

A measure aimed to curtail freedom of speech on campus in the name of protecting the civil rights of a particular minority does not advance the protection of speech or the rights of all minorities to be free of harassment. It intimidates colleges and universities to the point of curtailing academic freedom and political rights of faculty and students who believe it is their right and responsibility to criticize the State of Israel. We need to fight anti-Semitism on and off campus, but we also need to protect freedom of inquiry and political speech on campus. This measure appears designed to do neither. Rather it seems designed to harass faculty and intimidate student activists by casting aspersions on contested political speech.

POV is an opinion page that provides timely commentaries from students, faculty, and staff on a variety of issues: on-campus, local, state, national, or international. Anyone interested in submitting a piece, which should be about 700 words long, should contact John ORourke at orourkej@bu.edu. BU Today reserves the right to reject or edit submissions. The views expressed are solely those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of Boston University.

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92% of Americans think their basic rights are being threatened, new poll shows – USA TODAY

Posted: at 10:47 am

Most Americans think their basic rights are being threatened, a new poll shows.(Photo: Robert Clay Reed, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

MostAmericans surveyed92%thinktheir rights are under siege, according to a pollreleased Monday.

Americans are most concerned that their freedom of speech (48%), right to bear arms (47%) and right to equal justice (41%) are at risk, saysthe Harris Poll/Purple Project, which surveyed 2,002 peoplenationwide.

"When you frame something as a threat, it creates a bit of a political response, and it creates division and encampments of special interest," said John Gerzema,CEO of the Harris Poll. That's why political parties and lobbying groups warn supporters with strident language, he said: It's easier to drum up backingfor a political cause by talking about an issue in terms of "threats."

But when you start to consider which rights and freedoms really matter, Gerzema said, pollresponseschanged and Americans re-prioritized which values they cared about most.

When asked what rights and freedoms Americans would miss if they were taken away rather than which ones are threatened poll respondents' concerns generally ticked upward.

Sixty-three percent said they would missfreedom of speech if that right was takenaway, while nearly half would missfreedom of expression (46%) and the right to equal justice (45%).

"When you look at the things we really value, what makes America so special is these core tenets of our Constitution," Gerzema said."I just find it interesting to note how much Americans really value this."

Thepoll results come at a juncture in American politics where friction and division aremore apparent and Americans are overwhelmingly frustrated by the discourse. In fact, another recent survey,aPublic Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, shows that thedivisivenational debate over just about everything has convinced many that the country is headingin the wrong direction. More than nine of 10 in that poll said its crucialfor the U.S. to try to reduce that divisiveness.

Divided we fall?: Americans see our angry political debate as 'a big problem'

Talk it through: Learn how to discuss complicated, controversial issues that matter ahead of the election

Even among Americans with opposing political views, a majoritysurveyed in the Harris Poll/Purple Project55% want more meaningful conversations.

How can this be done? Talking about issuesin a way that de-escalates tensionsfrom a threat and helps Americans find common ground, Gerzema said. So does finding common ground on shared values and freedoms, both at the dinner table and between the political aisle, he said.

Even if Americans don't agree on a contentious, politically charged topic, they can find shared values in the things that Americans tend to take for granted, he said.

After all, only 16% of Americans thought their right to own propertywas under threat, but 44% would miss that right. Same goes for free speech, which 63%said they would miss if it was gone 15% more than felt free speech was at risk of being taken away.

Gerzema's advice to the folks in Washington? Focus on the things that are fundamental to the American way of life.

"There is something wonderful going on underneath the surface, and that's what I wish our leaders in Washington would pay attention to," he said. "You start to see the true, softer side of America's rough-and-tumble political reality."

Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote

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Trump’s Executive Order Targets Federal Funding to Universities in Suppression of Speech on Palestinian Rights – International Middle East Media…

Posted: at 10:47 am

(photo: A classroom in Gaza destroyed in Israels 2014 attacks. Credit: Active Stills, Basel Yazouri)

U.S. President Donald Trumps recently announced executive order would continue his dangerous attackson hard-fought democratic rights.

Abusing federal funding tobully universitiesinto suppressing academic freedom and freedom of speech in support of Palestinian rights under international law isanti-democratic and anti-Palestinian.

Palestinians call for cutting institutional ties with Israeli universities because they are partners in Israels apartheid regime and its crimes against Palestinians.Israeli universities are complicitin designing, implementing, justifying and whitewashing Israels system of racial oppression.

This order is not about combating antisemitism, but rather stifling criticism of Israel and ebbing the steady growth of accountability measures coming out of US campuses that give Palestinians hope.

We have no doubt that principled academics and students will continue to stand up to attacks on the rights to education and academic freedom,wherever they may occur.

~ Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) / United States

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Washington State’s Mike Leach responds to Donald Trump impeachment: ‘I’m yet to hear what he did wrong’ – Sports and Weather Right Now

Posted: at 10:47 am

PULLMAN Mike Leach took an interest in Donald Trump more than 15 years ago when he read the now-U.S. presidents literary work while flying from Lubbock, Texas, to New York City with his family.

Leach made it through Trumps book, How to Get Rich, and put in a call to Trump Enterprises, hoping to arrange a meeting with the business mogul and popular television personality.

The two eventually connected, building a relationship around Leachs interest in politics and business, and Trumps passion for football. Washington States eighth-year coach still keeps a framed photo of Trump in his Pullman office, signed by the president: To Mike, keep up the good work.

Leach then spoke extensively about his friendship with Trump at a 2016 rally held at the Spokane Convention Center, giving the Republican presidential candidate a ringing endorsement.

Three years later, just down the road from that same convention center, Spokane residents gathered Tuesday for a different type of rally, in support of Trumps impeachment, which came less than 24 hours later after a near party-line vote from the U.S. House of Representatives. Trump, whos been accused in two articles of impeachment abuse of power and obstruction of Congress wouldnt be removed from office unless the Senate decides to vote him out early next year.

Leach, whos been busy with recruiting obligations, the early signing period and preparation for the Cheez-It Bowl, said he hasnt done much research or spent lots of time reading about Trumps impeachment, but the coach backed his old friend on Thursday after WSUs early afternoon practice in Pullman.

I havent followed it too closely, but its clearly political, Leach said. That doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

And Im yet to hear what he did wrong. So, youve got to have a crime, I would think.

Trump has been accused of trying to convince Ukraine to investigate supposed wrongdoings by former Vice President Joe Biden, who projects to be a strong opponent for Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Trumps late-July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is what triggered the series of events leading to Trumps impeachment.

Leach, asked if he thinks Trump will be removed from office, said, Thats a foregone conclusion he wont be.

Its unclear to what extent Leach and Trump communicate these days given their respective schedules, but in July at Pac-12 Media Day, Cougars offensive lineman Liam Ryan shared a humorous story about a phone call between the two.

He comes out an hour late to practice and were like, Where the heck is Leach? Ryan said. He comes out and were all dogging him, Coach, where have you been? Where have you been? And hes all like, I was upstairs watching you from the window. Were like, Why were you watching us? Hes like, I was talking to Donald Trump. Im like, What? Youre late to practice for talking to Donald Trump? Hes like, Yeah, thats one of my good friends. Then he goes on to tell the whole story.

Leachs political beliefs and willingness to voice them as a public figure whos also led one of the most impressive runs in WSU football history, have helped make him one of the more polarizing characters in college athletics.

The coach set off a social media storm in June 2018 when he shared, and later removed, a doctored video of a Barack Obama speech from his personal Twitter account. Leach posted a complete transcript of the speech, saying, I agree that the video was incomplete. However, I believe discussion on how much or how little power our Gov should have is important.

Leach has also formed a close friendship and traveled with former Washington state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, a Republican. The two taught a popular not-for-credit class at WSU last spring, titled Insurgent Warfare & Football Strategy.

WSU has supported its coachs freedom of speech and encouraged Leach to share his views in a personal capacity.

In 2016, after Leach appeared in Spokane for Trumps rally, the university released a statement regarding employees who express personal views.

Free speech is a form of diversity diversity of opinion and diversity is a core value of WSU, the statement read. As a public institution, we serve as a platform for the expression of a wide diversity of views and opinions and value the opportunity to do so. The opinions of any one employee, however, do not in any way speak for the institution.

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Impeachment won’t slow the global rise of the radical right but an alternative vision might – Salon

Posted: at 10:47 am

Donald Trump's impeachment is a rebuke against the global new right and its assault on democracy and the rule of law.

On Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives finally voted to impeach Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors, including abuse of power and obstructing Congress and the rule of law. There are many possible reasons to impeach Trump, but these relate to his efforts to extort the government of Ukraine into launching a fake investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic nominee.

Trump now becomes the third American president to have ever been impeached. But he is unique and distinct in one way, as the only president to be impeached for using his public office to interfere in U.S. foreign policy and betray a foreign ally for personal gain.

Although the power of impeachment is largely symbolic since Trump will almost certainly not be removed from office it still marks an act of resistance against the rising tide of the global right, and its assault on democracy and the rule of law.

Cas Mudde is one of the worlds leading experts on right-wing extremism, populism, democracy and the global new right. Mudde is the Stanley Wade Shelton UGAF Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia and a contributing writer for the Guardian. He is the author of several books, including The Far Right in America," On Extremism and Democracy in Europe and Populism: A Very Short Introduction" (withCristobal Rovira Kaltwasser). His newest book is The Far Right Today.

In our conversation, Mudde discussed how Donald Trump's authoritarian populist movement is similar to (and different from) related movements led by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other such leaders around the world. Mudde also detailed the goals of what he calls the "populist radical right," explored its understanding of reality and "common sense" and explained the role of racism and nativism in this global assault against liberal democracy.

Mudde also issued an important warning to the Democratic Party and other defenders of liberal democracy in the U.S. and around the world: They must offer a positive, alternative vision to that posed by global right-wing extremismif they hope to defeat it. IfDemocrats simply run as the anti-Trump party in 2020, Mudde suggests, they will most likely lose.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

You are an expert on the global new right. How does it make you feel to watch their power and influence grow and take hold with Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and many other leaders and movements around the world?

I feel sad and I feel stressed, in part, because I believe that the type of politics that is truly detrimental to liberal democracy is winning. I also feel that way because the divides in this country are so deep and fundamental that there are more and more people with whom I can't have a real conversation because we just live in different worlds.

Democracy is prefaced on some shared reality and a basic consensus about the truth. Trumpers and other members of the right-wing have rejected that premise. Without such a common understanding, how is it possible to engage in basic decision-making about politics and society?

This question of alternate realities is about much more than people who do not care about the truth. I believe that most people on the radical right actually think that they are basing their arguments on the facts. They believe that we are being swamped by immigrants. They believe that the conspiracies they spread are true and that the only reason other people do not accept these conspiracies as being true is because the mainstream media doesn't talk about them. This makes matters much more difficult, because if it was just simply ignorance then we could have an argument about the facts.

It goes much further than just different opinions. Those who are members of the right wing and those outside it have different truth organizations. What the New York Times is to many liberals, Fox News is to many conservatives. Fox News, despite how inaccurate it is, is the media of record for conservatives. As such, they hold it in high esteem.

Has this illiberal, anti-democratic right-wing movement constructed its own reality? Or is it something else?

There are two parts of the far right. On the one hand there are the neo-Nazis who in fact are not very new in their beliefs and ideologies. Todays neo-Nazis stand for roughly the same things as their predecessors.

But the radical right isn't that much different from the mainstream. The idea of nativism is pretty much based on the idea of the nation-state, which is a dominant principle in most politics, particularly in Europe . For example, the idea that Germany is a country of Germans. If that's the case, everyone who is not German is a threat.

Authoritarians believe in law and order from their own point of view. They even believe in some version of democracy. But for these members of the far right, democracy is pretty much just unfettered majority rule.

Minority rights are, for them, almost by definition undemocratic. The far right does not want something completely different than what many in the more mainstream of society want. However, they have a very different interpretation of what "democracy" and "nation" mean.

How did the global new right come into power?

From a more European perspective, it is a result of a combination of changes. For many people, social democracy has outlived its purpose because it has successfully created a welfare state, to the extent the public wanted it. This moment with the rise of the far right is also a consequence of broader globalization and the integration of markets but also immigration, which has fundamentally changed society and has also created tensions that were always present but just not as salient.

For example, I grew up in the Netherlands. Those years ago, my school was almost completely white. I believe we had one nonwhite student in my high school, and everyone wanted to be friends with him because he was considered cool. If you were to go to my former high school now, it will probably be between one-third to one-half nonwhite.

When I was young, I assumed that Dutch people were white, but that was never an issue me. It didnt feel relevant to me. At present, issues such as whiteness and what it means to be Dutch or Muslim have all become relevant.

Why are these members of the radical right and other more mainstream conservatives as well so compelled toward simple explanations about the world?

Simple things always give people a feeling that they understand the world and that they can control what happens around them. What members of the right-wing and especially the far right have is a very essentialist understanding of categories. When they talk about what it means to be white, they do so as if that category is objective and fixed and has never changed. Whiteness, in fact, is something different than what many people thought whiteness was 50 years ago in the United States and elsewhere.

When we explain to people who believe in these essential and fixed categories that whiteness is dynamic and changing and that itself is evidence of how social integration is possible, they will still say, "Oh yeah, but certain groups can be integrated and others cant." What they assume to be some natural state of being of racial homogeneity is not true. The very ideas of whiteness and race are constructs.

How do you make sense of the relationship between what was the mainstream right here in the U.S., that being the Republican Party and the more radical elements of the far right?

There are significant differences between, for example, the role of far-right ideas and people within the British Conservative Party, the U.S. Republican Party and Marine Le Pen's National Rally in France. The mainstream right has pretty much always been pro-market.

Even when they were open to immigrants, they were considered guests, particularly in Europe. As guests, they were expected to adjust to the country they were in. Even the whole concept of tolerance which most social democrats, for example, would stand for is still a hierarchical concept. It means that, I, the real authentic native person, tolerates you, the immigrant. In practice, I have the power to tolerate you. Now, that was never really a problem as long as the number of immigrants was small.

When that number became bigger, it became much more problematic. And you see this in the most extreme form in the United States. One of the key reasons why Donald Trump won in 2016, and why his type of politics win, is a massive fear of the U.S. becoming a majority minority country.

A changing society, white fears of becoming a minority in their own country, and of course 9/11 and rampant Islamophobia helped to create this moment with Trump being president.

In the most basic sense, what do these right-wing movements and parties have in common internationally? And how are they different?

What the radical right has in common, from [Jair] Bolsonaro to Trump to Le Pen, is a combination of nativism, authoritarianism and populism as an ideological core. However, that does not mean that they are all part of one movement. Actually, the ties between the different groups are very slight. This is in part because they are nationalists first. The radical rights leaders are not very interested in building global networks. On top of that, they come from very different traditions and operate in very different organizations.

Bolsonaro did not even have his own party until a few weeks ago. Trump has taken over the Republican Party. Whereas Marine Le Pen is a product of her party and political culture. This fourth wave of the far right exists in extreme heterogeneity, but they do share some common ideas.

What is populism? And how is it being used by the mainstream news media and others, correctly or otherwise?

Populists believe that they are the voice of the people where the people are never the full population. The people are those who share the same interests and values as the populists. However, populism is not by definition nativist or racist. There are inclusive populist movements as well. For example, in both Spain and Greece left-wing populists were pro-immigration. Populists are also not necessarily white either.

But at present, populism is almost exclusively right-wing I describe them more accurately as the populist radical right. Populism is only one part of their ideology. Nativism, which is a more ethnic interpretation of the people, is predominant. Therefore, when the populist radical right talks about the people they mean the people of a certain nation. That nation can be multiracial, but often it is not.

How does the populist radical right envision the world? What is their version of common sense?

The common sense of the radical right wing is that like wants to live with like. This means implicitly that whites want to live with whites. The Dutch want to live with the Dutch. In Europe, we do not like to talk about races. We talk about Dutch culture and the like.

The common sense of the right is also shown by how they like to talk about the animal world: Tigers don't live with lions. For them, that is common sense. That's natural. That's the other thing that the right has always done, which is to believe in natural differences. They believe that it's unnatural for the state to intervene because that goes against the inherent nature of what human beings are. Human beings want to be with people like themselves. They claim they want to go back to the natural order, and that in a natural order everyone knows their place. That means ethnic minorities, but also women and in various cases, gays and lesbians, etc.

Why do Trumps followers embrace him given that his policies, and that of these right-wing populists more generally, will hurt most of his own rank-and-file supporters, both economically and in other ways?

The vast majority of voters for the radical right, let alone for Trump, are not destitute. They actually have an economic buffer, as Brexit showed. These voters are willing to pay a price for what they consider to be freedom. I'm not sure that Trump's voters, and other radical right voters, are nave. I believe many of them just find it much more important that there are fewer immigrants around them. In these voters' minds, it means they will make more money.

To take one example: There are many people in the United States who find it more important to make abortion illegal than to improve their personal economic well-being. Their voices are as rational as that of someone who votes on the basis of their wallet. They are not being misled. There is another myth about Trumps voters that needs to be highlighted. Some people argue that Trumps voters see him as some sort of God. They do not. The vast majority, even among his most ardent supporters, see all of Trumps flaws.

What they like is, first and foremost, that Donald Trump is not of the professional political class. Trump is screwing up the system. That is what his followers want out of him. What that should tell outside observers is not so much what is wrong with Trump but why so many people feel angry towards mainstream politicians and the political professional class more generally.

In the U.S. there is wage stagnation. We have growing economic inequality. The welfare state is being dismantled in many countries. We have massive corporate interests, and mainstream parties have failed. The Republicans have failed at least as much as the Democrats. But this idea from the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party that if Trump is defeated there will be some return to the so-called good old days of the 1990s is really being blind to the problems that have created Donald Trump and his movement.

How can liberals and progressives do better in the struggle over language? For example, there are all these worries about the health of liberal democracy in the U.S. and the West. But too many Americans hear liberal" and that comes with negative associations about black and brown people, gays and lesbians, and of course big government. Conservatives have been masterful in programming that negative association. Liberal now means something bad.

The right wing has been incredibly successful in winning the battle over language. I think it is most visible in terms like political correctness," which is a weaponized term that has very little to do with what it was originally about. At present, free speech is a very potent example of how the right has weaponized language.

Free speech in the current context, as used by the right-wing has nothing to do with what free speech initially meant, namely that the state should not prevent you from saying things. Whereas now it is about the idea that the New York Times, for example, must let you write an op-ed for them. This is absurd, this notion that you have a God-given right to an op-ed in the New York Times.

And that free speech should come without consequences.

As used by the right, free speech means, by and large, that you can say something racist and I can then correctly identify it as being racist. But members of the right believe that they can say something racist and no one can be critical of it.

Language is one of the weaknesses, at the moment, of the left in general, but even with liberal Democrats. Hillary Clinton is an example of this, but she is certainly not alone. Many Democrats do this when they talk about hard-working Americans.

In the United States that language has a very racialized connotation. White people hear "white people" when you say hard-working Americans." Whereas many minorities will think, "Oh, you said 'hard-working Americans.' You're talking to white people."

Working class is another example. It is amazing how in the U.S. working class is used to mean the white working class. We also quite often speak about the working class when we actually mean men and not women. Language is a significant part of the political struggle of the left.

Moderate is another example of problematic language. Consider Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Apparently, the narrative goes that they are radical and the American people want a moderate. Now, first of all, the country is polarized. So what does moderate even mean? What does the center mean in a polarized world? Many of the positions that Sanders and Warren stand for are actually supported by a majority of Americans. Why would that be radical? But in practice radical still has that negative connotation and the term moderate has a positive connotation in American political discourse.

What do we do about the old problem that there are individuals, political parties and other groups who use democratic procedures such as voting to infiltrate a government with the goal of undermining if not destroying democracy?

I'm definitely a free-speech extremist. I think that you should be allowed pretty much to campaign for everything. You should have a right to be a member of the Nazi Party and to campaign to create a Nazi state. I actually would prefer to know that beforehand so I can make an informed decision.

We should also, however, not be blind to the illiberal aspects of many so-called liberal democratic parties. If you look at Europe, for example, freedom of speech is pretty constrained. You can't deny the Holocaust. You can't say things that are perceived as racist. Even the U.S. does not have full freedom of speech. A person is not allowed to praise terrorism, for example.

Why should Americans care about British politics and the recent election victory of Boris Johnsonand the Conservatives?

I do not believe that Americans should care that much about the recent British election. Johnson is going to take the U.K. out of the EU, but the EU is going to survive and will not be much weaker because the U.K. is not in it. He will try to get a special relationship with Trump and will not get it. I just wrote a column in the Guardian about this. I do not think that there is a strong lesson from the U.K. elections for the U.S. elections.

Johnsons win does not mean that if a party or candidate goes hard left that they cannot win the election. There are any number of specific factors that played a role in the British election Brexit, which is unique, being one of them. It is important to see things for what they really are. First and foremost, these were British elections. Boris Johnson might look a bit like Trump, but he is still a British politician set in the British context of politics and culture.

What can be done to stop the global ascent of the radical right?

First and foremost, we should see things in the correct perspective. In almost all countries, the radical right is a minority and the vast majority of people vote for liberal democratic parties, be they conservative, liberals or social democrats. That is very important. Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. The radical right is not the majority. The second question, then, is why don't these people vote for the radical right? And why are the people who support liberal democracy not mobilized like those people who vote for the radical right?

Advocates for liberal democracy, for the most part, do not offer anything. This goes back to neoliberalism to a certain extent. Advocates of liberal democracy, the political mainstream centrists, do not offer positive narratives. Yes, the U.S. is a bit different with Warren and Sanders, who are in fact providing positive narratives. But in most cases, this is not true.

Defenders of liberal democracy are basically just saying, Dont vote for the radical right. Don't vote for Trump." "Don't vote for Johnson." "Don't go out of the EU because things will be worse.

Things will be worse is not a very good mobilization strategy. The Democrats do not need to convince anyone anymore that Trump is bad. The people who don't see that now will not see that fact a year from now either. Whatever you tell them, the vast majority of people know that Trump is bad. The point is, they don't think the Democrats are worth coming out for. That is the challenge faced by the Democrats.

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Impeachment won't slow the global rise of the radical right but an alternative vision might - Salon

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