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Category Archives: Freedom of Speech

‘The Short Life And Curious Death Of Free Speech In America’ Examines The First Amendment – NPR

Posted: October 29, 2020 at 6:20 pm

The Short Life and Curious Death of Free Speech in America, by Ellis Cose Amistad hide caption

The First Amendment and its protection of free speech may be the best-known and, possibly, the most cherished of the amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

But there is also a long-running battle over what the limits of free speech should be. And this election year, with its heated and sometimes hateful rhetoric and challenges to the tech companies to referee it all is certainly placing that battle at the forefront.

That's just one reason editor and columnist Ellis Cose's latest book The Short Life And Curious Death Of Free Speech in America is so timely.

On why he titled the book 'the short life' of freedom of speech

The First Amendment by definition is the First Amendment, you know? It was the First Amendment to the Constitution. It was ratified in 1791. So it's been with us almost since we have had a constitution. And the assumption that most people have is that it's just a right that's always been there, that's always been respected and that we've always enjoyed as Americans. But that's not quite true. In 1798, we have the Alien and Sedition Acts, which in effect nullify the First Amendment. It made it illegal to criticize the then-Federalist government. It made it illegal to speak out and to do the things that we think are routine to do now.

On the relative newness of the concept of freedom of speech

It grew directly out of World War I. When the United States government got involved in the war, we immediately passed a couple of new laws. One was the Espionage Act, the other was the Sedition Act, which was an amendment to the Espionage Act. And what they what those laws did, as the original Alien and Sedition Acts did, was to essentially make it illegal to criticize the government.

And so you had any number of individuals and institutions who were jailed because they were critical of the draft. And you had a number of activists, you know, including the group that later became came together as the ACLU, who said: 'Wait a minute. Don't we have freedom of speech in this country? Can't we speak out?' And so, slowly, we began to come up with a modern conception of the First Amendment.

On president's policies threatening freedom of speech

In many respects, I mean, at least Obama and George Bush had respect for the Constitution, and they understood what it meant. But when you go into the current administration, you have an administration that doesn't even believe in truth, that does not believe in constitutional process and does not believe in rights at all, as generally understood. And what we now have [is] an entire government apparatus designed to foster falsehoods, and that endangers the whole idea that our country is based on, which is that we can get to some kind of universal truth from which we can proceed to have a better government and a better society as a result.

On some people on the left and the right not respecting freedom of speech

Well, my take is that we as a people tend to understand the First Amendment in a very specific and personal way. We tend to believe that the First Amendment says that we have a right to free speech as long as you say things that I agree with. That tends to be the way that the First Amendment is viewed on the left; it tends to be the way that it's viewed on the right. So there's a tension there's always has been a tension between the idea of free speech and the practice of it in the real world when people don't like ideas that they don't like and they don't want to hear them. And I think that's just one of the things we need to struggle with as a society.

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First Amendment Childrens Book Teaches a New Generation About Freedom of Speech – New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Posted: at 6:20 pm

Do you remember your first time? Your first time at a protest is something special. Holding handmade signs with passionate messages that let the world know whats on your mind and what you value is a beautiful, powerful feeling.

No matter your political, religious, or personal beliefs, your right to gather and vocalize your opinions at a protest or just about anywhere is possible thanks to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The third week of October is nationally recognized as Free Speech Week, celebrating all things freedom of speech and the press.

Sandy and Jessica Bohrer, two constitutional lawyers who also happen to be father and daughter, recently published their first book focusing on teaching grade school children the value of the First Amendment.

Your Voice Is Your Superpower: A Beginner's Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First Amendment), released in September, teaches children about their most valuable weapon: their voice.

The childrens book numbers a colorful 34 pages, written in witty rhyme kids that will easily digest yet will still resonate with adults.

A native of New Jersey, Sandy has been living in Miami and fighting for freedom of the press for nearly four decades. One of the nation's top First Amendment attorneys, he also happens to be the only lawyer who has represented Miami New Timesever since our papers inception in 1987. (He has also represented the Miami Herald.)

Growing up in the Bohrer household, it wasnt uncommon for Jessica and her brother to see their father on the television news. Sandy was featured in print so often that Jessicas paternal grandfather would carry the newspaper clippings in his pocket. But there was rarely any shop talk in the home.

Much like her father, Jessica has dedicated her life to free speech, working as Forbes editorial counsel and volunteering with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Jessica and Sandy Bohrer's children's book, Your Voice Is Your Superpower

Photo courtesy of Jessica Bohrer

I became a lawyer because I wanted to help people, says Jessica, admitting there may have been some subconscious influence. I certainly grew up with those values embedded in my moral compass, of protecting freedoms, and freedom of speech being the first of them.

The concept behind Your Voice Is Your Superpower evolved through various conversations between Sandy and his daughter. The current political climate ultimately helped to inspire the theme of the book.

We thought this was a really important time to start teaching young children about how important it is to use your voice and how important it is to protect the freedom to speak, to protest, to be able to express yourself without fear of harm, Jessica explains.

In this environment where the president of the United States is trying to destroy freedom of speech and freedom of the press, [we thought] maybe its time to start building it back up, Sandy adds, noting theimportance of teaching young children about the values associated with the First Amendment.

Children arent born hating anyone; they have to be taught to hate. And they can be taught to respect other people, too, Sandy says.

Jessica echoes her fathers sentiments. The attacks on journalists have increased exponentially, and I think what that tells us is that the value of free speech, the value of the free press, is under threat right now.The best way you can counteract those trends is to start with young people," she says. "We want to teach them to be accepting, and to take this value very seriously and stand firmly to defend it.

Before speaking with New Times on Wednesday afternoon, Jessica participated in a virtual book reading with a second-grade class.

The students, she says, excitedly recounted stories of accompanying their parents to protests.

These kids are experiencing all of these things in the world, and so its great to be able to give them a tool to understand whats happening and understand how they can be a part of their community and part of democracy, Jessica says.

Your Voice Is Your Superpower: A Beginner's Guide to Freedom of Speech (and the First Amendment), by Jessica and Sandy Bohrer. City Point Press. 2020. 34 pages. Paperback $6.99, board book $13.99.

Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.

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This is my freedom of speech – Newnan Times-Herald

Posted: August 26, 2020 at 4:21 pm

What has happened to us? Our freedom of speech is not for all. There is much political correctness. We are divided. We must be united and stand together as a country. We have a choice to make. Are you ready?

We need to respect all life. If that is not paramount in our daily lives, we have no hope for the future of your and my children and grandchildren. Race, color and creed. We are all in this together. Dr. Matt always said, "Right is right and wrong is wrong no in between." He spent his life helping others. How disappointed he would be with all of us.

It is time for the silent American to stand tall. President Trump takes no salary and takes abuse beyond compare. In spite of this, he has done more for our country in his first term than any other president. It is a fact; check it out. Please give him some credit. He has faults, as we all do.

This election is the most important in my life and yours. I ask you to look at our future and support him if you can. If you think this virus has changed your life, just wait and see how it will change if the radical left takes over. Do your homework.

I wonder if I am wasting my time sharing my thoughts. Most of y'all feel as I do. The other folks who read this are so full of hate and bias and won't change. Maybe if all of us put more effort into being kind and caring we can make a change.

Lawrence Reed had a wonderful opinion piece in the NTH not too long ago about being lucky to be an American. It was just great. So from the bottom of my heart, please open your minds and your hearts; don't stick your head in the sand.

Make your vote count, plus a prayer or two.

Pat Lucky Burns


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BOOK REVIEW: Yes, I Can Say That is Judy Golds take on freedom of speech – Wicked Local Truro

Posted: at 4:21 pm

Emmy Award-winning comedienne Judy Gold is now appearing at the Crown and Anchor in Provincetown. She has written a funny and compelling new book "Yes, I Can Say That" which details her musings about freedom of speech from the perspective of the comic. In the books forward, she writes, Its terrifying out there right now for stand-ups. The fear of backlash and inciting microaggression from the audience members by uttering a politically incorrect joke that offends is always present in the mind of the standup before, during and after a performance, she says.

This kind of scrutiny from the easily-offended, is not only coming from the right politically, but also those leaning left, Gold maintains. Asshe proceeds with her manifesto on a performers right to free speech, she interweaves some hilarious anecdotes and jokes that have arisen in her performing life and in the performing life of other comedians as well.

Gold talks about stereotypes, and how were all products of our history and legacy. We can laugh at them for the spark of truth they contain, and challenge them when theyve been unfairly assigned or used to denigrate," she says. "One of the best ways to challenge these long-held false beliefs is with comedy. She then gives examples of how various comedians with a host of ethnic backgrounds have handled issues centered around this kind of stereotype attribution.

But the best comedy lives on the edge of whats acceptable, Gold writes, and thats where audiences can either laugh at the joke being delivered or choose to feel offended. Sometimes feelings of offense get mixed with anger and an audience member decides to leave the show. It is simply an individuals natural impulse to protect themselves from unpleasantness that causes such action. As Gold maintains though, Jokes are nourished by tension; laughter is a release.

Golds book is also part-history, chronicling the great comics who have fought for freedom of speech, and giving homage to these comics fight against censorship. Shetackles the issue of the Cancel Culture, the phenomenon of promoting the canceling or the rejection of an individual whose actions remarks, or ideologies others consider to be offensive or problematic.

She delivers a blistering attack on Donald Trump, but the attack constitutes a valid argument. Here Gold quotes the comedian Jon Stewart, I dont understand why in this country we try to hold comedians to a higher standard we do not hold leaders to.

Gold delivers a wonderful tribute to her idol, Joan Rivers, who she says was The funniest and most fearless of women. Readers learn a great deal about Rivers career, her methods as comedienne, and her pioneering efforts to promote women in the field of comedy. Rivers jokes, interspersed throughout Golds retelling, are hilarious.

Political correctness, according to Gold, is a virus that is killing great stand-up comedy, and such a death hurts us all. Protocols defining political correctness were established to avoid insulting marginalized groups of people. Gold warns her fellow comedians that they should refrain from maliciously offending people, and be willing to laugh at themselves. A cardinal rule should be, always endeavor to gain the trust of the audience.

To us the audience, Gold challenges us to stop taking ourselves so seriously. The most important thing of all? Laugh! Let go and laugh!

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KSL Investigates: Does armed protest have a chilling effect on free speech? –

Posted: at 4:21 pm

SALT LAKE CITY A summer of protests highlighting the First Amendments protection of free speech has culminated in a movement highlighting the Second Amendments protection of the right to bear arms.

Members of Utah Citizens United have begun showing up at protests against police brutality carrying semi-automatic rifles.

Critics said that has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech.

So what happens when those two constitutionally protected rights seem to conflict with one another?

As the KSL Investigators learned, legal precedent has some catching up to do.

Provo native Casey Robertson formed Utah Citizens Alarm after a protest in his hometown on June 29 ended in a shooting when a protester opened fire at a driver whose vehicle was being blocked at an intersection.

It hit home that the violence is now here, Robertson explained.

That is when he took to Facebook and put out the call for support.

Who wants to come down there with me and show em were not going to put up with violence in our town, he said about his Facebook post.

Members of UCA have since attended rallies across Utah, oftentimes wearing military fatigues, tactical gear and carrying AR-15 style rifles. Many also wear face coverings, making them unidentifiable.

They show up to protests, Robertson said, to show solidarity with law enforcement.

We back law enforcement 100% as a group and they appreciate that because law enforcement is getting a horrible, terrible name right now, Robertson said. Were simply there to be eyes and ears for the police and just be a deterrent for violence. Thats it.

When asked if he encourages members of his group to come armed to protests, Robertson said, We encourage people to be aware of the laws and follow them closely.

Im not sorry if were intimidating. Im not. Utah citizens want to be intimidating. We dont want violence here in Utah. We do not want chaos and anarchy, Robertson continued.

While violence and property damage have occurred, of the dozens of protests that have taken place in Utah this summer, most have been peaceful.

While Robertson and his members argue their presence at protests absolutely deters violence, property damage and destruction, activists like Josianne Petit believe what UCAs presence really deters is people from exercising their First Amendment right to protest.

Petit started an organization for parents of black children called Mama and Papa Panthers. She has used her voice to speak out at many protests this summer.

They say theyre there to keep the peace. Well, the way my group and like groups have shown that were here for non-violent protests is we dont bring enough ammo to take out a small village, Petit said. They are weapons of war. They are not made to disarm or disable an opponent.

Petit is passionate and outspoken about the need for police reform and the need to end police brutality. She is demanding change and knows doing so is her First Amendment right.

Were just asking for the same treatment when we engage with police officers as white people have come to expect, Petit said. Its the cause of liberation.

She said the presence of heavily armed, masked men and women at largely non-violent protests has resulted in serious fear. In some cases, the concern for protesters personal safety is so concerning, she said, they are shying away from exercising their First Amendment right.

Their tactic is working, right? Its silencing the vast majority of black voices here in Utah, Petit said.

Shes equally worried about another intimidation tactic she said is employed by members of UCA.

They have made a point of stalking us at every single event that we hold, she said. They just monitor our Facebook page and if we say were going to an event, they show up.

Robertson admitted that as his group grows, its expanding focusing on intelligence gathering.

We have quite a few people that have stepped up and that have created false accounts where we can infiltrate some of their conversations and some of their planning and groups, Robertson said.

The KSL Investigators went to Jess Anderson, commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety, to get his perspective on UCA and similar groups.

We appreciate their support for law enforcement, Anderson said specifically about Utah Citizens Alarm, However, its not done with the proper training. Its not done with a proper perspective or understanding.

He made it clear: when it comes to law enforcements interactions with UCA and groups like it, there is no working relationship.

Listen, we didnt request you. Youre not the backup to the police, Anderson explained. Theyve been respectful of that so far, but it causes concern to the law enforcement community just because it puts us in a very peculiar situation, knowing and understanding that if something were to happen, guess whos caught right in the middle of this? Its now the police [who] have an armed standoff.

As for UCAs aim of intelligence gathering, Anderson said, We, in the policing world, have all of our access to good intelligence, to which we are using in a most respectful way.

At what point do intimidation tactics cross the line and infringe on protesters Constitutional rights? University of Utah law professor RonNell Andersen Jones said theres little clear legal precedent.

Certainly the Supreme Court has recognized that if someone engages in a behavior that rises to the level of being what the court calls a true threat, then it loses its First Amendment protection and your capacity to express yourself with a weapon in your hand changes. You dont have the ability to continue to invoke Constitutional protection and the government can regulate you from threatening other people in that way.

However, the courts have not decided if a large number of firearms at a public protest rises to the level of a true threat.

The bare existence of the firearm on their person under Utah State law isnt necessarily a threat against another person. Its an exercise of the open carry right, said Jones. Were still waiting for jurisprudence from the United States Supreme Court that helps us to understand the boundaries of firearms in public.

Case law may not be far away.

There are lots of test cases that seem to be emerging all across the country as the Black Lives Matter movement and other protest movements are generating these conflicts on a scale that we havent seen before, said Jones.

Its actually, in some respects, quite remarkable that weve had since 1790, to have some of these conflicts emerge and havent had the chance to sort of tussle with them, she said. But its also a uniquely modern problem with modern firearms and with modern protest movements. And so sometimes it takes time for the Constitution to catch up with the problems that we face in the real world.

Casey Robertson said his group believes in the right to peacefully assemble and peacefully protest.

We dont exist to show up at protests, said Robertson. However, weve seen that these protests tend to get violent and Antifa is working through these protest groups to get their point across which is disruption and anarchy.

Antifa short for anti-fascists is a political group with no leader and no clear organization. Their ideology embraces violence as a tool to combat far-right extremists and white nationalist groups.

And its who Robertson believes is the real enemy of America.

Anderson, however, said Antifa is currently no cause for concern in Utah.

As far as identifying who those somewhat terrorist groups are, or otherwise really anarchistic groups, we do keep a close watch on that, Anderson said. By and large, we do not see that being an issue or a problem to the point where its causing us complete panic or concern.

Less than two months after Robertson created the Utah Citizens Alarm page on Facebook, it had attracted nearly 20,000 members.

Facebook shut down the page on Aug. 19, along with nearly 1,000 other accounts. The social networking company said the move was aimed at limiting violent rhetoric tied to anarchists, political militias and followers of the Q-Anon conspiracy theory.

According to NBC News, Facebooks policy states, Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts associated with these movements and organizations will be removed when they discuss potential violence.

Robertson said that will not deter his members. They created a website to continue operations online.

UCA is still here. We are still strong. This Facebook thing in no way will affect the momentum that we have created, Robertson said in a video posted on Monday.

Robertson said he is working on more formally organizing the group by providing members with training and legal support.

He also said UCA is more thoroughly vetting its members and hopes to change their image.

As weve grown, weve realized that an AR may not be the best thing to be carrying in a situation like that, Robertson said.

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Free Speech Be Damned: Joshua Krook and the Australian Public Service – International Policy Digest

Posted: at 4:21 pm

There was very little controversial about it. A featured blog post in the Oxford Political Review, authored in April by Joshua Krook, suggested that COVID-19 had brought a host of benefits for big tech companies. Isolation ushered people towards online platforms. Engagement on such platforms had increased dramatically.

Names were not mentioned. Krooks then-employer, the Australian Public Service, made no appearance in the text. Tech entities were not outed, though Krook noted, in general, how big tech companies have been pursuing the attention economy, seeking to get all our attention at all times. With COVID-19, this had been achieved. People are trapped indoors, at home, on their devices at all times, with nowhere to go. Krooks tone did come across as a touch judgmental, suggesting that replacing human connection with technology has never felt so nakedly negative. He likened big tech entities to spouses who know everything about you. By giving them information about yourself, a loss of free will is perpetrated precisely because the person, or company, knows so much about you.

It took three months for Krook to get the call. The managers of the APS took issue with the post. Its pessimism might damage the governments relationship with the technology industry. In Krooks words to the Guardian, the problem was that in talking about the big tech companies, we risked damaging the relationship the government has with big tech companies and that when we go and do public-private partnerships, they could Google my name, find my article and then refuse to work with us. Had the article been ingratiating positive about the big tech companies it would have been entirely permissible. His options were starkly simple: remove the post or face termination of employment. Any future pieces would have to go through the censoring scissors of the service.

What followed was the usual pattern. The cold sweat of initial alarm; a quick request to the Oxford Political Review that the blog post be removed. Deletion. Then, a reconsideration of matters, the growth of a backbone to resist: quitting the job in the public sector, and talking about civil service censorship.

As Krook explained in the Oxford Political Review, I resigned from my job in the government because I fundamentally disagree with the decision. The Australian government should not be involved in censoring personal blog posts. Public servants should be able to criticize private companies, including big tech companies. There is no conflict of interest. Freedom of speech is fundamental to a thriving, secular democracy.

It pays to know what creatures you are working for, and what strange armour they insist on wearing when they deal with expression. Know their values and code of conduct, because they are bound to be conversely related to what is actually intended. Ideas will only be permitted in such an ecosystem if they are expressed with respect, which usually means causing no offense to the thick and unimaginative. What is challenging is bound to be offensive; what is audaciously defying is bound to rub the dullards the wrong way.

The APS, for instance, has a code of conduct which deals with employees as citizens. This has a sinister edge to it. The APS acknowledges in Section 6 of the Code that employees are citizens and members of the community but the right to serve the community as APS employees comes with certain responsibilities. Central to the point is a notion that has been stretched and mangled in punishing supposed transgressions by APS employees. Responsibilities, for instance, include maintaining confidence of the community in the capacity of the APS, and each member to it, to undertake their duties professionally and impartially. This comes terribly close to having no opinions, or at least the sort you can legitimately express.

The section further gives clues as to what an APS employee should, or should not do. Be careful making comments in an unofficial capacity (no mention of the healthy thoughts of such a person as an engaged private citizen). Be wary of participating in political activities, participating in acts that might generate a conflict of interest, be cautious when working overseas and when being identifiable as an APS employee.

Naturally, such elastic codes are drafted in ways that suggest openness and fairness, while coldly repudiating them. There is, for instance, a tentative nod to the engagement of APS employees in robust discussionas an important part of open government. But the lid is tightly shut on the issue of public comments, which must conform to the APS Values, Employment Principles, and the Code. And public comments are broad indeed, covering public speech, online media including blogs and social media networking sites.

Michaela Banerji, formerly an employee of the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship, found at much personal cost that tweeting critically about government policy on refugees, even anonymously, was sufficient to get her sacked. Her heroic effort to bring her messages and opinions within the realms of Australias implied right to freedom of communication on political subjects was snootily dismissed by the countrys highest court in 2019. The implied right was not a personal one, intoned the High Court judges, but a restriction on legislative power which arises as a necessary implication on construing various sections of the Australian Constitution and as such, extends only so far as is necessary to preserve and protect the system of representative and responsible government mandated by the Constitution.

Justice James Edelman went so far as to claim that the APS Code did not turn public servants into lonely ghosts but conceded that it would cast a powerful chill over political communication. All that interested the judges, however, was that Banerji had been given a proportionate penalty balanced against preserving a neutral public service. Had Krook dared test the waters of litigation, it would have been grimly interesting how the High Court might have distinguished his case to that of Banerjis, given that he expressed no criticism in the post of the government or government policy.

The Krook affair also reveals another disturbing trend. With all that froth and babble about regulators keen to rein in the power of Silicon Valley, we have an object lesson about how keen the Australian government is to stay in the warming bed of big tech. Google, Facebook and other representatives will be delighted by this stinging hypocrisy. Public servants have been crudely warned: do not write pieces, however general, about the consequences of the COVID-19 tech world and its delighted Silicon Valley stalwarts.

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‘Freedom of Speech’: Delhi Riots’ Writer Was Lawyer for Petitioners Who Sought Cuts in Wendy Doniger Book – The Wire

Posted: at 4:21 pm

New Delhi: Monika Arora, one of the writers of the book on the Delhi riots which Bloomsbury has withdrawn, had been advocate for petitioners who had called for passages in Wendy Donigers book on Hindus to be removed in 2011. Donigers book was eventually withdrawn by Penguin Books India in 2014.

The withdrawal of the University of Chicago scholars book had triggered anger on Twitter, resulting in the same debate that is afoot now on freedom of speech and expression.

Arora, who since Bloomsburys move has tweeted on how free speech and acceptance of all opinion have been curtailed, now finds herself on the other side of the debate.

Aroras book on the February riots in Delhi, which she co-wrote with Sonali Chitalkar and Prerna Malhotra, garnered criticism after it emerged that BJP leader Kapil Mishra was among those releasing it. Mishras speeches before the riots are believed to have incited the violence.

A poster for the book launch.

Many have also questioned the distinct bias the book appears to take against Citizenship Amendment Act protesters, along with the uniqueness of how quickly it was brought to print even though investigations into the riots are still ongoing amidst allegations of distinct favouritism against Delhi Police.

Also read: Jamia: For Delhi Police, Indias Top Central Varsity is a Free Hunting Ground for FIR 59/20

The book will now be published by Garuda Books.

Donigers book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, published in India in 2011, had been held to great scrutiny. A complaint was filed by seven petitioners to remove objectionable passages from it. Among them was Dinanath Batra, who is noted for his legal crusade against perceived affront to Hinduism by authors.

The original complaint criticised the book for heresies and factual inaccuracies and criticised Doniger for having a selective approach to writing about Hinduism, Reuters had reported then.

She denounced the Hindu Gods and freedom fighters of India, Monika Arora had told Reuters shortly after Penguin had pulled the book in 2014.

The legal notice said Doniger was incorrect in describing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, as the Bharatiya Janata Partys militant wing.

In an interview with Rajiv Malhotra, who wrote the book,Academic Hinduphobia: A Critique of Wendy Donigers Erotic School of Indology, Arora questions as to why anyone would go against Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code. The section deals with deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Arora also mentions in the interview that Batra did not attempt to get the book banned but wanted the passages that irked him removed. She says in the interview that the criticism to Penguin pulling Donigers book was imposed by international media and Leftist scholars within the country.

Countering criticism of the ban on Donigers book, Arora had also written in Malhotras blog in 2014, [T]his lynch mob and intolerant pseudo-secularists in the name of freedom of expression are crying from rooftops and demanding freedom of defamation.

She further writes of the likes of Arundhati Roy, [T]hese champions of freedom of expressions have took upon them their favorite agenda to attack all those who do not agree with them and who dare to talk in favour of Hindus or the Freedom Fighters of this country. They are the likes of the American President who openly declared Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists(sic).

Six years later, on Sunday, Aroras tweets took a slightly different tone. To one Twitter user, she said, we will work together against Intellectual fascism, throttling of voices and threats to freedom of expression by issuance of DIGITAL FATWAS by international left lobbies. We have a right to speak and right to write

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Facebook Plans Legal Action After Thailand Tells It to Mute Critics – The New York Times

Posted: at 4:21 pm

BANGKOK Facebook is planning legal action against the government of Thailand for ordering the social media platform to partially shut down access to a group critical of the Thai monarchy, the company said on Tuesday.

On Monday, Facebook began preventing users in Thailand from accessing Royalist Marketplace, a Facebook group with more than a million members that was set up by a self-exiled Thai academic living in Japan.

Thailand has some of the worlds strictest lse-majest laws, which make it a crime to criticize members of the royal family. Other legislation, including a sedition law and a computer crimes act, have also been used to target critics of the royal family, even as protesters have taken to the streets in recent weeks to call for the monarchys power to be curbed.

Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Thailands digital economy and society minister, warned this month that Facebook would be breaking the computer crimes act if it allowed Royalist Marketplace, which was founded in April, to continue operating in Thailand. The minister gave Facebook until Tuesday to restrict access to the group or pay a relatively small fine.

Facebook condemned the governments request on Tuesday and said it would ask a Thai court to revoke the order filed against the companys Thailand operations.

Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law and have a chilling effect on peoples ability to express themselves, Facebook said in a statement. We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request.

Facebook has come under criticism for allowing hate speech and misinformation to circulate worldwide, as well as for handing authoritarian governments a tool with which to target their critics.

A tense political atmosphere has coalesced in Thailand, with weeks of student-led protests calling for democratic reforms and more oversight over King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun. Members of the urban middle class have been drawn to the demonstrations, with more than 10,000 people gathering at Democracy Monument earlier this month.

The protesters have criticized the government and called for reforms to the monarchy. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former general, came to power in 2014, after orchestrating a military coup that he said was necessary to protect the palace from naysayers.

The actions we took, Mr. Prayuth said on Tuesday in reference to Facebook, are in accordance with Thai law, not using dictatorship powers.

If they sue us, we have to use the Thai law to fight, he added. We dont go against other countries laws.

But others accused Thailand of going against international norms on freedom of speech.

Thailands government is again abusing its overbroad and rights-abusing laws to force Facebook to restrict content that is protected by the human right to free speech, said John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement. It is Thailand that is breaking the law here, international law protecting freedom of expression.

The king, whose father was the worlds longest-reigning monarch when he died in 2016, spends most of his time outside Thailand. Critics have asked why he is rarely in the country, especially at a time when Thailand is facing its worst economic contraction in decades amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The kings fourth wife, Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn Na Ayudhya, a former flight attendant, lives mostly in Europe, too, as does the presumed heir, Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti. The kings noble consort, an official position that the king brought back for the first time since before Thailand abandoned absolute monarchy in 1932, also spent most of her time in Europe before she was dramatically purged last year.

The kings third wife, mother to the heir apparent, was the subject of an earlier purge, and members of her immediate family were charged with lse-majest.

Even as he has stayed away from home, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has increased his personal authority over the crowns billions of dollars in holdings and over army units that have been instrumental in Thailands coup-making. A dozen putsches have cast aside civilian governments since the country became a constitutional monarchy.

Previous Thai governments have periodically blocked online content deemed critical of the monarchy. Critics of the palace and the military-aligned government have been jailed. Hundreds of others have been forced to undergo indoctrination sessions run out of military bases.

A number of protest leaders have been arrested on charges of sedition and other crimes, with the latest round of arrests coming on Tuesday. Other dissidents have disappeared entirely.

Last week, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society filed a cybercrime complaint against Pavin Chachavalpongpun, the academic who is the administrator of the Royalist Marketplace group. For years, Mr. Pavin had been a rare Thai voice calling for frank discussions of the monarchys role in modern Thai society.

On Monday evening, after access to Royalist Marketplace was restricted by Facebook, Mr. Pavin created a new group with a similar name. That Facebook group, which is still accessible in Thailand, now has nearly half a million members.

I never thought that I would be the founder of the fastest-growing social group in Thailand, Mr. Pavin said in an interview. Going through the membership, I realize this is not just young people, but laypeople, middle-aged people, so many people in Thailand who just want the right to speak about the monarchy openly.

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What Americans have to say about cancel culture – YouGov US

Posted: at 4:21 pm

The first day of the Republican National Convention featured speeches from a variety of politicians and public figures,a number ofwhom spoke about the dangers of so-called cancel culture.

Polling indicates that this issue could be ripe for Republicans.

Over half (56%) of Americans think that cancel culture-- defined as a form ofboycottin which an individual (usually a celebrity) who has said something that offends some people is called out and shunned ---in the United States is a very big (28%) or somewhat big (28%) problem, according to aJuly 2020survey from Yahoo News and YouGov.

To find out more about why people feel this way, YouGov posed the same polling question toYouGov Chatusers. This extendedchat-basedsurvey reached1,452 US adultsandoffered open end questions that help researchers findout a little bit more about thepublicsfeelings on cancel culture.Its important to note that the results from thechat are still raw and unweighted.

One userwrote:Cancel culture prohibits free speech and sharing ideas. You cant have a decent and civil conversation with people anymore out of fear of the mob.

Among those who believe cancel culture is a problem, many in this chat wrote in some variation of the idea that cancel culture impedes on free speech.

It takes freedom of speech away from Americans that dont agree with the masses on social media. It prevents difficult conversations from being had, mainly because there are those that dont want to hear logic and reason. It also goes back into peoples pasts to find reasons to cancel them, there is no redemption or second chance.

The above quote from a YouGov chat user also reflects a concern that many othersshared: the idea that cancel culture doesnttake into accountredemption and the ability tolearn from ones mistakes.Several users shared their belief that people should not be canceled without the chance to apologize or explain.

Everybody makes mistakes and we need to give people the opportunity to explain themselves and apologize. Cancel culture is toxic and it ruins lives.

But not everyone agrees.About one in eight(13%)people in the Yahoo News/YouGov polltaken before the chat was fielded saythatcancelcultureisntaproblem,while31 percent say its a small problem.

Whenwe probedYouGov chatusersthat didnt think cancel culture was a problemonwhy theythought that way,some said it wasbecause they feel its appropriate to withdraw support when someone does or sayssomethingthey find offensive.

One user wrote:Someone can say all the nasty, racist, anti-gay or anti-trans stuff that they want - but when they do, I am not obligated to like or follow them, to support them, or to buy their products.

A number ofothers wroteabout the idea of accountability, and whether cancel culture is even an accurate term.

It isn't "cancel culture," it's "accountability culture." People are free to share whatever views they care to share - but when they espouse views that are harmful or hurtful to other people, having "views" does not insulate them from criticism. This is especially true when the views being shared are based only on some immutable characteristic such as race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual preference.

See the fulltoplinesandcrosstabsfrom the Yahoo News/YouGov survey.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Every day, members of YouGov Chat are asked to share their opinion on a topic in the news. We allow anyone to take part in these chats, and do not display or weight results in real-time. Instead, to make the experience informative but still interactive, the chat displays weighted data fromotherYouGov pollsto show them how the rest of the country voted. This enables us to pose the question to all, while retaining data accuracy and validity when communicating results.YouGov chat seeks to add to the what? (the quantitative poll result) by finding the why? (qualitative open ends) in a members own words.Learn more about YouGov Chat here.This Yahoo News/YouGov survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,504 US residents interviewed online between July 11-14, 2020. These samples were weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, and news interest.

Image: Getty

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What Americans have to say about cancel culture - YouGov US

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British think tank fronts right-wing academic freedom campaignPart 2 – WSWS

Posted: at 4:21 pm

By Thomas Scripps 26 August 2020

This is second and concluding part of a two-part series. The first part was published on August 24, 2020.

Another author on the Policy Exchange report is Eric Kaufmann. A professor at Birkbeck University in London, Kaufmann spoke in defence of Noah Carl during the Cambridge campaign. He is the author of a book, Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration and the Future of White Majorities, which argues that Western politics is being defined by the tug of war between white ethno-traditionalism and anti-racist moralism, that anti-racism is a repression of ethnic instincts, and that white people should be able to assert their own racial self-interest. Kaufmann has recently called for giving preference to white people in a points-based immigration system.

The appeal to far-right, social Darwinist layers, is made explicit in the Academic Freedom report. The passage deserves to be cited at length for its insistence on the positive intentions of advocates of race science:

It is difficult to imagine that black students would or should be unmoved at news a professor in their department is pursuing a line of research proving black people are inherently less intelligent than white people, for instance, all under the umbrella of academic freedom. Or that a student of Indian heritage might not be deeply offended by a professor or lecturer teaching in class that British colonialism was the best thing that ever happened to the Indian people.

However, the question ultimately boils down to whether we aim to build an academic community and wider society which operates on the good-faith assumption of positive intentions in others or one that operates on the assumption of nefarious intentions.

Furthermore, with British institutions, including universities, now under a microscope following the outpouring of anti-racist protests and initiatives after the heinous killing of George Floyd in America, it smacks of the implausible that any rational scholar interested in a successful academic career would consider propagating racist beliefs to be a wise or even just beneficial career path.

These ideas and their advocates have a major influence among leading government figures. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has ruminated on the significance of innate IQ differences for human equality. His closest advisor, Dominic Cummings, has written a 200-plus-page paper for the Department of Education insisting on the importance of genetics in childrens academic success and was responsible for the hiring of a self-professed eugenicist as a special government advisor. As social inequality reaches obscene levels, this ideology is regaining its central place in the thinking of the ruling class.

The unholy alliance behind the Academic Freedom report is completed by the author of its foreword, former Labour MP Ruth Smeeth. Part of the Blairite core of the Labour Party, Smeeths most significant political role has been as a key player in the anti-Semitism witch-hunt against the Corbynite left. She has been at the forefront of criminalising criticism of Israel through enshrining the International Holocaust Remembrance Associations definition of anti-Semitism. Between 2005 and 2007, Smeeth served as director of public affairs and campaigns for the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), a pro-Israel lobby group. She was exposed by WikiLeaks in July 2016 as a strictly protect United States asset in leaked diplomatic cables.

In 2018, Smeeth had long-time anti-racism campaigner Marc Wadsworth thrown out of the Labour Party after alleging he had engaged in anti-Semitic conduct towards her. At a party meeting, Wadsworth had seen a Telegraph reporter passing one of his leaflets calling for the deselection of right-wing Labour MPs to Smeeth and commented, We can see whos working hand in hand. Now Smeeth comes out in favour of a campaign with the Telegraph s fingerprints all over it!

Smeeth endorses the Policy Exchange report in her capacity as recently selected CEO of the Index on Censorship. Former leading Labour member Trevor Phillips now serves as chair of the Index on Censorship's board of directors. Phillips managed to criticise Tony Blair from the right, denouncing him for promulgating multiculturalism. In an interview with the Times in 2004, he called for a rejection of multiculturalism and for the government to assert a core of Britishness. He said in 2016 about immigration to the UK, Rome may not yet be in flames, but I think I can smell the smouldering whilst we hum to the music of liberal self-delusion and referred to the dark side of the diverse society. He was thrown out of the Labour Party for Islamophobic comments earlier this March.

In the last few years, Phillips has worked closely with the Policy Exchange, and now heads its History Matters project. In June, he was considered by Munira Mirza to lead a government race inquiry, having already been appointed to an earlier inquiry into how the pandemic affected BAME communities.

Like Smeeth, Phillips was a leading figure in the Labour anti-Semitism campaign, writing in the Financial Times, Labours inaction on anti-Semitism is shameful.

In arguing for the freedom of reactionaries to speak unchallenged, the forces marshalled behind the Index on Censorship intend to use government intervention on the campuses to suppress criticism of Israel and its criminal abuse of the Palestiniansa touchstone issue for British imperialism. The right-wing press frequently cites protests against visiting Israeli officials as evidence of a culture of censorship and intolerance.

This is a view shared by Spiked s editor Brendan ONeill, who is a keynote speaker for pro-Israel advocacy organisation StandWithUS. He penned an article in 2018 titled, Why do you hate Israel? The question that hangs over the left.

The final seal of approval was put on the Policy Exchange report by Toby Young and Nigel Biggar, writing in the Telegraph and the Times, and by their Free Speech Union, founded in the wake of Noah Carls resignation. Report authors Remi Adekoya and Eric Kaufmann are on the unions advisory council, along with Claire Fox. Trevor Phillips delivered a speech at its launch.

The relentlessness of this campaign is rooted in the turn of the ruling class towards dictatorial methods and ideologies. A deepening world crisis of capitalism, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, confronts the elite with ever more explosive geopolitical conflicts and domestic social struggles. They are seeking a stranglehold on the universities to lay the intellectual groundwork for a vicious counterrevolutionary assault on the working class.

This is an international phenomenon. In Germany, the International Youth and Students for Social Equality has led a six-year-long struggle against efforts to transform universities into centres of state propaganda for militarism and far-right politics. These centre on the work of professors Jrg Baberowski and Herfried Mnkler to rehabilitate the Third Reich and the militarist crimes of the German Empire, and on the growing prominence afforded to the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on campus.

Last year, these forces received cross-party state support in the form of a book, printed by the right-wing German publisher Wilhelm Hopf, Academic Freedom and its Enemies. The book included essays from Baberowski, Mnkler, anti-migrant ideologue, social Darwinist, and SPD politician Thilo Sarrazin, AfD politician Marc Jongen, and head of the Association of University Lecturers Bernhard Kempen. Oxfords Nigel Biggar contributed a chapter. The most abhorrent political arguments and vicious conspiracies against the population, developed in close collaboration with the state, are reincarnated as shining examples of a democratic commitment to free speech and academic debate.

In Britain, this campaign relies wholly on posing as an opposition to the pseudo-left purveyors of identity politics on campus. Time and again, right-wing commentators cite examples of no platforming as evidence of student intolerance. The Policy Exchange report refers specifically to the efforts to no-platform gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, feminist Germaine Greer, and Oxford Professor Selina Todd, all on the charge of advancing transphobic views.

It says everything about the forces grouped around the Policy Exchange that the report does not mention by far the most outrageous, anti-democratic use of this practice. Namely, the effective blacklisting of the most significant journalist of the 21st century, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assangeor anyone who dared speak in his defenceon the basis of discredited, state manufactured sexual assault smears. In 2012, George Galloway was banned by the National Union of Students on the grounds of being a rape denier for defending Assange. In 2015, Cambridge Students Union attempted to ban Assange from speaking on campus, and Sheffield Students Union tried the same in 2016. Both efforts were overturned by the popular demand of students.

The authors of the Academic Freedom report do not raise these events because they do not disagree with them. Students should reject with contempt any suggestion that the Policy Exchange is genuinely opposed to such anti-democratic campaigns. Their criticisms of no platforming are a means to a reactionary end.

For that end to be averted, students must carry out their own fight against identity politics, on the basis of a turn to socialist politics and the international working class. No-platforming as a tactic began in the 1970s and was able to gain a broader sympathy among students because it targeted fascists and the far-right. Even then, however, the practice had dangerous political implications in that it was often linked to appeals to the state to intervene, when history has shown repeatedly that measures nominally introduced against the right are then more regularly and savagely deployed against the left. The advocacy of no-platforming was generally the province of pseudo-left groups, such as the Socialist Workers Party, hostile to a struggle for socialism in the working class.

The subsequent development of the pseudo-lefttheir constant lurch to the righthas exposed more clearly the reactionary implications of no-platforming.

It has increasingly been bound up with the ferocious promotion of identity politics, socially rooted in an affluent layer of the middle class and based theoretically on a rejection of the Enlightenmentin particular, its crowning achievement in the historical materialism of Karl Marx. Above all, the proponents of identity politics are hostile to and seek to conceal the fundamental division in society, social class.

The term is never used except as an entirely subjective concept referring to a form of prejudice, classism. It is ranked far below the three primary identities of race, gender, and sexual orientation, used as leverage in a petit-bourgeois jostle for well-rewarded positions and preferential treatment by the state and big business.

This is a wholly reactionary, disorienting, and divisive politics, hostile to a socialist fight for equality and democratic rights. The implications are most starkly revealed in the protests against the police murder of George Floyd in the United States. This event triggered international outrage and opposition, across supposed racial divides, against state violence and racism.

The response of advocates of identity politics such as Black Lives Matter was to insist that what was posed by the killing was a purely racial question, going so far as being demonstrably hostile to the involvement of non-black youth in the protestsidentified as privileged due to their whiteness. Any reference to the need to mobilise a broader struggle of the working class was met with the same pejoratives.

Just how useful this rotten politics is to the ruling class was indicated by a Telegraph article published on Monday. Made the leading Op-Ed in the newspapers print edition and given the top spot on its online edition, the article, authored by Nick Timothy, is titled The racist and sexist language of the Left is hopelessly hypocritical, with the by-line, The Oppression Olympics has reached a new low, as an extreme, divisive lexicon is imported from America.

In what follows, an advisor to former Prime Minister Theresa Maywhose government orchestrated huge assaults on democratic rights and working peopleis able to posture as a defender of civil liberties and point out that Social class is often overlooked, even though the education and prosperity of our parents is the biggest determinant of our life chances!

Without a socialist political challenge to the divisive politics of identity, the far-right will continue to make gains. The government is well-prepared to act on the Policy Exchanges signal. Johnson took the Tory Party into the 2019 general election on a manifesto promising to strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities. This February, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson threatened in the Times, If the universities cant defend free speech, the government will.

In March, the head of the OfS said that universities must take practical steps to secure freedom of speech, and the government indicated it was looking to strengthen the 1986 Education Actbrought in by the Thatcher government to suppress protests against Enoch Powell and politicians from Apartheid South Africato allow for direct policing of student unions and societies.

In July, Tory MP Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee, said that universities could be required to fund security for controversial speakers to protect free speech. The same month, Williamson announced that universities in financial difficulty would have to provide assurance that [they] are fully complying with their legal duties to secure freedom of speech to receive government loans.

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality calls on students to wage the necessary struggle against the attempt to enforce a right-wing agenda on campus through government intervention. This must be done on the basis of an entirely opposed perspective to the advocates of competing identitiesthat is, a turn to the one political force capable of combatting these state-backed schemes, the international working class.


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British think tank fronts right-wing academic freedom campaignPart 1 [24 August 2020]

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British think tank fronts right-wing academic freedom campaignPart 2 - WSWS

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