I’ll begin by stating what should be—but is no longer—obvious in modern America: Milo Yiannopoulos has an absolute right to freedom of speech. He has a moral right to say whatever he wants within the boundaries of that right, despite the fact that what he says often is morally wrong. Continue reading “Free Speech for Milo”
America is in cultural crisis. Powerful elements of left and right have become forces for irrationalism and authoritarianism. But there is hope, for an emerging coalition champions reason and liberty. Continue reading “The Emerging Reason-Rights Coalition”
When fossil fuels advocate Alex Epstein learned that his organization, the Center for Industrial Progress (CIP), was listed in a subpoena to Exxon from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey demanding forty years of communications regarding climate change, Epstein sent Healey’s office a terse reply: “F**k off, fascist.” Continue reading “Fossil Fuels Advocate Alex Epstein Denounces AG Subpoena: “F**K Off, Fascist””
On the evening of March 11, Donald Trump had planned to hold a rally at the UIC Pavilion arena, owned by the University of Illinois at Chicago and rented to Trump for the purpose. Instead, Trump and his campaign team cancelled the rally “after chaos and clashes between protesters and attendees overtook the event.”
This episode puts me in the position of disapproving of what Trump says—indeed, I loathe the man and nearly everything he says—while defending his right to speak (a la Voltaire). The silver lining is that, once again, we as Americans have an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of freedom of speech and on its central importance to civic life and to liberty. Continue reading “Trump, Cruz, and Freedom of Speech”
In the aftermath of yesterday’s horrific slaughter of French journalists by Islamic jihadists for the “offense” of publishing cartoons, it is critically important that all defenders of free speech make the cartoons in question as widely available as possible. The jihadists must not win. I am Charlie.
The Objective Standard just published my article, “The Jihad against Robin Williams Speaks Volumes.” I link to one of Williams’s comedic routines in which he makes fun of jihad. (I’m not sure of the date of the performance.) Unsurprisingly, some Muslims responded with rage, praying for Williams’s eternal torture at the hands of Allah.
Satanists are renting out the Oklahoma City Center Music Hall for a September 21 “black mass,” Fox News reports (hat tip to Eugene Volokh). Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City told Fox, “Not all speech is protected if there is hate speech and it is intended to ridicule another religion. I don’t believe it is a free speech matter.” But wait a minute. . . isn’t Coakley’s speech hateful toward Satanism? Obviously, if free speech means anything, it means people have a right to criticize ideas, including religious ones, that they believe deserve ridicule. The real problem here is that the government owns an event center and thereby forces taxpayers to subsidize speech with which they disagree—that is a violation of the right to free speech.
Any Russian blogger who attracts more than 3,000 daily readers must now register with the government—no more anonymous free speech—and comply with government regulations, including bans on profanity and liability for statements the government deems incorrect, reports Mark Joseph Stern for Slate. The mere fact that bloggers now must register with the government chills free speech, for it signals government will crack down on any speech the government doesn’t like. Does anyone doubt “troublesome” bloggers will face special scrutiny by the former KGB goons who run Russia’s government? See also my article at the Objective Standard, “Consistent American Christians Endorse Putin’s Soviet-Style Censorship.”
No, I’m not blacking out my web page today, but I certainly support those who do. As Diana Hsieh explains, bills recently considered by Congress threaten to subject the internet to pervasive government controls.
Yes, I support intellectual property rights. But the bills in question threaten intellectual property rights in the name of protecting them. Censorship is never the answer to any problem, real or imagined.
For more, see SOPAStrike.com.
True to their word, the folks at Wikipedia blacked out their site to protest the bills in question.
At this moment I am watching live camera feeds from 9News and the Denver Post of the “Occupy Denver” protests. Earlier today, Governor John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers held a media conference pointing out that it’s illegal to camp on government property in the city at night. But the “occupiers” said they aren’t leaving. Yet, at 11:17 p.m., nothing much seems to be happening. (The idea is that the “occupiers” must clear out their tents between the hours of 11 and 5.)
[Update (11:58 pm): The state capitol property runs right along city park property, so it’s unclear to me where the tents are actually located. The Denver Post just reported that “Suthers read the Colorado law that forbids camping on state Capitol grounds.” So apparently at least some of the tents are on capitol grounds. Whether the relevant government is the city or the state, the reasoning here applies equally. I have lightly edited some of my earlier text in this light.]
The interesting discussion is over the First Amendment and free speech.
A 9News reporter just asked somebody whether “our First Amendment rights override” the laws against camping on government property. The ACLU’s Mark Silverstein told 9News that pitching tents is “symbolic speech that’s protected by the First Amendment.”
But such comments largely miss the point of the First Amendment. No doubt pitching a tent can be “symbolic speech.” But you don’t have the right to pitch your tent in my front yard in order to express yourself. The right of free speech must be rooted in property rights.
The complication arises on government property, tax funded property. People have the right to protest on government property, but they do not have the right to impede other people’s reasonable use of that property, as by blocking traffic. Pitching tents in these city parks in fact poses risks to safety and health (where are these people going to the bathroom?), and it’s entirely reasonable to outlaw camping on such property. Essentially what the “occupiers” are doing is asking other regional taxpayers to clean up their mess and property damage.
Recently my wife and I went to a state park to camp. We paid $70 for an annual state parks pass and $22 per night to camp at the facilities. Should I have just been able to say I was “occupying” the camp space and exercising my “symbolic speech” by pitching my tent so as to avoid paying the fee? Obviously not.
The problem is that governments can potentially abuse their management of tax-funded property to prevent reasonable protests. If a government simply disallowed a group from holding a protest, then that might justify civil disobedience. But I have never heard of anything like that in Colorado.
Of course, ultimately the problems of government property can be mitigated simply by limiting the amount of government property. For example, in New York the “occupiers” have taken over a private park; in that case, the owners of the park properly set the policy.
Yes, the “occupiers” have the right to protest. Hell, I even agree with some of what they have to say. Just a while ago the group in Denver was chanting, “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.” That’s exactly right. But let’s not hear any more nonsense about “free” camping in government parks somehow bearing First Amendment protection. Our Bill of Rights deserves more serious treatment than that.
How to Actually “Separate Government from the Corporations” (The Objective Standard)