In Out of the Flames, Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone recount the remarkable life and shocking death of Michael Servetus, theologian, editor, physician, and heretic. Lawrence discusses Servetus’s religious views and his lifelong rivalry with John Calvin, who eventually had him tried for heresy and burned at the stake in Geneva in 1553. But Servetus’s work escaped the flames to inspire generations of scientists, religious reformers, and advocates of liberty of conscience.
Public officials have the same rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association that the rest of us have. The do not lose their rights simply because they win elected office. Public officials are not above the law, but they are not beneath the law, either. They have a right to maintain their private lives, including their personal social media feeds (per the relevant terms of service), and interact with people (or not) as they see fit, just like the rest of us.
At the same time, insofar as public officials act as agents of government, they assume certain legal responsibilities that the rest of us do not have. If public officials open official forums of public commentary, they may not discriminate on the basis of ideology or point of view (among other things), and they must treat everyone equally under the law. Continue reading “On the Right to Petition Public Officials on Social Media”
August 21 Update: I made some important mistakes in the article below, and I have since drafted a new article dealing with the same issues. Please see the new article for my developed views. I am leaving up the text below, despite its problems, as an archive. Please do not quote from it as though it reflected my developed view. My basic mistake was to assume that, because social media companies block people, therefore government may not use social media for official forums of public commentary. But government may do so, I now conclude, so long as they also provide a means to comment outside of social media. I apologize for the confusion caused by the release of the draft below. However, I wouldn’t have made the advances in my thinking that I did without publishing the initial draft, so I have a hard time regretting it. —Ari Armstrong Continue reading “Why Public Officials Have a Right to Block People on Social Media”
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”
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.