Censorship, Indoctrination And Intimidation Watch, Part 2

In Part I, I discussed an example of an individual being fired for his expression of an unpopular political opinion on a personal platform. As I mentioned there, this is a recent phenomenon of great concern to Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley. as expressed on his blog and elsewhere, such as his recent testimony in the Senate about the erosion of free speech and academic freedom in  universities . The Ethics Alarms post was originally supposed to highlight examples of this ominous phenomenon highlighted by Turley, and then events overcame both Turley and Ethics Alarms, as another egregious example  arose that Turley hadn’t yet covered.

Since I offered Part I, Turley’s assault on institutions intimidating individuals based on the content of their speech continued. Here, he objected to Dartmouth’s faculty and student body attempting to silence the Dartmouth Review, and independent campus newspaper that has been a voice from the Right on the liberal campus for decades. He wrote in part,

[O]ver 1000 students and faculty members have signed a letter to the Dartmouth Board of Trustees to disassociate the school from the conservative student newspaper, the Dartmouth Review. The letter accuses the newspaper of “hateful ideologies” and “racist” columns, including one cited column objecting to the careless use of the word “racist.” … [T]he reason stated by the organizers to move against the newspaper [was] in part because of a recent controversy involving an alumni who resigned from Fox News…the organizers admit that they decided to move against the newspaper as a way to responding to the controversy surrounding the resignation of a Fox producer with Tucker Carlson. Blake Neff is a 2013 graduate of Dartmouth and Review alumni. He was found to have written a series of bigoted anonymous comments.

…. [T]he idea of the letter to force the Board to prove its antiracism by attacking the newspaper, which had no role in Neff’s misconduct:  “We thought, how can the senior leadership of Dartmouth, President Hanlon and the trustees write this letter to every member of the community, and then continue in silent complicity with a publication that since its inception has consistently been an incubator of racist hate and white supremacy?”

…The failure [to] actively target the newspaper is now viewed as de facto tolerance for racism even after the school issued a letter proclaiming its support for Black Lives Matter.

…As a blog committed to free speech issues, the concern over this controversy is obvious. There are routinely over-heated rhetoric in college newspapers including many reckless statements from faculty and students on the left. We have defended many of those speakers and writers.  However, the first response of many Dartmouth graduates to the Neff story was to seek to attack the leading conservative newspaper on campus in part for its prior association with Neff.

… What is being lost in such moves is the diversity of thought on campus…. they are seeking to pressure the university to marginalize students who want to participate in these debates from a conservative viewpoint.

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Afternoon Ethics Afterthoughts, 8/14/2020: The Great Stupid, And Other Problems

MAD-ness! MAD-ness!

1. This isn’t stupid, it’s just disturbing. Kevin Clinesmith, a top FBI lawyer who fabricated evidence in the federal  warrant used to spy on the  Trump campaign through Carter Page will plead guilty to federal charges brought by U.S. Attorney John Durham.  His plea will  admit to deliberately fabricating evidence in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application. 

Clinesmith is the first individual to be charged as part of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the efforts  to spy on the Trump campaign and Trump administration. Both Durham and Attorney General William Barr have stated that they had reason to believe the entire investigation of the President, which allegedly began in late July of 2016, was illicit and unjustified.

Expect the news media, in collaboration with Democrats, to bury, spin, deny and otherwise attempt to mitigate the sinister implications of this development, and those to follow. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Stockton University (NJ), And Anyone Else Who Thinks A Photograph Of The President Of The United States Constitutes “Taunting”

“OH NO! TAKE IT AWAY! IT’S EVIL!!! EVIL!!!

I am about to conclude that schools and universities keep attempting to unconstitutionally smother students’ freedom of speech and expression because they think eventually the culture will just give in and let them enforce viewpoint conformity.

In the alternative, the people who run these institutions are just dumb as a box of nutcrackers.

Let’s take Stockton College in New Jersey, for example.

Doctoral student Robert  Dailyda used a photo of the President of the United States as his Zoom background during a July 1 virtual class. Some students complained, and he administration wrote in an incident report that the photo caused students “to feel offended, disrespected, and taunted.” Such students should have been told, in no uncertain terms, “Donald Trump is President of the United States, and the elected leader of the government of the nation in which you live. If his picture makes you feel offended, disrespected, and taunted, feel free to visit the campus mental health facilities. In the alternative, grow the hell up.”

Instead, ten days later and being Summa Cum Ethics Dunces, Stockton’s administrators called the student in “on the carpet”  to justify his political views, claiming that students were offended by the Zoom background of the Evil POTUS, Dailyda’s comments in the subsequent GroupMe chat in which he was attacked by other students in the class, and his subsequent Facebook post defending his rights to express his opinion. The university claimed that students also found that post “offensive, threatening, and concerning.”

The “offensive, threatening, and concerning” post read, Continue reading

More Speech Suppression And Intimidation On The Campus: The Juniata Affair

The “Concerned Juniatian” was a student named Colin Daly. This was the very end of a much longer screed (You can read the whole, very long letter here) that the Juniatia College student sent to his campus community anonymously. Juniata is a small Pennsylvania liberal arts college affiliated with the Church of the Brethren, a Christian denomination. It is also apparently devoid of respect for such values as free speech, individuality, and dissent.

Daly, a senior, wrote the email without including his name but accidentally “left identifying information on the system he used to distribute his post to all of Juniata’s email accounts,” according to PennLive.

Before it identified Daly as the author, the college’s President James Troha wrote in a statement that the email contained “slurs, hateful language, and intimations of violence directed at members of our community on the basis of their identity.” There is no threat of any kind in the letter, and the “slurs” are words referred to as slurs, not used as slurs. Here’s the section of the letter I assume Troha is referring to:

I’d like to see Daly sue Troha for libel; I think he’d have a strong case.

The next day, after it was determined that Daly was the author, the college released a new statement. claiming that “law enforcement agencies are continuing their own investigations of the matter,” and suggesting that the letter’s author student may have broken state and federal laws.

That’s some education students at Juniata are getting. Continue reading

Censorship “For The Greater Good” Loses A Round In Massachusetts

Good.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts (that’s like the state Supreme Court in a normal state) held that free speech rights were wrongly infringed upon by a lower court’s non-disparagement order forbidding the husband or wife from posting about their divorce on Facebook and other social media sites until their child turned 14. The child at issue was a toddler when the ruling was handed down.

It is disturbing to me that judges lack sufficiently Americanized ethics alarms to squelch the temptation to issue rulings like the one overturned.  Sure, kids are harmed by their parents saying terrible things about each other, but there is nothing special about such communications on social  media. Parents harm their kids by screaming at each other in the kitchen. That’s life.

“We conclude that the nondisparagement orders at issue here operate as an impermissible prior restraint on speech,” the Supreme Judicial Court ruled. Though the  judge “put careful thought into his orders in an effort to protect a child caught in the middle of a legal dispute who was unable to advocate for himself… there was no showing of an exceptional circumstance that would justify the imposition of a prior restraint, the nondisparagement orders issued here are unconstitutional.”

 Two Norfolk Probate and Family Court judges issued the original bans when the ugly divorce between Ronnie Shak and his former wife, Masha  Shak, who shared one son born in 2017, spread to social media.
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The Knight-Gallup Freedom Of Speech Survey

A survey just released by the Knight Foundation and Gallup shows that More than 75% of the college students surveyed want “safe spaces” on  campuses that are free of “threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.” However, a majority of the same students support President Trump’s threat to withhold taxpayer dollars from universities that restrict speech.

Though 97% of college students believe that free speech is “an essential pillar of American democracy”, a  majority of students support policies to restrict of speech on campus. 78% of students support “safe spaces” where threatening ideas and conversations would be barred. 80%  favor the establishment of a “free-speech zone” where pre-approved protests and the distribution of literature are permitted. Continue reading

“1,825 Words You Can Never Say On Facebook”

This is ominous: it’s the second time this month that I’ve had good reason to quote George. Did the Democrats already take over?

In 1972, the late George Carlin debuted his famous routine called “ “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” The words were: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits, all of which you can hear on television today. (Who says life doesn’t keep getting better? ) But George would be fine: I have it on good authority that in Stand-Up Heaven, where Henny Youngman has St. Peter’s job, George is knocking celestial audiences dead (metaphorically, of course,) with his new monologue, “1,825 Words You Can Never Say On Facebook.”

It’s hilarious, if a little long.

The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education has released a report based on its investigation of how public universities—that’s the government, remember—engage in surreptitious censorship of student expression.  Censorship of student expression is illegal, but The FIRE exists because so many universities find that concept too complex to grasp.

Implicated in the results: Facebook, which provides  the tools for censorship, including its automated content filters. These allow state institutions to automatically “hide” users’ comments if they contain words included on Facebook’s undisclosed list of offensive words, or a government entity’s customized list of prohibited words. The filters allow  public universities to quietly remove critical Facebook posts, restricting open campus and public discourse.

The  FIRE surveyed over 200 public universities and colleges across 47 states and the District of Columbia. It found that fully half of the surveyed institutions  use Facebook’s “strong” profanity filter, while nearly a third use the “medium” filter. That means  about 77% of surveyed institutions use an undiclosed  blacklist of prohibited words. Nearly a third of the universities surveyed (59, or 30.3%) created a custom blacklist, collectively censoring 1,825  words and phrases in order to, among other unconstitutional objectives, “block animal rights activists’ criticism of food vendors,” suppress “debate over the fate of  a campus Confederate monument,” and stifle debate over controversial faculty, politicians, and sports teams.

Public universities can and do manipulate Facebook comments to distort the  public discourse. Wright State University, FIRE tells us, deleted comments supporting a faculty strike from its Facebook page,  confining debate over the action to a rigged community forum that appeared supportive of the university’s administration while being critical of striking faculty.

Yup, that’s how fascism works!

 Facebook doesn’t alert a user when their post has been removed, or tell the public that comments have been censored, so this system is perfect for mind and opinion molding. FIRE says,

These automated methods of censorship are not only contrary to a commitment to freedom of expression, but also provide government actors with tools that—in light of recent federal court rulings concerning President Trump’s Twitter feed—violate the government actors’ legal obligations under the First Amendment.

Below are the words that Facebook helps universities control speech and thought by censoring. Some will be relieved to know that “retard” is on it. Then again, so is “poor”…

Everything About This Story Is Discouraging: The Carrollton Video [Corrected]

Chapter I: In Georgia, two Carrollton High School  seniors made a truly cretinous video. Filmed in a bathroom, the male and female students students pretend to be doing a   cooking show as they pour cups of water into the sink.

Showing their faces in the mirror, she announces, “Hey, today we’re making…”as the  camera aims at the sink where there’s a piece of notebook paper with “niggers” written on it. The male student intones the word. The male student lifts cups of water and pours each one into the sink, over the paper. Under each cup is a piece of paper with the name of an “ingredient” written on it, which the young woman reads.

“First we have ‘black,'” she says. He then pours the cup of water into the sink over the paper with the slur. “Next we have, ‘Don’t have a dad!'” Other ingredients include “eating watermelon and fried chicken” and “rob people.”

“Specifically whites,” guy adds as he refills the “robs people” cup over and over using the sink tap.  One cup labeled “make good choices” is empty. The couple  feign surprise over the cup having nothing in it.

Once their opus was complete, the couple was so proud that they posted it online.

Why this is discouraging: In what alternate universe would anyone from the age of seven up think something like that would be acceptable to publicize? What kind of polluted culture is being fostered in Carollton? What are they teaching in the schools?

Even passing on that, how could anyone be so stupid as to think posting an overly racist video wouldn’t have serious consequences? Again, who is teaching critical thinking in that community? What have the parents been doing for 17 years, getting stoned? Continue reading

No, The President Isn’t A Dictator, But Given The Opportunity, These Elected Officials Might Be

There are many ironies and contradictions in the various government reactions to the Wuhan virus, some quite yummy, like the municipalities that had banned plastic bags that are now forced to ban the re-usable kind, and demand the use of the plastic once again. Some day, when this is all over, we can sit around and laugh about it all.

This development, however, is not funny: a frightening number of governors, mayors and police officers have demonstrated how much of our democracy is currently entrusted to nascent totalitarians. I know, I know: to protect the public in a unique crisis, extraordinary measures must be taken, and because so many in our democracy don’t really possess the intelligence and sense of social responsibility that the Founders, in their idealistic fervor, decided to pretend they had (much less the common sense of the average meerkat), sometimes those measures must be accompanied by the force of law. However, because it is a democracy and one that begins with wariness of governments infringing on personal liberties, and will end with our governments being supported when they decided those liberties can be ignored on a whim and a hunch, the recent gusto with which elected officials and their police forces have felt justified in crushing those liberties are warnings that responsible citizens must not let go unpunished. I wrote about one example here, regarding Vermont’s governor’s move to stop the big box stores from selling items Maple Syrup big Brother considers “non-essential.” There are more.

Ethics Alarms already covered the father taken away in handcuffs for playing T-ball on on otherwise empty field with his wife and 6-year-old child, but the Philadephia police pulling  people off  buses for not wearing masks, or the aspiring fascist officer  who tried to  chase down single jogger on an empty beach initially escaped my attention. There are so many examples, you see. Continue reading

KABOOM! How Does Someone This Ignorant Of The Law Rise To This Level Of Law Enforcement?

Oh, fine. I get up, still groggy, from a perfectly lovely nap, my defenses are down, I’m still savoring that dream where Mookie Betts, Chester A. Arthur and Danny Kaye drop by with some macaroons, and what is the first thing I read?

This–and

KA-BOOM!

There goes my head, all over my office and this transcript I have to read in ten minute increments because it’s so boring. Oh, thank you, thank you so much, City of Seattle and your  ridiculous Chief of Police, Carmen Best! Continue reading