Tag Archive for: FreeSpeech

Law Schools’ Heckling Trends Show Disturbing Future For The Legal System, Experts Argue

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Law schools that permit students to heckle and disrupt speakers fail to impress upon them the importance of free speech rights and could have a negative impact on the future of the legal profession, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

In the past year, protestors have attempted to shut down speakers at Stanford University, Yale University, University of California, San Francisco and Georgetown University because of their political views. If law schools fail to teach students how to respect free speech during their time in school, that will be reflected in the legal profession when the students graduate, experts argue.

“As future lawyers, law students have an ethical obligation to respect the rule of law,” CeCe O’Leary, a Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) attorney, told the DCNF. “When law schools fail to enforce their own heckler’s veto policies, they abdicate their duty to teach respect for the law.”

Law schools should be “dedicated to resolving disputes through reasoned debate, not through shouting down contrary views,” Eugene Volokh, a law professor at University of California Los Angeles, told the DCNF.

“When we see law students acting that way, especially with impunity, that bodes ill for their future as lawyers, or the future of the legal system more broadly,” he explained.

Last week,  (SLS) students and the school’s Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Tirien Steinbach heckled Fifth Circuit Judge Kyle Duncan during a discussion about COVID-19, guns and Twitter. Steinbach responded to Duncan’s call for an administrator to calm the room by asking him to reflect on whether his speech was “worth the pain that this causes and the division” while students shouted phrases including “your racism is showing” and “respect black women.”

“What we saw at Stanford Law school forebodes a concerning future for the rule of law in this country,” Speech First Executive Director Cherise Trump told the DCNF. “The behavior by the disrupters and the apparent encouragement by campus leaders not only normalizes these childish tactics, but it also normalizes the idea that if someone holds a different opinion then they are your political enemy and should be eliminated from the field. This type of thinking is incongruent with American jurisprudence and could seriously threaten the reliability and confidence in our legal system.”

Stanford later apologized for the disruptions, prompting hundreds of students to protest Jenny Martinez, law school dean, by dressing in black and lining the corridors to stare her down. Several student groups rejected the apology and doubled-down on their support for the disruption and for Steinbach’s intervention.

“In veiled language, the law school threw its capable and compassionate administrators who were present at the event, and who interceded productively, under the bus, and expressed an intent to ensure that such disruptions do not occur again,” the Stanford National Lawyers Guild wrote.

The guild said in its letter that the disruption was “justified” because of Duncan’s “abhorrent” behavior.

“It is ironic that Judge Duncan repeatedly criticized protestors for being ‘disrespectful,’” the group wrote. “Judge Duncan’s record, jurisprudence, views, and personal conduct are beyond “disrespectful”: they are as antithetical to the social justice mission of [National Lawyers Guild] as it is possible to be.”

When students are permitted to disrupt speaker events, they are learning that “suppression, rather than reasoned debate, is the right way to resolve disputes,” according to Volokh. Heckling, while unconstitutional, is also a sign that law schools aren’t doing a good enough job at “educating students about their First Amendment rights—both what they include and what they do not include,” O’Leary said.

The First Amendment is a common hot-button issue when it comes to proposed laws. New York, for example, considered a law that would have censored “hateful conduct” on social media, but it was shot down by the district court in February.

The FBI toed the line of First Amendment restrictions when it colluded with Twitter to censor specific accounts and may have infringed on users’ rights, experts previously told the DCNF.

The trend of heckling and disregarding free speech rights goes beyond Stanford, and examples can be pinpointed at several other universities nationwide.

In March 2022, students at the the formerly-known University of California, Hastings College of Law, now UC San Francisco, heckled conservative legal scholar Ilya Shapiro by shouting and banging their hands on the table to drown him out. The protest, which violated the school’s event policy prohibiting disruptions, came in response to a tweet Shapiro made in January 2022 criticizing President Joe Biden’s promise to select a black woman as his Supreme Court nominee, after which Georgetown University placed him on academic leave.

Georgetown law students held a sit-in protest soon after to demand Shapiro be terminated, as well as reparations including a place for students to cry, the National Review reported.

The frequent disruptions “are symptoms of a deeper problem of ideological uniformity at most law schools, and an intolerance for dissenting (usually right-of-center) viewpoints,” Bill Jacobson, founder of conservative non-profit Legal Insurrection and director of the securities law clinic at Cornell University, told the DCNF.

Surveys find that students on college campuses are afraid to voice their opinions on campus for fear of retaliation by peers or faculty members, according to a survey conducted by free speech watchdog Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). Broken down, the results revealed that conservative students are more likely than their liberal peers to feel like they can’t speak freely.

“Any law student who disagrees with woke DEI policies or activities on campus is completely silenced out of fear of being shouted down or targeted,” Trump added. “And keep in mind, the students who are encouraged to use tactics like this by administrators with political agendas will take these tactics with them as they enter the professional world. They will become attorneys, Supreme Court clerks, judges, lawmakers, and advisors.”

More than 100 students protested a free speech panel at Yale Law School in March 2022 that featured Monica Miller, American Humanist Association legal director, and Kristen Waggoner, president of the conservative legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom.

“Free speech is essential to a free society. It curbs gov’t power. Lawyers must engage with people & ideas they dislike,” Waggoner wrote in a Monday Twitter thread. “We can’t have a working justice system if advocates choose bullying & intimidation over logic & persuasion. Yet this is what some law schools teach & model.”

Public universities are bound by the First Amendment while many private universities, such as Stanford, “promise First Amendment-style free speech rights,” Haley Gluhanich, FIRE program officer, told the DCNF. These policies, however, are not always enforced.

“The problem is that these policies are not enforced because the vast majority of disruptions and shout-downs target conservative speakers who are unpopular with administrators and faculty,” Jacobson told the DCNF. “Empty words and platitudes from administrators make the problem worse, because it sends a message that no matter the policy, disruptions of conservative speakers have no negative consequences. I doubt this attitude of indifference would happen if the speakers being disrupted were left-of-center.”

Gluhanich said that schools that fail to protect speech “would only further encourage hecklers to use such tactics to stifle expression they disagree with, which will lead to fewer speakers, fewer ideas being shared, and fewer conversations.”

“When law schools not only allow, but in some cases encourage, their students to heckle and shout down speakers, they embarrass the entire legal profession,” Kimberly Hermanm, SLF general counsel, told the DCNF.

Georgetown, Yale and Stanford University did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

This article was published by The Daily Caller and is reproduced with permission.

Judge Orders Phoenix to Stop Censoring People For The Super Bowl

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

On Thursday [2/9], an Arizona trial court judge ruled in favor of a small business owner represented by the Goldwater Institute against the city of Phoenix and its Super Bowl Censorship Ordinance. The judge found the ordinance violated free speech rights and unconstitutionally delegated power to the National Football League (NFL) and Super Bowl Host Committee.

The ordinance barred residents from placing signs on their own property without first getting approval from the NFL and the Host Committee—two private entities that Phoenix empowered to choose what kind of speech people were allowed to engage in.

Declaring the ordinance “an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech and an unconstitutional delegation of power,” the court gave the city 48 hours to review businessman Bramley Paulin’s request to put up an advertising sign at his business—and to do so without restricting what he’s allowed to say.

Judge Bradley Astrowsky found:

“There is no legitimate government interest in content-based regulation of signs, let alone regulation of signs based on the content preferences of private businesses that are given special privileges by the government. Courts have recognized two substantial government interests that can sometimes justify regulations on commercial signage: public safety and aesthetics…

In summary, the City created the need for this litigation by enacting an unconstitutional resolution. They further exacerbated the problem, by only choosing to remedy their error when it was too late for Plaintiff to apply to exercise his right to speech. The City’s offer that Plaintiff can file his temporary sign application only if permitted by a private entity renders the application of an otherwise facially constitutional resolution to be unconstitutional. Accordingly, Court intervention is required. Given the delay already occasioned by the City and the testimony provided by David Williams that the City typically responds to an application for temporary signage within three to five days, the Court will order an expedited consideration of Plaintiff’s applications. When confronted with a constitutional flaw in a law, Courts should try to limit the solution to the problem. Ayotte v, Planned Parenthood of N. New England, 546 U.S. 320 (2006). This is what this Court does here.”

Phoenix officials first adopted the Super Bowl Censorship Ordinance last fall, declaring a section of downtown a “clean zone” in which people were prohibited from putting up a sign without having it reviewed and approved by the NFL and the Host Committee. Because those are private businesses, though, the ordinance effectively gave for-profit companies the unrestricted power to choose what messages they were willing to allow in a large section of one of the nation’s biggest cities. Bramley, a business owner in the area, hoped to sell space for advertising signs to businesses—but they shared concerns regarding the city’s prohibition on free speech.

When Bramley sued the city, asking a judge to declare the ordinance unconstitutional, the city assured him that it would change the law. So Bramley agreed to a brief postponement of the lawsuit, expecting the city to repeal the ordinance and respect freedom of speech. But that’s not what happened. Instead, city officials simply moved the goalposts. They changed the ordinance to eliminate the NFL’s power to directly approve signage. But through its permitting process, the city indirectly still allowed the Host Committee—which, like the NFL, is a private business—the same power to approve or disapprove of messages. So, Bramley returned to court, and in a brief trial on Wednesday morning, proved that the city was unconstitutionally restricting his freedom of speech.

“I’m relieved the court has ruled against the city’s attempt to let private organizations decide what I can and cannot say on my own property,” Bramley said after hearing this morning’s news. “The city should have never allowed this to happen in the first place: it’s wrong for the government to let the NFL and other private groups censor business owners like me, or any residents of the downtown area.”

The case was especially urgent because the Super Bowl is now only days away, meaning that each hour reduced Bramley’s ability to put up the advertising signs. In fact, due to the city’s attempts to run out the clock, he has already lost some potential contracts, although other advertising opportunities still remain. Given the approaching deadline, Bramley asked the court to order the city to process his application for a sign immediately—without requiring Host Committee approval. The judge agreed. “The City shall make a decision concerning Plaintiff’s applications within 48-hours,” the order declares.

This article was published by Arizona Daily Independent and is reproduced with permission.

The Government Conspired with Big Tech to Infringe on Free Speech

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The defenders of censorship hate the sunlight from @elonmusk. They complain “but Twitter was a private company!”

US case law throws cold water on this defense! “A fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen.” Packingham vs NC.

Bottom line: the government conspired to remove valid public health messages and social media posts by myself and others, because they disagreed with the viewpoint which contradicted the federal government’s COVID-19 public health message and views.

It is the policy of the United States “to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet” that is “unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” 47 U.S.C. § 230(b)(2).

“While in the past there may have been difficulty in identifying the most important places… for the exchange of views, today the answer is clear. It is cyberspace — the ‘vast democratic forums of the Internet’ in general… and social media in particular.” Packingham vs NC

The federal government publicly criticized and exerted pressure on Twitter/META and other platforms for allowing views opposed to the federal government’s COVID-19 public health message to be posted on the Internet.”

In private communications, the federal government held regular BOLO “be-on-the-lookout” warning meetings with social media companies and overtly instructed them on the specific types of so called COVID-19 “disinformation” or “misinformation” that should be excluded from their platforms.

Twitter and Facebook even adjusted their policies and algorithms on valid public health messages and acceptable viewpoints on the Internet to align with the federal government pre-approved COVID-19 public health message and viewpoint.

Here’s the infographic which triggered my account suspension by Facebook. Every single point here is valid and backed by data, articles and peer-reviewed studies.

Facebook further acquiesced under duress by giving the government agencies millions of dollars in free advertising on their platforms so the government’s COVID-19 public health message would not be challenged on the Internet.

This is discriminatory collusion between private social media companies and the federal government. “It is axiomatic that the government may not regulate speech based on its substantive content or the message it conveys.” Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of the Univ. of Va.

Under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, “discrimination against speech because of its message is presumed to be unconstitutional.”

A conspiracy between private and governmental actors satisfies the joint action test when they have had a “meeting of the minds” to “violate constitutional rights.” Fonda v. Gray, 707 F. 2d 435, 438 (9th Cir. 1983)

When a government actor has “so far insinuated itself into a position of interdependence” with private actors it is recognized as a joint participant in the challenged constitutional deprivation. See Gorenc v. Salt River Project Agr. Imp. & Power Dist., 869 F. 2d 503, 507

Such joint action between government and private parties transforms private actors into state actors. See Pasadena Republican Club v. W. Justice Ctr., 985 F. 3d 1161, 1167 (9th Cir. 2021).

When the federal government admits to conspiring with social media companies to censor messages on the Internet with which it disagrees both the government and the private companies are guilty of unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

Joint action exists where the government . . . encourages . . . unconstitutional conduct through its involvement with a private party . . . .” Ohno v. Yasuma, 723 F.3d 984, 996 (9th Cir. 2013).

Joint action further occurs when there is “substantial cooperation” between the private and state actors, or their actions were “inextricably intertwined.” Brunette v. Humane Society of Ventura Cnty., 294 F. 3d 1205, 1211 (9th Cir. 2002).

In short, don’t get gaslit! The government pressured Twitter to confirm and it did so infringing our rights!

This article was published by Brownstone Institute and is reproduced with permission.

The Right to Stay Silent

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Today [December 5] , the Supreme Court is hearing oral argument in a blockbuster free speech case. The case, 303 Creative v. Elenis, presents a crucial question about free-speech rights. What government interests, if any, could ever justify compelling someone “to speak or stay silent”?

The case involves Lorie Smith, a website and graphic designer in Colorado who runs her own studio, 303 Creative. Smith wants to create custom websites promoting weddings. But she is unwilling to use her artistic talents to create websites carrying messages she rejects—including the message that marriage can be anything other than a male-female union. She argues that the First Amendment protects that choice.

Colorado officials disagree. They read their public-accommodations law to require Smith to create custom websites celebrating same-sex weddings if she serves other weddings. That echoes the state’s position in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission , where Colorado sought to compel a wedding-cake designer to make custom cakes celebrating same-sex weddings. I argued that that, too, was unlawful, but in the end, the Supreme Court resolved the case on other grounds.

In 303 Creative, the free-speech issue is unavoidable and quite focused. There’s no dispute that custom websites, full of words and graphics, are speech protected by the First Amendment. Colorado itself stipulated that Smith’s “graphic designs are expressive” and communicate a message. Nor does anyone deny that Smith sincerely opposes the message about the nature of marriage conveyed by the celebration of same-sex weddings.

The Supreme Court has held that “compelled speech”— state action forcing you to create or engage in speech carrying a message you reject—is unconstitutional, absent a compelling justification. So how do Colorado officials justify this compulsion?

First, they cite the crucial goal of eradicating discrimination. Yet they concede that Smith is “willing to work with all people regardless of classifications,” including sexual orientation. The discrimination here is Smith’s choosing (“discriminating”) among which messages to affirm in the speech she creates—just what the First Amendment exists to protect. The whole “point of all speech protection,” the Supreme Court has declared, is “to shield those choices of [speech] content that in someone’s eyes are misguided, or even hurtful.” Indeed, with maximal relevance here, the Court has twice held that the goal of curbing LGBT discrimination in public accommodations cannot justify using antidiscrimination law to force changes to the content of your speech. Simply put, there is no public-accommodations exception to the First Amendment.

Policing offensive speech is perilous; today’s offensive thought may be tomorrow’s social reform.

To be sure, there would be no free speech problem if a public accommodation law (for speech-neutral reasons) required vendors to engage in conduct they oppose—e.g., the provision of folding-chairs for a wedding reception. Not every moral or religious “complicity” objection implicates speech.

Even a vendor who does create speech products for some customers can be forced to make the same products for other customers if the new products would bear the same message (e.g., posters bearing the same inspirational quote). For then she isn’t being forced to change the content of her speech. But in 303 Creative, the message would change: A website celebrating John and Christine’s wedding does not imply that same-sex bonds are to be celebrated as marriages. A site celebrating John and Christopher’s does. Making a designer use her artistic talents to produce speech carrying a message she rejects “invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment … to reserve from all official control,” as the Supreme Court has put it.

By analogy, suppose a Jewish person paints custom murals for synagogues bearing the words “you can find the Lord in this synagogue.” If Colorado made her paint custom murals for Christian houses of worship that read “you can find the Lord in this church,” the state would be forcing her to say something new. It wouldn’t matter that the law compelling her speech happened to be a public accommodations law (in this case, one barring religious discrimination).

Second, Colorado cites the need to ensure access to goods and services. But there’s no evidence that respecting the right of designers to control the content of the speech they create would deprive any couple of a wedding website, especially in a nation of over 250,000 graphic designers.

That leaves a third, more intuitively powerful justification: that forcing Smith to speak is necessary to prevent dignitary harm—the distress of being confronted with ideas one finds deeply offensive, hurtful, or demeaning. Colorado asserts that a graphic designer’s declining to create websites for same-sex weddings would inflict dignitary harm on gay couples.

The argument has appeal because offense is a real cost, which cannot be trivialized. But as the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized, “[i]f there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Even if the offensive ideas cause real pain. Even if they seem demeaning of minorities. Even in the context of public accommodations laws, and even when those laws concern sexual orientation. In one case, eight of the nine Justices—including Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan—affirmed Westboro Baptists’ right to picket the funeral of a fallen soldier with signs bearing anti-gay slurs and calumnies. If that speech was constitutionally protected, surely Smith’s choice is, too.

Policing offensive speech is perilous; today’s offensive thought may be tomorrow’s social reform. Curbing offense is also impossible in pluralistic societies, where most people hold views offensive to some. Even in this very case, offensiveness cuts both ways: If it’s hurtful to imply that same-sex unions aren’t marital, it’s hurtful to imply that traditional Christian—and Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu—convictions on marriage are bigoted. So free societies tolerate the expression of painful ideas. The First Amendment guards your right to speak or stay silent on their basis.

This article was published by Law and Liberty and is reproduced with permission.

The Illusion of Being Offended

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

I cannot offend you. You cannot offend me.

People seem to be offended all over the place today and wear that badge on their sleeves like an honor or a cause. So much so, that freedom of expression has been under attack in an unprecedented way in our country.

There have been successful attempts at controlling speech, topics of conversation, and opinions, all under the guise of protecting people from being offended.

There is righteousness in being offended. At the drop of a hat, I can become a victim when I believe I can be offended by something someone has said or done. Or even something I assume or believe someone is thinking.  And today, what higher rank is there than victimhood?

If you say something I disagree with, I may take it personally and voila, I can invoke the “O” word. Offensive. It has been elevated to have quite an energetic charge around it.

Something you call offensive may not be considered offensive by me. Something that you stew on for days will slide right through my consciousness like water.  How can this be explained?

By clearing up a simple yet profound misunderstanding of the human experience. Once we begin to understand the true source of our experience, even a tiny inkling,  the entire notion of being offended begins to unravel. That you can actually offend me and I might need protection, will look ludicrous.

The key is seeing that you do not have the power to offend me. In fact, you don’t have the power to create or cause any experience or feeling in me. Seeing this for the first time can be a game-changer.

In a nutshell: at any and every moment, we experience our own thinking. Our thinking is a function of the energetic power of thought. Thought creates every experience and feeling we have. We can’t have an experience or feeling without thought. The colored lenses we all wear from which we look out at the world are made of the energy of thought. Thought filters everything we take in through our senses, creating our experience of life. The illusion is that our experience comes from the outside in. The truth is that it comes from the inside out via the energy of thought.

This would account for why it seems we are each living in our own separate realities. We are!

And how we each can have a different experience of the same words or events. We can and we do!

And how our experience can change from moment to moment. Thought is fluid. It is truly like the river in which you can’t put your foot in the same place twice.

And how you can hear something and declare “I am offended” and yet it will roll right off the other person’s back. Or in one moment you are not offended yet in the next, someone says you should be, and you are.

This understanding of thought would account for how real things appear when we dream at night. How we can feel truly frightened while we are asleep in a bed under some cozy blankets? How our hearts can pound or we can break into a sweat while running from demons in a dream.  This thought energy is the same energy that creates our daytime experiences.

I recently got to wear virtual reality goggles and fly a plane in my son-in-law’s basement. My heart was beating so fast as I looked down at the ground far below me. I got scared when he asked me if I wanted to land the plane. I was afraid of crashing!

Sitting at a computer in front of a plane’s instrument panel, my mind got tricked into believing I could actually crash that plane. I felt it in my belly. A mix of fear and excitement. I knew I was sitting in a chair in front of a machine, yet the power of thought created an entirely different reality. What a powerful illusion!

Being offended by something we have heard with our ears, and read with our eyes, is also an illusion. We confuse thought with reality. Your beliefs/thoughts are creating your reality, as are mine.  And if they are in opposition in some way and the topic at hand feels big to one of us,  the “I am offended” sword might come out.

What would the world be like if we were able to shed light on the misunderstanding of where our experiences and feelings come from? What if we all knew it was an inside-out job rather than outside-in? What if we all knew it was impossible for one person to offend another?

This looks like it would be a game-changer. Censoring speech would seem silly. Needing a safe space because someone might feel offended by words would look ridiculous. Open and honest debate and a wealth of different viewpoints would be respected rather than shunned or censored. We might be willing to truly listen to another’s point of view and attempt to understand where they are coming from.

Understanding you do not have the ability to offend me is powerful. I keep my power where it belongs. Within. And I know that any hurt I am experiencing is created from my own thoughts about something you have said. You cannot push my buttons because buttons do not exist. They, too, are made of thought.

It is a relief to know, deep down, that my comfort level is not controlled by another. What a gift. I cannot offend or be offended.  I may get fooled from time to time but if I wait awhile, my thoughts will flow through and I will see clearly again.

Humans are unbelievably resilient. Safe spaces exist within each one of us rather than outside of us. We can feel the full gamut of human emotions (joy to hurt and everything in between) yet be safe within our core.  I cannot offend you. You cannot offend me.

Understanding this is a gift and a stepping stone on the road to harmony.


Gayle Nobel is a life coach, author of 3 books, and blogger who is passionate about sharing a simple, yet profound understanding of the human experience.


The Economist Whose Theory Predicted Today’s Calls for Censorship in the 1970s

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase wrote a paper in 1974 that implicitly predicted the increasing popularity of censorship among the intellectual class.


After Elon Musk’s offer to purchase Twitter was accepted, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled plans for a “disinformation” governance board. Musk’s purchase is not final, and the governance board is now paused, but the reaction to these events has been telling.

One might expect professionals in the market for ideas would be concerned by a government agency policing speech. Curiously, many groups who historically have defended free speech against interference seem slow (or absent) in response.

Members of the journalism industry have reacted negatively to Musk’s vocal support of free speech. His purchase is “dangerous,” and his commitment to free speech will lead to people being “silenced”.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press attacked Musk for wanting free speech, claiming that this desire was inconsistent with the fact that he has criticized people in the past.

This claim by the AP confused many, as criticism is obviously compatible with free speech.

Time magazine voiced opposition to Musk from another angle, trying to disparage his “tech bro” obsession with free speech

CNN writers crafted the suggestive headline, “Twitter has been focused on ‘healthy conversations.’ Elon Musk could change that”.

At The Conversation, Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, argues John Milton’s idea of the uncensored marketplace of ideas is outdated and calls for “refereeing” of social media. And of course, this refereeing isn’t censorship. Why would you think that?

Another professor writing for The ConversationJaigris Hudson, argues Elon Musk’s free speech push will make speech less free because if harsh language is allowed some people will stop talking. This article when set next to this Washington Post piece and the AP tweet underscores a consistent theme of mistaking free speech for freedom from criticism.

Head bureaucrat of the government’s “paused” disinformation board, Nina Jankowicz, also wishes Twitter would move in another direction. Jankowicz wonders, why not allow verified accounts to edit the Tweets of people using free speech too dangerously?

Although it isn’t uncommon for high-level military bureaucrats like Jankowicz to desire censorship, academics and journalists have long been stalwart defenders of the importance of an uncensored marketplace for ideas. For a long time, universities and newspapers were seen as places where controversial means and ends could be debated publicly. “The truth will out” was the final defense of these institutions against calls for censorship.

This defense of the marketplace of ideas was so universal among the professional intellectual class that it inspired Nobel Prize-winning economist Ronald Coase (1910-2013) to write a paper trying to explain why this was so. And, using this same paper, we can see Coase implicitly predicted the increasing favorability of censorship among the professional intellectual class.

In a 1974 paper, Coase, the Clifton R. Musser Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Law School, mused over an interesting puzzle. Professional intellectuals focus tremendous effort in highlighting why the market for goods and services requires regulation. Meanwhile, those same intellectuals often argued that the market for ideas should be free from regulation.

So, why the asymmetry?

To answer this puzzle, Coase first dismissed two popular but wrong explanations for this paradox.

The first explanation is that markets for goods and services can have market failures. For example, if gasoline buyers and sellers don’t have to pay for the pollution gasoline generates, they will buy and sell too much at the expense of those who experience pollution.

However, the problem with this explanation is obvious. There can also be failures in the market for ideas. Even if it’s correct that the best idea will win, it’s obvious that the best idea won’t always win immediately. Pollution in the market for ideas, such as disinformation, is also possible.

In other words, the market for ideas also has market failures. On this criteria, both types of markets should be regulated–or neither.

The second wrong explanation for why professional intellectuals defend the market for ideas from regulation is that unregulated speech is necessary for a functioning democracy. This explanation sounds okay at first, so what’s wrong with it?

Well, the market for goods and services is also necessary for a functioning democracy. As Coase puts it,

For most people in most countries (and perhaps in all countries), the provision of food, clothing, and shelter is a good deal more important than the provision of the “right ideas,” even if it is assumed that we know what they are.

So good ideas being necessary for a functioning democracy can’t be an explanation for why the market for ideas should be unregulated, since professional intellectuals favor regulation for goods and services which are also necessary for a functioning democracy.

The asymmetry remains.

Coase finishes his essay by solving the paradox. Why do professional intellectuals defend the market for ideas against regulation but not the market for goods and services?

The market for ideas is the market in which the intellectual conducts his trade. The explanation of the paradox is self-interest and self-esteem. Self-esteem leads the intellectuals to magnify the importance of their own market. That others should be regulated seems natural, particularly as many of the intellectuals see themselves as doing the regulating.

So, the market for ideas is the market controlled by intellectuals. They see their market as a higher and more important calling. The market for goods and services, in their view, is both less important and more corrupted.

So how does Coase’s explanation here predict the increasing calls for censorship in the market for ideas?

Remember the explanation Coase gave. Professional intellectuals considered the market for ideas as above regulation because they controlled the market.

But times have changed since Coase wrote his article in 1974.

The internet has revolutionized the landscape of the market for ideas. It’s no longer the case that the well-credentialed have the most sway in the ideas market. Recent years have been characterized by creators on YouTube, podcasts, and, most recently, Substack dominating the market for ideas.

Now that the market for ideas is no longer dominated by academia and the journalism industry, members of those groups no longer have the same incentives to stop industry regulation.

In fact, as in many industries, it may be in incumbents’ best interest to regulate competition. After all, if people get their new commentary from Joe Rogan and not CNN, that hurts CNN’s bottom line.

So, although Coase did not foresee the decentralization of the market of ideas in his piece, the logic of his paper gives a clear prediction. If the ones who hold the reins to the market for ideas lose their grip, calls for regulation are sure to follow. And this is exactly what we’re seeing.

This article was published by FEE, Foundation for Economic Education and is reproduced with permission.

Cancel Culture in Action: Wrecking Peoples Lives in Retaliation

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Let’s face it:  free speech for California’s teachers and educators is dead.  If you are a teacher or guidance counselor in California and make an internet posting that happens to offend students, teachers, and/or administrators who make up the woke mob, you may very well lose your job.  The truth of what you wrote makes no difference to the free speech-haters.  Indeed, the greater the truth, the greater the amount of hatred it’s likely to draw from the mob.  If you doubt this, look no further than the case of Patricia Crawford, formerly a guidance counselor at Rubidoux High School (“RHS”) in southern California.  This case, more so than many, illustrates the total depravity and evil of Cancel Culture.

On February 16, 2017, a host of RHS students skipped school (itself a violation of norms and, technically, truancy) to attend a protest in support of “A Day Without Immigrants.”  The protest was part of a nationwide boycott against President Trump’s immigration policies.  Together with other students who skipped school without necessarily attending the protest, they made up about one-quarter of the entire student body.

RHS was an overcrowded school and, not surprisingly, the absence of one-quarter of the students made it less so.  A teacher emailed the staff about the high rate of absences.  Patricia Crawford emailed back:  “The PROFESSIONAL staff members and SERIOUS students are here today, boycott be darned.”

Later that same day, RHS teacher Geoffrey Greer posted on Facebook that he was uncertain whether the missing workers “had the intended impact or sent the desired message.”  He went on to comment that attendance in the classes he taught was down by 50 percent and proved “how much better things might be without this overcrowding.”  He concluded by stating that “that’s what you get when you jump on some sort of bandwagon cause as an excuse to be lazy and/or get drunk.  Best school day ever.”

Ms. Crawford commented on Greer’s post as follows:  “Cafeteria was much cleaner after lunch, lunch, itself, went quicker, less traffic on the roads and no discipline issues today.  More, please.”  Note the likely truth of these comments:  if attendance was down by one-quarter, it stands to reason that lunch would go quicker and there would be less traffic on the roads.  If students routinely left some trash around, the mere fact of fewer students would imply less trash (with no implication that those who skipped school were any dirtier than their counterparts who chose to follow the rules and attend school).  Discipline issues could be determined based upon the school’s records, but, again, if discipline issues arose equally per capita among those who boycotted and those who did not, fewer students would imply fewer discipline issues.

The Facebook exchanges continued.  Several students responded on Facebook to these two posts, expressing that “many students are taking these comments in a negative way.”  One student wrote that Crawford’s remarks were “very, very disappointing.”  Crawford defended herself as follows:  “Disappointing is to think that some of my students still don’t get it about education.  Staff members who are sympathetic to the cause were at school today.  The kids who care were there . . .   What I saw today was more proof, just like last year, that boycotts, especially of education, aren’t the answer.  It just keeps the ones who need it the most as useful fools.”  Finally, she wrote on Facebook “My post was meant to be snarky.  Get over yourselves.”

It was for this exercise by Patricia Crawford of her free speech rights that the Jurupa Unified School District sought to have her fired.  The stated basis for the dismissal was that she had engaged in “immoral conduct” by writing the things quoted above.  She was placed on administrative leave the next day, February 17, 2017.  In May 2017, the District informed her that it intended to fire her.  An organization named the “Commission on Professional Competence of the Jurupa Unified School District” heard Crawford’s appeal against the District’s decision and ruled in the District’s favor.

If you are shocked to learn that the Commission and the District would regard telling the truth as “immoral conduct,” you will be even more shocked to learn that the District’s and the Commission’s rulings were upheld in the California Superior Court and the California Court of Appeal.  

The new definition of “immoral conduct” for educators in California is this:  anything written on Facebook or other social media that happens to offend the woke mob or the media and draws their negative comments.  Effectively, the woke mob and the media have been given the power to strip California teachers and educators of their guaranteed First Amendment free speech rights.

What is most noteworthy about the Court of Appeal’s decision is that nowhere in the Court’s opinion is there any discussion about whether what Crawford wrote was true.  One reads the opinion in vain for any discussion about whether it was true that the cafeteria was cleaner after lunch, whether lunch went quicker or whether there was less traffic on the roads.  In this new Orwellian world, truth is no defense.  And to be sure, that makes sense in a twisted sort of way.  If you had publicly written in Nazi Germany that Hitler was a murdering tyrant, the Gestapo would pay you a visit and your new home, if you were not immediately shot out of hand, would have been a concentration camp.  Arguments to the Gestapo that it was true that Hitler was a murderous tyrant most certainly would have been unavailing.  Here in California, the truth of social media postings is no more defense for educators than truth was a defense in Nazi Germany.

So if the truth was not even the slightest bit relevant in determining whether Crawford had engaged in immoral conduct, what was relevant?  What, precisely, was the immoral conduct?

The District received 51 emails complaining about Crawford’s Facebook posts, she herself received 10, and nearly 40 people complained at a District Board meeting held on February 21, 2017.  There is no indication any of these emails or complaints addressed the truth or falsity of Crawford’s postings; they appear to have expressed only outrage and anger.  Additionally, Crawford’s postings drew widespread negative attention in the media at the time, and this was considered to have bolstered the case for a finding of immoral conduct.  Crawford’s allegedly “immoral conduct” was making postings on Facebook that (1) were in all likelihood either true or an expression of her opinion and (2) happened to offend students, teachers, and members of the media. 

There was indeed immoral conduct in this case, but it was not the immoral conduct found by the august body of Solons that calls itself “the Commission on Professional Competence.”  The immoral conduct was that of those who had as their objective the destruction of Patricia Crawford’s First Amendment rights.

This is the new world in which we live, a world where the totalitarian Left and their apparatchiks in government seek to ruin the lives of those who oppose their vision of an Orwellian future for the United States of America.  Other parts of their sinister program are to eliminate the Electoral College, pack the Supreme Court, make the District of Columbia a state, bring in hordes of immigrants who they hope will vote for them, and allow teachers to groom young children without fear of prosecution for child abuse.  To say that we fought the American Revolution to get rid of people like this would be an overstatement, because in truth and fact the British who ruled colonial America were not even close to being as evil as today’s woke mob.

What must be clearly understood is that the Cancel Culture’s minions are not merely people with a different point of view, any more than the murderous Bolsheviks or Nazis were merely people with a different point of view.  To the contrary, they are evil human beings who would do much worse things to us if they could.  During the French Revolution, people who spoke the truth like Patricia Crawford were guillotined, and during the Bolshevik Revolution they were shot or sent to the Gulag.     

Although these events occurred about five years ago, it would be a mistake to think things have changed.  Indeed, they have only gotten worse.  The Biden Administration has established a new Ministry of Truth entitled the “Disinformation Governance Board.”  How long will it be before goose-stepping, jack-booted thugs wearing badges and uniforms will knock on your door because of something you wrote on the internet?  Across the pond, Breitbart News reports that the left-wing mayor of Liverpool, England asserts that advertisements on public transit promoting an appearance by the Reverend Franklin Graham constitute “hate speech” and should be removed.  And what do these allegedly hate-filled ads say?  They say “God Loves You Too.”