All posts filed under: Free Speech

The Death of the First Amendment in Cyberspace

In 1996, cyber activist John Perry Barlow addressed national governments in his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace; a radical call for complete online freedom. “I declare,” he wrote, “the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us.” In the early 2000s, it seemed as if Barlow’s Declaration was becoming a reality. In 2006, Time magazine named “You”—that is to say, all of us—as their Person of the Year: It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes. The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Social media became instrumental in the toppling of dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen and, in 2010, it was Mark Zuckerberg’s turn to be awarded Time‘s Person of the Year. A couple of years later Twitter confidently declared itself  ”The free speech wing of the free speech party.” This commitment to the global spread of radical free …

Headline Rhymes

To hell with what we learned from the hero of Mockingbird, the preeminent Mr. Finch Believe Women dictates Tom’s guilty of rape and Atticus must also be lynched Views on the news, delivered in twos. This week’s inspired by two columns in National Review and: On the Fallibility of Memory and the Importance of Evidence How An Anonymous Accusation Derailed My Life Click for last week’s edition. More on Twitter @grahamverdon Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below. Please try for PG 13.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Alex Jones Was Victimized by One Oligopoly. But He Perpetuated Another

This month, Twitter joined Apple, Facebook, Spotify and YouTube in banning the popular right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its platform. Like the other bans, Twitter’s decision was announced as a fait accompli, with opaque justifications ranging from “hate speech” to “abusive behavior.” The seemingly arbitrary nature of these bans has raised fears from all political quarters. Alexis Madrigal, writing in The Atlantic, cited the development as proof that “these platforms have tremendous power, they have hardly begun to use it, and it’s not clear how anyone would stop them from doing so.” His sentiments were echoed by Ben Shapiro in the National Review, who expressed alarm at “social-media arbiters suddenly deciding that vague ‘hate speech’ standards ought to govern our common spaces.” Even some on the left displayed concern. Steve Coll wrote in the New Yorker that “practices that marginalize the unconventional right will also marginalize the unconventional left,” and argued that we must defend even “awful speakers” in the interests of protecting free speech. Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union described …

Amidst the YouTube Junkies of MythCon, I Witnessed a New Kind of Radical Centrism

Late Saturday afternoon, police ordered the evacuation of the historic Pabst Theater in downtown Milwaukee because of a bomb threat. Along with hundreds of other MythCon attendees, I filed out in orderly fashion. While most of the crowd milled around City Hall, I went up to my hotel room at the neighbouring Intercontinental. But that building, too, was evacuated by police, because it sits adjacent to the Pabst. Across the street, a bride in white shuffled around nervously with her family. Her wedding reception was scheduled to begin shortly in the Intercontinental ballroom. These are the ordinary people who suffer when idiots phone in bomb threats. Eventually, we were all let back into the Pabst, and our conference resumed, amidst much gossip about what had motivated the bomb hoax. It says a lot about the ideologically heterodox nature of MythCon—a secular humanist and atheist meet-up organized by self-described “mythicists” seeking “to promote dialogue about culture, religion and freedom of thought”—that no one could be quite sure. The headliner was a popular YouTuber named Sargon of …

Headline Rhymes

Climate deniers once topped the charts with all their sneering at science But biology balkers have a hit on their hands with their gender blender defiance Views on the news, delivered in twos. This week’s inspired by: Misunderstanding a New Kind of Gender Dysphoria Interview with Debra W. Soh, Sex Neuroscientist Click for last week’s edition. Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments Section below. Please try for PG 13.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.

Reflections on the Revolution at Yale

Three years ago this Fall, Yale University descended into what can only be described as a fit of mass psychosis. On November 9, 2015, over 1,000 people—about one fifth of the undergraduate student body—walked out of classrooms and into the quad to participate in a ‘March of Resilience.’ An a cappella group led the crowd in a medley of “We Shall Overcome.” Native Indian performers formed a drum circle. “We are not victims,” a student organizer affiliated with the school’s Latino cultural center declared. “Today, we are on our way to being victors.” Against what sinister forces did Yale’s students feel compelled to summon up their stocks of ‘resilience’ in righteous battle? The first grievance cited by the student protestors was an alleged ‘white girls only’ party thrown by one of the university’s fraternities. Word of this event had gone from a Facebook post to international headlines, tarnishing Yale’s good name in the process. Had such a party actually taken place, it indeed would have been cause for protest. But it’s hard not to be …

Headline Rhymes

Once, the butler did it under the parlour chandelier Now it’s murder by bad-wording inside the Twittersphere  Views on the news, delivered in twos. This week’s inspired by: I Sold My Soul to Twitter. Now I’m Trying to Buy It Back I Was the Mob Until the Mob Came for Me Do you have a Headline Rhyme? Take a stab in the Comments. Please try for PG 13.  Sentiments are not necessarily shared by everyone at Quillette.  

Banning Bitcoin to Complete Big Tech Censorship

Bitcoin’s survival might prove intolerable to our Internet gatekeepers. To rid the web of troublesome opinion makers you ban them from online platforms while terminating their ability to raise funds from supporters.  Corporate giants can use their control over Internet and financial chokepoints to almost accomplish this, but Bitcoin’s decentralized network means that regardless of how much corporate America hates some commentator, it can’t stop you from sending her cryptocurrency.  If a Democrat wins the Presidency in 2020, I predict a serious attempt to close this loophole by criminalizing Bitcoins. Big tech has awoken to its power and started suppressing views it deems hateful.  The Nazi website Stormfront was kicked off the Internet.  Facebook, Apple, YouTube, and Spotify all decided, on the same day, to deplatform Alex Jones.  Islam critic Lauren Southern has been kicked off Pateron, a service many use to raise funds from supporters.  YouTube has demonitized and restricted videos from Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, and Gad Saad.  President Trump has accused social media of “totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.” Big tech wants …

Nobody Should Listen to Twitter Mobs

Last fortnight, the New York Times stood behind its new editorial board hire Sarah Jeong, after critics on the right dug up Jeong’s offensive tweets sarcastically mocking white people, saying things like “oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men,” and using a #CancelWhitePeople hashtag. The Times argued that Jeong’s tweets were a sort of counter-trolling response to sustained harassment she endured as a young Asian-American female technology reporter.  Jeong’s critics noted that her offensive tweets weren’t in direct response to any harassment, and that they displayed a degree of hostility to white people that would be considered racist and out of bounds if directed toward any other group.  Nonetheless, the Times did not fire her. This was the right decision.  People shouldn’t lose jobs and opportunities over old tweets.  But if the New York Times did the right thing here, then, by the same standard, several prominent media companies, including the Times, have made wrong decisions in the recent past. Nobody should be …

Do Britain’s Muslims Have a Right Not to be Offended?

Religious freedom is one of the core principles of any modern liberal society. As a secularist, I defend the right of religious people to send their children to faith schools, have their children circumcised, or wear the burqa. This does not mean I approve of any of these practices; they should be permissible but not protected from criticism. We should be free to ridicule, lampoon, chastise, critique, etc. every aspect of religious belief that we tolerate. This is, more or less, what the U.K.’s former Conservative Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote in his now infamous newspaper column in the Telegraph last week. Yet all hell has broken loose. It was greeted by near-hysterical outrage and shrill denunciations of Johnson’s alleged dog whistle racism; reports of civil war in the Tory Party over the matter; the now ubiquitous demands for an apology for causing offence (or else), which was backed in this instance by the Prime Minister. Boris’s is now the subject of an internal Party inquiry. It’s worth untangling this sorry tale as a snap-shot …