All posts filed under: Free Speech

Free Speech and Islam — In Defense of Ayaan Hirsi Ali

True progressives really should get around to constructing a Doric-columned Hall of Shame to memorialize, for all to revile, the imbecilities, curios of casual hypocrisy, and artifacts of outright intellectual and moral treason the benighted diehards of the regressive left choose to display as a matter of pride these days when the subject is Islam and former Muslims, especially former female Muslims.  The contrast between the lofty liberal ideals espoused by such leftists and their sordid output should concern us all, though, of whatever political persuasion.  They have largely succeeded in squelching forthright, reasoned discourse about Islam and Islamist terrorism, which jeopardizes national security and the lives of some of some of the most vulnerable, including women who have left the faith, or who, rightfully or wrongfully, are accused of disrespecting it.  For in de facto alliance with regressive leftist denouncers of “Islamophobia” — a semantic swindle of a noun equating criticism of Islam with bigotry against Muslims as people — stand assassins, as the late Elsa Cayat of Charlie Hebdo, the late Farkhunda Malikzada of Afghanistan, …

Thiel vs Gawker: Why a Defensive Media is the Real Threat to Free Speech

In March this year, Terry Bollea (Hulk Hogan), was awarded $140 million in damages in an invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media. Gawker Media is an online media company owned by Nick Denton, based in New York City and incorporated in the Cayman Islands. It is the parent company of several different blogs including the infamous pop-feminist rag Jezebel and the much maligned Valleywag and Kotaku. Gawker Media has tormented both powerful and not so powerful people for some time now. In 2015, The Daily Beast reported that the online magazine belligerently hounded actor James Franco for years even going so far as to accuse him of being a “gay rapist”. Less than a year ago, Gawker ran a bizarre expose about a thwarted tryst between an unknown business executive and a male escort. It turned out that the escort had attempted to blackmail the executive. When that failed, he went to Gawker, and Gawker ran the story. In Hulk Hogan’s court case, details emerged of Gawker’s editor-in-chief Albert J Daulerio mocking a college …

Trade Protectionism in the Marketplace of Ideas

Although young people have long been hailed as more open-minded and politically tolerant than their parents and grandparents, there is evidence that this is no longer the case (see How Marcuse Made Todays Students Less Tolerant).  The problem of political intolerance is clearly demonstrated on college campuses in recent months, as student groups clash over issues of immigration, race, and even support for presidential candidates.  While debate and protests can be healthy displays of free expression, many of these efforts seem aimed at shutting down unpopular speech or punishing people with offensive viewpoints. In the past several months, scholars at Heterodox Academy have collectively made a compelling case that free speech at America’s colleges and universities does not enjoy the protected, valued status that a “marketplace of ideas” would demand. In January 2016, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) issued a report identifying another problem inflicting college students: political and civil knowledge appears to have declined for this generation as well.  The report, titled A Crisis in Civic Education, argues that few college …

Free Speech and Islam — The Left Betrays the Most Vulnerable

When surveying the ill-informed, shoddy work that at times passes as in-depth journalism regarding Islam these days, a rationalist may well be tempted to slip into a secular simulacrum of John Bunyan’s Slough of Despond.  In reputable press outlets, articles regularly appear in which the author proceeds from an erroneous premise through a fallacious argument to a fatuous conclusion.  Compound all this — especially in the main case I’m about to discuss, that of the British former Islamist turned reformer, Maajid Nawaz — with the apparent intent to defame or cast aspersions, and you get worthless artifacts of journalistic malfeasance that should be dismissed out of hand, but that, given the seriousness of the subject, nevertheless merit attention. For starters, a few words about premises and some necessary background.  Those who deploy the “stupid term” (see Christopher Hitchens) “Islamophobia” to silence critics of the faith hold, in essence, that Muslims deserve to be approached as a race apart, and not as equals, not as individual adults capable of rational choice, but as lifelong members of an immutable, …

Free Speech and Islam — In Defense of Sam Harris

The controversial atheist needs a fair hearing “It’s gross!  It’s racist!” exclaimed Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s Real Time in October 2014, interrupting the neuroscientist “New Atheist” Sam Harris.  Harris had been carefully explaining the linguistic bait-and-switch inherent in the word “Islamophobia” as “intellectually ridiculous,” in that “every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people.”  The result: progressives duped by the word shy away from criticizing the ideology of Islam, the tenets of which (including second-class status for women and intolerance toward sexual minorities) would, in any other context, surely elicit their condemnation. Unwittingly, Affleck had confirmed Harris’ point, conflating religion with race.  In doing so, the actor was espousing a position that can lead to a de facto racist conclusion.  If you discount Islamic doctrine as the motivation for domestic violence and intolerance of sexual minorities in the Muslim world, you’re left with at least one implicitly bigoted assumption: the people of the region must then be congenitally inclined to behave as they do. There was a disturbing irony in Affleck’s outburst.  Few public intellectuals have done …

How Marcuse Made Today’s Students Less Tolerant Than Their Parents

When Samuel Stouffer first wrote on political tolerance during the McCarthy era, he concluded that Americans were generally an intolerant bunch. Yet, finding that younger people were more tolerant than their parents, he also concluded that Americans would become more and more tolerant over time, due to generational replacement and increases in education.  However, Stouffer did not predict the rise of the New Left, which I argue has reframed our collective notions about free expression, resulting in a significant decline in political tolerance among America’s youth. I develop this argument in a chapter I wrote for Stanley Rothman’s last book, The End of the Experiment, (Rothman, Nagai, Maranto, and Woessner, 2015)   My findings are outlined below. First, I make the case that young people are less politically tolerant than their parents’ generation and that this marks a clear reversal of the trends observed by social scientists for the past 60 years. Political tolerance is generally defined as the willingness to extend civil liberties and basic democratic rights to members of unpopular groups.  That is, …

Tutors and Examiners of the Mind: German media and the migrant crisis

A few years ago, remarking on the more aggressive federalist tendencies within the European Union, Mikhail Gorbachev observed that the most puzzling development in European politics since the end of the Cold War was the “apparent determination of politicians to recreate the Soviet Union in Western Europe.” Today we might update this to say that the most puzzling development in European politics is the apparent determination of the leaders of a unified, liberal, and democratic Germany to recreate and otherwise emulate the propagandist methodologies of East Germany and National Socialist Germany — certainly in terms of their bridling of the press and directing of the headlines away from dissent and towards a prefabricated officially-approved narrative (and, unlike Mr Gorbachev, we could not heartily be accused of exaggeration). In the wake of the Cologne crisis (as we can now rightly call it — again, without exaggeration) many worrying trends in German society came to light. Few of them were more worrying than revelations regarding the sheer scale of the censorship and self-censorship of the German media when …