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Tag Archives: free-speech
Posted: September 8, 2016 at 6:40 am
CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS/THINKPROGRESS
By Erica Hellerstein and Judd Legum
In 1991, New York Magazine published an influential cover story, titled Are You Politically Correct? The headline was splashed across the glossys front page in bold red and white letters, followed by a list of supposed politically correct questions:
The article opened with what appeared to be a heated exchange between students and a Harvard professor, Stephan Thernstrom, as he made his way through campus. As John Taylor, the author of the piece told it, Thernstrom was anonymously criticized by students in the Harvard Crimson for racial insensitivity in an introductory history course he taught on race relations in America. As word of the criticism spread throughout campus, Thernstrom quickly found himself embroiled in controversyand the target of an angry group of students. The first paragraph describes Thernstroms reaction in vivid detail:
Taylors opening certainly painted a dramatic picture. But there was only one problemit wasnt exactly true. In a 1991 interview with The Nation, Thernstrom himself told reporter Jon Weiner that he was appalled when he first saw the passage. Nothing like that ever happened, he quipped, describing the authors excerpt as artistic license. What eventually happened was perhaps unsurprising: Thernstrom decided not to offer the controversial course again. Although it was a voluntary decision, the professors story soon turned into a famous example of the tyranny of political correctness. The New Republic declared that the professor had been savaged for political correctness in the classroom; the New York Review of Books described his case an illustration of the attack on freedom led by minorities.
These claims ultimately proved to be greatly exaggerated. Weiner tracked down one of the students who complained about Thernstrom; she explained that their goals werent to prevent him from offering the class, but to point out inaccuracies in his lecture. To me, its a big overreaction for him to decide not to teach the course again because of that, she said. A professor of government at Harvard went a step further, concluding that there is no Thernstrom case. Instead, a few student complaints were exaggerated and translated into an attack on freedom of speech by black students. The professor called the episode a marvelous example of the skill of the neocons at taking small events and translating them into weapons against the pluralistic thrust on American campuses.
Back in the 90s, the conversation around political correctness was largely driven by anecdote that could easily be distorted to support a particular point of view. Last year, the same magazine that published Taylors 1991 story returned to the topic, this time publishing a treatise on political correctness by Jonathan Chait. The piece, Not a Very P.C. Thing to Say, describes a resurgence of the P.C. culture that flourished on college campuses in the 90s, even more ubiquitous now thanks to the rise of Twitter and social media. This new movement of political correctness, Chait argues, has assumed a towering presence in the psychic space of politically active people in general and the left in particular. He describes it as: a system of left-wing ideological repression that is antithetical to liberalism itself. P.C. ideology can be seductive to some liberals who can be misled into thinking that this is liberalism, Chait told ThinkProgress. And I think we need to understand that its not.
Its a depiction thats made its way outside of coastal media commentary to rhetoric on the campaign trail. Criticism of the illiberal strain of political correctness has found an eager audience among a range of GOP presidential hopefuls, many of whom readily invoke P.C. as a leftist bogeyman. At a recent Republican Jewish Coalition Conference, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) declared that the politically correct doublespeak from this administration has gone beyond ridiculous.
Cruzs proclamations coincide with a string of recent student protests denouncing institutional racism on college campuses throughout the country. At Yale and Georgetown, students have asked that buildings named after white supremacists and slaveowners be renamed. At Claremont-McKenna College in California, the dean of students resigned after students criticized her response to complaints of racism on campus, and at the University of Missouri, the president resigned from his position after failing to respond to several racist acts against students, including an incident where a student drew a swastika with feces in a university bathroom.
There have also been recent student protests at Amherst, Brandeis, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Ithaca College, among others.
The protests have earned plaudits and harsh condemnation. The Atlantic denounced The New Intolerance of Student Activism. On Fox News, Alan Dershowitz claimed that a fog of fascism is descending quickly over many American universities It is the worst kind of hypocrisy. The National Review argued that the notion that students need a safe space is a lie. They arent weak. They dont need protection Why would they debate when theyve proven they can dictate terms? Pathetic.
Others, meanwhile, are quick to point out that these angry responses often come from people who hold more institutional power than the students they critique. Marilyn Edelstein, a professor of English at Santa Clara University who wrote about political correctness in the 90s, said shes been troubled by commentators impulse to dismiss important ideas and and perspectives as simply politically correct.
I think whats going on today is a resurgence of the same kind of fear by privileged white men that other people might have different experiences and legitimate grievances about the way theyre often treated, she explained. A lot of the commentators who are crying, oh political correctness now again are not at risk of actually losing any power. Conservatives are controlling the Congress and Senate and a lot of state houses, and yet they want to mock 18 to 22 year-olds for caring about things like their own experiences of being excluded or made to feel like less-than-welcome members of a college community.
If theres one thing these two camps can agree on, its that censorship does exist on college campuses. But according to those who track incidents of censorship most closely, its impacting students and faculty across the ideological spectrum. Acknowledging the true nature of repression on college campuses is complex and does not neatly fit the narrative of P.C.s detractors, but it shouldnt be ignored. Absent a discussion rooted in reality, we appear condemned to repeat fruitless debate of the 90s.
In The Coddling of the American Mind, a cover story published last year in The Atlantic, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt examine the climate of censorship and political correctness on college campuses. Something strange is happening at Americas colleges and universities, they begin ominously. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.
Lukianoff and Haidt describe a number of incidents intended to demonstrate the surge of censorship on college campus. They distinguish the climate on campuses today from that of the 90s, arguing that the current movement is centered around emotional well-being. More than the last, it presumes an extraordinary fragility of the collegiate psyche, and therefore elevates the goal of protecting students from psychological harm.
The authors cite real examples of suppression on campuses, but they blame the rush to censor on students apparent aversion to uncomfortable words and ideas. The ultimate aim, it seems, is to turn campuses into safe spaces where young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable, they conclude. And more than the last, this movement seeks to punish anyone who interferes with that aim, even accidentally. You might call this impulse vindictive protectiveness. It is creating a culture in which everyone must think twice before speaking up, lest they face charges of insensitivity, aggression, or worse.
This narrative positions censorship as the product of students who seek comfort, coddling, and refuge from challenging ideas. But John K. Wilson, an editor at The Academe Blog and author of the book The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education, says that a significant portion of the criticism aimed at students is misguided. Commentators focus on student calls for censorship often ignores the growth of the administrative class, which can have just as profound consequences on speech.
I think that where there is a lot of efforts of repression going on its coming mostly from the administration, Wilson explained. One of the changes that has come about in the structure of higher education in recent decades is you have a dramatic growth in administration. And so you have more and more people whose sort of job is to work for the administration and in many cases suppress controversial activity.
Wilsons point is backed up by the data. The New England Center for Investigative Reporting found that the number of administrative employees at U.S. colleges and universities has more than doubled in the past 25 years. Moreover, the expansion of the administrative class comes as colleges and universities cut full-time tenured faculty positions. According to an in-depth article by Benjamin Ginsberg in the Washington Monthly, between 1998 and 2008, private colleges increased spending on instruction by 22 percent, but hiked spending on administrative and staff support by 36 percent.
Will Creeley, the vice president of legal and public advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), explained that the growth of college administration has resulted in the creation of new fiefdoms for administrators that previously did not exist. In order to justify their existence, those administrators will occasionally make themselves known by investigating and punishing speech that at public universities is protected by the first amendment or at private universities should be protected by the promises that the university makes about free speech.
As the campus administration expands, there is no doubt that some conservative-leaning voices on university campuses have been censored. Earlier this year, a libertarian student group at Dixie University was blocked from putting up flyers on campus that mocked President Obama, Che Guevara, and former President George W. Bush. At Saint Louis University in 2013, a group of College Republicans was barred from inviting former senator Scott Brown (R-MA) to speak at a campus event over concerns it would jeopardize the schools tax-exempt status. In 2014, the Young Americans for Liberty student group at Boise State University was charged nearly $500 in security fees for a gun-rights event featuring Dick Heller of the Supreme Court guns-rights case D.C. v. Heller.
Then there are examples of suppressed speech deemed hateful or offensive, such as the University of South Carolinas suspension of a student who used a racial slur and the suspension of a student at Texas Christian University for tweets about hoodrat criminals in Baltimore. These instances are where questions involving censorship become more nuanced. For many, the line of acceptable, or even free speech, ends where hate speech begins. The definition of silencing, after all, depends on who you ask. To some, censorship comes in the form of tearing down a xenophobic poster; to others, its the impulse to equate student activism with the desire to be coddled.
But how do you define hate speech? Free speech absolutists say censorship is never the answer to constitutionally protected hate speech, no matter how offensive it may be. There is no legal definition of hate speech that will withstand constitutional scrutiny, Creeley pointed out. The Supreme Court has been clear on this for decades. And that is because of the inherently fluid, subjective boundaries of what would or would not constitute hate speech. One persons hate speech is another persons manifesto. Any attempt to define hate speech will find itself punishing those with minority viewpoints.
Liberals can, and have, gone too far in their calls for suppressing hateful speech. But the excesses of whats been deemed political correctness are not representative of the culture writ large, nor do they signify a broad leftist conspiracy to silence any and all dissenting voices. The reality of censorship on college campuses is more complicatedand less useful to the most vocal critics of political correctness. Left-leaning voices are censored, toothey just rarely seem to provoke the same amount of public outrage and hand-wringing.
When it comes to repression on college campuses, theres really no evidence that theres some left-wing, politically correct attack on freedom of speech, Wilson said. In fact, there are many examples of efforts to repress left-wing speakers and left-wing faculty. Most of the attacks on academic freedom, he explained, especially the effective attacks, come from the right.
You dont have to look far to find examples. Just last week, a professor at Wheaton College in Illinois was fired for claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Last month, George Washington University barred a student from hanging a Palestinian flag outside his bedroom window. In November, the Huffington Post reported that Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia) attempted to block a graduate student at the University of Missouri from performing research on the impact of abortion restrictions. At the University of South Carolina in 2014, a performance called How to Become a Lesbian in 10 Days was canceled after state legislators expressed concern that it would promote perversion. A professor at the University of Kansas was suspended in 2013 for anti-NRA comments. At the University of Arizona, a professor was fired for conducting research on the effects of marijuana for veterans with PTSD. In 2015, a vegan rights activist at California State Polytechnic University was prevented from handing out flyers about animal abuse on campus. In 2014, campus police blocked students at the University of Toledo from peacefully protesting a lecture by Karl Rove. The same year, adjunct faculty members at St. Charles Community College in St. Louis attempting to unionize were prohibited from gathering petition signatures.
Still, these cases havent really become widely cited or popular talking points. Wilson says thats because conservatives have been more effective at advancing their narrative. The left isnt really organized to tell the stories of oppression on campus and to try to defend students and faculty who face these kind of attacks, he explained. They need the institutional structure out there, organizations that are going to talk about the issues that will counter this media narrative of political correctness thats been around for 25 years now.
Hundreds of years before political correctness made its debut in thinkpieces or the fiery rhetoric of presidential candidates, it appeared in an opinion written by Justice James Wilson in the 1793 Supreme Court case, Chisholm v. Virginia, which upheld the rights of people to sue states. Arguing that people, rather than states, hold the most authority in the country, Wilson claimed that a toast given to the United States was not politically correct. The Justice used the term literally in this context; he felt it was more accurate to use People of the United States.
The Chisholm decision was ultimately overturned and Justice Wilsons phrase slipped into obscurity. Its hard to pinpoint exactly when the expression made a comeback, but, as John K. Wilson outlines in his book, The Myth of Political Correctness, it was mainly used jokingly among liberals in the twentieth century to criticize the excesses and dogma of their own belief system. Professor Roger Geiger wrote that it was a sarcastic reference to adherence to the party line by American communists in the 1930s. Conservatives began to subvert that framing in the 1980s and use it for their own political gain, eventually transforming the term politically correct to political correctness. The latter phrase was used to describe not just a few radical individuals, as politically correct was, but an entire conspiracy of leftists infiltrating the higher education system.
This narrative gained mainstream visibility in the 1990s, but it hadnt come out of the blue. Fears about the radicalization of American universities had been brewing for years. The attacks on colleges and universities that propelled it had been organizing for more than a decade, Wilson wrote. For the conservatives, the 1960s were a frightening period on American campuses; students occupied buildings, faculty mixed radical politics into their classes, administrators acquiesced to their standards, and academic standards fell by the wayside. Conservatives convinced themselves that the 1960s had never ended and that academia was being corrupted by a new generation of tenured radicals.
These concerns eventually found a home in the conservative commentary of the 1980s, of which Wilson provides several examples: A 1983 article in Conservative Digest claiming a Marxist network doling out the heaviest dose of Marxist and leftist propaganda to students had over 13,000 faculty members, a Marxist press that is selling record numbers of radical textbooks and supplementary materials, and a system of helping other Marxist professors receive tenure; philosopher Sidney Hooks proclamation in 1987 that there is less freedom of speech on American campuses today, measured by the tolerance of dissenting views on controversial political issues, than at any other recent period in peacetime in American history; and Secretary of Education William Bennetts assertion in 1988 that some places on campus are becoming increasingly insular and in certain instances even repressive of the spirit of the free marketplace of ideas.
The media soon latched onto this narrative. Many of the articles published were almost uniformly critical of the Left and accepted the conservatives attacks without questioning their accuracy or motives, Wilson wrote. By using a few anecdotes about a few elite universities, conservatives created political correctness in the eyes of the media, and in herdlike fashion journalists raced to condemn the politically correct mob they had discovered in American universities.
Fast-forward 25 years and not much has changed. Back in the 90s, the P.C. buzzwords were speech codes and multiculturalism; now, theyre trigger warnings and microaggressions. Whether or not you agree with microaggressions and trigger warnings, they dont constitute an existential threat to free speech. Just because a person finds them frivolous or unnecessary doesnt mean theyre censorious.
The term microaggression, for example, is often used to highlight subtle biases and prejudices. The point is to open up a dialogue, not to censor students. Nevertheless, microaggressions and trigger warnings are often used as examples of campus illiberalism. Chait wrote that these newly fashionable terms merely repackage a central tenet of the first P.C. movement: that people should be expected to treat even faintly unpleasant ideas or behaviors as full-scale offenses.
But is there any evidence that the P.C. movement on campuses has gotten worse, or even exists at all? We asked Chait how and why he determined that political correctness, once again, was an issue worthy of exploration. He didnt offer any concrete examples. The idea for the story came from my editors, who noticed it, he replied. When I started to research the issue thats when I started to see something happening on campus that at the time wasnt getting that much attention. Now, in the months since, people are starting to pay attention. But I think its happening much more often.
Wilson offered a different take. I dont think theres really a crisis of any kind like this. Things are not that much different than they have been in the past. You have professors who get fired for expressing controversial views on Twitter, you dont have professors getting fired for microaggressions or for failing to give a trigger warning, he said, referring to the Steven Salaita casea professor at the University of Illinois who lost a promised tenured position over tweets that were critical of Israels invasion of Gaza in 2014.
Creeley did say that FIRE has seen an increase in case submissions, but he noted that isnt necessarily an accurate gauge of how much censorship is occurring on campus. He did point out that calls for speech limitations appear to be coming increasingly from students, a trend he described as new and worrying. He added that there seem to be a worrying number of instances where students are asking the authorities to sanction or punish speech that they disagree with, or to implement some kind of training on folks to change viewpoints they disagree with.
But if people who criticize these efforts are genuinely concerned about censorship, they should also worry when it comes from other sides of the political aislenot just when it neatly fits into a caricature of campus liberalism run amok. Creeley said that FIRE was disappointed to find that the case of Hayden Barnes, an environmentalist who was expelled from college for posting a collage against a proposed parking garage online, didnt take off in the media the way that other explicitly partisan cases did. It did not capture the sense of where those kinds of efforts to censor those types of students came from, he said. Its disappointing to me to see free speech be cast in partisan terms because I think that it turns the issue into a much more binary, much less nuanced, and much less thoughtful discussion.
The Missouri state senators proposal to block a students dissertation on the impact of abortion restrictions, for example, would appear to be just the kind of case that raises the ire of free speech proponents. But it doesnt appear to have gained much attention beyond coverage from a few predictably left-leaning sites. Furthermore, neither Chaits nor Haidt and Lukianoffs pieces mention the Salaita case, despite evidence suggesting punitive measures, including administrative sanctions and censorship, have been taken against Palestinian rights activists. A recent report from Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights detailed more than 150 incidents of censorship and suppression of Palestinian advocacy in 2014 alone; 89 percent of which targeted students and facultycausing speculation about a Palestine exception to the free speech debate.
ThinkProgress asked Chait about how censorship driven from the right fits into his analysis of political correctness as the province of progressives. I think thats a separate issue than the phenomenon Im describing, he answered. If you look at my original piece, very few of the examples are formal censorship. I think youve got something much deeper which is a bigger problem for people on the left, which is a broken way of arising at truth on race and gender issues. That can happen and does happen in non-censorship ways.
It doesnt take a thorough examination of the medias framing of political correctness to realize that the conversation is fraught and prone to exaggeration. Thats partially due to a lack of research on the topic. Because theres not much data available, anecdotes are often elevated as evidence; people choose the sides that best confirm their preexisting political biases and worldviews. So how does political correctness actually impact creativity? A team of researchers decided to put this question to the test with hundreds of college students.
The researchers randomly divided students in groups of three and asked them to brainstorm ideas for new businesses that could go into a vacant restaurant space on campus. Groups were either all men, all women, or mixed. The control was allowed to start brainstorming ideas immediately, but the test group was asked to take ten minutes to think of examples of political correctness on the college campus. Cornells Jack Goncalo, one of the studys researchers, told ThinkProgress that the primer was their way of making P.C. salient to students in the test group. The control group wasnt asked to talk about P.C., so it wasnt on their minds.
Researchers wanted to challenge the assumption that an anarchy approach to creativity is sort of the only way to go or even the best way to go, Goncalo said. Our argument was that although P.C. is dismissed as being overly controlling and sort of the conservative view is that P.C. is a threat to free speech, we actually predicted that P.C. would provide a framework that would help people understand what the expectations are in a mixed-sex group and would reduce uncertainty. And by reducing uncertainty it would actually make people more comfortable to share a wide range of ideas.
Indeed, the researchers found that the mixed-sex groups instructed to think about political correctness generated more ideas and were more creative than the diverse groups that hadnt received the P.C. primer. But that didnt hold true for the same-sex groups. Groups of all men or all women that were told to think about political correctness ended up being less creative than the control group.
Goncalo said those results suggested that talking about political correctness actually reduced uncertainty among mixed-sex groups, making it easier for men and women to speak up and share their ideas. For diverse groups, P.C. can be a creativity booster.
Until the uncertainty caused by demographic differences can be overcome within diverse groups, the effort to be P.C. can be justified not merely on moral grounds, but also by the practical and potentially profitable consequences of facilitating the exchange of creative ideas, the study concludes.
Unfortunately, there arent many scientific papers on the topic of political correctness. The researchers study appears to be the only one that looks specifically at political correctness, creativity, and group activity. And even then, it wasnt easy to get their research published.
It was an uphill battle, Goncalo said. A lot of academics see the whole term political correctness as a colloquial non-scientific, non-academic thing. We had to push really hard to say this is a legitimate thing. It took the team nine years to publish the reportand when it eventually came out, there was push-back. I got emails from angry people who were really pissed off and actually hadnt read the paper or understood what we did or what found, Goncalo remarked. Just knee-jerk reactions to the whole thing. So it was polarizing as you might expect.
To be sure, their paper is just one study on a topic with limited scientific research. But its conclusions shouldnt be ignored; it raises worthwhile points about the impact of speech constraints and communication among diverse groups. After all, the ongoing conversation about P.C. often relies on anecdotal evidence rather than data. This is part of the reason its subject to such vigorous debatepeople like to tailor the evidence to their worldview, not vice versa.
Goncalo also came to an interesting conclusion about the value assigned to political correctness throughout the course of the study, which took nine years to publish. Were exactly where we were in the 80s and 90s, he noted. And I think what that says is that the word is still meaningful and people are still using it in the same way.
For all of the commentary about campus activism and political correctness, theres one group we rarely hear from: actual college students. ThinkProgress visited students at American University to learn about their impressions of the political correctness conversation taking place. Although the responses were from just a sampling of college students, they were telling.
Students at American University overwhelmingly told ThinkProgress they didnt find political correctness to be a pressing campus problem. Only one student we spoke to equated P.C. with censorship, while the rest of the students we spoke with seemed more concerned about hate speech and racist comments posted in online forums. The students quoted below preferred to be identified by their first names.
Azza, a senior at American University, said that much of the commentary aimed at critiquing political correctness fails to understand the experience of being a minority student on campus. Students of minority backgrounds deal with certain issues, they face certain issues, there are things that affect them differently, and when you enter a learning environment that is hostile towards you, you cant learn, she explained. People who are saying that this is suppressing free speech or that people want to be coddled are actually not at all concerned about free speech. The vast majority of people are concerned with a particular type of discourse being fostered on American universities that reflects their particular understanding of American life and society and values.
Azza used the suppression of Palestinian activism on campuses as an example: No one in these groups who are so supposedly concerned with free speech has said anything about that, because they dont actually care about free speech, she remarked. If they did, theyd be speaking on behalf of Palestinian students. What they care about is just not letting minority voices dominate the discourse by trying to get university administrators to create an environment thats safer.
Mackenzie, a senior at AU who was sitting near Azza in a student cafe, added: Just because [the conversation] is different from when [critics] were in college doesnt mean its wrong and that were being babied. We dont want to be babied, its not that. Were fighting for something that is right.
Other students told ThinkProgress they were unsatisfied with the administrations response to offensive messages posted on Yik Yak, an online platform where students have been known to anonymously post racist content. One of the biggest things thats been going around is the racist speech on Yik Yak, and how as an anonymous platform to spread information about other people its been used to threaten and scare students and make certain students feel unsafe, another student, who did not share her name, explained. Hate speech is not free speech. Once that the language that you use infringes on another students ability to feel safe on campus and to feel that theyre allowed to come to class without feeling threatened, that isnt free speech because youre taking someone elses rights away.
Marlise, a junior at AU, said she has encountered students who abuse the system. They use the trigger warnings if they dont want to hear the other side of things, or if they dont agree with something. I think that people on the outside appear to stand in solidarity with Mizzou but theres always going to be those people that say I dont want to hear the other side. Still, she agreed that the content posted on Yik Yak is a big issue.
Students also said that criticisms of political correctness are often underpinned by racial insensitivities on campus. Jendelly, a sophomore at AU of Dominican descent, said she feels as though there is a racially divided hierarchy on campus. My dad works for the county and he works alongside the mayor, she said. And a lot of people who hold those high positions in our town are white. But theyve never made us feel like were second to them or were three-quarters of a person. Coming here, in this school, I do feel like were placed in a hierarchy. And I feel like when I see a white person its like, oh I have to step up my game to reach their level. And I shouldnt have to feel like that.
Its unclear what the multi-decade debate over political correctness has accomplished in aggregate. But there is one group of people who find it incredibly useful: Republican politicians.
The use of the term political correctness, particularly in the Republican presidential primary, does not have a specific definition. Rather it functions like a swiss army knifeit is the answer to every kind of issue that a candidate might confront. Its a get out of jail free card for bigotry, sexism and lying.
When Fox News Megyn Kelly confronted Donald Trump in an August GOP debate with a litany of sexist attacks he made against women, he had a ready answer. I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. Ive been challenged by so many people, and I dont frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesnt have time either, Trump said. The audience applauded.
Trump loves to rail against political correctness on Twitter. He argues that our country has become so politically correct that it has lost all sense of direction or purpose. For example, he is not able to use the word thug without criticism.
Ted Cruz goes a step further. Political correctness is killing us, he argued during a Republican debate in December. On his website, Cruz blames political correctness for 9/11.
Cruz also finds political correctness useful for collecting email addresses.
Ben Carson tweeted that we should #StoPP funding political correctness and PlannedParenthood. What does funding for Planned Parenthood have to do with political correctness? He doesnt really explain, except to say that political correctness is making us amoral.
Carson also uses political correctness to justify his opposition to Obamacare and accepting Syrian refugees.
Confronted with criticism for saying that a Muslim should not be presidenta religious test that would violate the constitutionCarson replied that political correctness is ruining our country.
Why are these candidates so quick to point out instances of political correctness? Like a lot of things politicians talk about, it polls very well. A recent poll found that 68 percent of Americans, and 81 percent of Republicans agreed that A big problem this country has is being politically correct. Even among Democrats, 62 percent agreed.
Poll numbers like these have a snowball effect. The more popular the message, the more politicians will talk about it or use it as a way to divert the conversation away from more troublesome topics. The more politicians talk about political correctness, the more Americans will believe its a big problem. Rinse and repeat.
Is Chait, a liberal who regularly blasts Republican candidates as extreme and incompetent, concerned that political correctness has been co-opted to justify the ugliest aspects of American political life? Not really.
I think its always been misused by conservatives [liberals should] ignore the way that conservatives talk about this phenomenon, completely. And lets just have a debate among people who are left of center Conservatives are trying to interject themselves into it, Chait said.
This might be what Chait prefers but, on a practical level, the far-right has captured the bulk of the conversation about political correctness. Articles by Chait, while purportedly for the left, are promoted voraciously by the right to bolster the argument about political correctness on their terms, not his.
While the exploitation of the term political correctness by Republicans is, on the surface, problematic for liberals, it also serves an important function. Many people on the left prefer to think of themselves as open-minded and not captured by a particular political party or ideology. But over the past several years, the Republican party has tacked hard right. The policies embraced by Republicansincluding a harsh crackdown on immigrants, massive tax cuts for the wealthy and the destruction of critical environmental protectionshave left little substantive common ground with liberals.
By embracing criticisms of political correctness, liberal commentators are able to do something that is somewhat ideologically unexpected, while avoiding embracing substantive policies they might find intensely destructive. Its a painless way to demonstrate intellectual independence.
Bill Maher, a self-described liberal firebrand with his own show on HBO, has touted himself as politically incorrect for years. It makes his show more appealing to a broader audience and allows him an easy way to respond to charges of racism, sexism and other controversies that have plagued his career.
Concluding his piece in New York Magazine, Chait claims that the P.C. style of politics has one serious, fatal drawback: It is exhausting. There is certainly some truth to this. But the debate about political correctness is just as exhausting: Thirty years later, weve broken no new ground.
At its core, the P.C. debate is about something meaningful. It is a discussion about how people should treat each other. The language we use to define it may change, but the conversation will keep going. Still, after more than three decades of repeating the same arguments, perhaps its time to recognize that the current iteration of this discussion has run its course.
A new debate could rely less on anecdote and more on actual data. It could be less about protecting rhetorical preferences and more about prohibiting actual censorship. It could dispense with political grandstanding and become more grounded in reality, without the apocalyptic and shallow narratives.
The end of the phony debate about political correctness will not be the end of the debate about political correctness. But it could be the beginning of something better.
Read the original:
Posted: May 30, 2016 at 2:43 am
April 18, 2013
The positions The Sun’s writers have taken recently with regard to free expression have not fulfilled its higher calling to support these paramount values. First, the essential theme of the Sun’s April 3 article about Towson University and the white student union (“Towson U. fights back against negative attention”) was that the university needed to apologize for not interfering with the attempts of certain students to form a white student union. But the university should have been commended, not condemned, for taking a principled stand in allowing unpopular speech, weak-kneed though its support may have been.
September 27, 2012
The article, “Free speech clash grips U.N. ” (Sept. 25) could also apply to the recent lecture at the Baltimore Council for Foreign Affairs (BCFA), where its president, Frank Burd, caved into pressure from pro-Israel groups and would not allow questions concerning the Middle East during a lecture by University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer. Even though the topic was China, Mr. Burd was evidently afraid that the professor’s comments critical of Israel and U.S. policy favoring Israel would offend some of his audience so he limited discussion solely to China, something that he had never done before.
March 6, 2011
More than anything else, the debacle regarding Westboro Baptist proves how once-powerless people can steer the media to convey their message. Through the prism of modern media we share both very enriching, positive story lines (the Chilean miners) and negative, satanic campaigns (Westboro Baptist Church). While we may detest the way some choose to manipulate media to spread their messages to the masses, we still hold freedom of speech to be one of the most fundamental and necessary building blocks of our great society.
April 13, 2013
As a Johns Hopkins University alumna, I am deeply disappointed in the school’s decision to chide Dr. Benjamin Carson to the point that he has stepped down from delivering the commencement address to the graduating class (“Dr. Ben Carson steps down as speaker at Hopkins graduation,” April 11). A university, especially one with Hopkins’ vaunted reputation, should stand for the value of free speech in the marketplace of ideas and the respect for diversity that are the hallmarks of a free and civil society.
February 14, 2014
As a fellow Marylander, former teacher, and mother of a college student, I wish to thank Professor Melani McAlister for her intelligent and thoughtful commentary on protecting academic freedom (” Maryland bills would stifle academic freedom,” Feb. 12). I have been following this issue closely and was pleased to see a piece that not only laid out the facts of this important debate but highlighted how serious a threat the bills being considered in Annapolis (and the U.S. Congress) are to what the “Free State” and the Unites States are supposed to stand for. What kind of message are our legislators sending to students and to all citizens if their response to the exercise of free speech is to punish those who engage in it?
By Jonah Goldberg | September 24, 2012
“No One Murdered Because Of This Image. ” That was a recent headline from The Onion, the often hilarious parody newspaper. The image in question is really not appropriate to describe with any specificity in a family newspaper. It’s quite simply disgusting. And, suffice it to say, it leaves nothing to the imagination. Four of “the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity,” according to The Onion, and yet “no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened, sources reported Thursday.
Posted: May 12, 2016 at 12:40 am
Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has just been subpoenaed, as part of Al Gores Climate Witch hunt. This is a move which so blatantly reeks of McCarthyite abuse of power, even some proponents of climate action are horrified at the attack on freedom which this subpoena represents.
The following is the statement of the Competitive Enterprise Institute;
CEI Fights Subpoena to Silence Debate on Climate Change
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) today denounced a subpoena from Attorney General Claude E. Walker of the U.S. Virgin Islands that attempts to unearth a decade of the organizations materials and work on climate change policy. This is the latest effort in an intimidation campaign to criminalize speech and research on the climate debate, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and former Vice President Al Gore.
CEI will vigorously fight to quash this subpoena. It is an affront to our First Amendment rights of free speech and association for Attorney General Walker to bring such intimidating demands against a nonprofit group, said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. If Walker and his allies succeed, the real victims will be all Americans, whose access to affordable energy will be hit by one costly regulation after another, while scientific and policy debates are wiped out one subpoena at a time.
The subpoena requests a decades worth of communications, emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding CEIs work on climate change and energy policy, including private donor information. It demands that CEI produce these materials from 20 years ago, from 1997-2007, by April 30, 2016.
On March 30, 2016, Attorney General Schneiderman, former Vice President Al Gore, and attorneys general from Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont, as well as Attorney General Walker, held a press conference in New York City to announce an unprecedented coalition of top law enforcement officials committed to aggressively protecting and building upon the recent progress the United States has made in combating climate change. Schneiderman said that the group, calling itself AGs United for Clean Power, will address climate change by threatening criminal investigations and charges against companies, policy organizations, scientists, and others who disagree with its members climate policy agenda.
CEI has long been a champion of sound climate change policy, and opposed previous attempts to use McCarthy-style tactics by officials aiming to limit discussions between nonprofit policy groups and the private sector regarding federal policies. CEI is being represented in this matter by attorneys Andrew M. Grossman and David B. Rivkin, Jr., who recently founded the Free Speech in Science Project to defend First Amendment rights against government abuses.
The text of the subpoena is here.
Here is a response from Bloomberg, which frequently takes a pro climate action position;
Subpoenaed Into Silence on Global Warming
The Competitive Enterprise Institute is getting subpoenaed by the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands to cough up its communications regarding climate change. The scope of the subpoena is quite broad, covering the period from 1997 to 2007, and includes, according to CEI, a decades worth of communications, emails, statements, drafts, and other documents regarding CEIs work on climate change and energy policy, including private donor information.
My first reaction to this news was Um, wut? CEI has long denied humans role in global warming, and I have fairly substantial disagreements with CEI on the issue. However, when last I checked, it was not a criminal matter to disagree with me. Its a pity, I grant you, but there it is; the laws the law.
(I pause to note, in the interests of full disclosure, that before we met, my husband briefly worked for CEI as a junior employee. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.)
Speaking of the law, why on earth is CEI getting subpoenaed? The attorney general, Claude Earl Walker, explains: We are committed to ensuring a fair and transparent market where consumers can make informed choices about what they buy and from whom. If ExxonMobil has tried to cloud their judgment, we are determined to hold the company accountable.
That wasnt much of an explanation. It doesnt mention any law that ExxonMobil may have broken. It is also borderline delusional, if Walker believes that ExxonMobils statements or non-statements about climate change during the period 1997 to 2007 appreciably affected consumer propensity to stop at a Mobil station, rather than tootling down the road to Shell or Chevron, or giving up their car in favor of walking to work.
Prosecutors know the damage they can do even when they dont have a leg to stand on. The threat of investigation can coerce settlements even in weak cases.
In my opinion, this hysterical executive overreach will be the downfall of the climate alarmist movement in America, just as outrage at the excesses of the McCarthy era brought an end to that dark period of American history.
You dont have to be a climate skeptic, to recognise that an attack on freedom of speech, in whatever guise, is an attack on everything which America stands for.
More than anything, this authoritarian, un-American attempt to silence dissent betrays the weakness of those perpetrating this attack on the CEI. In a Republic, people who have a compelling case to offer, dont have to intimidate their political opponents into silence, to win the argument.
Posted: March 28, 2016 at 1:43 am
Freedom of speech is the right to state one’s opinions and ideas without being stopped or punished. Sometimes this is also called Freedom of expression. Freedom of speech is thought to also include Freedom of information. However, new laws are usually needed to allow information to be used easily.
Most people think freedom of speech is necessary for a democratic government. In countries without free speech, people might be afraid to say what they think. Then, the government does not know what the people want. If the government does not know what they want, it cannot respond to their wants. Without free speech, the government does not have to worry as much about doing what the people want. Some people say this is why some governments do not allow free speech: they do not want to be criticised, or they fear there would be revolution if everyone knew everything that was happening in the country.
A well-known liberal thinker, John Stuart Mill, believed that freedom of speech is important because the society that people live in has a right to hear people’s ideas. It’s not just important because everyone should have a right to express him or herself.
Few countries with “free speech” let everything be said. For example, the United States Supreme Court said that it was against the law to shout “fire” in a crowded theater if there is no fire, because this might cause people to panic. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also says that it is not okay to cause national, racial or religious hatred. Also, some countries have laws against hate speech. 
As Tocqueville pointed out, people may be hesitant to speak freely not because of fear of government retribution but because of social pressures. When an individual announces an unpopular opinion, he or she may face the disdain of their community or even be subjected to violent reactions. While this type of suppression of speech is even more difficult to prevent than government suppression is, there are questions about whether it truly falls within the ambit of freedom of speech, which is typically regarded as a legal right to be exercised against the government, or immunity from governmental action.
Posted: February 21, 2016 at 11:41 pm
Defending this fundamental right of free expression is a central theme of The Rutherford Institutes work because we believe that all other liberties spring forth from this right.
The First Amendment guarantees all Americans the opportunity to freely express themselves. This fundamental freedom includes the right to distribute literature and discuss a multitude of viewseven views distasteful to most people. It also protects the right of the people to engage in lawful picketing and the right to peaceably assemble. It is critical that a free society value and honor a free marketplace of ideas, a diversity of opinion, and free expression. Without free expression, no democratic society would be possible.
It is for these reasons that The Rutherford Institute is dedicated to preserving these fundamental rights for all Americans. The Institute responds to hundreds of complaints of free speech violations each year. From environmental activists peaceably protesting on public property to preachers relaying their message in a public forum, The Rutherford Institute believes that all people, regardless of their personal beliefs, are entitled to speak freely.
Free Speech Double Standard: Rutherford Institute Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Declare Unconstitutional Its Own Ban on Expressive Activity on Plaza
First Amendment Victory: Appeals Court Rejects Government Attempt to Deny Trademarks for Names That Might Cause Offense, e.g., ‘The Slants’
Rutherford Responds: City Officials, Police Ask Federal Court to Dismiss First Amendment Lawsuit Over Violation of Street Preachers Free Speech Rights
‘Government Cannot Discriminate Against Offensive Speech’: Rutherford Institute Argues for First Amendment Protection for Redskins’ Name
Federal Appeals Court Refuses to Reconsider Decision Upholding 60-Year-Old Ban on Expressive Activity on U.S. Supreme Court Plaza
The Rutherford Institutes petition for review in Clary v. Virginia DMV
Rutherford Institute Challenges Virginia Over Its Cancellation, Revocation and Recall of License Plates Displaying the Confederate Flag
The Right to Tell the Government to Go to Hell: Free Speech in an Age of Government Bullies, Corporate Censors and Compliant Citizens
Fear of the Walking Dead: The American Police State Takes Aim
Sheep Led to the Slaughter: The Muzzling of Free Speech in America
The Emergence of Orwellian Newspeak and the Death of Free Speech
Free Speech, Facebook and the NSA: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
An Unbearable and Choking Hell: The Loss of Our Freedoms in the Wake of 9/11
Free Speech, RIP: A Relic of the American Past
Voter ID Laws: Silencing the American People
Criminalizing Free Speech: Is This What Democracy Looks Like?
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The Rutherford Institute :: Free Speech
Posted: January 31, 2016 at 7:44 pm
First Amendment – The Text11 Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
11On September 25, 1789, Congress transmitted to the states twelve proposed amendments. Two of these, which involved congressional representation and pay, were not adopted. The remaining ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified on December 15, 1791.
First Amendment – The Meaning Freedom of Speech and of the Press: The First Amendment allows citizens to express and to be exposed to a wide range of opinions and views. It was intended to ensure a free exchange of ideas even if the ideas are unpopular.
Freedom of speech encompasses not only the spoken and written word, but also all kinds of expression (including non-verbal communications, such as sit-ins, art, photographs, films and advertisements). Under its provisions, the media including television, radio and the Internet is free to distribute a wide range of news, facts, opinions and pictures. The amendment protects not only the speaker, but also the person who receives the information. The right to read, hear, see and obtain different points of view is a First Amendment right as well.
But the right to free speech is not absolute. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the government sometimes may be allowed to limit speech. For example, the government may limit or ban libel (the communication of false statements about a person that may injure his or her reputation), obscenity, fighting words, and words that present a clear and present danger of inciting violence. The government also may regulate speech by limiting the time, place or manner in which it is made. For example the government may require activists to obtain a permit before holding a large protest rally on a public street.
Freedom of Assembly and Right to Petition the Government: The First Amendment also protects the freedom of assembly, which can mean physically gathering with a group of people to picket or protest; or associating with one another in groups for economic, political or religious purposes.
The First Amendment also protects the right not to associate, which means that the government cannot force people to join a group they do not wish to join. A related right is the right to petition the government, including everything from signing a petition to filing a lawsuit.
Freedom of Religion: The First Amendment’s free exercise clause allows a person to hold whatever religious beliefs he or she wants, and to exercise that belief by attending religious services, praying in public or in private, proselytizing or wearing religious clothing, such as yarmulkes or headscarves. Also included in the free exercise clause is the right not to believe in any religion, and the right not to participate in religious activities.
Second, the establishment clause prevents the government from creating a church, endorsing religion in general, or favoring one set of religious beliefs over another. As the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1947 in Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township, the establishment clause was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and state,” although the degree to which government should accommodate religion in public life has been debated in numerous Supreme Court decisions since then.
Read more here:
Annenberg Classroom – First Amendment
Posted: January 18, 2016 at 3:51 pm
Social networking websites allow groups to grow from a dozen friends, to a hundred hobbyists, to a huge organization that transcends national borders. Meanwhile, a new generation of citizen journalists have taken to (micro)blogging and video live-streaming to expose the world to stories that would otherwise go unheard. Websites like Wikipedia and the Internet Archive contribute to a new open-source model of sharing and preserving information.
In countless ways the Internet is radically enhancing our access to information and empowering us to share ideas and connect with the entire world. Speech thrives online freed of limitations inherent in traditional print or broadcast media that are created by corporate gatekeepers.
Preserving the Internet’s open architecture is critical to sustaining free speech. But this technological capacity means little without sufficient legal protections. If laws can censor us to limit our access to certain information, or restrict use of communication tools, then the Internet’s incredible potential will go unrealized.
Governmental organizations have time and again tried to do just that. Censorship laws often aim at speech that would also be restricted offline, but they can also erect new barriers to free expression on the Internet in order to privilege established stakeholders. When old laws are not properly adapted to this medium, it’s all too easy for governments and companies to undermine your rights.
EFF defends the Internet as a platform for free speech, and believes that when you go online, your rights should come with you. Learn more below and consider supporting our efforts.
Follow this link:
Free Speech | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Posted: January 14, 2016 at 6:42 pm
Today I would like to talk about
censorship. Censorship is the removal of information from the public. Today censorship is a
phase of social control. It is becoming more and more common all over the world today. It
reaches as far as political power and public opinion. Often censorship is undertaken by
governments. Censorship is closely tied in as a concept with freedom of speech and other forms
of human expression. The censorship of opinion for the most part was restricted to the control
of speech rather than of printing. The censorship of free speech attempted to control the
audience. The purpose of this speech is to give information regarding censorship knowledge.
Censorship occurs when expressive materials, like books, magazines, films and videos, or works
of art, are removed or kept from the public. Censorship also occurs when materials are
restricted to particular audiences, based on their age or other characteristics. A few types of
censorship are political, religious, and the the censorship of music, but there are many more.
Political censorship occurs when the government conceals secrets from their citizens, while
religious censorship is when any material of a certain faith is removed. This often involves a
dominant religion forcing limitations on less dominant ones. Many musicians protested against
censorship in music and pushed for more freedom of expression. Considerable amounts of music
has been banned since the 1950’s all the way to the present. One example is that
many states in the U.S. decided to make it illegal for selling N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton
album and the fines for catching anyone would go from $10,00 to $100,00 depending on how
many minors were involved.
When a society has freedom, citizens can collect and distribute any information they want
without any restraints. Another example is that in the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, it clearly states that Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: the
freedom of thought, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of
communication.” which means that this material in any form cannot be altered by the government
in any way. Also, citizens have the right to access information in all forms of media to be able to
watch, read or listen to whatever they want. The concept of freedom involves protecting the
rights of all individuals to pursue the types of information and to read anything that interests
them. The society has the right to voice opinions and try to persuade others to adopt their
opinions. Censorship believes that certain materials are too offensive, or present ideas that are
too hateful and destructive to society, that they simply must not be shown to the public. I think
everyone has a voice and an opinion and unfortunately, sometimes their voice is censored and
denied the right to express their opinion because it is different. I think censorship is wrong
because it denies an individual the chance to be heard simply because they have different ideas.
The only solution to the problem is to voice our opinion.
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Against Censorship :: essays research papers